Out-of-character note: This article contains a list of all NO British military aircraft that are either fictitious, or semi-fictitious
The Tupolev/BAe Vengeance is an Anglo-Russian strategic bomber used by the Royal Air Force. It is based on the Russian Tupolev Tu-22M and was the solution to the requirement for a replacement of the Avro Vulcan and General Dynamics Merlin in the strategic bomber role. There were two aircraft offered, the General Dynamics Vindicator (FB-111H), and the Tupolev Vengeance (Tu-22M3K). The Vindicator was liked by some in the RAF however the aircraft had never flown before in any form, and its range was regardedas inadequate as a long range maritime strike aircraft. The Tu-22M3K had none of these problems, but it would have a totally new avionics suite. The first prototype, a British-made airframe/engine test aircraft, flew on 30 August 1979. The second flew two weeks later. The second prototype was an avionics testbed with a Russian-made airframe shipped by sea to Britain and assembled with a full avionics fit. The flight test program was an outstanding success.
The first operational Vengeances entered service in 1985. The RAF now operates 140 Vengeances. They have never been used in anger, but they give an excellent account of themselves in exercises. In the maritime strike role, the aircraft can range far into the North Sea and Atlantic, reaching as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the south and the Arctic Ocean in the north. Its long range means it can self-deploy to Malta, Cyprus, or Suez.
The Vengeance uses primarly Anglo-American weapons. In the strategic nuclear role, it can carry the AGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile, the Raduga Kh-15 missile, or the WE.177 nuclear bomb. In the conventional role it can carry the full range of guided and unguided bombs in RAF use. It can also carry conventional Tomahawk, Storm Shadow, Apache, and ALARM. In the maritime strike role, the Vengeance carries Tomahawk, the Kh-15, the Kh-31, Sea Eagle, and Harpoon. In spite of varied weapons load and multi-role capabilities of the type, there are no separate variants for strategic nuclear strike, conventional strike, and maritime strike. One aircraft performs all roles.
The avionics suite includes a British nav-attack system with ring laser gyros, INS, GPS, and an advanced multi-mode radar from Thorn-EMI. It also includes an electro-optical/IIR/laser turret designed to aid it in its tactical role. This turret means that it can operate autonomously with laser-guided bombs.
Russian Tu-22Ms are equipped with a GSh-23 23mm cannon in a tail turret for self-defence. The British Tu-22M3K is unarmed, relying on its speed and extensive suite of defensive avionics. Various proposals existed for a cannon, ranging from the original installation, to a British-made turret with two ADEN cannon, however no British bomber had been armed with a gun since the Avro Lincoln, and guns were virtually useless against missiles.
The British Vengeance has a completely different cockpit, with extra crew amenities for long flights, including a lavatory. The ejection seats for the four man crew are zero-zero rocket seats made by Martin Baker.
All Vengeances are equipped with aerial refueling probes, this combined with the RAF's relatively large tanker force.
The Tupolev/BAe Vengeance is powered by the Rolls Royce Volga afterburning turbofan. The Rolls Royce Volga is a license copy of the Kuznetsov NK-25 which powers the Russian Tu-22M. Current versions are powered by the Rolls Royce Volga II, which is a derivative of the original Volga containing a significant amount of technology developed for the Rolls Royce Titan. The Volga II has a maximum thrust of 55,500 lbf. The increase in performance gives the Vengeance supercruise capability. Redundant FADECs ensure maximum efficiency and performance in all flight modes.
- Tupolev/BAe Vengeance B.1: Initial version
- Tupolev/BAe Vengeance B.2: Current version, which was the result of an Avionics Upgrade Program and Re-Engining that ran between 2002 and 2005.
General Dynamics MerlinEdit
The General Dynamics Merlin (more commonly known as the F-111K) is Britain's premier strike aircraft. The requirement for the F-111K grew out of the cancellation of the BAC TSR.2. The RAF ordered 80 F-111Ks in 1964.
