#SDSR 2015 Talking Points – The Great Carrier Conundrum

I think we all agree that SDSR 2015 will be unlikely to change the fundamental strategic direction of SDSR 2010, despite the tumultuous 5 years in between the publication of the two.

Slight course changes, correcting errors in the post SDSR 2010 plans and ensuring what we have in a post Afghanistan world in terms of personnel, organisation and equipment is maximised will likely be the key themes.

One of the talking points in the run up will centre on the great carrier conundrum.

Should we bring both into full service, sell/scrap one or have the second operate in some ‘semi permanent’ state?

With one in full service any refit period or downtime due to accidents for example would leave the UK without that significant capability. That might be an acceptable risk, after all, the UK will have operated without fixed wing carrier aviation for many years by the time the first carrier comes into service,

A related issue is that of HMS Ocean, which we know will be out of service roughly co-terminus with the first carrier entering service.

Operating with just one ‘flat top’ means the flexible carrier enabled power projection concept would rest on a single platform. Bringing the second carrier into semi permanent service with a reduced crew and sailing time would at least provide some measure of resilience but would still leave the UK dependant on one hull for CEPP. Operating with both in full service would provide some resilience and operational flexibility but at what cost?

Can the Royal Navy man both vessels in full service, would compromises have to be made elsewhere and other questions need to be answered.

This would also beg many other questions, the decision cannot be taken in isolation

Final F35 numbers, RFA requirements, casualty receiving and aviation training roles and number of frigates, in addition to smaller issues around amphibious doctrine in the absence of landing craft or vehicle space on the QE ‘class’ for example

Many issues, many questions, but ultimately;

One carrier or two, perhaps with an alternative of one and a half carriers

Over to you…




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Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!


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My first take on this is that we had it right with the Invincible class run 2 have 1in refit/reserve , 2TAG together with Ocean or eventually an Ocean replacement


There isn't a carrier conundrum. In fact it seems rather obvious what will happen. That is that the model being used at the moment, one ship operational with another in refit/reserve/construction, will continue. Just after 2018 that operational ship will be a 74,000 ton vessel with an air wing that will be configured based on Merlins, Apaches, F-35Bs and lynxs. The ship will basically be a bigger version of the USN LHA concept with the addition of a relatively limited AEW capability.

Ocean will be gone in 2019 as is effetively announced here: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06770.pdf

That leaves two hulls, QE and PoW and the Ocean/Illustrious relationship post 2010 provides the most obvious and likely model for their usage after 2018 when QE becomes available- obviously replacing Ocean as the sole RN flat-top.


Bring both into service, work on the basis of 1 always either deployed or ready-to-deploy; the 2nd as a Ready Reserve, with the ability to surge both during "best effort" type situations.

Coordinate with the French, so that (at the very least) only one of our combined fleet of carriers is in extended maintenance at one time.

The RTFG already works the flattops with the LPDs as a single force, this will continue - which makes sense given overall fleet size (lack of escorts, etc).

Build 2 enlarged Bay Class ships, with hangers, (or something similar) to replace Argus.


The QEs are hugely expensive to buy and run. They can only be justified by strategic and tactical significance. If they are, it makes no sense to only have one; time in dock and the risk of losing it would limit its usefulness to the point where we’d have been better off spending the money on other things. Taking this argument further, the risks are still high with two, especially if they’re meant to get close enough in to airlift men and material ashore. If restricting one to stand-by frees up the money for an F35-enabled multi-purpose vessel (think Juan Carlos / Canberra) as an Ocean replacement, that would begin to give us the flexibility and strength-in-depth that should be a necessary prerequisite of even being in the game.


As for other decisions. The DD/FF force was relatively protected in 2010, it "only" lost the four T22s. By comparison the amphibious fleet was cut by a third:

Albion / Bulwark: One sent to extended readiness

Bay Class: One of Four ships sold to Australia

Point class: Two out of six ships quietly dropped from the MoD contract

That's a fleet that consisted of twelve ships in 2010 that now consists of eight.

SDSR-15 for the navy will likely be almost entirely confirmatory.


I'm pretty sure the Marines could lose 2000 blokes to pay for a dedicated Ocean replacement. You do not require 7 - 8000 to man 3 Cdo Bde.


Three smaller ships and put one in reserve (or as an assault carrier) would have been a more manageable commitment. I think anything up to 40,000T could be dry-docked at Pompey or Plymouth as well as Rosyth, which would be plenty big enough and allow flexibility.

If we wanted to sell one of the QEs, would anyone buy a carrier that big that didn't have cats & traps? We aren't likely to end up with enough frigates and destroyers to allow us to run two carriers into contested space independently should the need arise.

Ocean could be kept in service much longer than currently planned while we figure out what to do with the QEs. It seems likely they will both come into service to start with (because Hammond is desperate to throw Pompey and the RN a bone after recent disasters) but with one with a cut down air group. In the long term we need a dedicated Ocean replacement, it could be done on a "cheapish and cheerful" basis again.

We have got into a position where we somehow run defence reviews in isolation from foreign policy. Indeed defence policy is run directly by the Treasury. The FCO don't seem to have any view worth expressing and when DFID were offered the use of Illustrious for the Phillipines, they had to get on Google to find out what an aircraft carrier is.


"I’m pretty sure the Marines could lose 2000 blokes to pay for a dedicated Ocean replacement. You do not require 7 – 8000 to man 3 Cdo Bde."

Harmony guidelines and manning balance?


I thought we were out of the enduring boots on the ground stuff, so one might reasonably argue a one shot 3CDO combined with 16AAB could be smaller perhaps

Welcome to TD Stuart


QEC are going to be expensive to run. CHF is low on airframes. I see it becoming a nice to have subsidiary capability. I know everybody here thinks helicopters are the answer to everything unless compared to any fixed wing capability when suddenly helicopters aren't worth the tin.

What is needed is more dock capacity in fast LPDs that can keep up with fleet not more helicopter capacity for a diminishing number of airframes.

Not going to go through all the reasoning again.


People need to get over the idea that there will be anything like a fixed notion of an "air group". There will be no such thing. The UK will instead have a collection of assets from which it can produce a flat-top based aviation package based on specific needs.

There will be available:

2 x F-35B squadrons (1 RAF and 1 FAA badged but based on the JFH model- so under RAF control)

30 x Merlin HM2 of which some will be configured for AEW

25 x Merlin HC4/4a for lift (in two squadrons)

And whatever other JHC assets (Lynx and Apache) are deemed necessary for the mission.

All Politicians are the Same

Admiral Harding has already laid out the likely force mix. So a Joint Air Mvre Package will see 24F35B 9HM2, 5 AEW airframes.

Given the cuts in us CV assets and the increased importance of LHA in providing fixed wing support for MEU ops I wonder if the USN/USMC may be interested in Crows Nest.

To answer the original question the current Government will delay the decision as long as possible and point out how we are running Ocean and QE.


Just tidied up a few sloppy sentences in the original

Anyway, Derek, I have always said that the notion of 'permanent air group' should be killed, think I actually wrote a post on just that subject.

The aviation assets deployed will be entirely mission/training requirement specific.

The start point should always be zero

Would also add Chinook to your list


A number of force packages have been considered, but there is no "the" force mix, that will depend on the requirements of any given time. The 24 number has been offered not as a standard package but as a surge capability- conveniently also the same size force that the UKs two planned F-35B squadrons will be able to generate.

Good overview here: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_09_11_2013_p0-615007.xml

On the subject of convenience, the 12 figure from the SDSR is the single FAA badged F-35B squadron, the surge capability obviously being the addition of the single RAF badged F-35B squadron.

All Politicians are the Same


You are correct up to a point. Of course what we will have is always a TAG(Tailored Air Group) but in order to plan, berthing, stores, deck use, training etc etc it is not difficult for the experts to come up with Air Groups to fit mission profiles which is what Russ Harding has done.
The last thing you ever want to do is deploy operationally with a strange and untested TAG configuration.



Absolutely agree and that comment was not really aimed at your good self, I was also remiss in missing Chinook.



Harmony guidelines and manning balance?

But it's the Brigade that rotates not the individual, you can use the orbats for Herrick to get an example. And at the moment we are only geared to provide an amphibious battle group at short notice, the same for the airborne element. We could realistically make 3 reaction brigades with an airborne, commando and light mechanised infantry battle group within each one, from units that exist already.

And the money saved in the Navy budget could buy you an Ocean replacement.


APATS, yep, absolutely see the logic in having pre-defined packages that can do x and y are are trained etc. but the basic point is we should get out of the notion of having a 'permanent air wing'

I don't think a US CROWNEST buy is completely out of the question but I suppose the question for the USMC would be that old one of what would they want to lose to fund it?



Correct, there will be a series of relatively standardised packages with different weightings between rotary lift, sea control, and strike based on hypothetical (but informed by history) scenarios. But there will be no such thing as a standard air wing in the form that the USN use or the RN used prior to the Falklands.

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IT really depends what you want the Carrier to be able to do, if you do not conduct enough fixed wing ops to remain current and operational then why have one at all?


APATS, I dont think the two are mutually exclusive, of course the norm might be as you described because the norm meets training and force development needs but just think we should get away from the notion of a permanent collection

Being flexible in approach by starting at zero reinforces the whole multi role, flexibility theme that they are going to have to demonstrate

We both know carrier strike a la Admiral Lord West is yesterdays news and CEPP with Apaches and Chinooks is today's story :)

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Just as we both know that what we will actually have to deal with is tomorrows story. :) The secret will be actually being prepared for once.


I think preference for SDSR 2015 is all four "flat tops":

- Ocean/Illustrious (or their replacements)

What I think everyone fears the most is:

- QE

(i.e. POW mothballed and Ocean/Illustrious scrapped).

The cheapest and most political move might be:


(i.e. bring POW in as the replacement for Ocean/Illustrious)

I'm hoping the stabilised budget that is now often reported for the MOD is enough to protect all four "flat top" hulls!


The secret will be actually being prepared for once.

Burn the witch


David Niven - "You do not require 7 – 8000 to man 3 Cdo Bde."

Good thing that your figure 7 - 8000 men also includes 1 Assault Group and a bunch of other units then. Given that the Royal Marines are looking at 1.7 out of 3 deployment ratio, I think removing 2000-3000 booties would not go down too well.

Please explain what your "Rapid Reaction Division" is actually going to do that we can't do already, while retaining are expert command centres for Air Assault Operations and Amphibious Warfare.



Pure fantasy. Illustrious decommissioning in 2014 has already been announced: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mod-sets-out-future-of-invincible-class-carriers

And everything is pointing towards Ocean, soon to be the only flat-top in the RN, disappearing in 2019.


I think Spreadsheet Phil (A slightly unfair soubriquet IMO- he's certainly brought some commonsense and some sound budgetry to the MOD) is on the money with his comment about there being no point in having one carrier parked up oozing money, rather than actually being used. And in making a comment like that, makes me think that he at least thinks there is some money to be had to do that.

So the question really becomes: Do we replace Argus or/ and Ocean?

Not replacing either saves money, and escorts, and enables the andrew to crew both carriers, without much of a manpower uplift. But at the cost of having the two carriers and crews run ragged fulfilling all the tasks that those vessels carried out, as well as their own.
Although, I dare say that whichever carrier was in home waters would be used for training anyway, and no amphibious landing would go ahead without a carrier being present anyway.

However, the Carriers are enormously expensive, and need to be conserved to a certain extent, to keep them for the longest period.

So, which one do we replace? Ocean? Amphibious ship, giving a useful air assault capability, but you would still need a carrier for any landing. Argus? Cheap aviation training, and primary casualty reception, but.....well, but, really.

I'm playing fantasy fleets here, but why not replace Albion, Bulwark, Ocean and Argus, with a couple of next generation light fleet carriers? with ski jumps and steel beaches, able to carry an commando as an embarked force, act as a C4 asset and support a limited offensive aviation component (maybe 6 jets+ support heli's) bit like a crossbred Invincible and Ocean. Obviously a bit bigger, and with organic self-defense even if it's containerised SeaCeptor. (And of course festooned with mexiflotes and LCU's)

Oh, and call them Furious, Courageous, and Glorious....

And BTW, I've already assumed that illustrious will have retired.


Are we not guilty of jumping the gun with regards to numbers, availability, aircraft onboard etc, with an election in 2015? Who knows what each party will have with regards defence plans post 2015?

All Politicians are the Same


I think it would take it a hugely brave party to make big changes in 2015, especially with the equipment budget agreed out to 2020.


I'm increasingly of the opinion that we'll build and operate both carriers to maintain CEPP once Lusty and Ocean are gone to the knackers yard.

I then think that we will consider replacing Albion and Bulwark with a couple of Juan-Carlos type ships. Once done this allows us to sell one of the carriers as we'll have three flat-tops to sustain a minor task or surge two LHDs (or the remaining CVF) for a larger task. This would be around 2030 - about the same time that CdG will need replacing...

Therefore I think there is a lot of mileage in retaining the ability to operate CTOL aircraft on PoW - with ourselves possibly joining the game further down the line. This leads only to a small procurement of F35B as a stop-gap.



I'm not so sure, I'm more confident as the economy is now starting to turn the corner but I still wouldn't rule anything out. I know we shouldn't look back, however the PM's speech per the carrier contract and Nimrod getting chopped up post build lead me to think anything could happen. Although, thankfully, the chance of a big shock is reducing as the economy gets back on it's feet, it's not gone yet.



Three "flat tops", thank you for the correction, I was hasty in my typing. Long day! :D



'Please explain what your “Rapid Reaction Division” is actually going to do that we can’t do already, while retaining are expert command centres for Air Assault Operations and Amphibious Warfare.'

At the moment the spearhead battle groups are coming from either the Paras or Marines (I'm sure someone will put me right if I'm wrong) This means that at the moment if an emergency arose that required a parachute insertion when the Marines are on spearhead then the a Para battle group will need to be stood up pretty sharpish. A Foxhound mounted light infantry battle group would also be handy for a sudden peace enforcement mission that would not require an amphibious landing, they would be better mechanised (from a protection point of view ) for the role than the Cdo battle group, and with a vehicle that is just as strategically mobile.

Having a mix of 3 battle groups with differing specialisms allows a better tailored response to any given situation, the command centres you mentioned would not need to go per se, but the 3 HQ's would have an amalgamation of Marines,Navy, Army and Airforce.

If a purely amphibious Bde was required you would then have a battle group trained and ready to go plus one that has just stood down so in all sense fully trained up, and one that is going through the motions of working up. This would apply to all the battle groups.

It's not a cap badge bashing exercise, just an honest idea of what the reaction brigades could be geared towards, giving us 3 bde's rather than the two we have now.


Ooh a Carrier thread. Standby for 500 comments a week and at least 5 people throwing their toys out of the pram (including me probably).


The one asset here that has only been mentioned in the blog is Manpower\woman power(or whatever drivel its termed as now). The RN does not and will not have the bodies to man both at the same, thus leaving Albion/Bulwark in extended readiness, never mind manning the 3OPVs if the Rivers remain.

Everyone should stop fantasizing about running X,Y & Z the Rory Norman will be down to < 30K by about mid 2018. Maybe just as well that there will be all that space on 1 deck to constantly supply Crab air cabs space to rotate their hard done by staff out every six weeks.


The only thing i'm sure of right now is that scrapping POW and leaving the RN with just 1 (albeit huge) flat-top would be a major mistake and probably require a reappraisal of our ambitions/limitations, in essence what we want our navy to actually do.

