Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2005
Q140 Mr Hancock: Does this agreement
allow these planes that will be acquired solely by the UK to be
wholly maintained in the UK?
Commodore Henley: We intend to
maintain the aircraft at whole aircraft level, ie at the aeroplane
level in the UK. It would be pointless and very expensive to set
up the entire supply chain in the UK, so where the manufacturer
of a particular component is somewhere other than the UK and the
reliability is such that we do not have a great deal of through-put
we are not intending specifically in the UK to pick that up. So
it is a value-for-money case.
Mr Burbage: It might be important
to add that the STOVL lift is done by Rolls-Royce, the cockpit
ejection seat is done by Martin Baker, and the flight equipment
is done by Beaufort. There is a large part of this airplane that
will be done in the UK and those suppliers will be the lifetime
maintainers of the equipment they provide.
Chairman: We will now move on to the
weight reduction as you have already mentioned. Robert Key?
Q141 Robert Key: Now the decision
has been taken to change the bring-back of the characteristics
of the aircraft and the reduction in weight will be achieved by
having one 1,000 lb bomb not two; does that have an impact on
the operational performance of the aircraft?
Commodore Henley: The requirement
for the UK, if I could just clarify is actually one 1,000 lb bomb
either side. The original requirement for the UK was just that.
There was a requirement for the UK aircraft (and the requirement
document laid it out) that we would have a 1,000 lb weapon either
side so we could carry two 1,000 lb bombs. At one stage in the
programme we believed that we had enough spare capacity in the
STOVL aircraft to move towards a common weapons bay with the other
variants, which has a 2,000 lb capacity weapon bay. That is not
the same as saying you can fit two 1,000 lb bombs. It means you
can fit a single 2,000 lb class weapon. The UK does not have any
2,000 lb class weapons in its inventory, which is why a 1,000
lb class weapon was being deemed suitable. As part of the weight
reduction studies we did we reverted to the original design and
therefore, no, there has been no impact on the UK requirements
of that change.
Q142 Robert Key: But a reduction
in the size of the bomb bay implies that you are going to put
the 1,000 lb bomb in the bomb bay, so that is how you achieved
your reduction in weight, or one of the ways?
Commodore Henley: No, the 1,000
lb weaponry was always going to go in the bomb bay. What we have
done is to shrink the weapons bay in the aeroplane which has freed
up space in the aeroplane to put other equipment and we have redistributed
it so that we could get a more efficient design into the aircraft
and that in turn knocks on into the weight issue.
Q143 Robert Key: So are there any
more risks that you are anticipating you are going to have to
Commodore Henley: There are risks
out there and it would be foolish at this stage in the development
programme to say there are not. Clearly we are keeping a very
good eye on the propulsion of the lift system. We do have engines
up and running. We have got over 3,500 hours of testing under
our belts now on the engine, and we have roughly 500 hours on
the STOVL propulsion system, so we know we can run the whole system.
We need to understand what happens when you install that in the
aircraft. Some of those tests are coming out. There is still the
risk that aircraft do grow in development as you find things.
That is what development is about. You have to add bits back into
the aircraft. We have an allowance for that weight growth which
is based on historic norms and with this programme with the weight
management that is in place already we expect to stay well within
those norms and right now our target is based around expecting
those norms. If something, though, came out of the woodwork that
we were not expecting, clearly that is still a risk. We have very
good UK Government subject matter experts based in the key areas
of the programme in the US to understand those risks.
Q144 Robert Key: Commodore, will
the UK be acquiring an aircraft that meets all the Key User Requirements?
Commodore Henley: At the moment
we do not anticipate any difficulty with meeting Key User Requirements.
That one that is under threat, which we set in the first place,
was the 450-foot ski-jump launch with a full weapon load. At the
moment we are close to that but with the current CVF design that
does not impact on the operability of the aircraft. That requirement
was set some time back before we knew what the CVF design looked
Robert Key: Thank you, Commodore.
Q145 Mr Hancock: Does the weight
reduction and keeping the weapon level to a useable size mean
that the range of the aircraft is reduced because you are taking
fuel capacity out of the aircraft, in other words you reduce the
weight so you do not need so much fuel. These aircraft are flying
out of aircraft carriers and they might have some distance to
fly and return safely, so I want to know if the weight shift has
downgraded the capability of the aircraft to deliver what we want?
Commodore Henley: The whole of
the weight reduction process was taking a holistic view as to
all the requirements of the aircraft. There is a Key User Requirement
to set a minimum range for the aircraft. As we took the weight
out of the aircraft and occasionally we impacted on fuel volume
then we looked at other ways of getting that fuel volume back
in. You can do things such as reduce drag on the aircraft which
means you need less fuel to go the same distance. With an aircraft
of this sort of design and with the design capabilities that are
inherent in the modern design process, then you can play tunes,
if you like. What we have ended up with at the end of the weight
reduction process is a balanced design that meets our main requirements
and gives us our required payload and bring back payload.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
Thank you for all the evidence you have given us this morning.
Once again, this is something on which we will definitely need
to come back to you but we are most grateful to you.