The first F-111K was officially handed over to the RAF during 1968 in Texas, however a series of structural problems and crashes among USAF F-111s led to most of the RAF's F-111Ks, by now called the Merlin S.1, being delivered directly to storage hangars in the US pending examination of the problems and modifications. Like the Royal Australian Air Force, the F-4 Phantom was used. In Britain's case, the Phantom FGR.2 served as a temporary Canberra replacement as a strike aircraft. However, some Canberras soldiered on in the strike role until replacement by Merlins.
It wasn't until 1973 that the RAF received its Merlins, and began to use them in earnest. The Powell Government ordered 100 more F-111Ks in 1974. 40 of these were delivered as dedicated maritime-strike aircraft under the designation of Merlin GR.3. The remainder were delivered as an upgraded strike aircraft under the designation Merlin S.4.
In 1979, 40 extra Merlins were ordered to be used in the bomber role as a partial replacement for the retiring Victor B.2. The Merlin B.5 was essentially an FB-111 and F-111K hybrid.
During the late 1980's, the Merlins were scheduled for a Mid-Life Upgrade. This upgrade completely modernised the aircraft, in addition to zero-timing all of the airframes. The presence of the Tupolev/BAe Vengeance removed the need for a bomber version. After the MLU, all of the RAF's Merlins were of the same standard in avionics, and could switch roles at will. In addition, a number of F-111As were purchased from the US and converted to Raven standard. These EF-111K's are known as Raven E.1s, and 25 serve in the support jammer role.
A dedicated reconnaissance was proposed, but rejected. The RAF uses a demountable bomb bay pack for reconnaissance from the Merlin. The pack is similar to the TARPS pack used by RAF and RN Tomcats. To provide the RAF with a long range patrol interceptor, a version of the Merlin based on the F-111B was proposed. This (like the F-111B) was rejected in favour of the F-14 Tomcat.
They have served ever since in a variety of roles, and are rapidly approaching their 40th year of service. Revisions and modifications, along with a dedicated F-111 Longevity Programme (managed by British Aerospace and Lockheed Martin) have kept the Merlin up to date, and sustainable until 2020 at least, and 2040 at the most.
Changes from the F-111A include:
- Refuelling probe from the F-111B
- Extended wings and strengthened undercarriage from the FB-111A
- British nav-attack system
- Capability for the following weapons (integrated over time)
- Sea Eagle
- Martel (no longer in service)
The only versions in service are the General Dynamics Merlin S.6 and the General Dynamics Raven E.1, both of which have a fully digital avionics system, glass cockpit, AESA radar, and Rolls Royce Titan engines.
- General Dynamics Merlin S.1: Original strike version (known as F-111K in the United States), all converted to S.6.
- General Dynamics Merlin T.2: Dual control training version of the Merlin S.1 (US designation: TF-111K), all converted to S.6.
- General Dynamics Merlin GR.3: Maritime strike version, with avionics changes from S.1 to accomodate Sea Eagle, and a radar intended for maritime strike. All converted to S.6.
- General Dynamics Merlin S.4: Second tactical strike version, weapons bay used to carry Pave Tack. Multi-role (i.e. tactical strike, nuclear strike, maritime strike). Converted from Merlin S.1. All converted to S.6.
- General Dynamics Merlin B.5: Strategic bomber version (US designation: FB-111K). Hybrid of the F-111K, and FB-111A. Carried Kh-15, and Red Thunder cuise missile. All converted to S.6.
- General Dynamics Merlin S.6: Present service version resulting from 1989 Mid-Life Upgrade.
- General Dynamics Raven E.1: Electronic warfare/ECM version. Essentially the EF-111A's avionics on a Merlin S.6 airframe. Unlike the EF-111A, the British Raven E.1 is armed, and can carry up to 12 ALARMs, though the usual load is 4 ALARMs and 2 ASRAAMs.