I also don't think it's outside the realms of possibility to have Ocean around a bit longer if only to provide two flat-tops until POW gets fully commissioned.

We have been told that it would only be £70 million extra to keep the second carrier in service which seems perfectly affordable even in our cash strapped situation.

The big decider seems to be manpower. You here more and more about the ever tightening squeeze on the RN as a result of it's contraction in personnel. If we assume that the crews from Illustrious and Ocean roughly provide for QE then after that the well is seriously dry. With no more room to budge, no more spare personnel to shuffle around how will POW be crewed even in a reserve state let alone as a fully worked up and deployed vessel? What would we be willing to sacrifice to keep her around? 2-3 T26 seems the most obvious choice, but even that's assuming the RN doesn't see even more cuts during the 2015 SDSR.

All in all i know what i want to see, but until we get the upcoming review behind us i don't think we can really be sure of anything. It's just too murky and multifaceted at the moment to make any solid calls.



Great post, it's always good to see others trying to keep things grounded in reality.



You're always welcome to throw your toys out of the pram here!


Question on manpower, if the decision is to go with a 1 plus 1 model, keeping the spare in some sort of reasonably medium/high readiness will need, obviously I guess, a crew

What are peoples thoughts on that crew being a mix of RNR, retained reserves/FTRS, contractors, RFA and RN?

Is it feasible and would it cost less or more?

How about HMS G4S :)


Phil, standby standby



Taking everything into consideration i think the best case scenario will be to keep both CVF in service with one worked up and operational with the other in some reserve state between high-readiness and mothballed, but that's only assuming we can find the manpower from who know's where and their is some kind of compromise when it comes to manning the second vessel between full compliment and nothing at all.

I agree what people having being saying about flexibility with the air-group, different situations require different assets. I'm adamant as well that instead of seeing these vessels as scaled down Nimitz's we really need to accept and work with the fact that QE/POW will operate far more like LHA's of the America class variety, which isn't such a bad thing in my opinion. It's far more to scale and in-keeping with our global ambitions and wider spectrum of capabilities.

All Politicians are the Same

Reference manpower. Lusty to QE is core complement neutral. Ocean to POW is most definitely not but T23 to T26 would save about 60 per hull and 7 hulls would equal the difference between Ocean and POW. Now that is a vast over simplification, there are differences in specilisations required etc and we are always strapped for manpower but believe it or not there are actually people sitting in offices working out how to make Plan A or B or C work from a manpower perspective.
I do not see us running both however, short of a real crisis.



RE manpower:

Thanks for the info. It sounds like having one operational and one in reserve is hopefully more feasible than i originally believed. I doubt as well that we would see both together except in a serious crises but either way you still need two ships and two crews if you're going to keep up a regular tempo of operations. France may have the De Gaulle but what use is their in having a solitary vessel that goes into dry dock for sometimes years at a time without relief.


I reckon both QEs will be kept with one in reserve. Probably long term. Standard window dressing tactic "we have two aircraft carriers" the fact we have not enough people to use all the toilets in the one kept at reserve makes no difference. Apparently!

What I would like to see is both manned manned and used most of the time (of course there is maintenance and refit) and maybe a couple of mistral replacing several facilities.

Don't forget everyone, the crabs have got 60 odd chinooks. Everyone's MEANT to work together!


Regarding manning, I thought the fact we went for two was for one to be available at all times, whilst the other goes through refit and maintenance? Or are you talking about the occasions when we would need both active?


I think both QE & POW coming into active service with the departure of Ocean, Illustrious and Argus is already a given. The value they give by their sheer size lends very well to the future multi-role / adaptive platform approach the UK is heading for. I think also we should call them "commando carriers" as ultimately I think this is how they will be used.

I do feel also that there is a very real chance of a dedicated but small FAA TAG on the designated active "commando carrier". Something in the order of 12 F35bs plus a dozen Merlins of various configs.

For the RN, the real SDSR2015 question for me is what is the primary role for the RMs and how does this translate into troop numbers and supporting platforms.

I'm going to ponder on this question some more, but an example of how this is relevant is that based on the likely use of the LPDs, should these not be moved to the RFA to free up sailors to man both CVFs?



How realisitic is keeping one carrier at minimum manning? Can they be kept in useful training and reasonable training state to deploy, or is it a case of all or nothing? I don't so much mean numbers but all the training and competencies that needs to be done for any unit not just functioning, but operationally capable.

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Do you mean one only? So no Carrier running at all? Or a second carrier?


While I would like both carriers fully suited & booted for war, I think more realistically, one tooled up for violence against HM enemies, while the other pootles up the Solent with a minimum training crew, but able to load up with relief supplies/helicopters/vehicles for disaster relief, should it be needed. That leaves the main carrier for "fighty" roles without being diverted.



Sorry, i meant one at full manning on ops/exercises then the second at minimum manning.

All Politicians are the Same


It would really depend upon the "days notice" you wanted to keep it at. You could tie her up alongside with enough manpower for a rotating duty watch system and contract cleaners.

You could do as above but with enough specialist personnel to carry out the occasional set of System Operator Checks" and a basin trial or 2. perhaps under her own power.

Not sure if anyone has ever thought of drawing up a Scheme of Compliment which would allow the unit to go to sea but as a ship not a warship. So no ops room manning, no weapons systems or military sensors. Simply enough personnel to run the engines, man the bridge and comms and fight any fires. (be a mare to keep clean)

Even from the 3rd option it would be weeks not days to regenerate.


Has anyone come up with an operational use for even one of them, let alone two at once? Or are the boats now having to justify themselves in some kind of maritime willy waving manner?

There's no point to carriers in the Med, there's nothing worth bombing in either west or East Africa, we're hardly going to threaten Russia's northern flank with them, there's nothing at all in the North Atlantic that can't be better served by Keflavik, Gander or Lossiemouth, we haven't got any interest in any Pacific fights, and chasing the dwindling band of Somali pirates is overkill for an F35. We wouldn't put a capital asset into the Gulf if a shooting war with Iran was looming, plus there's a dozen friendly airfields on the western flank. Apparently, the Falklands are safe enough. South Africa is friendly and the regional power.

Firing TLAM has worked for the last conflicts, has a longer range, does not risk a Kevin, puts more explosive on target, and can come from out of the blue without all of the previous media hype of a large white elephant sailing out of Portsmouth.

So, where in the world are they going to be actually useful, and why are we spending over £20 billion for the ridiculous "carrier strike" concept when it is clearly not justified?



Simple, without carriers we lose our independent expeditionary strike capability. Without carriers and the amphibious lift capability might as well get rid of most of the fleet and the bulk of the army.

If we can't deploy independently what is the point if having any of it....so I return to my old answer when I see a green leaning type saying we don't need carriers








Thanks, so doable but not ideal. Not doubt somethings will be taken 'on risk' ( god how many times have I heard that...)


Don't forget that each carrier is tying up not far off 4% of the surface fleets manpower (some 15000 personnel) to man. To keep a second active you need to find corresponding reductions in billets elsewhere. Do you want to lose three type 23 crews to put one carrier to sea?

As for Points, I believe only 4 were ever used and the two being released reflect declining toro requirements and reduction from bde sized landing to much smaller force.

Gloomy Northern Boy

Can't remember who said it, but DfID would soon work out what a flap-top was if HMG told them they were replacing Ocean with a Canberra class vessel, and then paying for it in perpetuity - to reflect the value the RN brings to development/disaster relief/sea gendarme type activities year in year out, and have done for years. No RN, no such options available; it is used every year in some form but they make no contribution to the capital programme: it could be crewed by the RFA for normal jogging; it is much more reasonable to spend aid money on this than on regimes with space programmes, hostile intentions towards us, or bigger arms/oppression budgets than education or health ones; and is one of the ways our European Partners hold down defence cost (Italian. Spanish and French I think) :-)

Now going to bed with painkillers and ibuleve gel having exploded knee (a little) and ankle (a lot) skiing...



@RT - "There’s no point to carriers in the Med..." - Clearly the Americans/French/Spanish/Italians and occasionally the Russians didn't get that memo :-)

BTW, apologies if I was putting words in your mouth re: RAF Regiment.

@GNB - No sympathy. Leave doing dangerous things unnecessarily to the paras. (As any sane man knows, the only right time to jump out of an aircraft is when it is irretrievably on fire). You should at least have gone to Sochi - one of the events appeared to consist of skiing and sniping.


@ Wise Ape,

"clearly the Americans/French/Spanish/Italians and occasionally the Russians didn’t get that memo :-)"

cheap shot there, given that 3 of those nations' are in home waters and one more "carrier" ('aircraft carrying destroyer' :D ) is barely a carrier really... wait until it gets MiG-29K's before actually considering it.

Of course, Gib means we must have a carrier there ;) and the Suez... in-case we fancied another go.

Of course I know what ya mean (re trade and possible threats), but the examples you gave... only the USN is doing the 'world projection' thing, the others are in home waters.


@Sir Humphrey: I assume the 15000 has a zero added. Given that we lack the frigates and destroyers to maintain much of a forward presence, I'd quite happily lose three T23's since in the matter of defence strategy we are going to have to sally forth to fix what's already broken rather than do preventative maintenance: and a CVF is a lot more useful than three T23's in that regard.

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@Sir H

You cannot look at as just 1500 and then sub 3 T23. You have to look at the specilisations involved/required. The QE will have a ships company very similar to that of the Invincible class. So under 700. Now to get to 1500 you add on a large TAG but that assets for that TAG are either there or they are not there. They will always be FAA/RAF assets and whether we have 1 or 2 or 1 and 1 in extended readiness they will still be FAA/RAF manpower not involved in manning a T23.


@ WiseApe,

I'll explain why I think there's little point in carriers in the Med, at least from a western / NATO viewpoint. The Russians have different drivers.

There are over 30 military airbases in NATO countries within easy reach of the Med, conveniently spread along its' whole length. Flight time across the Med from most is less than 45 minutes in a fast jet, which is at least the sort of distance that carriers in open ocean would wish to keep themselves away from OPFOR. Refuelling and wide body ISTAR options are much greater than open ocean carrier operations.

The only reason that anyone uses carriers in the Med is more probably because they have carriers, so might as well do something with them. Not because carriers for fast jets in the Gulf give you something that the 30 friendly airbases on dry land cannot.

@ Fedaykin,

So your argument is that £20 billion on carrier strike buys us not having to rerun the Falklands. You could make the islands impregnable for a couple of £billion, so your's is an expensive insurance policy, and IMO, not worth it. There is no single occasion since 1945, and I suspect even since 1900, when not having carriers actually stopped the UK from being able to do anything.

I'm delighted to see I have attracted (so far!) 4 down votes, but not a single counter-argument of merit. It is a simple question: what is the operational scenario that requires us to have this lunatically expensive carrier strike capability?

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I gave up trying to explain global reach, precision strike, layered air defence, flexibilty, presence,no need for basing rights, sovereign territory, manouverability etc etc etc a long time ago. I am not a school teacher. The simple fact is that the French value them, the US do, the Russians do, the Chinese do, we do, the Spanish do, the Brazilians do, the Italians do etc.

People who have reached much higher positions than you and forgotten more about Naval warfare than you ever learnt think they are important and not just from the Naval service but hey a retired cavalryman knows better.

You have an entrenched position based on your beliefs that you refuse to move from, no matter how far out of step and date with current world wide military thinking it is.

So actually most people just ignore your posts on carriers now.



I have been thinking how to respond to your question on why we need carriers (which i agree is worth asking).

The strongest point i can raise is that whilst their is nothing wrong with basing jets on a friendly strip in this region or that it can't be guaranteed in every scenario 100% of the time, using a carrier either (depending on who you're talking to) costs the same or is cheaper (it's certainly not more expensive) plus can loiter and move pretty much anywhere it likes.

I agree their aren't many situations where a carrier is needed, but i believe it's a better way of deploying air-power most of the time.


"Can the Royal Navy man both vessels in full service, would compromises have to be made elsewhere and other questions need to be answered."

Agreed, and they'd be worth it.


Observation: Two new carriers would attract recruitment candidates.


@RT Same old isn't it. Tanks are extinct... who needs fighter pilots anyway... as M&S would say everything we have is useless compared to a lovely big missile.

Everything needs to exist in a balance. You only know when you need the fighty things when your fighting. QE should not be going near Pirates, drug runners or even terrorists really. My image is a few mother ships doing all of this gun waving police stuff. Then the rest of your fighty ships should be training for a proper fight or doing just that. With the obligatory headline grab by popping into the med and sinking a wooden boat from time to time.

There are many things that seem to fill niche roles. Carriers are the only real flexibility of basing incase we are denied rights to fly from certain airfields or over fly. And we cannot rely on tankers (you know the fleet thats grounded) or really expect enduring ops from fighters on long missions. Libya was a few long range bombing missions with GR4. Who needs a carrier? Well for protection of landing forces for one and for any long range missions. Kevin requires a lot of tea before, during and after long mission like that. Someone has to pay for that!



Go on then. Make a positive case for the things you cite, and try to link it to a credible operational scenario. And as you do so, recall that I very specifically state carrier strike, that subset of naval capability. Smaller LPD/LPH etc are not what I am having a go at.

It's a simple, and honest question, and not one that I believe has ever been satisfactorily answered by the proponents of such. I'll ignore your rather puerile ad hominem remarks: explain why both the Army and RAF at 3 star level, and the DSTL analysis failed to support the QEC IGBC not once but twice, that not a single SAG scenario required carrier strike, why carrier strike (purist sense, with FJ) has not been used by any nation since when?

Flat tops with helicopters and troops are an entirely different matter. I support those.


Further to my previous comments regarding the future of Royal Marines being the main focus for change for the RN in the SDSR2015. The fact is that with reductions in Army manpower, leaving the RMs as is doesn't make much sense as the likelihood of a full on amphibious operation is pretty low, especially as the follow on Army force will not be there. I cannot see a tank bursting through a beachhead in anger any time soon.

I know people will say (and I agree) we should be able to mount another Falklands style operation, or make potential enemies believe we can. But this is a once in a lifetime event, and hence to achieve it all the rules of rotation etc go out of the window. Therefore, to scale to have this capability 100% available within a month's notice, doesn't seem a good spend of money.

Therefore, the focus should be what are the likely scenarios that the RMs will be needed for. In my view the following activities should be at core to the RM:

- Small scale, but high intensity, maritime based raids

- UK citizen evacuation from war zones

- Humanitarian assistance

- Intelligence gathering

- Anti terrorist / piracy / drug operations

- Extraction of downed pilots

Based on this and the fact that none of these would likely require more than a few hundred troops in a single operation, I would say that the number of RMs should be reduced (and definitely removing the Rifles) and current Cdos split into smaller (say 2-300 troops) but more numerous units (say 6 commandos). This would allow greater flexibility and increased ability to cover more locations.

If we went with this structure I would then go with the suggestion to "downgrade" both LPDs to RFA LSD status and removing one LSD over to get a force of 4. A mini Cdo would then be assigned to either a LSD or CVF. If a Falklands style operation was needed, these would be enforced by Army units and the ships run in overload mode.

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Read my last post. I am fed up trying to explain to you and this will be the last time I respond on Carriers.

Everyone if I ever respond to RT on carriers again please feel free to fine me somehow.


@RT: Think of a CVF as a Commando Carrier with the ability to also perform a sea-control role.

