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BAE P110 Jaguar Replacement

BAE P110 Jaguar ReplacementThe P110 project was the so-called Jaguar replacement, was a single-seat twin-engined fighter. This project started in 1969 as air staff target 396 [AST 396]. It then became AST 403; then the European Combat Aircraft [ECA]; then the P110. It then became the Advanced Combat Aircraft [ACA] and then the Experimental Aircraft Project [EAP]. Later it became the Future European Fighter Aircraft [FEFA], loosely connected with AST 414, which is a British-based FEFA - all the numbers and acronyms change.

The P 110 was conceived by industry in anticipation of future requirements. It was being pursued by industry on a private venture basis as a means of meeting what they saw as requirements both of the United Kingdom and of overseas Governments. It also was seen it as a means of employing to best advantage the skills and resources of the industry in the years ahead and as work on the Tornado ran down. Among the companies involved were British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Lucas Aerospace, Smiths Industries, Marconi and Dowty, as well as Ferranti.

The P110 in its air-to-air role is an aircraft capable of very quick reaction and response. It can take off in 300 metres and can climb vertically, accelerating as it goes. It is a fighter with a multi-role capability and has exceptional performance in both air combat and ground attack roles. Excluding the United States of America, it is likely that there will be requirements for many hundreds of this category of aircraft.

Industry saw this aircraft as the third member of the family of combat aircraft based on the Tornado technology but embodying significant technological advances beyond the Tornado. It was planned as a twin-engined single-seat fighter to be powered by an improved version of the Turbo Union RB199 engine fitted in the Tornado. Some 40 percent of the P110's airframe, including the wings, were planned to be made of carbon fiber composite materials and the aircraft was to have a "fly-by-wire" active controls system. In both these respects, the project would benefit from the advances made in both carbon fiber composites and fly-by-wire technology at BAe's Warton Division resulting from technology demonstrator programs funded primarily by the Ministry of Defence.

The P110 had a similar significance for the security of Britain as the Spitfire had in its day. It was to be the best of its kind in the world. Like the Spitfire, it was entirely British. The whole British aerospace industry regarded the P110 as having a better performance for its cost than any competitor expected to be available between 1989 and 2000.

The confidence of British Aerospace that the P110 would be a world-beater was evident from the amount of money already invested in it by all concerned, British Aerospace having already invested 9 million by 1982. However, the risks of private funding beyond mid-1982 would rapidly become unacceptable without a Government commitment to the project, which is why an early statement of intent was essential.

This totally British venture was seen as vital to the future of the British aerospace industry. As well as British Aerospace and Ferranti, Rolls-Royce, Marconi, Lucas, Dowty and Smith's Industries were all involved and are contributing to the project. Moreover, it is estimated that by the end of the decade at least 50,000 jobs in the aerospace industry and its suppliers in the supply and service industries may depend on it.

Ferranti was involved in many of the technologies that would be used in equipping the P110, including the inertial navigation system, the advanced electronic and moving map displays, the laser rangers and the radars, as well as other forms of equipment. Taking the lowest sales estimate for such an advanced fighter as the P110, its importance to Ferranti in future years would probably be equal to, or greater than, the Tornado program.

However, towards the end of the 1980s, Tornado orders would be largely fulfilled and, unless other programmes arrive to fill the gap, the large production base and skilled work force built up to meet current commitments would be run down to a level sufficient to deal with a much lower level of activity. That would probably cause redundancies in an area which can ill afford them.

Furthermore, if the P110 does not go ahead it could lead to an irrevocable loss of the associated indigenous technologies. Yet the military need for such systems will not disappear and, when a new fighter aircraft is finally ordered for the RAF, as must eventually occur, the capability to make vital elements will have vanished and expensive imports would be necessary. The application of craft skills on high technology areas has always been an important element in the pursuit of export business. Now that the Third world, with its abundant labor, could meet the requirements of former mass markets, it is even more important for the UK to rely on exporting high technology.