- General Dynamics Merlin FGA.x: Proposed long-range interceptor version with AN/AWG-9 radar, and AIM-54 Phoenix radar. Project dropped in 1976 before mock-up completed. Replaced with Grumman Tomcat. Proposed US designation F-111M.
- General Dynamics Merlin R.x: Proposed reconnaissance version, S.1 with reconnaissance equipment in weapon bay pack. The pack contained cameras and an IR line scanner. The pack was adopted as a module which could be fitted to the weapon bay of any Merlin S.1, S.4, S.5, and S.6. Proposed US designation: RF-111K.
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is Britain's premier air defence fighter.
Royal Air ForceEdit
The Grumman Tomcat was ordered by the RAF in 1978 to fulfill a long range patrol interceptor role. The BAC Lightning, while a capable machine, did not have sufficient endurance to fully defend the air space of the United Kingdom. Conversely, the McDonnell Douglas Phantom had what the RAF believed was a reduced air combat capability due to its lack of an internal gun. The Tomcat was considered superior to the Phantom due to its internal gun, extremely long ranged weapons system, air combat capability, and avionics. After the difficulties in introducing the Spey-engined Phantom, the RAF's Tomcats were essentially off the shelf, with TF-30 engines. The Tomcat was introduced into RAF service in 1983. The aircraft received mixed reactions. Some people loved it, but it had poor serviceability for the first few years of its career. Eventually, the bugs were ironed out, and the RAF had a highly capable interceptor, and a highly capable dogfighter. Standard armament at the time was two AIM-54 Phoenix, 4 Sky Flash, and 2 AIM-9 Sidewinder. Over time, Sky Flash was displaced by AMRAAM, while Sidewinder gave way to ASRAAM. Modifications include TARPS capability, and the 1990's rebuilding to Titan-powered F-14D standard. Titan-powered Tomcats can, when lightly loaded, cruise at supersonic speeds.
The deployment of Tomcats to the Falkland Islands from 1989 represents a great deterrent to Argentine attack. The F-14's have the ability, with tanker support, to intercept hostile aircraft over Argentina itself in the event of war.
The Royal Navy had not participated in the Tomcat programme, and did not consider a Phantom replacement urgent. The poor serviceability of the Phantoms in the 1982 Falklands War changed that perception, and the Fleet Air Arm issued an urgent requirement for F-14 Tomcats. These were diverted from US Navy production to fulfill the urgent requirement and began service in 1983. All RN Tomcats could use TARPS from the beginning. In exercises, the Royal Navy's Tomcats offered superb performance. Initial problems were encountered with carrier deck handling, but revisions of procedures combined with extra experience solved those problems quickly.
The reorganisation of the Fleet Air Arm meant that the Navy's Tomcats had to move into the strike role. The F-14 always included minimal support for strike, and the Royal Navy expanded that capability slightly. The Tomcat FR.2 was modified to carry bombs, and could with external designation use laser guided bombs, however it was never a satisfactory solution. In practice, the Navy used the Hornet as its principal strike aircraft. That too was inadequate due to the Hornet's short range. The solution was a full rebuild of the Tomcats to become long range, precision strike fighters. The Tomcat FRS.5 includes much of the technology intended for abandoned American Quickstrike Tomcat. It also includes British items such as TIALD, and weapons such as Sea Eagle. In addition, the Tomcat FRS.5 can use ASRAAM and AMRAAM. To enhance its air combat performance, the Tomcat FRS.5 was to be powered by the Rolls Royce Titan. The Grumman Tomcat FRS.5 entered service in 1999, and is now the sole type of naval Tomcat.
- Grumman Tomcat F.1: Standard F-14A for the RAF. Changes include substitution of ILS for ACLS, and the integration of Sky Flash.
- Grumman Tomcat FR.2: TARPS-capable F-14A for the Royal Navy.
- Grumman Tomcat FR.3: Tomcat F.1 modified for TARPS capability.
- Grumman Tomcat FR.4: F-14D for the RAF. Most modified from existing Tomcats. Powered by the Rolls Royce Titan.