Yes they are large, but is your gripe the size or the cost. The latter has a lot to do with politicians and delays due to money constraints as we fight land based wars - rather than the cost of steel.


"Based on this and the fact that none of these would likely require more than a few hundred troops in a single operation, I would say that the number of RMs should be reduced (and definitely removing the Rifles) and current Cdos split into smaller (say 2-300 troops) but more numerous units (say 6 commandos). This would allow greater flexibility and increased ability to cover more locations."

Um. No. You need numbers and a commando (battalion) is about as small as you can go and still do stuff. Take a Libya-esque situation. Forget Commando 21 for a mo. A company to garrison the beach. A company for reserve. And two companies for the evacuation.

If anything we need to head towards MEU numbers and capabilities. (Especially engineering and a cavalry squadron.......)

No use covering locations if you can't do anything........


I think we should keep both ships! I think that manning in the royal navy is far to small and that any cuts in personnel would have adverse affects not only on the operation of the carriers but of the navy as a whole! As you well know it takes years to gain the skills associated with operating complex warships we need to invest in the future with more personnel not less! The future of this country depends on the SEA! Our very existence as a nation depends on the SEA! We are a MARITIME NATION ! We need a properly funded and well equipped navy with carriers at the core !



I'm disappointed. Asking questions of carrier strike is perfectly legitimate. Not that in some hypothetical WW3 scenario it would not be a useful arrow in the quiver, but that in the real world of chances, risks and competing priorities the probability of needing carrier strike is vanishingly small, as DCDS(EC) was advised by a significant majority of the military judgement panels. Not once, but twice.

The third time the case succeeded, but not with any underlying change in threat assessments or of SAG scenarios, merely a different set of personnel some 2 years later. That and an optimistic early days set of assumptions on the development costs of F35 and QEC. Assumptions not borne out by reality. Don't worry, I'll not throw accusations of a Labour industrial strategy or non-knowledge of a future 2008 crash into the mix: no one on the MJP could foresee the latter, the former largely disproved.

It is the sheer cost of adding carrier strike onto the base costs of next gen LPH / LPD that gets me. I strongly believe that those extra costs will never have a return on investment. You seem to believe that I have it in for the RN entire. Not at all, I merely believe that (say) 4 Juan Carlos with a decent complement of helicopters and some improved amphibious capability would be rather better value for money, and more useful to the UK over an expected service life.

As I say, I'm disappointed. You are running from an argument that should have been had. I'm perfectly civil. The only point you have made that is strong is layered air defence, but it is not by itself compelling for the additional £10 billion acquisition costs of carrier strike over a more modest LPD/LPH capability.


The problem I think is when you argue the case along the lines of what RT has said it stands up more than some care to admit. There is also merit in apas position of denial of basing for strike jets/presence and the such like to make a case for using a carrier. Though exactly what operation would require f35 type capability at the scale envisaged of cvf without recourse to any supporting land based aircraft or allies is a difficult one.

I hate using the term "well we spent so much on them we better equip and use them" that seems the last refuse of a scoundrel. It doesn't make it any less true. We spent north of 6b quid building them so we dam well better maximise that to the full. That in my mind means getting both in service if that means we need to remove the remaining Lpd or reduce the frigate fleet by half to do it or accept 70% solutions else were in the fleet then in my view so be it we've made our bed.

The should they be built argument was for me settled nearly a decade ago when we ordered them, the capability hopefully will be excellent and should now be our main offensive commitment to coalition operations. The price to get there is probably going to be high in reducing other capability but no longer is it a choice.


@RT - It's -5 now and I haven't even voted!

The Italians, who had the nearest airbases to Libya, nonetheless deployed their carrier operating Harriers. Faster sortie rate, shorter transit time, longer loiter time, able to react quicker to intelligence. Don't think of a carrier as a "floaty little boat," think of it as an airfield you can move around much of the earth's surface. Why wouldn't you want one (or three) of those?

Remember those F15 blokes shot down in Libya - how would they have been got out without the US LHD nearby?

@Ian - We gave up our maritime strategy when the British Army agreed with their French counterparts that they would pitch up for a scrap with the Germans in northern France or Belgium before WW1 kicked off. Ironically, if Germany, Europe's pre-eminent land power, hadn't decided to build their High Seas Fleet to challenge the RN there would probably never have been an entente with France and we would have kept out of it.


If you moved the RM into the Army their costs would reduce. No need to staff the CLR, BAS etc, just amortise those costs across the existing Army units just like you do with the RE etc


wf claims "If you moved the RM into the Army their costs would reduce."

Um. No. They would stay the same or even dare I say increase.


'They would stay the same or even dare I say increase.'

Considering their wages, terms and conditions and equipment scaling and billeting would remain the same I don't see how the costs would increase.


@ WiseApe,

Some advanced map and geo-political analysis reveals that for an enormously high (well plus of 90% of the time) there are existing friendly bases. Not me, DSTL. And that included a weighting factor that sometimes presumed friends will say no to using their airbase. Now that's not 100% which would be nice, but we have to draw a line at some point.

Your other point about pulling downed F15 crews (land based) out of harm's way by LPD-based helicopters rather makes my main point, that carrier strike costs need not be incurred by the UK when LPD/H is what we actually need. Thank you. ;)


To run the extra carrier means finding some 700 billets - the rn is not going to get a manpower uplift to get this- growing the forces is just not going to happen. To run a second carrier you need to find these people inside. All manpower planning is not bring done on assumption of two carriers running. Therefore we have to gap billets elsewhere to crew the second ship.

Like I said, the rn surface fleet has eproughly 15000 billets, the submarines and FAA some 3000 each and the marines some 6000 ( this late and I don't have a detailed breakdown at hand). As such you need to find these people from a small specialised pool and when you look at what you will need to run the ships, it gets very complex and gives manning people and harmony guidelines headaches. I'm personally betting that the rn will be required to sacrifice something to find the bodies for the z3 new opv's if it wants to run them and the rivers on. God alone knows how bad running 2 cvfs is going to be!

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CSAR consists of quite a few components but part of the package is a dedicated FW escort. When we lost the ability to supply this from CDG or Garibaldi during the Libya op, the overall response time increased by 30 minutes.
Of interest on Carriers and Libya, at the end of the Op, the RAF requested a full breakdown of every mission flown from a maritime platform. Type of aircraft, mission, weapons carried, weapons released, duration etc. Caused total nause but nothing was ver heard about the results supplied :)

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In addition to my last, missed the edit to check on my toast and cheese, Kearsage of course provided her own AV8B cover for the F15 CSAR mission as part of the package.



Perhaps an example of something being not only a self-licking lollipop, but something fantastically expensive to generate.

After all, you never hear of a CSAR Mission being launched for the crew of a broken down recce wagon. No, you take your chances and don't expect a rescue.

Ex DESERT RESCUE 2003 was an interesting experience. An annual event run by the US Naval Weapons School at Fallon Nevada (Top Gun), the USN use it to train up their squadrons before they embark on a deployed cruise on a carrier. The USN doctrine was for a pair of FJs (then, preferred was F14s as they had a RIO in the back) to race to the scene of the downed aircraft, the lead to act as the on scene mission commander to coordinate the CAAR itself. This meant a Kevin had to fly in small circles to get eyes on with the downed aircrew, coordinate authentication codes, vector in helicopters, fend off threats, etc. all while trying to fly and not run out of fuel. It was fantastically inefficient.

In 2003 the UK was asked to take part with the Joint UAV experimentation programme, which I commanded, to see if UAVs could improve things. We had a stock Hermes 450 and a GCS.

We reduced the time to identify, authenticate, confirm and vector the helicopters by 68%, while drinking coffee in the GCS. Not once, but the average over 28 missions in 3 weeks. Because we were not thinking old-think.

Lots of "but buts" in there, but the principle is interesting. You don't need to do things the old way to get better results. And UAVs tend to have far longer loiter times than jets do, so the extra 30 minutes is a bit moot.

Anyway, rescuing some downed airmen (very infrequently, over the service life of a Nellie) is not a good enough reason to over-spend on required capability by £10 billion, not when most other types of serviceman are expected to get on with it should they be somehow left behind lines. It might sound heartless, but CSAR is only offered to a very few.

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By 2011 doctrine is C2 by separate rotary wing asset from recovery bird, fixed wing response to deter and suppress OPFOR. It was decided that a couple of FJ at 100 feet deterred any OPFOR more than a possible high altitude drone, not that they do not have their uses in such a scenario but you want the bad guys to piss off before you unleash ordnance ivo the guy you are trying to rescue.
The other drone and range issue is that loiter time is fine but if you cannot launch till an incident happens or in a big country like Libya you would be in wrong place.

Not a Carrier specific response for everyone else. as it is as applicable inshore as coastal.

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Anyway suede down time so I will leave with this thought on Carriers in general. It is not so much a matter of what could only be done by a Carrier can do but what could better be done with a Carrier than without and then you add on those times that only a Carrier will do combined with the multiple other tasks its flexibility allows it to conduct.


Its the lack of manpower in the navy which is the main problem! Retaining HMS Ocean after 2018 is unlikely unless we go to war again I think it will be sold to either Brazil or India rather than being scrapped! I think HMS Prince of Wales will be brought into service using the crew from Ocean.


Who thinks a couple of FJ at 100 feet deters ground forces more than a loitering UAV that you can't see? Presumably, someone not gifted with any intelligence.

We used to regularly get hunted by the Harrier Force on exercises. Really not very difficult to coordinate movement with the aircraft not pointing towards you: we had thermal viewers which make it child's play to know where the aircraft was. Even easier when dismounted. It was very rare that a Harrier could call in a hit, and they were meant to be the RAF's premier CAS solution.

Different matter when Apache came in, that could sit mast up behind a wood line. That was much more challenging, certainly in vehicles, less so on foot.

A couple of naval Kevins winging in without any ground briefing and with sensors optimised for a different form of warfare and target type would not be difficult to evade. Unless APATS has practical muddy knees experience, which I doubt, because it's not really part of being a PWO or a trainer of Yemeni Coast Guard boats to be in the woods moving tactically and avoiding being seen.

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Get into the 21st century, we were talking recovering downed airmen in Libya, we want the OPFOR to see the fixed wing assets are there and they did not have woods to hide in.
We do not care if they evade we just do not want them near our airmen which with a drone they cannot see they have no deterrence not to. Once they are there well hellfire etc becomes useless.
The use of a FJ flyby to deter actually came out of Afghanistan.
We are not on the German plains or in Bosnia anymore. No I have no experience of crawling through the mud but have Telic and Herrick ground tours.
We are very purple these days.


Did somebody die and decree that being a major sea-powerwould be low in cost and inconvenience?Does anything in your experience promise that such a state of affairs is possible?

If you judge that the RN is to have world-class capabilities-that Britain needs such a navy. Then what relevance is there in quibbling about crewing costs?Is there not a point a point at which nay saying becomes mere obstruction, and the job must be got on with-even if some clever fellow can come up with yet another reason to sit on one's hands? If battleships were still the price of freedom and independence- a country which would be free and independent would find a way.If carriers are a necessary ingredient in sea power?Should you not get on with it-and let the chips fall where they may?


So, like I said upthread, the question isn't really how many carriers do we operate- but rather do we replace Ocean and/or Argus?-
If we don't we can crew the second carrier to full operational status, but we lose amphibious capability- Ocean's ramp meaning we can lump big sticks of troops onto a beach, because, lets face it, even with Wokka's the limited size means that each heli wave will be an fully-equipped company of troops, at best.

As far as I'm aware, the QE's will have 4 Wokka spots, although, they're working on fitting more on, so maybe 6. That's a lift of two companies of equipped troops.
So how big an embarked force can the QEs take?

And BTW, in the same post- I mentioned the problem of crewing the QE's....

And, TBH, FJ's are at more risk from determined ground troops hence the reason why SOP's are one pass only


@x: "Um. No. You need numbers and a commando (battalion) is about as small as you can go and still do stuff. Take a Libya-esque situation. Forget Commando 21 for a mo. A company to garrison the beach. A company for reserve. And two companies for the evacuation.

If anything we need to head towards MEU numbers and capabilities. (Especially engineering and a cavalry squadron…….)

No use covering locations if you can’t do anything…….."

Should not have stressed the covering locations piece, as when needed then obviously having a RFTG with one or two LSDs would still give you the mass you need. Working on the assumption that you get approx. 1 month heightened awareness of a Libya type scenario and it happens every 2-3 years then I still feel this force structure would cover it.

The other type of operations I noted would not need a Battalion sized unit.


Honest and general question, people are worried about manning the 2 CVFs and 2 LPDs (1 in reserve), yet I see comments about having 4 LHDs or 1 CVF + 2 LHDs, would the latter actually fit the current RN manning restrictions any the more?

As I say my opinion is that the RN should just go for the 2 CVFs and let the RFA run 4 LSDs to support.


@RT: you are probably very right with regard to using UAV's for CSAR. But when it comes to picking up stranded Kevins, you really don't have a morale setting on your computer :-)


Is csar important yes do you need something the size and cost of cvf to allow you to do it no.

A ship the size of the Italian Cavour could do all that at much lower cost and crew requirements.

Cvf is the size with the capability it will bring for one purpose only carrier strike from the sea.

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@ Mark

I am in no way using CSAR to justify CVF, merely illustrating that a fixed wing capability embarked is very helpful. Interestingly Cavour has 2/3rds QE crew levels but you do not get 2/3rd capability. You still need the same number of the expensive manning positions.


@Mark: Approximately, the Cavour needs a core crew of 450 vs the CVF of 680 - this ignores the air group of course as they will be similar regardless of the size of ship. Are we seriously saying finding 230 additional crew per vessel is beyond a 60mn nation?

I'd argue that the size of the CVF vs Cavour allows you to do more. What makes you think it is the other way round?


From the comments so far the problem the Navy has is numbers of sailors to man both the carriers and an ocean replacement, and an ocean replacement is looking unlikely due to this very problem. So our carrier will be used as a very large America class, which it is not really optimised for use in the amphibious role hence the reason the later America classes are recieving well decks. I can then still see a reason for an ocean replacement being required as even with the carrier acting in an amphibious operation the only thing it brings is airlift which means only light infantry (unless you can store and bring up to the decks vehicles and light guns?). But we are where we are, so is a dedicated ocean replacement still required for amphibious operations? If it is , then how will the use of the carrier slow operations? And how would the Navy pay for the crewing costs of an ocean type vessel if it is still deemed necessary for amphibious operations? Is there a study to provide the same rear ramp and mexe float system for the new carriers as that found on ocean?

Personally I believe we are purchasing the wrong plane for the right ship or the right plane for the wrong ship.



I accept that it offers much less capability than cvf. But across 2 ships that's 500+ less people required to operate them, ships of that size would also most likely have cost about 2b pound less to build which is you p8 capability. It would appear the extra crew is a problem repulse or there would be no discussion about parking one at the sea wall

We've never had the level of capability offered by cvf from the sea. It's equivalent to the raf deciding that 3 sqns of b1bs is what we need going fwd.

But someone somewhere decided that future uk strike capability will come from these ships so maximising that is now a must.

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@ Mark

Actually across 2 Ships it would be a lot closer to 450 than 500 plus. Also the extra personnel would be at the cheaper end of the scale. No requirement for extra Charge qualified Engineers, senior Officers etc.

