An air force of my own #1

Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey_Ultra HD.jpg

Reading about some of the over-priced nonsense the military buys is maddening – but could you make better choices? In the first of a series we burdened Justin Bronk with the daunting task of re-equipping the air arms of the United Kingdom. Would his notional air force be combat effective? Good value for money? Most importantly, would it be stylish? 

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Air Force Procurement

Head of procurement: Justin Bronk

Occupation: Research Fellow for Combat Airpower, RUSI

Nation to defend: United Kingdom (pre-Brexit vote)

Year: 2016



Glider trainer: DG-505 (50)

Basic trainer: PZL-130 Orlik (120)

Twin-engined prop trainer: Piaggio P.180M Avanti (30)

Jet/Turboprop/LIFT trainer: Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master (70)

Other: None

Tankers & Transport

Light tactical: Modernised Antonov An2 Colt (20)


Medium: Airbus A400M Atlas (30)

Strategic transport: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (9)

Short range CSAT: Agusta A109E (5)

Tanker: Airbus A330-MRTT Voyager (15)

Hack: de Havilland Tiger Moth (1 per flying squadron)

VVIP transport: One of the A330-MRTT’s as currently converted

Presidential Transport: N/A

Other: None


(specify chosen munitions)

Fighter: Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, Tranche 3B, with ASRAAM, AMRAAM C7, Meteor, Paveway IV, Brimstone II, Storm Shadow, ALARM/AARGM, SPEAR 3. (230)

Attack: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, with SPEAR 3, AMRAAM C7, Paveway IV, GBU-24 Paveway III (80)

SEAD: F-35As as above with Typhoons carrying ALARM/AARGM and Storm Shadow in support (check out this thought-provoking article on why the F-35 will fail)

Heavy bomber: None

Fixed-wing gunship: AH-64E Apache Guardian (50) (I did say fixed-wing, but you’re the boss)

Other: None


Trainer: MD540F Advanced Little-Bird (100)

Light transport: None

Medium transport: Boeing Chinook Mk6 (60)

Heavy transport: Boeing Chinook Mk6 (60)

Attack: AH-64E Apache Guardian (50)

Search & rescue: V-22 Osprey (10)

Other: MD540F Fleet Optionally Equipped for Light Recon and Attack Duties

Intelligence & surveillance


AWACS/AEW: Saab Erieye-ER radar and mission system on large platform, e.g. A330 (6)

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR): RC-135 variants (~8)

Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR): MQ-9 Protector (12)

Battlefield surveillance: MQ-9 Protector (12)

Maritime Patrol: Kawasaki P-1 (10)

Reconnaissance: Eurofighter Typhoon with DB110 Pod (6)

Other: none

Display teams


Fixed-wing jet: Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 (9)

Fixed-wing propeller: None

Rotorcraft: MD540F (3)

Historical flight: BBMF, obviously

Other: None

Carrier aircraft



Fighter: Rafale M re-engined with EJ200s (40)

Attack: Rafale M re-engined with EJ200s (40)

Tanker: V-22 Osprey, noting that it can only offload 12,000lb so only for top-up overhead tanking

COD: V-22 Osprey (12)

Helicopters: MH-60S Knighthawk (25)

Other: None

Misc Aircraft category

Firefighter: None

Air ambulance: MD 902 Explorer (40)

Mountain rescue: MH-60S Knighthawk (10)

Police: MD 902 Explorer (60)

Others: None

Air force defence regiment

Camouflage: MTP

Standard weapon: H&K 416

Sidearm: Sig Sauer P226

Light support weapon: CETME Ameli

Heavy machine-gun: GMPG

Sniper rifle: Accuracy International AX338

Vehicles: Miscellaneous


Misc equipment: C-RAM

Our verdict

Cost effectiveness & sense

The two high-risk items that stand out are the re-engining of the Rafale and the creation of a new AWACS aircraft. Leaving aside the Mustang, British aviation historians may baulk at the idea of re-engining. The additional of British Spey engines to the Phantom, though not without some benefits, resulted in the most expensive and slowest F-4 (at least at high level). Rafales would make perfect sense for a British carrier re-equipped with ‘cats and traps’, (Eurofighter themselves have acknowledged a carrier-based Typhoon is a non-starter – as soon it is beefed up sufficiently it loses its main virtue its massive thrust-to-weight ratio and its very low wing loading), and though the use of the EJ200 would be welcome news to Rolls-Royce, the effort would be slow and expensive- it would also be a huge undertaking for the marginal improvements it would offer.