- Grumman Tomcat FRS.5: F-14D Quickstrike with compability with most existing British aerial weapons. Tomcat FRS.5 is powered by the Rolls Royce Titan. Used by the RN only.
Royal Air ForceEdit
see main article: BAe Typhoon
The Hornet was acquired as part of a change to the Fleet Air Arm's carrier group organisation. The Hornet marked a switch from operating a specialised fighter and specialised bomber, to operating a high-low mix of multi-role aircraft.
The first Hornets were delivered in 1985, and were designated McDonnell Douglas Hornet FRS.1. They had only the minimum of changes from US Navy Hornets, including compatibility with British missiles such as Sky Flash and Sea Eagle, and British radios. The American wiring for nuclear weapons was removed, however British Aerospace fitted the necessary wiring for the WE.177 nuclear bomb.
During the early 1990's, the RAF and RN cooperated in finding a replacement for the initial Hornets (for the RN), and the Jaguar (for the RAF). They settled on an Anglicised version of the F/A-18C/D designated Hornet FGR.3/T.4 by the MoD, and F/A-18K/M by McDonnell Douglas.
The aircraft, initially designated McDonnell Douglas/BAe Hornet FGR.3 and McDonnell Douglas/BAe Hornet T.4 (the manufacturer name was changed to "Boeing/BAe" in 1997) was part of a wide-ranging cooperative relationship between McDonnell Douglas (later Boeing), and BAe which also involved two BAe designs (the Hawk and Harrier) being produced in America as the T-45 Goshawk, and the AV-8B Harrier II.
The avionics set of the new Hornet was almost entirely British (the GPS being the only American component). Blue Vixen and a British nav/attack package integrated by a British computer formed the basis of the avionics package, which also included GPS, RLG, and a wholely British defensive measures package. More minor changes include adding ILS to the standard ACLS, the addition of an HF radio, and improved voice and video recorders. The engines are F404 turbofans license built by Rolls-Royce.
The Royal Navy primarily use the Hornet in the strike, anti-shipping, and close support roles. The RAF primarily use the Hornet for battlefield air superiority, close support, battlefield interdiction, and defence suppression.
- McDonnell Douglas Hornet FRS.1 - Minimum change F/A-18A for the Royal Navy (McDonnell Douglas designation: BF-18A)
- McDonnell Douglas Hornet T.2 - Minimum change F/A-18B for the Royal Navy (McDonnell Douglas designation: BTF-18A)
- Boeing/BAe Hornet FGR.3 - MDD/BAe joint venture based on the Night Attack F/A-18C, included Blue Vixen radar, ASRAAM, Brimstone, and CRV7 compatibility for both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (Boeing designation: F/A-18K)
- Boeing/BAe Hornet T.4 - MDD/BAe joint venture based on the Night Attack F/A-18D, included Blue Vixen radar, ASRAAM, Brimstone, and CRV7 compatibility for both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Rear cockpit designed for training. (Boeing designation: F/A-18M)
BAe Harrier GR.9Edit
Fitted with the APG-66 radar surplus from the Hornet FRS.1, and T.2. Twin seat version is the BAe Harrier T.12.
BAe Sea Harrier FGR.2Edit
The BAe Sea Harrier FGR.2 is a Harrier II airframe intended for the air defence, and maritime strike/ground attack roles. It is equipped with the Blue Vixen radar.
The Boeing 707 was adopted by the RAF reluctantly in 1974. During 1973, the Oil Crisis led to problems for the airlines, and one British airline, Latimer Airways led by American businessman Josh Latimer was unable to cope. Latimer employed 10000 people, and his airline was going to collapse as a result of the embargo. The Powell Government decided not to rescue the airline, but decided it had to do something for its workers, therefore the government decided, against RAF advice (the RAF favoured the VC10) to buy Latimer Airways' 20 Boeing 707-320's. The aircraft was to be used as a passenger transport aircraft, with a secondary freight role.