Manning will be interesting but as i pointed out yesterday in a simplistic manner. Lusty and QE is core complement neutral. Then you have savings from T23 to T26 which will be about 50 per hull but Ocean to POW is about an extra 380-420. You then balance that against speciliasations because the argument I used against Cavour now works in reverse, the people you save from T26 to T23 are again the more junior bodies. People are looking at all the options.

We’ve never had the level of capability offered by cvf from the sea. It’s equivalent to the raf deciding that 3 sqns of b1bs is what we need going fwd."

Well if the RAF had not moved australia and then did not even get F111 in the end :(



@ Cassandra . I think you have raised the nub of the issue. Both the RN and RAF are undermanned, so they will have to get an increase in man power. That can only come from a reduction in army man power, the axing of the RAF regiment or an increase in defence expenditure. The later is unlikely unless there is a change of heart, the former (ie reductions to army manpower ) is the most likely. The experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq have left the army in a far weaker place politically than the other two services. I would rather see defence spending increase to 2.5% of GDP which would solve the man power and euipment problems without robbing Peter to pay Paul.


If you subscribe to the argument that we don't need carrier strike as we have made do without it or that we haven't used it, why do we have UK air defence, a nuclear deterrent or ASW assets? We have them as they would be needed in a worst case scenario!


One of the major mistakes being made by some in this thread is assuming that the QE class are about carrier strike. That is just one of the capabilities that these platforms will provide. They will also be taking the amphibious lift role, and operate as maritime control platforms. These are aviation platforms that will be used to provide whatever aviation services the fleet needs. Any comparison with real CVs/CVAs such as CVA01 is tenuous at best.


Good christ Bob and I agree on something.

The Invincibles started out as a through desk ASW cruiser which then got a point A2A defence capability and which turned into a light carrier (a pretty crap one). Now we have a strike carrier that is morphing slowly into something like a multi-role aviation platform which is very useful.

My opinion on this is still that a strike orientated CVF is of little utility at the moment. In fact I agree with RT it's of next to no utility. But, as has been pointed out her last Captain is still shitting his nappy and the future could easily throw up a scenario where a CVF strike capability becomes critical again. It's an expensive insurance policy but seeing as it will be used for a wide variety of aviation roles it's not a white elephant.


@Derek: well, CVF is similar to CVA01. But it's certainly not all about carrier strike. Personally, I think mass strategic bombing has had it's day, even amongst airpower advocates. When you can create massive effects with a few TLAM's or smart bombs, the idea of systematically wiping out industry and the like seems a bit of diversion of effort away from more effective uses for the effort. And if you are invading as well, you just have to rebuild the stuff. Instead, do enough to keep things down for weeks, and maneuver on land and sea to change the realities on the ground.

What CVF will do is allow a task force to control the environment around it, far more effectively than land based airpower, largely by dint of it's sortie rate. All those ships full of Commando's won't get far without a robust way of defending them.

I noted earlier that @RT wasn't very impressed with the 1982 reference. You hear the same now about Iraq and Afghanistan, on how it "will never happen again". Should I quote Sir Winston about being condemned to repetition?


"It’s a simple, and honest question, and not one that I believe has ever been satisfactorily answered by the proponents of such. I’ll ignore your rather puerile ad hominem remarks: explain why both the Army and RAF at 3 star level, and the DSTL analysis failed to support the QEC IGBC not once but twice, that not a single SAG scenario required carrier strike, why carrier strike (purist sense, with FJ) has not been used by any nation since when?"

Just as a slight point of order, I'd be interested to know the basis of the above statement. To the best of my knowledge (having been in town in 1999), Dstl did not exist and there was no IGBC, because the approval for Assessment Phase (in early 99) predated the whole IG, MG malarkey. As far as SAG scenarios go, there were a number of them, done under the old MQ series I25/26 by what was DOAC at West Drayton, IIRC. In point of fact, Dstl (post formation in 2001) were heavily involved in developing the scenarios that justfified the sortie gen rate for the ships.

This reminds me a little of the debate we had some time ago about Juan Carlos being an option considered as an alternative to QEC. In point of fact it never was, outside some staff options course at RCDS. Sounds a little bit like myth and legend from a Tarquin and Rupert perspective to me.......


Can we please condem the terms CVF and Strike Carrier from all of our vocabularies please when talking about the RN. Can we find a term closer to reality such as Commando Carrier when talking about our new shiney lumps of floating real estate.

Also we can all talk about what could have been, but the fact is they are being built. Unless anyone seriously thinks that a better alternative would be to scrap them without replacement then we should really move on.

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CVF was used because it was a future project. Perhaps we should reintroduce the designation CVU. As it will be a utility Carrier?



The similarities between CVF and CVA01, in the formers current conception, is that they both have/had large flat decks and carried aircraft. That's where it ends.

The QE class won't just provide are control it will also provide the rotary lift base for those commandos.


I think its quite well known now about the RAF moving Australia. Even with doing so you are horribly overstretched.

Heres a hypothetical situation for you RT. The args have taken the Falklands completely overwhelming our defences. Just about possible I suppose but it hardly matters cause this is hypothetical :D Now we have FJ in the UK all we have to do is get them over the FIs. We are going to assume we have Tankers (which we cureently don't but oh well!). So Voyager can trail typhoon or F35 down to ascension. Oh but whats that you say... voyager hasn't got a probe fitted. Oh dear now the only way we can get that far south is send a voyager and a load of FJs on a suicide mission! Eevn if you had a probe you aref lying very long range missions again. You can't really allow for combat over the islands so you couldn't support any ground troops or fend off enemy aircraft.

The Falklands now they have been mentioned PROVED the need for carriers and LPD/H and assualt ships and the commando. It also pointed at the necessity of 2 carriers. If you lose your one and only carrier you have no air assets left and everything that was up goes into the sea.

The navy is said to be "at critical mass". Currently we don't have 2 QE class either. So I think we either send less fighty ships to the RFA or we increase staffing. There is no point having a Navy if you haven't got people to man it. More window dressing.

@RT Carriers are like tanks, they operate in a niche role. Like attack helicopter. Like Fighter jets. Like Trident. Like T45. Like T23. Like essentialy everything other than men/women. No you don't need them, but would you rather have them?


The Falklands now they have been mentioned PROVED the need for carriers and LPD/H and assualt ships and the commando.

It PROVED the need to have a proper garrison for a bog that a third world country covets. We now have a garrison on that bog.

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It actually proved both. One to make it more difficult to take and the other to get it back if you are careless enough to lose it :)


Be fair Phil, he's right in that the top brass do need to plan for worst case scenarios. Personally, I think the argies have a slightly better chance than "snowball in hell", but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Besides, that is a moot point considering that carriers also have other usages and other locations that they can influence so it's not just a case of being bought just for FI round 2.


Oh dear Oh dear...

TD Trolls his own blog again by starting up the carrier flame war...

I am shocked! Shocked! I tell you about the strongly held views on both sides, I feel a properly considered calm appreciation................... Nope its no good 'I cant hold it cap'n its gonna blow'!..


Look at the above comments; all truly held beliefs, many by 'people in the know' but does this not show how Nellie and Dumbo are going to be THE defence issue for the UK for he next 10 years??

We have people saying this that or the other should be cut to feed the beasts and clean out their cages.

We have people in effect re writing the whole initial justification for buying the things in the first place to justify the continuation of the program.

Its not like even the RN isnt going to be cut to pay for them eventually.

I christened them Elephants- perhaps should have given them names like P24374XZY3 cahotec or whatever cosmologists call super massive black holes.......


@Phil yes fair enough but as I said it is very unlikely that we will be in the same situation.



Oh no not the RAF moved Australia myth again...

How many times does that get rolled out!

It is a myth and there is zero evidence that the RAF did it, the only source for this myth is the Biography of Ray Lygo. Ray Lygo was on the design team for CVA01 and later head of BAe, he is the soul source of this myth which changes from 200 to 1000 miles depending on who tells it. The National archives have been checked more then once and there is no sign of this special RAF map with Australia in a different location.

Sick of hearing people swear it is gospel truth based upon the unverifiable writings of one man.


Not read all comments yet.

I don't think the selling option for PoW has been seriously considered for a quite a while, it was always idiocy anyway.

Any politician with half a brain would realize they would not get anywhere near the build cost back, so why be crucified in the press and make the country a laughing stock, much better to have both in service, one as the 'on call' carrier and the other in refit/reserve. No one would buy the QEs anyway, France has given up on a second carrier and the QE's are STOVL anyway, they are too large for Brazil and it would not be wise to sell such a capable platform to a potential ally of Argentina's, and India is already building two carriers, and the refitted Kuznetsov class has just entered service.

Still replacing two 20,000 t LPHs with two 70,000t strike carriers/LHAs is not a bad result for the RN, and it is obviously a huge step up in capability, even prestige.

I personally don't think Ocean will be replaced, and the MoD will prob wait until Albion and Bulwark are due to be decommissioned, then order two Mistral sized LHDs.

One thing that does puzzle me, is why the RN still say the QEs are only 65,000t when RINA says they are 70,000t ?


It is interesting to note though that RAF require over 1000 bods to operate 4 FJ, 1/2 helicopters, a C130, and a few RADAR from an airfield that can't move at cost of over £75 million per year which is a lot more than CVF's projected yearly costs for less personnel, operating more aircraft, plus paying maintenance and fuel for a platform that can go elsewhere.

(Don't really care about the argument, just looking at pouring more fuel on the fire........)


"One thing that does puzzle me, is why the RN still say the QEs are only 65,000t when RINA says they are 70,000t ?"

The RN haven't had the memo yet. Once they have had the memo they will update their figures.

Nothing happens until they have the memo.


If we are talking about petrol, I am surprised the RN can do anything given the time, effort and manpower they devote to PR :)


@ TD

True. The ships run on Windows. But you can bet all the YouTube stuff is produced on Apple kit.


I will be amazed if PoW ever comes into service.

We should never forget all that SDSR talk about "we'd scrap them if we could"/ Plan B of mothballing QE once CTOL PoW was ready. By saying these things they've given a free pass to any future defence sec when it comes to handling PoW.

Expect a huge fanfare for QE, lots of press about her capabilities alongside Astute/ T26/ Successor.

Then PoW will be quietly put into extended readiness and Ocean scrapped.

I don't see a future defence sec cutting more frigates to pay for a second carrier ( too many "we're smaller then Belgium's navy!" headlines). I do see them being persuaded that "The French do once carrier so why not us?"

When quizzed on PoW they'll roll out some bull about it being combat ready in x time period.

Two QEs, while not ideally suited to the jobs they'd wind up doing, would be a decent capability that we really shouldn't moan about - considering what we'll likely get. I just don't see any politician coming out to bat for PoW when costs of projects like Successor will be spiralling out of control.



"I merely believe that (say) 4 Juan Carlos with a decent complement of helicopters and some improved amphibious capability would be rather better value for money, and more useful to the UK over an expected service life."

What about a handful of F35B on them?

Are you actually against naval fast jets or the flat-top carrier?

Your example of Apache being less conspicious just makes be think that if an Apache (from a carrier) can see you then the jet (from a carrier) can drop 2000lb of cluster munitions all over your scran.

Add to that the ability for friendly jets to see off enemey jets trying to do the same to the "goodies".

As for the size of CVF well...

I can make the case for 4 x JC quite easily now, unfortunately I wouldn't have been able to 10 years ago when F35B was just a clutch-overheating, lift-fan-vane-sticking, slugish, pipedream ;-)


Well at least when the first QE enters service the media will stop describing Ocean as the RN's "largest ship".

They could always trot out this fun fact though instead, with the addition of the two QEs & 4 Tide class tankers the RN and RFA will have a combined displacement of over one million tonnes.


Waylander, it can vary depending on how you calculate weight. By mass? By displacement? Empty weight? 75% loading? Maximum? etc etc.

As for the QE carriers, quit whining, the project is too far advanced to fail now, you'll get the carriers anyhow, so best thing to do is to figure out the most efficient and useful way of getting the most possible work and value out of them.

And if you really can't get the books to balance, selling one to China and one to Australia sounds about right. :) Or Korea?



" so I return to my old answer when I see a green leaning type saying we don’t need carriers

1982 1982 1982 1982 1982"

I missed the press release in which it was announced that the new ships could travel back in time, but now I know they can, they seem much more worthwhile and cost-effective.

But how will the Navy get HMS Queen Elizabeth up to the 76.4699 knots required?


@ Jay

POW will probably come into service when QE goes into refit and visa versa. if we have to pay for the ship and keep it in readiness then why not.

as for the embarrassment of over turning the SDS2010 decision is important to note that the defence review highlighted the need for the carriers and made no firm decision on having one or two. also odds are still in favour that the Tory's won't be calling the shots in 2015 so we can expect some politician point scoring on just how bad SDSR 2010 was.

I suppose one thing that is in favour if getting the two carriers is the shear prestige factor. Hard for any PM to turn down having such a beast as a QE class carrier when he already has them built, has the planes and helicopters to fly of them and just needs £70 million a year found to run an extra one.

I take sir h's point about extra crew having to be found but is this not included in the £70 million cost. If its is and we can find the extra £70 million out of the £700 billion HMG spends every year then we Could always take the drastic step of recruiting more sailors. I know taking on an extra few hundred people on top of our 5 million civil servants sounds like fantasy fleets but one can always dream.

Hammond has already indicated the possibility and desire to have both operational and he is not a man given to flights of fancy where the MOD budget is concerned. so I am guessing the extra money is possible without sacrificing extra frigates etc.



Maybe but it does not change the fact that you would be hopelessly overstretched. RAF seem to convieniently forget that too.

I suspect you could find the desired evidence quite quickly if nessecary!


@RT - Hmm. Plenty of airfields around the Med? Well, if your "allies" allow you to use them. There was a little incident where US F-111s operating from your charming island weren't allowed to overfly our "allies" territory. But, of course, that could never happen to you chaps, could it?

I believe I've said before that you folks need to decide if you are going to be a nation that can project power worldwide (if only to protect the Falkland Islanders) or if you are going to be content to tootle around in the North Sea, the nearest part of the North Atlantic, and "der Kanal."

Don't be fooled that an aircraft carrier is only about warfighting or "showing the flag." The ability to provide effective disaster relief when "unsinkable aircraft carriers" have lost their capabilities, including providing hot meals, clean water, power, medical care, and lift capability to get all those where they are most needed are one of the things that symbolize the United States to people around the world. The victims of earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, and hurricanes have all been aided by the timely arrival of US Navy supercarriers.

If the UK doesn't want to play a role in the world's seven seas, you may as well plan on putting F-35B Lightning IIs on barges playing "floaties" on the Thames.


I think when I went to bed last night (GMT) the comments counter had just crept into the sixties. Now stands at 130, so alot of catching up to do. Or I could just say "Build more carriers" and have done with it. :-)


I believe I’ve said before that you folks need to decide if you are going to be a nation that can project power worldwide (if only to protect the Falkland Islanders) or if you are going to be content to tootle around in the North Sea, the nearest part of the North Atlantic, and “der Kanal.”

Loads of people say it all the time. And it's a question that has long been answered. 2x CVF, an amphibious fleet, a marine brigade as well as an army and an RAF geared to expeditionary warfare and power projection gives a very solid answer to that. As well as the global network of bases, global network of diplomatic posts and buildings and being globally engaged through DfID. Not to mention exercises being held in all four corners of the globe and a defence strategy now being based around upstream engagement.

