The Centaurus aircraft shall be a transport aircraft,similar in size to an Airbus A350-1000 airliner,intended to replace the United Kingdom's existing fleet of twenty two Atlas,fourteen Voyager,eight Globemaster III and fourteen Hercules aircraft.
The Centaurus began as a concept for an improved Globemaster III aircraft,more suited to British military requirements,with more efficient engines and a longer fuselage.
When the Royal Air Force aquired the Atlas,Voyager and Globemaster III aircraft,none of which can efficiently meet British requirements,and the Globemaster III production ended,it became apparent that a clean sheet design was the only means to reduce the cost of satisfying British military air transport requirements.
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum
There are five fundamental problems with the Globemaster III,though we doubt that senior British politicians,civil servants or military officers have sufficient wit to understand any of them.
Firstly,the Globemaster III has a high "aircraft classification number" which means it is not well suited to operating from "soft" runways,this creates inefficiency by forcing the aircraft to fly payloads between locations which may be a long way away from where they start at or are going to,this increases the number and cost of aircraft and surface logistical assets required to deliver a given logistical capacity and increases the vulnerability of supply lines.
Secondly,the United Kingdom's long distance air transport requirements cannot be efficiently met by the the Globemaster III as it's range and payload are not sufficient to fly directly from Brize Norton to distant locations such as Brunei and the Falkland Islands,landing to refuel increases the time spent in the air and on the ground on each trip thereby increasing the size and cost of the aircraft fleet required to satisfy logistic demands and increasing vulnerability to denial of refueling locations by neutral host nations or enemy action.
Thirdly the Globemaster III has a low ratio of payload volume to payload weight,this is due to it's short fuselage which increases payload weight by reducing airframe weight at the expense of reducing volume thereby making the aircraft well suited to transporting high density cargo such a Main Battle Tanks but poorly suited to carrying low density cargo such as paratroops,as it runs out of payload space before it runs out of payload weight,this increases the size and cost of the aircraft fleet required to deliver a given logistical capacity.
Fourthly,it has long been said,though it is not clear who said it first,that "there are three things needed to win a war,money,money and more money",this fact has been consistently ignored by the ingenues who inhabit senior positions within the British armed forces,civil service and government,most notably during the Second World War when the British Empire suffered a procurement induced grand strategic military defeat.
National wealth is of greater military importance than transport aircraft,wars can be won without transport aircraft,they cannot be won without money,when making procurement decisions,economic benefits are more important than military benefits,procuring foreign made aircraft such as the Globemaster III has no economic benefits.
A heavily indebted nation such as the United Kingdom cannot sustain a major warfighting operation by borrowing to pay for imported equipment.
Lastly,it is a common mistake amongst amateurs,to assume that military procurement is all about buying military equipment,it is not and never has been,defence procurement is about freedom and democracy.
The purpose of an armed force is to guarantee the freedom of action of the political entity which creates it,in other words,the British armed forces exist to allow the British government to do things which other governments don't want it to do or conversely to not do things which other governments do want it to do.
Armed forces can only act in the interests of those who supply them with equipment,if the British armed forces are dependent on foreign made military equipment the British government is subject to the whims of foreign governments and cannot act in the interest of the people who elect and pay for it.
Ultimately,procurement decisions dictate whether the British armed forces are guarantors of the freedom of the British people or the instruments of their oppression,again this was demonstrated by the British armed forces during the Second World War.
The Centaurus aircraft shall solve all five of these problems and problems associated with the Atlas,Voyager and Hercules aircraft.
The Centaurus shall dramatically reduce the cost of the air transport fleet,saving hundreds of millions of pounds annually from the current support aircraft fleet cost of about one thousand seven hundred and sixty million pounds per year,whilst increasing it's capacity and flexibility.
A fleet of twenty five Centauri with twenty one front line crews,each of two pilots and two load masters,(plus trainee,instructor and test pilots) shall consume ten thousand peacetime budgeted flight hours per year,far fewer than the current mixed fleet of Globemaster III,Voyager,Hercules and Atlas aircraft.
Twenty one front line Centauri shall be formed in to three front line squadrons which shall make up a single air transport regiment within the support aircraft brigade of an army flying division.
The Centaurus shall have a three hundred long ton class maximum take off weight,a maximum payload of one hundred and twenty eight long tons,a usable fuel load of over two hundred and seventy thousand pounds,a typical fuel burn of fifteen thousand pounds per hour from four,forty five thousand pounds thrust,Rolls Royce Trent Four Fifty Advance engines,a useful load (fuel and payload) of at least four hundred thousand pounds and a cruising speed of around five hundred and fifty miles per hour.
The Centaurus aircraft shall have an air drop radius,with three hundred and twenty paratroops,of around four thousand nine hundred and fifty miles and a range of around nine thousand nine hundred miles with a similar payload.
For any given combination of payload and range it shall have a higher thrust to weight ratio,lower wing loading and lower aircraft classification number than the Globemaster III,allowing it to operate from shorter,softer runways and shall also have lower fuel,maintenance and crew costs.
The payload area of the Centaurus shall have an internal cross section similar to that of the Globemaster III aircraft but be significantly longer,being designed around the volume and payload required to carry three hundred and twenty paratroops (weighing four hundred pounds each) and a full fuel load.
Typical air drop loads shall include one hundred and sixty paratroops and forty Oxen,eighty paratroops and eight Light Protected Trucks,eighty paratroops and eight Field Cars,eighty paratroops and eight five and a half inch gun howitzers,sixteen field cars or eighty Oxen.
Twenty one Centauri shall be able to air drop the Light Infantry Division's reinforced ready brigade,(one third of the division) with combat supplies in a single lift without vehicles,in two lifts with Oxen or in three lifts with Field Cars or Light Protected Trucks.
The Centaurus aircraft shall be flown by just one pilot,it's two seat cockpit and crew rest area with bunks,heads,galley and dinette shall allow two pilots to fly a daily eighteen hour sortie during air assault operations (a Globemaster III typically has eight or ten pilots in four or five crews which significantly increases it's cost),at other times the Centaurus fleet shall fly at a lower rate providing routine logistical support to British garrisons and forces deployed worldwide.
The key to the cost effectiveness of the Centaurus is it's ability to do the job of both strategic transport aircraft and tactical transport aircraft,thereby allowing a significant reduction in the size of the transport fleet.