The RAF was highly satisfied with the 707, and began to purchase more starting in 1976. The new aircraft (80 in all, mostly from Pan American World Airways, and British Airways) were sent to Marshall Aerospace for conversion to combination cargo/passenger/tanker aircraft. The most significant changes were the addition of a cargo door, the modification of the main deck to accept palletised seating modules, and the addition of two Flight Refuelling Ltd Mk.32B refuelling pods underneath the wings. These entered service in 1977 as the Boeing 707 KC.2 (British Airways), and Boeing 707 KC.3 (Pan Am), and became the basis of the RAF's tanker/transport fleet, and were introduced in good time for the Falklands War of 1982, in which they performed invaulable service.
After the war, it was decided that the RAF needed further tanker capacity. The RAF also found refuelling large aircraft such as Vulcan bombers, and Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft with wing tip pods was problematic at best, and downright dangerous at worst. Using Victor, and Vulcan bombers was a stopgap at best, and the relatively high fuel consumption of these aircraft made them unsuitable for tanking.
The RAF decided it needed a dedicated three point tanker, and the original 20 707 C.1's were sent to Flight Refuelling Ltd in 1983 for conversion into dedicated tankers. In addition to the standard Mk.32B pods under the wings, they also received a special high-pressure Hose-Drum Unit in the rear fuselage which could transfer fuel at over 5000lbs/min (compared with 2000lbs/min for a pod). The high pressure HDU could be reset to a lower pressure for fighters. The fuselage was modified with additional plumbing for extra fuel cells, as well as a cargo door. As a bonus, the aircraft could also be used as a freighter, or troop transport. This conversion resulted in the designation changing to Boeing 707 K.1.
During 1986 the RAF decided on a major upgrade program for its 707 KC.2's and KC.3's. Taking an example from the USAF, the RAF had their 707 KC.2's and KC.3's reengined with the CFM International CFM56-2 engine, which was being installed on USAF KC-135R's. The program was completed in 1989, and the aircraft were redesignated C.2K, and C.3K. From 2001-2003, the initial twenty were put through a reengining program, and all RAF Boeing 707's were given a comprehensive structural, and avionics upgrade (becoming 707 K.1As).
During 1985, the RAF acquired 8 Boeing 707-320 aircraft for conversion to electronic and signals intelligence. They look similar to American RC-135's, however sensitive American equipment is replaced with British equipment. The principal external differences are the greater length and wingspan of the British aircraft, and the presence of passenger windows. They are designated 707 R.4's.
The RAF's Boeing 707 force has served for 34 years. In that time, they have lost no aircraft, and seen active service in the Falklands, the Gulf, and the Balkans. The RAF intends to keep its Boeing 707's going until at least 2040.
Boeing 707 versions in RAF serviceEdit
- Boeing 707 C.1 - 20 707-320B aircraft bought from the receivers of Latimer Airways PLC (1974-1984)
- Boeing 707 K.1 - 707 C.1 converted to dedicated tanker with extra fuselage fuel tanks, wing-mounted IFR pods, tail-mounted HDU (1984-2003)
- Boeing 707 K.1A - 707 K.1 reengined with CFM-56-2 turbofans (2003-present)
- Boeing 707 KC.2 - 40 Rolls Royce Conway-powered 707-420 aircraft bought from British Airways (1977-1989)
- Boeing 707 KC.3 - 40 JT3D-7-powered 707-320C aircraft bought from Pan American World Airways (1977-1989)
- Boeing 707 C.2K - 707 KC.2 reengined with CFM56-2 turbofans (1989-present)
- Boeing 707 C.3K - 707 KC.3 reengined with CFM56-2 turbofans (1989-present)
- Boeing 707 R.4 - 8 707-320B converted to a SIGINT, and ELINT aircraft.