There is no question. It was answered long ago and gets re-affirmed everyday.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@ Elm Creek Smith - beautifully put - all arguments boil down to the idea that to have any defence capacity at all beyond a few fast jets, a patrol ship navy and a crown militia makes the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island a sad old man who has spent his redundancy settlement on a big red sports car - OR that if we hadn't decided to build QE/PoW we would have had enough money either to take an armoured corps to play out with the Cousins next time we get involved in a serious war alongside them, or have an RAF capable of re-fighting the bombing campaign against Germany on a global scale.

Yes, in retrospect it might have been better to have built a larger number of smaller vessels more akin to the Americas Class/and developed "New Harrier" to go on them along with the RM and their helicopters/and used more "New Harrier" alongside the marvellous and as mad as a box of frogs sky hook idea on slightly bigger T45/and provided more TLAM for our sleek black submarines and big grey warships...BUT WE DIDN'T DO IT, and in the absence of a time machine CAN'T GO BACK AND DO IT DIFFRERENTLY!

So, unless you are in the "Doing serious expeditionary activity makes the UK a sad old man wasting money on a big red sports car" camp...perhaps you could devote all your great intelligences to the business of painting our elephants a lovely shade of purple...along with all our other assets...

A rather grumpy Gloomy


It isn't so much that we will have two carriers, that concerns me- as a couple of people have said, they're coming, and we need to use them or they become big white elephants, it's the hollowing out that is likely to happen so we can operate them.

.....And to be honest, the absolute joy some of the dark blue are showing at the prospect of the other services, taking the hit so we can have the QE's.....:(

As a civvie, I find it really worrying that the Navy, apparently, seem to spend their time trying to work out ways of shafting the other services, rather than the more sensible option of working with them to get either more for our money, or more money. The overall objective being the defence and security of this nation, surely each service should take a wider view, and do what is best for the nation not just for it's own service.



"....surely each service should take a wider view, and do what is best for the nation not just for it’s own service" - Repeating myself, but amen to that. We need a defence sec with the government behind him to knock a few heads together. Fire a few old dinosaurs if need be. It's nothing new though, this inter service obllocks has been going on since Lloyd George was a nipper, at least.


@dave haine: well, I don't think any service can declare itself beyond reproach on that one :-)

The RAF offering up JFH rather than retiring Tornado might be considered to be somewhat selfish, for example!


Think we've been told by learned commenters on this site that the reason cvf is the size it is was because it was required to meet a sortie rate to support carrier strike that sized the flight deck to allow the aircraft movement, fuelling and arming and the magazines were sized to support that requirement. So if that strike requirements is less ambitious or tend to commando carrier things become smaller. So I can't see why that's something to shy away from now just because the rest of the force structure would have great difficulty supporting it. It should probably be the defining reason for them

Oh we still very much support the idea of strategic bombing In fact nearly everyone on this site does, it's carried in 4 large submarines now instead of 1000 bomber raids but for there day both were to achieve the same effect.


A really bad example there. Uk has two sovereign air bases in the med that it can do what it likes from and those f111 flew from land bases for the operation us carrier provided support.

An interesting one on the bbc about uk defence with a trip to queen elizabeth at about 20 min



While pondering the Navy's manpower, APATS forgot to include the headcount from the lost Trident boat. Makes numbers that bit easier.

This idea of sortie rates keeps cropping up to justify the size of the carriers; those calculations are irrelevant to the fact that the scenarios they're based on are entirely subjective and, outside of the Falklands War, they don't really feature in our defence experience. And the Falklands ended some years ago, and defensively measures have already been put in place.

You could randomly stick a pin in an atlas, do some calculations, and conclude that we need three armoured divisions to defeat country X. But that doesn't mean we need three armoured divisions, and similarly, those sortie rate calculations are irrelevant to the next Sierra Leone type op that we're much more likely to do.

As for our ability to carry out independent operations, where are we going where we need our one Marine battlegroup supported by two aircraft carriers with a couple dozen stealth fighters apiece?


@ dave haine

Your thoughts on the RN going 'all or nothing' for the carriers is shared even with my dark blue colleagues here in London Town.

Lets be honest here, the RN is going to benefit hugely from massive equipment plans, which should see it set (in some areas) for a good while, but the way the head-shed of the RN has placed a lot of its future on the carriers, with less on support and amphibious needs, is a little worrying. The RN has sacrificed a lot of its own resources/assets for the Carriers, let alone 'fighting' the other services.

Lets hope it pays off... as I can envision two carriers, but the lack of support to get them very far...


@ Simon, re my view of carriers,

Contrary to what most assume, I am not against carriers at all, I am merely against the concept of carrier strike, specifically to acquire it is on the one hand fantastically expensive ( and so imbalances the entire defence capability as other things are either not bought or delayed), and on the other hand I am completely unconvinced that any nation will ever again use a full blown carrier strike capability, nor that one ever has since the Second War. Even US carrier strike operations in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars could have been achieved from land based planes: they used the carriers merely because they had them.

Time for some visualisation. A graph of cost on the horizontal axis, capability on the vertical, with carrier strike plotted top right corner. Alternative uses for carriers are legion (LPH, LPD, troop carrier, HADR, etc), and all have their needs for size and embarked platforms. You can plot them all on the same graph, producing a set of points that quickly becomes a diagonal line back towards the origin.

Now do the same, but this time plotting cost against frequency of use. Carrier strike is hardly ever required.

In layman's terms, we could have spent say £2 billion on HADR, £5 billion on LPH, £7 billion on LPD, £10 billion on LPD/H like JC, with in each case new buys of helicopters, landing craft or whatever. Instead we are spending north of £20 billion on carrier strike, against no clearly defined threat or SAG scenario that requires carrier strike. That extra £10 billion is nothing more than a vanity project by the RN.

And as a result, the rest of defence has £10 billion less spent on it.

So that is why I am against carrier strike as a capability, not carriers or aircraft by themselves. Made worse by the remarkably snotty attitude of some who should have been taught some manners as a midshipman, and some rounded thinking as their career progressed.


@GNB - Was there anything wrong with the "Old Harriers" that the RAF grounded? I'm sure you could have worked out a deal with the USMC to pick up some of their lower time AV-8Bs (if such a thing exists) and spare parts when they start getting the F-35B.

The whole point is that you have one big carrier 'bout done and another one cooking with a bunch of high-dollar whizbangs coming to put on them. It's a bit late to be whining about it. You better figure out how you're going to make it work.

Now, I REA-A-A-A-ALY hate to say this, but until we get an administration in the White House that can tell its @$$ from a hole in the ground, you shouldn't count on help from the United States. Hell, they couldn't figure out a way to help our people in Benghazi. (We didn't have a carrier or LPH/LPD in the neighborhood, but there were F-16s in Aviano and AC-130s in Sigonella.)

Maybe someone should figure out if you can land a Tucano on your new carriers without arresting gear and take off again without a cat shot.



I think the point of the '2 Carriers' idea is that in a Best Effort scenario in which we were fighting a peer enemy without any of our allies along for the ride we would need both a FJ Carrier with 3 squadrons aboard AND a Commando carrier full of Chinooks, Apaches and Merlins.

The key thing we wouldn't then have to bring would be a converted merchantman with no Comabt Systems, Defensive Aids or Damage Control. So this time our Chinooks might just get the battlefield where they're needed. Although we would need plenty of other hired ships to carry our 'with notice; deployable Division of troops. But they would be well protected by layered 3D defences from all those jets and helos.

Now you're right in any normal scenario we would either (a) Go with one carrier, fewer cabs and a battle group+ of troops or (b) Go with friends who coud supply either a CV or an LHD.

But I personally am glad we will retain the emergency option of a best effort sovereign capability appproximately equal to 1982. Even though it would screw the readiness cycles of the whole armed forces for months afterwards. But that's readiness cycls are for, aren't they?


We have lost a Trident boat? Where? When? Surely once the curling had finished the BBC would have said something on the news before the skateboarding pet story at the end of the news?


Who's shafting who here? Every time we've been without carriers its been the RAF saying "its fine we don't need them anyway." The RAF moving Australia (allegedly!) is a pretty good example. @wf mentions harrier (exactly). Again meaning we don't currently have illustrious with a bunch of SHar 2s on!

@Elm If Tucano werent quite close to being retired. Having said that Super sea tucano anyone? Might be better for Brazil!


@ WF

Never said any service was above reproach...however, the Navy seem to have a history of this from refusing to allow the RAF to have an ensign when they first formed, until the King intervened, to changing ranks in the Falklands conflict.

As for the Harrier Fleet, if it was so important why didn't the FAA take it on? After all, the Spanish and Italian navies both operate just a rough dozen each.

Besides they aren't even comparable. Harrier was a close support aircraft, whilst Tornado is a strike aircraft, able to carry-out long range recce and precision strike using a wide variety of munitions.

So...really, the RAF should have retired a potent, long-range strike asset just so the navy could maintain a fixed wing component, despite the carriers being retired anyway?

You've just proved my point- you've effectively said that the Andrews desire to maintain a fixed wing element trumps the need for the nation to have a long-range strike capability.


All Politicians are the Same

"While pondering the Navy’s manpower, APATS forgot to include the headcount from the lost Trident boat. Makes numbers that bit easier"

Unfortunately 1 boat already operates with only an extended "gold" crew and since Vanguard entered refit in 2002 and until Vengeance leaves refit mid 2015 we have only ever had to fully man and operate 3 boats and have done so with just under 6 crews.

Yes it would be a max effort but a more likely scenario( would be one carrier as a carrier and another as a huge LPH, especially if we do not replace Ocean. The LPDs are fine but they do not have a hangar, hey presto the carrier has a huge hangar and each LPD can 2 spot Merlin or single spot Lynx operate. Until you have seen it done it is quite scary just how quickly booties get off that flight deck when you have assets queued to take them.


At the same time the RAF could have course have sped up weapon integration on Typhoon and the overall defence capability of the country would have benefited. The RN had a rough time post WW2 in terms of inter service Politics so it went away about 20 years ago and decided to get smarter.


"the same time the RAF could have course have sped up weapon integration on Typhoon "

That was not within the rafs or indeed the uks gift at the time. The diversion of assets to Saudi didn't help but budgets needed balanced.

"The RN had a rough time post WW2 in terms of inter service Politics so it went away about 20 years ago and decided to get smarter."

That's a courageous statement to make with the windup merchants on this blog.

All Politicians are the Same

@ Mark

No mate it was not within the RAFs ability to give but it could have been within the UKs if we had the will to have made it so.

Senior RN figures will be the first to admit we were pretty rubbish at inter service Politics for a long time.



I think the politics on typhoon for that decision would of been very very difficult. I think it a shame that you have to be gd at inter service politics at all but tensions exist within all organisations I guess.

Standing back and thinking about it my concern with the carrier debate is it has a tendency to follow the nimrod debate of the last sdsr. By that I mean the angle shown to the media was that of long range sar when in fact its true role was very different. We seem to be doing the same thing with the carriers lets just use one and highlight its softer feely things, instead of taking courage in our conviction and saying these carriers and there 30 f35s and will be our principle strike offering to coalition or uk operations because "insert cast iron case here with historical examples of recent conflicts and the benefits" supported by these uk assets "insert here" and that's why there must be two commissioned and used. Someone made this case when they were ordered it needs to expressed clearly in plain language in sdsr15 because its far to muddled at the minute I think.


'The RN had a rough time post WW2 in terms of inter service Politics so it went away about 20 years ago and decided to get smarter.'

Oh well 10 out of 10 for effort I suppose. The RAF still run rings around them ;-) then again I suppose if you didn't dress your personnel in a child's hat and flares and the officers in 1980's waiters jackets then they might get more sex, and then not grow to be so bitter and twisted ;-)


@TED - Well, Beechcraft is currently producing brand new AT-6 Texan II light attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft with some very good capabilities. If setting them up for fly-off/arrested landing could be done without degrading their performance too much, my modern "escort carrier" idea would be a winner! They have F-16 and A-10 mission software and a full-service IR/EO/laser sensor/designator/rangefinder suite.



The manpower assumptions for 700 extra are not built in. Although a small number it does mean major changes to the various branches of the rn downstream for many years to come. Part of SDSR cuts meant that the long term training and recruiting Pilsen was 'rightsiezed' to a navy of 29500 in very specific branches. Messing around with that now impacts on a lot of areas and can be fixed but will cost a lot and take a long time to do.


@Elm I think we should put forward a portfolio buddy. The only thing they lack is an A/A capability. Jobs a good un as they say down here.

All Politicians are the Same

@ David Haine
Well I suppose if we spent more time in 4 and 5 star hotels instead of 200 miles offshore it would help. We are however getting Carriers and Astute and shiny new T26 and new SSBNs, apparently even a few new OPVs and well T45 is not exactly old and the LPDs have few miles on them. Must be doing something right ;)

historical examples are the worst type of justification possible. when i was in HMCS Charlottetown on exchange in 98 the aircrew used to wear a patch it said "flying yesterdays aircraft tomorrow" in respect to their even then ancient Sea King (it was older than all but one of the flight crew).

I took that and twisted it to my own saying.

" UK armed forces getting ready to fight the last war since 1914".


@Mark - Kudos! "These are needed for a credible warfighting capability anywhere in the world we need to go to protect OUR national interests without going hat in hand to our younger, bigger brother or to our 'cousins.' Nothing else will do the job. End of Story."


@dave haine: the RAF's Tornado fleet was on average 10 years older than it's Harrier fleet. It also had much higher manning requirements. I would have said the speeding up of existing Typhoon deliveries and resurrection of Tranche 3B for the withdrawal of Tornado in 2015 would be a better deal for the RAF, especially if Storm Shadow was cleared for it.

Yet, half the RAF's FJ squadrons were "deep strike" GR4's at the time, despite the distinct lack of deep strike for them to do since 2003. Perhaps the RAF is proving my point about being obsessed with strategic bombing :-)


@ DH,

The surface Andrew bobbing about 200 miles offshore currently aren't doing much apart from consuming resources, and their boats tend to cost more than several thousand Premier Inns. I wouldn't worry.

When they get carriers, they'll still be bobbing about not doing much useful 200 miles offshore, except by then the operating costs are getting expensive. So you can upgrade yourself to a Sheraton without guilt. Or, perhaps you will be downgraded to a ten man tent and cook your own rations in order to pay for the useless boats offshore that cost twice as much as they should due to BAE Systems bloatware onboard, and in the heads of dark blue dinosaurs.

All Politicians are the Same


In fairness the Harrier fleet had taken a battering in Afghanistan but yes the best military solution would have been retention of GR9 and a carrier based option, whilst withdrawal of GR4 was offset by rapidly accelerated upgrades to Typhoon Air to Ground Capabilities.

However fully appreciate why that was almost impossible to make happen.


@ wf
Deep strike isn't all about distance, more 'centre of mass' of the enemy, a strike at the core if you like. Although usually at distance it isn't the same as long range strike.

All Politicians are the Same





I'm not so sure that the Navy had a rougher time of it than the other services. I would argue that all the services have had a good shagging at different times from the various shades of government.

And considering the andrew were operating 5 carriers in the sixties, i don't think they were being too badly treated. Although the cancellation of the CVA-01 was a big blow (not helped by a certain amount of buggering around with the design by the RN), the andrew was still a very effective force until Knott and the cancellation of the T43/44.

In the same period, the RAF had these feasible projects cancelled:

AW681 STOL transport

TSR2 Strike aircraft

P1154 FGR.