Though the dimensions of the two engines are very similar (the EJ200 is marginally longer) this may be an unnecessary effort. Generally Bronk has demonstrated a fair and cost effective procurement policy.

The vast rotary-wing force may be hard to justify during peacetime, though I guess the UK’s been on a war footing of some kind since 1990.


Political considerations

Collaborating with Ukraine on a new An-2 production line sends a strong message of support to the beleaguered nation. The export of Japanese military aircraft may involve some constitutional changes. Bronk’s armed forces remain closely tied to the US, but maintain strong ties to Europe thanks to the Rafale purchase.


Aesthetic appeal 

Mr Bronk’s suggestions have been rooted in pragmatism rather than aesthetic appeal and he has not chosen the most exciting or beautiful aircraft. Still FAA Rafales would be gorgeous, Tiger Moths are elegant and the Kawasaki P-1 is pretty cute. Oh, wait 30 Avantis? That is actually pretty wonderful.



Bronk’s choice’s are a little too sensible for my taste, where is the Presidential An-225? The vast fleets of Beriev Be-200s? The MiG-31 display team?



See above- he is no Dali, but to be fair we didn’t ask him to be.


Total score: 343/500

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

If this article interests you, support with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraft


  1. PhilD

    Couple of gaps that worry me. Where’s the carriers’ organic AEW? Also you need serious numbers of proper medium lift helos the Chinooks are too big. The RN needs c. 20 Merlin or equivalent for ASW and general liaison work, the RM 24 for the commando squadron(s) and the Army will want something similar to support 16 AAslt Brigade. And that’s before we talk about lights. How many Lynx equivalents for Army and RN?
    Rest of it’s fine although I’d have more MPA’s and two dozen C-17s if possible.

  2. Glen Towler

    I wouldn’t have picked the F35 myself as a attack aircraft. I would have gone for the latest Super Hornet and that be would have been my choice for SEAD too.

  3. tonyo262

    I once owned a Piaggio Avanti and let me tell you it was ugly is as ugly does. Mine looked nothing like the one in your pictures… I bought it in a light headed moment from a geezer in a shiny suit down the Goat and Compasses. The bloke did describe it as a bit of a ‘growler’ but by this time my addiction to creme de menthe was becoming a problem again and I mistook his euphemism for shite to mean it resembled a mid 60’s carrier based attack aircraft ( equally as ugly but of no matter when the beer goggles are on).

    At first it was the dogs bollocks but then I came to realise that I’d purchased just a bit of a dog that had evidently been seen to by the vet. It sulked in the rain, wouldn’t start in the cold would baulk at third going up the high street, the ‘flight envelope’ was restricted to straight line maneouvers in the horizontal plane, any attempt to bank and turn in a tail chase would quite literally see you risking a severe AOT (arse over tit). Climb rate was borderline and any sudden increase in altitude ( going over the A20 flyover) required drastic load lightening using the GOP (get off and push, not the political illiterates party) thrust augmentation.

    But never mind, it had svelte curves that were just gagging for Gina Lollabrigida or Audrey Hepburn’s arse to alight upon the faux leatherette… and the finish was a lovely shade of semi gloss green with a ‘brushed on with a B+Q nylon No.2′ texture that almost gave it a two tone camo look. This admittedly wouldn’t do much to deflect the rozzers radar lock on ( I was only doin’ 28 yer honour) but was ideal for low down in the weeds types of operations (I’m certain that this is where it ended up after its last owner had been laughed at once too often down the chippy on a Friday night). If you’re going to buy that Italian plastic i’d make sure it comes with a couple of spare engines… and oh and keep your bus pass handy.

  4. John Garcia

    I agree with all above excep the Ameli. Really?? The Ameli as SAW?? Please as a ex spanish infantryman only can say that a good use of the Ameli is using it like a stick for closeup combat, or as a chock for truck parking, wherever you want but please, dont equip your forces with Ameli if you love your boys in green

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