The Lockheed Viking has been the Royal Navy's standard anti-submarine aircraft since 1986. From the mid-1960s onwards, the Royal Navy had relied on helicopters only for its airborne anti-submarine capability working with Frigates and shore-based aircraft, and this had seemed adequate for many years. Indeed, against a 1940s submarine force, it would have been adequate. The Falklands War prompted a reevaluation of British naval air requirements. Developments in German submarine-launched anti-ship missiles which could, with satellite support or with German shore-based aircraft, had over the horizon range. This would effectively dominate a British force that was out of range of RAF Nimrods. A new fixed-wing aircraft was therefore requested. It had other uses too, including over the horizon targeting, enhanced surface search and strike, and search and rescue.
The RAF considered re-engined, and modernised S-2 Trackers, modernised Alize aircraft from France, and the S-3 Viking. Only the Viking was a serious contender, the other aircraft having serious problems in performance or feasibility. Apart from its availability, superior performance, the Viking was also vastly more versatile and could refuel other aircraft in flight.
The Viking entered RN service in 1986, and is being upgraded to AS.4 standard with electronics developed for the Nimrod MRA.4. From the beginning, the RN's Vikings were fitted with Sidewinder self-defence missiles. The Viking AS.4 can also carry ASRAAM. Other variants in service include the Viking COD.2 cargo aircraft, and the Viking R.3 ELINT aircraft (officially billed as "Carrier Navigation, Landing Aid, And Radar Calibration Aircraft")
It serves with the Royal Navy in the following versions:
- Lockheed Viking AS.1 - S-3B
- Lockheed Viking COD.2 - US-3A
- Lockheed Viking R.3 - Similar to ES-3A Shadow, though with entirely British electronics
- Lockheed Viking AS.4 - British modified version with updated electronics, and added commonality with the RAF's BAe Nimrod.
All are also used as tankers.
Northrop Grumman HawkeyeEdit
E-2C Hawkeye in Royal Navy service as the Northrop Grumman Hawkeye AEW.2 (E-3C Group II). Hawkeye AEW.3 is an upgrade program identical to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
The Westland WS-70 Blackhawk, known in British Army service as the Westland Blackhawk AH.1. It is used by three Regiments of the Army Air Corps to support 16 Airmobile Brigade. The Blackhawk serves as the Brigade's assault helicopter. The differences between the British Westland Blackhawk, and the US Sikorsky Blackhawk are Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 01/12 engines replacing the T700 engines for 20% greater power, electric rotor blade folding, folding horizontal stabilators for storage, some British avionics (including a British Defensive Aids System), connectivity with the BOWMAN secure communications system, a fitting for a roof mounted sight for TOW or sight with laser designator for Hellfire, weather radar, forward EO/IR turret, and the ability to use British service weapons such as CRV7 rockets, and the L20A1 7.62mm machine gun. Its entry to service in the mid 1990s was hotly disputed as some felt it was taking a role away from the RAF, however the Army won out and gained something of an independent air assault capability (though all logistics helicopter support comes from the RAF, and the Blackhawk serves with only one Brigade in the Army). The British Army operates 85 Westland Blackhawks in three attack regiments, and a squadron in 2 (Training) Regiment, AAC.
The Royal Air Force purchased Blackhawks soon after the Army. The Royal Air Force uses a fully-marinised variant which is equivalent to the American MH-60S Knighthawk known as the Westland Blackhawk HC.2. The reason for the choice of a fully-marinised was the need for RAF support helicopters to operate from Royal Navy amphibious ships. The Blackhawk replaced the Wessex as a second-line and out of area support helicopter. RAF Blackhawks serve in an extremely diverse range of environments from the cold tundra of the Falkland Islands, to the pleasant Mediterranean atmosphere of Malta to the desert heat of Aden, and everything in between. They fly dangerous missions in Northern Ireland. Over 180 Blackhawks serve with the RAF, entering service in 2001.
Rolls-Royce Titan engineEdit
- Used in Vengeance, Merlin, Eagle, and Tomcat
- F110-sized engine
- Maximum thrust: 37000lbf
N.B. all images to scale, two pixels to one foot.
Royal Air Force aircraftEdit
Army Air Corps aircraftEdit