So I'm not sure that the Navy did that badly until the Wilson government in 1965, when all the services were expected to take a bit of an eye-waterer.


@ WF

Well, yes...but in the straightened times then existing, and the w**kers in power, do you really think the RAF would have got away with 'we'll accelerate the purchase of a more expensive version of a new type so we we can keep this type, which role can be done by the another one, which we've still got"?

If we're going to go for 'What-if'. Then the RAF should have had TSR2, which would have still been a very potent aircraft, as well as AW681 and P1154.

Whilst, the Navy would have been bringing in 3x CVA-01, with associated escorts, and P1154RN & HS139B.

But if it was that easy, I would be living in a huge house with a Range Rover, Bentley & Triumph Rocket 3 outside and Kylie Minogue (or possibly Dani) inside.....But it ain't and what we've got is what we've got, and we have to make the best of it.

What I'm really narked about, is this hard-done-by attitude the andrew are displaying. Especially when the reality is that they're getting a very useful fleet, maybe not as many escorts as really needed, but still handy.

I would also rather see a bit less inter-service rivalry and a bit more national interest amongst the elevated. I would love to see 1SL, express a concern about army and RAF manning and equipment, in the same way as the Army CDS has recently about naval manning. I live in hope. :/

Oh, and by the way APATS- I should take more water with it, old chap, I think your eyesight is going...wrong David..... ;)


"Not at all, I merely believe that (say) 4 Juan Carlos with a decent complement of helicopters and some improved amphibious capability would be rather better value for money, and more useful to the UK over an expected service life."

First you keep telling us, that there is not a single threat that cannot be handled from ground bases, and now you want to sell a couple of LHDs to bolster amphibious forces?

A single QE-class vessel can carry just as many helicopters as those 4 JCI together.

"Yes, in retrospect it might have been better to have built a larger number of smaller vessels more akin to the Americas Class/and developed “New Harrier” to go on them along with the RM and their helicopters/and used more “New Harrier” alongside the marvellous and as mad as a box of frogs sky hook idea on slightly bigger T45/and provided more TLAM for our sleek black submarines and big grey warships…BUT WE DIDN’T DO IT, and in the absence of a time machine CAN’T GO BACK AND DO IT DIFFRERENTLY!"

Just for the record; the America-class is under heavy fire in the US. And its also costly as hell at $3.4b a unit.

A single sortie by a complement of 24 F-35B at 14,000 lb each in A2G-only configuration will deliver the same ordnance as 336 Tomahawks. Once launched, an aircraft can bring its ordnance back. If the ordnance has been spent, it can be rearmed in theatre. It can be armed as an interceptor to protect the fleet; 6 F-35B with up to 10 AAMs each are outgunning a T45. The same 6 aircraft armed with 4 LRASM each would suffice to sink the whole Northern fleet of Russia in a single haul. (Of course, not every piece of ordnance will find its target, but this is also true for any other system.)

I guess, we wouldn't do it differently.


I think in order to even have the two in a rota basis they will have to be our only two flat tops for the foreseeable, I think as such though they should be down as essential like the SSN and SSBN fleets, expensive to have and maintain but bloody hard to get another if suddenly you find yourself without, losing the two points is understandable I guess and it's not all gloom with T26/OPV on the Horizon (Horizon he he!)
I'd like better use out of Albion and Bulwark and maybe both of those could be stood up instead of Argus? Fitted with Hangers and Crewed by reserves/fresh Matelots and RFA when on training duties and the trained and experienced when on active duty, a good way of getting aviation training and using two ships that are the same instead of a one off?
Bye Bye Argus...

All Politicians are the Same


"would love to see 1SL, express a concern about army and RAF manning and equipment, in the same way as the Army CDS has recently about naval manning. I live in hope"

The CDS should sit above inter service politics, he has the person who relieved him in position to do that for him. It is not as if we promote someone from a single service to CDS without relief.

I think what really narks you and RT is that the Andrew switched on for the first time in decades and got the best slice of the pie.


I think this country should be proud of building these two state of art ships! Its the politicians, MOD and contractor's who've messed things up during the procurement stage i.e. taking the adaptability out of an adaptable aircraft carrier design, waiting six years before ordering the vessels in 2009 to garner votes in the 2010 elections! Its hard not to be cynical but the first of these ships is just about to be floated out and it would be wrong to get rid of them as so much time and effort has been put in to construct them! I,m surprised they made it off the drawing board given the hostility by the politicians and press in the first place! Lets hope we get both! CTOL would have been the best option but as they say something is better than nothing!


Regarding carrier size, please refer back to TD's article and the embedded SCRIBD document "Lessons of the Falklands" by the US DoN:

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/09/falkland-islands-lesson-learned-through-us-navy-eyes/" rel="nofollow">Falkland Islands Lesson Learned Through US Navy Eyes

CVF is the direct replacement for the classes of vessels discussed and draws on lessons of the preceding class(es). In particular stores, enclosed maintenance area and ability to carry out operations in severe weather conditions is discussed and will be of interest to those who have not yet read it or British equivalents.


@David haine

"In the same period, the RAF had these feasible projects cancelled:"

"AW681 STOL transport"

To be replaced by Hercules.

"TSR2 Strike aircraft"

A capability, completely replaced by Buccaneer and Tornado later on.

"P1154 FGR"

This was a joint program, and eyewatering was only the mediocre weapons load. Instead, Harrier was developed and delivered, and both services involved got Phantoms.

So, projects cancelled? Yes!

Capabilities left void? Nope...


Before you get too precious APATS, just make sure that you are not defending the position of, DCDS(EC) in 2000-2003, a ridiculous man now widely derided for a nakedly partisan view, who presided over a series of big bucks procurement decisions that oddly always took the Navy line against available evidence. And, strangely, seems to have found himself the subject of tabloid interest in his no doubt charitable concern for lady street workers in Pompey in which his car slowed right down for personal conversations through an open window. A fact that the shore patrol found difficult to communicate through their chain of command, but Hampshire Police had no difficulty with.

All Politicians are the Same


Realistic capabilities were actually increased. I long since stopped looking up serial number type programs, if it was ever feasible it would have a recognisable descriptor.


Well I would have ordered either 2 x 59000 ton super CdG or 3x 35000 ton super Invincible, but its too late now. Lets hope the elephants get enough F-35B, with enough variety of weapons + the V-22 tankers to extend reach USMC style. The F-35B only makes sense for RN STOVL carriers. It makes no sense for the RAF, that would be better off with T3 Typhoon or F-35A or E.

All Politicians are the Same


I neither do precious nor hide.

Why do you not simply come out with a name, surely after a conviction it is safe to do so? After all you know all about it. i know one Officer who was convicted of such an offence in that time scale and I am ashamed to say i had a beer with him on a couple of occasions, he was the first CO of HMS TYNE Cdr Gilmour. Now who are you talking about? Put up or shut up.



we got clever etc.....

You know it's shit like that. That makes us civies think the forces are full of jerks.

If I suggested billions of pounds of taxpayers money was being spent on programs whose utility could be questionable or not as the case may be. However the grounds for selecting them was partially at least due to inter-service rivalry I would be attacked by the ex service types for criticising the pros.

Thank you for confirming the decision to open up the Elephant house was a trouser extending exercise by the square jawed heirs of Nelson.....


It appears to be more Tarquin and Rupert oriented myth and legend about a certain ex-Ark skipper who was DCDS(EC) from 99-2002 and was succeeded by the admirably impartial Jock Stirrup.

I'd be interested to know which these "big-ticket" naval programmes were though.

Astute? Nope - contract signed 1997 when DCDS(EC) was in fact a pongo. About £3.5Bn spent so far.

Astute boats 4-7? Nope that was a REME-type. Maybe £1Bn spent so far.

T45? Possibly. Prime contract signed in 99, but after a decision to get out of CNGF and where something really was needed to replace Sea Dart. £6Bn spent.

CVF? Hmm. Not really. SDR98, was (funnily enough) in 98 before our alleged kerb-crawling hero, although the Assessment Phase contract was let in 99. Main investment decision though was approved by a Royal, after much delay and obstruction by the aforementioned Crab and following a prolonged round of industry bullying by Lord Drayson and fierce resistance from a certain one-eyed Financial Genius Son of the Manse (despite the fond myths of Tarquin and Rupert). Something like £4Bn spent to date.

F35? No main investment decision yet, but about £3.5Bn spent.

FOAEW/MASC/Crowsnest - only just come through. Maybe £0.25Bn spent to date.

MARS? One from four main elements currently approved, despite the best part of ten years effort. £0.5Bn.

Future Surface Combatant / T26? Nope. In fact I vividly remember the FSC requirement of 1999 (which remains broadly similar to T26 today) not getting through IG in 1999, when said VAdm was in post. £0.5Bn at most spent so far.

Now, given that the equipment procurement (as opposed to support) budget is something like £6-8Bn pa in big handfuls, over the 17 years since Astute was ordered, although I've left the odd thing like Wildcat out as its nominally joint. That's broadly less than £20Bn on "big ticket" Navy programmes out of something over £100Bn in total funding available. Let alone those actually committed by the gentleman of interest.

Anyone would think that the money was going somewhere else in that time. Can't. Quite. Think. Where.......

Still - makes a good story to bitch about in the mess. Shame about the facts though.

All Politicians are the Same


Surely a man of RT amazing reputation and legend is not shying away from naming names? I quite happily named names. Not as if he claimed CVF decisions were taken by an organisation that did not exist at the time anything?


@ WF and APATS

In fairness to the RAF, I don't think its within in their capability to speed up integration on Typhoon. The European partners have been dragging their feet and if the RAF went it alone with upgrades it would be prohibitively expensive.

asking the RAF to give up Tonkas would be be like asking the navy to scrap T23.

All Politicians are the Same

"asking the RAF to give up Tonkas would be be like asking the navy to scrap T23."

You really wanted to post that? So retiring GR4 that was going out of service anyway and could have had its short range strike role covered by GR9 which could also have deployed by carrier and has no role in Uk defence being an offensive weapon only is the same as.

Retiring 66% of all RN escorts, all the surface ASW capability, losing the ability to cover 75% of standing tasks and never ever being able to escort an ARG or CBG again?

You really think that is a valid comparison?



"You really think that is a valid comparison?"

In many ways I do. To save the money the GR4's would have had to be turned into razor blades within a few months of the SDSR decision as with GR9 and MRA4. That would mean the RAF would lose its ability to deploy Storm Shadow, Brimstone and RAPTOR over night. Yes these capabilities could have been transferred over to GR9 and Typhoon eventually if given enough time and resources but it would likely take years at the very least. For the RAF this would have removed any ability to conduct offensive operations in anything but the most benign environment.

All Politicians are the Same


So you know exactly how long it would have taken? i also notice you offer no substitute advantage of still having Gr9 sort of skip over the defensive ASW tasking of T23, the 75% loss of escort numbers, loss of 75% of standard tasks, no ability to escort the ARG or a future CBG.

Is losing the ability to deploy 2 listed missile systems and a targeting pod the equivalent?



No I don't know how long it would have taken to transfer those missiles over to other platforms. Much would depend on how much we were willing to pay to transfer them over and as the point of the exercise was to save money I can bet the answer is, we were not willing to pay much and it would take a long time.

Two missiles and a targeting pod is pretty much the RAF other than Paveway and A2A missiles. Obviously their are no direct comparisons between RAF and RN but I think T23 and Tornado or T45 and Typhoon are good comparisons for what they mean to each service.

If as I thought at the time scrapping GR4 meant getting properly armed typhoons, keeping harrier, Sentinal and MRA4 then I was in favour. However its starting to look like the Sentinel decisions was purely made to its funding could be kept in the contingency budget until 2015 (a wise move on the RAF's part) and MRA4 might never have gotten into the air. We can barley get safety approval to operate A330 tankers. As for the Typhoon armaments other than going it alone with software upgrades and ending up with our own bespoke gucci fleet i'm not sure what the RAF can do to speed up the weapons integration.

Scrapping GR9 also allowed the Navy to cut Ark Royal. So the question is if the RAF kept the GR9 and the navy was forced to cut something else what would you have dropped. I think we would be looking at losing 3-4 more T23's or the the entire amphibious fleet.

Could we do the standing tasks with just 9 escorts T23 and 6 T45. What is the point in the RM with out the amphibious fleet.


A very interesting discussion from all. I broadly agree the end point will be one active carrier and one in long-term semi readiness. On the point of the inter-service relationships, past, present and future as a joint asset should the F-35 ‘Joint Force’ be under the operational control of Joint Forces Command. This could largely deal with many of my concerns that relate not only to the single platform availability, but also what resources are made available from it.

Finally and separately on the RAF basing issues and the no need for Strike Carrier theory, what about Libya….the long distant flights, the short time over the area of operations, the hotel bills, the long drive home to Blighty. When all is said and done the French made a far better go of it with the Charlie DG than the RAF.


Welcome to TD Beagle

Let me leave this one with you

Hotel bills and truck petrol are paid for by the treasury reserve i.e. Not the MoD's budget

Aircraft carriers are paid for out of the MoD's budget


A point I have made before about standing tasks, I honestly think they need to be seriously examined and we should ask what is the best way to deliver against them

Oh, NaB, Wildcat a joint decision, now that is the funniest thing I have heard all week

Are we really doing GR9 v Tornado

That ship sailed a long time ago chaps


@martin: as memory serves, in 2010 we had just signed a 5 year maint contract for GR4, so logically we would have been tapering the draw down, giving us time to port SS and the like to Typhoon. We'd also previously signed a contract for GR9 to 2018, and BAE was manufacturing replacement rear fuselages in 2007!

Typhoon's screwed up improvement pipeline is due to us deciding not to divert from the multinational build. It's arguably caused it to lose the Indian contract, as well as crippling it in UK service: time to make it a national program methinks.

No, MRA4 would never have worked. Should have bought new P3/P7. Oh well :-(


@ TD

Let me leave you with one........

The government has no money of its own. Whether it is the MoD. HM Treasury, or Cast Iron's No 10 biscuit fund it is all at the end of the day the same pot of money. RAF hotel bills may come out of HMT funding doesn't make them magically better value for money.


"For the RAF this would have removed any ability to conduct offensive operations in anything but the most benign environment."

Benign environment : In air warfare one that has been TLAM'ed for 24 hours by the USN ensuring OpFor can't see anything or get a 'plane off the ground. aka. Normal RAF operations for the late 20th and early 21st century.. See Storm Shadow / "The just long enough range missile"


Harrier would have gone straight back to afghan and ark royal would have been scrapped anyway they would still be there and illustrious would still be scrapped this year. The only way carrier air capability would have remained in sdsr2010 was if the decision was taken to immediately withdraw from afghan. Typhoon numbers would have needed to double within about a year to take on 3 qra and a Sqn level committeemen to afghan.


Between 1999 and 2003 the following Major Projects achieved Main Gate

Type 45
Typhoon training
SONAR 2087
Support Vehicle

Adding up the approved forecast costs at Main Gate

RN, £5,720m
RAF, £5,713m
JOINT, £5,247m
ARMY, £2,927m

Of the JOINT projects, only 1 (Skynet) is relevant to all three services, the others, are joint RAF/RN. Skynet approved cost was £2,679m

What does that tell us, not sure, not much I think, the RN and RAF are equipment heavy, no surprises

Also, as we all know, Main Gate is only part of the process with hundreds of decisions on cost and direction being taken before, during and after


X, of course I know that, but equally, you understand the implications of the difference as well



No! I told you what I'm really narked at- And your comment illustrates it perfectly, I quote:

"the Andrew switched on for the first time in decades and got the best slice of the pie" - wahay, the RN won the inter-service battle, bollox to the defence and security of the nation...