High technology does not stand still; and if that profitable area of British expertise was to be maintained and extended industry needs to receive timely Government encouragement. Therefore, support for the P110 was crucial for industry, for continuing technological advance and for employment. Many other countries in the Middle East and Europe, including a possible consortium were interested in buying the P110, and thereby contributing to its development.

Those bodies were waiting for the Government to give a commitment in principle to the project. An RAF order would not only strengthen the front-line capability of the RAF but would confer credibility on the programme and it is the key to participation in the project by other countries. Once that is achieved, with the necessary finance, a snowball effect would result.

Aircraft would be sold and other countries outside the initial participants would also order the aircraft, causing the production run to continue and employment to be maintained. The financial return to Britain could be great, including not only the return from direct sales of the P110 to overseas customers but the spin-off in terms of avionics equipment being incorporated in other foreign aircraft programs. It should never be forgotten that the avionics equipment account for about one-third of the total cost of this sort of military aircraft.

For example, where a country has an aircraft industry but lacked the capability to design the most advanced military avionics - countries such as Brazil, India and Italy it might make orders for avionics equipment in the wake of the P110 development. However sales to foreign customers of new, untried equipment are rare. Successful export is invariably in equipment which has first been installed and successfully operated in British aircraft.

Apart from any advantages which an industrial alliance could promote, commercial opportunities in areas other than defence are bound to be generated and the implications of that for industry, particularly oil, banking and insurance, should not be overlooked.

When Prime Minister Thatcher spoke at the Farnborough International Eightieth Flying Display dinner on 03 September 1980. She said: "The fact is that we will not get the export orders we seek, unless we are also producing for the home market." She also said, "A view needs to be taken by the Ministry of Defence and other public procurement authorities of likely requirements well into the future." She continued, well aware of the need to safeguard the national interest in this connection: "The procurement budget of Government and the skills of our people, if used together to the best advantage, could bring the country far larger sums, greater benefits both to our Armed Services and to our industries, and more jobs at the same time." Finally, she summed up most powerfully the crux of the matter with these words: "The importance of the aerospace industry to the British economy cannot be over-estimated. Indeed, if we had to produce the ideal example of an industry with high added value export products, we need look no further than aerospace."

In 1981 there were rumors concerns funds being made available from Middle East countries or anywhere else to allow British Aerospace to go its own way. Then perhaps an aircraft will be built earlier, instead of waiting for the Minister and his officials to make a decision which they might not be in a position to make. British Aerospace were proposing the P 110 and were anxious to go ahead with developing it. Even if they did get the money, even if they do go ahead and find someone to sponsor it and share the cost, it could not possibly be operational for another 10 years. By early 1982, through ministerial and other contacts the Government are helping British Aerospace to promote the P110 with potential customers who, it was hoped, would contribute to the cost of this private venture development. Ferranti Ltd., regarded the success of the project, in which it has an interest, as being of the utmost importance both in terms of technological development and employment.

BAe made it clear that if full-scale development of the P110 was to take place it would need a partner or major customer by the end of 1982 or early 1983. It judged that the build-up of investment which was needed beyond that time was such that it must identify a launch aid partner if the project was to continue on its present schedule. This was necessary if the P110 was to match the delivery time scale of other aircraft such as the French Mirage 4000 which were competing in the same export markets.

The P110 had been designed primarily for the air defence role, although it could have a capability in other roles. BAe approached a number of other countries which have shown interest in the project, with a view to their sharing the costs of a joint development program. In its efforts to sell the P110 BAe was assisted by the sales organisation of the Ministry of Defence and by other Government representatives serving in certain countries.

By mid-1982 a number of important issues had progressed. First, an understanding had been reached between the European industrial partners that is the MBB and the A1T from Italy, to participate with private funding if the project was supported by Her Majesty's Government. Secondly, a comprehensive market analysis of the sales potential of this project had shown, even on a cautious basis, a very encouraging possible return on investment. Thirdly, at least 40 percent of the development costs would be saved by using the same engine and avionics as that used in the Tornado. This obviously gave an advantage on time-scale and, indeed, a more accurate estimate of the eventual sale costs.

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Page last modified: 16-05-2013 18:40:56 ZULU