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BAE Systems presses case for increasing RAF mass

While the RAF operates high-performance platforms, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon (pictured), it suffers from a lack of numbers. (Crown Copyright)

BAE Systems has made the case for increasing the numerical combat capability of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), telling reporters on 14 May that “you can never have enough mass”.

Speaking at the site of the BAE System's Warton production facility in northern England, senior officials said that this need for the type of resilience afforded by increased mass is a core component of the company's Air Combat Continuum, and that it continues to make this case to the RAF and the wider Ministry of Defence (MoD).

“There were 18 front-line squadrons when I was in the RAF [compared to nine today],” Mike Baulkwill, combat air strategy director at BAE Systems, said. “You can never have enough mass because you can't be in more than one place at the same time.”

As Baulkwill noted, the 18 squadrons of the early 1990s translated into more than 700 front-line combat aircraft, compared with the approximately 150 aircraft today. “Mass has been the eternal problem [for the UK]. It is a question that needs to be put to the MoD, but it does now look spread quite thin,” Baulkwill said.

According to Baulkwill, the need for mass is not lost on the MoD, with the implication being that the RAF may now look at extending the service lives of its Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 combat aircraft that were scheduled to be retired from 2032 before previously being extended into the 2040s.

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