Result? 6 sqns of fast jet, no MPA and an army that won't be able to sustain a brigade on operations. And two f**king great carriers without proper air group capability.

And should we disregard T26? After all it only has a number- doesn't have a descriptor.


Hercules? Good aeroplane, but hasn't got the short field performance that AW681 would have had, nor the range...not withstanding the 5000 jobs that were lost directly when the programme was cancelled.

Buccaneer had half the payload, and a third of the range of the TSR2- so not really a replacement then, Tornado only came about because, they realised what a hole in capability had been created. And the V-bombers were so long in the tooth, which wouldn't have been an issue because TSR2 was to replace them.

P1154 the only good thing to come out of that, was that the RAF got Phantom, and not enough harriers to do the job properly. So we ended up having to have Jaguar as well.

To be honest, all the comments from the dark blue are all about the andrew getting more ships, or getting a bigger lump of the budget, not about what capabilities the nation needs.



If "carrier strike" costs £20b then how much would you pay for "carrier sea control" and "carrier assault support"?

Perhaps the problem is with the "strike" bit?

Surely you can see the value in having an airfield and therefore understand the rationale in having a floating one?

We can then operate aircraft from it.

Aircraft for: detection, identification, engaging, striking, lifting, inserting, extracting, etc...

We do this kind of thing all the time. We spend a lot of our fast-jet air time simply policing the air (no-fly). We spend a hell of a lot of time moving things around and trying to figure out where the enemy are.

However, if one removes the word "strike" I doubt it would be much cheaper.


For those that are having the "slice of pie" argument can I suggest you sit down with a blank piece of paper and draw up a kit/person plan for a defensive infrastructure for the UK mainland.

You'll very quickly draw up plans for fast-jets, AWACS, MPA, etc before you consider an army.

Once you've done the mainland have a think about defending our islands. Is it better to have a squadron/battalion stationed there or is it better to make sure we can deploy a larger force when needed?


Just to clarify - I have a lot of time for RT and (most) of his trenchant views which are usually put across in a highly entertaining way. What I don't have time for is the myth perpetrated by many (but in particular a fomrer CGS) that somehow the RN has manipulated the EP (aided and abetted by Gordon Brown), against all the operational analysis advice to eat all teh defence budget for two carriers.

They are more expensive than thay need have been, not because they are bigger, but because they have been fought tooth and nail simply for being larger by people who would have been much happier to see the RN take three CVS-style ships, which would have been of next to no use in a conflict (which is what the I25/26 studies identified), rather than have two big future-proof ships.

A similar example is TDs rather facile comment about Wildcat, by which I assumed he means why wasn't it UH60? In which case the "requirement" produced by JHC would not have been for a BLUH (the clue being in the word "light").



... I25/26 studies...

Are these publicly available?


DH - to a degree I think procurement strategies are the controlling factor; both in process and mentality. The process is huge and complicated and very expensive to all participants; the multi-stage multi-year competitive cycles (PQQ, ITT1, ITT2, BAFO, Preferred Bidder Negotiation) to get to contract award cost both HMG and the industrial competitors a fortune; obviously on industry's side the potential to lose the competition means the company must be prepared to lose the bid investment (although if they stay in business long enough to win a contract all those other lost bids will be refunded by MOD through inflated rates and overheads - industry is not charity). The process also takes an age, time packed with important people making important changes to requirements and important judgements upon bidders' submissions. Cue huge changes between ITT1 & ITT2... Eventually those in charge have a fit of righteous indignation that industry should be so pathetic (?) and kill the project, so that a new one can replace it with similar but different requirements and a whole new PQQ/ITT competitive process.

With such a cackhanded process to follow, those creating capability requirements are forced to put in huge amounts of gold-plate multi-role growth-enabled future-proof kitchen-sink-included nice-to-have requirements - if the process takes a decade and costs a fortune there won't be another opportunity to acquire similar stuff in their service lifetime...

Result - wildly over-specified vastly expensive glory projects sweeping up the once-in-a-generation opportunistic requirement set. Does a CVF operating STOVL need to be the size of QE/POW? Or is that just because it had to be both STOVL and Cats & Traps capable? Does Scout-SV need to be 42t or is it so big & heavy because every possible tracked vehicle variant was required to be able to be built on the same basic chassis/hull?

The real white elephant is not in my view carrier-shaped. It is the huge overcomplicated acquisition process that grows tumouresque as each new generation tries to band-aid it to efficiency. It needs to be attacked with resolve - the tumour needs destroying by whatever surgery or therapy is necessary before it consumes the entire MOD funding to produce nothing but a bigger procurement process. In my opinion.

If it was to slim right down; to become commercial in scale not governmental; to become a helpful productive part of the procurement cycle rather than haughty auditors - then there would be the opportunity to buy stuff quick. Throw out (as in the case of Scout-SV) the 25 year long assessment phase. It is a waste of taxpayer money. Be confident by cooperative means with the forces and industry that the product appropriate for current needs can be delivered within 5 years from inception. Keep requirements light and focused to keep product costs contained, in the knowledge that because the projects are lean, efficient, affordable and short duration there will be an opportunity to set up a further procurement in a few years time to buy other useful focused products using some of the budget that under the current system would all have been lost to Ye Procurement Process.

Some projects are truly once in a generation stuff - like CASD platforms and systems, but many could be broken into efficient smaller buys of simpler equipment at much reduced overall cost.

Another analogy to end - last week's Top Gear included a 6x6 Merc G-Wagen powered by a 600bhp+ AMG produced petrol V8. It was luxurious and soundproofed and climate controlled, it had what looked like a six foot cargo pick-up deck, it had huge ground clearance and central tyre inflation and multi-way locking diffs - it cost if I remember right over £600k. A truly commercial multi-role vehicle. While I was watching, the only thing on my mind was 'What's the point?' - the purchaser could have bought (for example) a £250k Roller for luxury, a £150k Porsche for speed, a £100k all-wheel-drive cargo truck, and still had £100k spare for use on other things - arguably the three vehicles listed would have done considerably better in their own speciality than the Merc all-rounder could. Better capability, less cost.

Analogy ends.


Ha ha, no, my facile comment was that given a choice, the AAC would never in a million years have had Wildcat, but as I have repeatedly said, the Army has the best maritime helicopters money can buy

It became BRH after BLUH because Wildcat has next to no Utility for the AAC so given the answer was still Wildcat, the question was changed and oh look, BRH was what we really wanted after all, silly us

So no, Wildcat, is primarily RN driven

The simple fact in all of this is that the RN and RAF have done rather well out of the equipment budget for quite some time.

Am not actually arguing that is a bad thing because of the change from Cold War in area to Post Cold War Out of Area demanded such a shift.

This has meant though that this crowded out other land capabilities, so to be honest, my view is that land suffered at the hands of the dark and light blue

Of course, all three services set the tippy top A1 Gold standard for spunking money up the wall but that is another story.

The thing that does stick in the craw is all the bitching and moaning by the RN about they have been the hardest done by, doesn't really stack up

When you look across all three, the recent pain seems to have been more or less equally shared, with the Army arguably trading personnel numbers for equipment projects

All that said, With the RAF spend, at least we get some export money coming back to us.

Unlike investments in Naval capabilities, for which we get very little export revenue. Investment in Army projects gets some, but not a huge amount.

Money spent on the RAF gets more back that the others put together, by a very very long way

Thats just an observation, not saying we should spend more on the RAF because we get a better industrial return by the way, but it is something that has to be considered


@ NAB,

You may not have seen my comment above at 1839 yesterday, which the spam monster kept hold off for a few hours.

My clarification I hope is clear from that. It is nothing to do with size, but role. I don't believe that full fat carrier strike is what the UK needs. Lesser roles, yes. My conclusion is therefore that we have over-bought capability we can neither properly afford, nor need.

Of course, studies can show most things. Throughout 2000-2003 I sat on various joint panels (at working level - these fed upwards to the great and good and ultimately to the Defence Board) and the enduring story was that the green and light blue were deeply sceptical. During that time, two IGBCs failed. Of particular concern was that no SAG scenario required carrier strike, and the justification for the sortie generation rate (which then drove aircraft numbers and ultimately platform size) appeared to be arbitrary and only referenced USN metrics, not CVS with Harrier, and was based on then dumb bombs, not stand off attack with missiles. The next generation missiles eg Brimstone and Storm Shadow were in the EP, so hardly vapourware.

What a previous CGS might think is up to him. He'll have received briefings and been part of the Defence Board, so not unsighted.

For the record, I don't believe that at that time, Gordon brown's plans were in the mix, if they existed at all. A different matter is the Defence Insustrial Strategy and the TOBA between MOD and BAE Systems, they were later and not to my mind relevant to the period.


Pub Quiz time

Who said this

"I have talked with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) in America. He is very keen for us to get these, because he sees us slotting in with his carrier groups. For example, in Afghanistan last year, they had to call on the French to bail them out with their carrier. He really wants us to have these, but he wants us to have the same sort of clout as one of their carriers, which is this figure at 36. He would find that very useful, and really we would mix and match with that."


A similar example is TDs rather facile comment about Wildcat, by which I assumed he means why wasn’t it UH60? In which case the “requirement” produced by JHC would not have been for a BLUH (the clue being in the word “light”).

The requirement is not the problem its the choice of airframe for both the navy and army, Wildcat is overpriced for the role required for the army and there are plenty of other cheaper options available for the army to use. In fact the upgrade to the Lynx MK9 to MK9a is a better option for the Army as it is a ton lighter with the same power and can complete all the tasks required of the wildcat, we have upgraded all 22 but are going to replace all 70ish Lynx with 30ish Wildcat. It's pretty obvious that the choice of Wildcat for the Army was for commonality with Navy either for unit cost or other reasons? ( but if that is indeed the case can we just recognise the fact and stop the inter service equipment bitching )



Adm. West, 2004 Select Committee on Defence (paragraph 192):


(Google-Fu may have been employed...)



No chance. Included all sorts of ideas on who we were planning to slap (as do all SAG scenarios).


Hadn't seen it, no. I certainy saw a number of SAG scenarios where strike capability was crucial. It is also a bit of a giveaway that there was no reference to CVS with GR7 - why would there be? Doesn't sound like any of the scenario / sortie gen stuff taht supported the original case in 97through to FCBA options in 2001.


Alan West off the top of my head.


"...three CVS-style ships, which would have been of next to no use in a conflict..."

I suppose therefore somehow that Hermes, Vince and Lusty didn't happen to prove exactly the opposite?

They generated 1500+ sorties over about 40 days.

CVF is planned to deliver much the same:

- 108 air combat sorties on day 1

- 72 air combat sorties for the following 10 days

- 36 air combat sorties for the following 20 days

I can see EXACTLY why it was sized as such.


@ Simon
I don't need to be convinced of the utility of a carrier- it's uses are many and legion. My annoyance is at the rn's triumphalism. Leaving bloody great gaps in the other services so that we can have an limited and frankly half-arsed approach to power projection is dumb, frankly.

And TBH, you are wrong. If we're defending this island, then we need submarines, maritime strike aircraft and MPA's to find and attack any maritime forces, an air defence ground environment with fighter aircraft, LoRAD and ShoRAD AWACs etc to disrupt/ eliminate an air threat, a layered coastal defence force with fast attack craft & mine-layers, shore-based, mobile, anti-shipping missiles and ground forces, to oppose and disrupt any landing, and a large manoeuvre force with CAS, to deal with any opfor that make it beyond the littoral.

Notice the things that are missing there? Yep, Carriers, large warships etc.

The same things apply to defending those islands and Gib. On the basis that prevention is better than cure, a reasonably sized garrison, supported by coastal forces and an ADGE, has a deterrent value that a large task group rocking up to snatch the place back doesn't have.

Most normal countries apply a equation to fighting a war, which is:

"Is the gain worth the cost in men, materials and international standing/ support?"

Properly Defending a place always puts the biggest cost onto the attacker.



Didn't you publish a graph, or pie chart thingy, that showed how much each defence sector contributed to GDP?

Would it perhaps be instructive to show that graph again?


@TD great point on aerospace industry in this country vast income gained from keeping RAF at top table with obvious cascade down to having cutting edge firms eg rolls, martin-baker, gkn, airbus and many other sme's providing cuttng edge capacity leveraging work from mod into wider commercial aerospace industry.

Would say that investment in RN also leverages cutting edge industrial capacity in the fields of marine engines, radars, sonar technology and many others such as rescue eqpt (life saving eqpt from life jackets etc) that uk is world leaders in... rolls, thales, bae many other sme's of smaller size just looking at platform exports (fully built ships) maybe a too narrow field of view given the added value these niche areas provide

Same too in fields of missile technology that mbda provides. cascades down.

And of course so too in helicopter industry with significant contract wins by agusta westland in recent months.

Seems to me that investment in such high end capabilities allows uk to influence and gain economies of scale for wider uk commercial industries and enable uk companies to sit at top tier of US procurement programs now and in future where real returns to treasury coffers are had from exports.


Especially as the UK's aerospace industry is 2nd or 3rd biggest in the world.....


@dave haine exactly, high end R+D in for example taranis program keeps UK at top table for added value exports in avionics, composites, and the next big thing autonomous flight of aircraft (imagine cost savings in having unmanned freight aircraft), and next generation propulsion engines.

BUT dont underestimate contribution R+D in naval systems cascades down to commercial industry in offshore oil and gas etc UK is/are world leaders in these industries UK engineers etc all benefit from govt investing in cutting edge R+D in naval tecnology


TD said "X, of course I know that, but equally, you understand the implications of the difference as well"

I understand full well the games that go in Whitehall. But surely we are above School of Miliband economics here?

IXION said "That makes us civies think the forces are full of jerks."

They aren't full of jerks. During my time dealing with the Army and RN (more the latter than the former in a "business" sense) what I did found was the ones who slipped through the net were real doosies, grade A nut jobs who shouldn't have been left in charge of themselves let alone an expensive piece of hardware (and a crew) or 5000 odd blokes whose job it is to be violent. But jerks no.


David Haine,

How come you blame the Royal Navy for concentrating all efforts on CVF and forgoing other important areas. It's not the Royal Navy's fault that they've gone from £3.8b to £6.2b and it's not the Royal Navy's fault that F35B is no longer the mass-produced, cheap-as-chips, F16 replacement, it was envisaged to be.

I blame MoD procurement for believing that private companies are not in it for their shareholders.

With respect to the "defence of these isles" I am not wrong. You just assumed I thought you needed carriers. You don't, you need expensive, high-ticket, complex, kit - not an army. I then suggested that one examines the two options of squadrons/battallions in-situ or a deployable capability.

I assume you think we need a garrison and clutch of Tyhphoon on The British Antarctic Territory, Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Gibraltar, Saint Helena, Ascension Island, British Indian Ocean Territory, The British Virgin Islands, The Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, The Pitcairn Islands, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Is that cheaper than a globally deployable naval force?

All Politicians are the Same

Well this has been fun, small arms calibres anyone?

To answer the original question, one in service and 1 in "readiness" what puts me off is the need for a 2nd flat deck for helo ops in a higher threat environment. It does not however have to be QE sized.


Simon - ref "blame MoD procurement for believing that private companies are not in it for their shareholders" - that is evidently true; a company not covering all its costs and keeping the investors on side doesn't remain a company for long. But as I noted above (http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/02/sdsr-2015-talking-points-great-carrier-conundrum/#comment-281242) the procurement process and its effect on both industry and requirement writers is to my mind far more to blame, to the point that industry is forced to hike its prices just to remain in the black after slogging their way through the mire of Smart Acquisition.


The RN have appointed the first Captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Commodore Jerry Kyd will take command of the ship next year, he has previously commanded HMS Ark Royal, HMS Illustrious and currently the RFTG.

Apparently 380 RN personnel will be trained aboard US and French warships over the next 8 years. Since 2013 RN personnel have been serving with the assault ship USS Kearsarge, and the carriers Dwight D Eisenhower, Harry S Truman & George W Bush.

From article on RN website.


So the Captain is not a Captain!

All Politicians are the Same

In recent years the first of class has traditionally been commanded by someone of 1 rank higher.
Jerry Kyd is a real people person and hugely respected throughout the RN. He is also a bloody good navigator and Ship handler which may help.


Bloody hell, yes, can you imagine it having a seabed, bottom of hull interface moment

Can you imagine the sheer breadth of piss taking opportunities

It would take a month for RT to calm down :)


@dave haine

"To be honest, all the comments from the dark blue are all about the andrew getting more ships, or getting a bigger lump of the budget, not about what capabilities the nation needs."

Not that I agree with your accusation but why should such aspirations necessarily be mutually exclusive? Perhaps some arguments are affected quite literally by one's standpoint when the chips are down. For example, I wonder whether you would be quite so dismissive of carrier air if it were several thousand assorted RAF personnel, plus embarked troops, fighting for survival in floating tin boxes in a hostile multi-threat environment hundreds if not thousands of miles from the nearest available land-based air cover or supporting strike capability?

Some dark blue (not to mention khaki and lovat) still have painful memories of being left horribly exposed owing to the RAF's historic focus on homeland QRA/strategic bombing and its blinkered refusal to acknowledge other "capabilities the nation needs" including MPA and fully integrated 24/7 organic fixed wing capability. Those on board COVENTRY, SHEFFIELD, ARDENT (commanded by guess who?), ANTELOPE, SIR GALAHAD, ATLANTIC CONVEYOR, LCU F4, etc., suffered the consequences that gave the lie to RAF promises of global land-based air protection, irrespective of any possibly apocryphal 'island-shifting'. They are determined to prevent any re-occurrence which I find quite understandable.


@APATS not sure what your saying there are you saying have one QEC only and a smaller helo carrier 24/7 or are you saying have a surge capability of 2 QEC 20+ fixed wing FJ and 12+lift helos to support amphib ops but one in high readiness and second working up/training during peacetime ?


@ WF

“martin: as memory serves, in 2010 we had just signed a 5 year maint contract for GR4, so logically we would have been tapering the draw down”

We could not taper down because we would not have the budget or staff to run the force. In 2010 stuff had to go fast. If not aircraft then it would have been more navy ships.


@APATS personally would like to see the replacement MARS ships for rosalie .victoria, george, argus and ocean be a ship multi roled with hangar spaces on a par with victoria able to house 5 helos in a surge in hangar space but peacetime ops being 2.

1 with a pcrs facility a la argus, 2 as pure store ships a la rosalie and 2 as joint sea based logistic ships to support the lpds with a well dock all based on a common hull. All with reduced complements as with astute, t26, t45 , compared to their predecessors.


Dunservin, did you just say homeland

10 press ups down!

No, make that a gazillion :)

All Politicians are the Same


I would think that he would need urgent medical attention :) Lets not even think about it.



"Dunservin, did you just say homeland?"

Yes I did. Somewhat American but perfectly acceptable in an RAF context:

homeland [verb]

: to return home for tea after a flight.
: to cause (an airplane, helicopter, etc.) to return home for tea after a flight.
: to hit or return home for tea after falling or moving through the air.

N.B. Not to be confused with hotel land [verb] which is restricted to operational deployments. In such usage, tea may be accompanied by stickies, medals and a swim in the pool.



I have the impression that most contributors here have already made their minds up about the carriers and I will readily admit that I have too. For me the thing to remember about carriers is their utility over the years, so much that we have used ours almost as often as the US has, albeit on a lesser scale and without the continuous peacetime presence.

We have used carriers many times since 1945 including Korea, Suez and the Falklands as the obvious cases. In Korea we had the first carrier on station from June 1950 and during the Suez crisis we deployed 5 carriers (1 Fleet, 2 light fleet and a further 2 light fleet as helicopter carriers) despite having access to land bases in Cyprus and Malta. France still deployed carrier aircraft whilst having bases in Algeria at the time.

More recently, during the Libyan crisis France and Italy chose to send their carriers even though they had bases just across the Mediterranean Sea. During the early days of the fight against the Taliban, it was US carrier aircraft that flew missions before a land base was secured and the USS Kitty Hawk became a floating Special Forces base with helicopters.

There is also a deterrence factor to remember. In 1961 HMS Victorious and her Buccaneer aircraft were credited with deterring Iraq from invading Kuwait and wasn’t Ark Royal despatched south during the seventies?

We also used our carriers during the Rhodesian blockade with Eagle setting a then record for continuous at sea operations. Not forgetting the use in humanitarian relief efforts. Not just the recent Phillippines tragedy but the Cavour helped out in the aftermath of the Haitian emergency.

With regards to having more LHD type vessels instead, my question would be why would we have chosen them at the time? The Invincible class replacements were sanctioned in the 1998 SDR where we were about to take delivery of Ocean and both Albion and Bulwark were in build. If the MoD went to the Treasury to request funds for 4 more ships I doubt that it would have been agreed to. Although it is still to be formally confirmed, we are effectively replacing 3 Invincible class CVS and 1 Ocean LPH with 2 CVFs. Even if we wanted to, we cannot undo these decisions must make the best of the current situation. They are being built, have been paid for and will be delivered.

With regards to the cost and how it has affected other programmes, don’t forget that the Navy has effectively paid for these vessels in other ways. It has lost 1 CVS, 5 SSNs and 19 destroyers and frigates since 1998, not counting minor warships too. Not all these are just the Navy’s share of the financial squeeze and many would have needed to be built had the CVFs not proceeded (at a similar or even higher cost) or the Government did not rebalance its political wishes.

In 2020, the Army will be half that in 1990 (160,000 to 82,000) whilst the Navy will be less than 40% in personnel and major warships (68,000 to 29,000 personnel, 11 SSBN/SSN/SSK from 32 and 23 CV/LPD/DD/FF from 58). Also there was around 10 years between the 1998 SDR and actual steel cutting, plenty of time for other projects to move forward, at least in theory.

Lastly on cost and usefulness, I would suggest that this is something that could be labelled at most procurement projects be it fighter jets, heavy armour or carriers. It really is horses for courses, not that I am advocating a return of light cavalry on horseback 

The first ship was originally due in 2012 and the main reason why they have not already been delivered is political procrastination (not forgetting the delay under John Hutton officially resulted in a direct £1bn increase in the cost).

They are due to be in service for 50 years. One analogy I have read is comparing these to an equivalent period in the Twentieth Century, which would have involved both World Wars, Korea, Suez, plus support in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Oman, Aden amongst others and, had we been involved, the early stages of Vietnam.

I also remember the then CGS (Mike Jackson) in an interview (with Soldier magazine IIRC) that he was an “avowed carriers man” so these had Army support during his tenure too.



"“…three CVS-style ships, which would have been of next to no use in a conflict…”

I suppose therefore somehow that Hermes, Vince and Lusty didn’t happen to prove exactly the opposite?

They generated 1500+ sorties over about 40 days"

I rather think you'll find that Lusty arrived down south in August 82, so you're talking about 1 CVS and one rather larger ship (Hermes). The other little subtelty is that your 1500+ sorties are primarily AD with a couple of AIM9L, some 30mm and some bodged chaff reloads, rather than the sorts of turn-round you'd have to do with the more complex loads outs for FCBA/JCA. In other words, provided your deck is clear, you can launch, recover, re-arm and relaunch fairly quickly. With the exception of the odd Hanrahan special, you're also flushing pairs and fours, rather than the bigger packages you'd be using for strike or (if we're honest) we'd have been putting up if we could have directed / allocated the CAP better - the AEW gap. So yes you're generating lots of sorties, but they're not necessarily comparable to what you'd do with more options.

And 1700 or so over 40 days is about 43 per day from a force of maybe 30 on average, or 20-ish sorties per day per deck. That's a long way off what a bigger deck can do in a wider sense.


...some bodged chaff reloads...

Is that the fabled airbrake deployment?


226 comments now. How is a poor working man expected to keep up. Have we got around to renaming them yet? My suggestions are: Ark Royal, Warspite and Dreadnought. And yes, I can count. :-)

RT makes a good point with his talk of a graph, plotting utility against cost against frequency of use. Is the cost worth the risk of the need?

At least I think that's what he said - I am guilty of skimming.


@ Dunservin

You'll notice that I have never questioned the need for the carriers- you'll see that I actually said 'You don't need to convince me of the need for carriers'. As a nation we have global interests, and we therefore need a global reach....no denying that, and I see that the carriers aren't just about strike....

What I'm increasingly angry at is the hand-wringing, whining, hard-done-by attitude from the rn. Which to be frank, has no basis in reality. And to blame it all on the RAF is TBH is just a crock of sh*t, and frankly a way of avoiding responsibility. The RAF didn't decide to cancel the CVA-01 programme anymore than the andrew decided to cancel TSR2.

The people who make the decisions about our force structure, the budget and all the other stuff are elected politicians. The RAF like the andrew, and the army, all make their cases to the secretary of state and he decides (a little simplistic, I know). If your case is weak, or you didn't make a good case, well, how can you blame that on another service?

I see the point that the senior officers should be representing their individual services, but frankly, once you're at the top- you owe your allegiance to the Nation and it's interests, not to your own service.

@ Simon

Don't be silly- that's not what I meant, and you know it. But where those territories have a clear potential threat, it 's far better to deter, by making it prohibitively costly, in terms of lives and equipment to successfully take those islands, than it is for us to pay the costs of trying to re-take those territories.

BTW, indicate where I said anything about the cost of the carriers? I've never said that was anything to do with the rn. It's a given that some serious dicking about by politicians, caused that little nugget. equally it's fair to say that F35s little issues are nothing to do with the navy, too, so indicate where I blamed that on the navy....

Frankly you're using that as a somewhat inaccurate come-back, rather than answer my basic assertion, that the rn is too interested in fighting the other services to worry about what capabilities, abilities and capacities the nation needs for it's security and defence.

And finally, what happens when opfor is ashore, who's going to make them pay for each bit of ground? Because lets face-it, what actual landing has ever been stopped out to sea? Or indeed from the air miles away?

@ Wirralpete

I don't know enough about the industries you mention to really comment. I know that the aerospace industry is our second biggest exporter, after financial services. If what you say is true, that's brilliant, and it's something we need to encourage and support, because it's exports that brings jobs and money into the country, and jobs are what we need to get the economy growing.



Yes, yes, I know Lusty relieved Vince after the fun was over. I'm talking about two 20,000 and one 28,000 tonner turning around 1500+ sorties over 40 days. Call it 68,000 tonnes available and 48,000 tonnes deployed (3 Cavour available, 2 Cavour deployed).

Let's not forget that you can't just average to 43 per day as things slowed MASSIVELY towards the end.

Some of those Harriers were doing eight sorties a day and since we were maintaining three daylight CAP stations (call it 8 hours) that's still a lot of air hours generated each day (216 or so). I put that at about 144 sorties per day at 1.5 hours each - and that assumes no in-air overlap. Also bear in mind this was with an original 20 jets, possibly 16 once we lost four (which were subsequently replaced with 8 for a more comfortable 24).

As for the sidewinders versus the JCA loadout how can 2-4 AIM9 be much different to the 2 AMRAAM + 2 bombs that F35 will haul internally? They all need to be "made safe" and de-armed before a cycle don't they? If you argue that the sidewinders just stay on the cab because they're rarely shot then the same is true for the AMRAAM that F35 will carry. You then have to plan the logistics of coupling a couple of JDAM or Paveway to te jet whilst she's being refueled. Something that should be relatively simple with such a light loadout.

Add to that the fact that we don't mess around with cumbersome 2000lb-ers and I'd hope there was a nice queue of chaps with bomb trolleys.

The Invincible class (well, Ark) was capable of delivering about 60 strike sorties per day. Tell me I'm wrong, call me Susan, and point me towards some proof ;-)


@david haine
"Buccaneer had half the payload, and a third of the range of the TSR2- so not really a replacement then"

Please, check your sources. Even WP payload figures have Buccaneer at 12,000 lb vs. TSR-2 at 10,000 lb!

"Tornado only came about because, they realised what a hole in capability had been created. And the V-bombers were so long in the tooth, which wouldn’t have been an issue because TSR2 was to replace them."

Tornado came, because F-111K and AFVG both failed and were cancelled.

"To be honest, all the comments from the dark blue are all about the andrew getting more ships, or getting a bigger lump of the budget, not about what capabilities the nation needs."

Actually, the "dark blue commenters" seem to be quite cool about planned T-26 numbers.

CVF is hardly a RN-only asset, as AAC helos will make up a good part of the air group. When we move into BMD business, it will be RN assets soaked up. When we talk about deterrence, we talk about RN assets. Skynet is basically a RN-driven requirement. Each and every strategic asset short of ISTAR, C-17 and air tanker is being delivered by the RN.

Meanwhile, the "strategic service" RAF is about to sacrifice most of its ISTAR fleet for fast jets, has seen its MPAs sacrificed for fast jets, air tanker is required to feed ... well ... fast jets. We don't lack a medium bomber because of lack of money, but because a medium bomber is not FAST enough.

Would the RN plan its force according to RAF standards, it would have frigates in abundance, but no force-multipliers. Interestingly, it's the light-blue-crowd constantly making proposals in this direction.



Is the suggestion that CVF and F-35B won't be able to generate 60 strike sorties per day?


David Haine,

"...answer my basic assertion, that the rn is too interested in fighting the other services to worry about what capabilities, abilities and capacities the nation needs for it’s security and defence"

My response was that there is no evidence for that. The knock-on effects of oportunity costs were not in the Royal Navy's control. Neither was the financial crisis. Do you think they should just yield because someone needs FRES or Typhoon T3? If they needed CVF before, they still need it now.

As for the "being silly" - I'm really just asking if it is more effective to have a floating airbase to held defend our outlying islands instead of dedicated in-situ garrisons and squadrons. A question you keep evading? I have no idea which one is better value, I can only guess it's the carrier since it can also do a whole host of other things too.



No. I'm fighting the corner than seems so quickly quashed by some maritime chaps here, that actually a couple of Cavour (type) would indeed probably achieve the same levels of force as a single CVF... and be in two places at a time... and provide hull-level redundancy... and allow contribution to a standing task.

60 is a guesstimate of the distribution of "surge" workload between Hermes and Vince in 1982.

A newly designed CVS could easily have dedicated de-arming stations, lift locations that allow immediate drop to the hangar (or double cylce implementation). Operating 16 jets at four sorties per day for a few days is not impossible on a well designed light STOVL carrier.


Simon, see the quote from Lord West for all you need to know


"I’m really just asking if it is more effective to have a floating airbase to held defend our outlying islands instead of dedicated in-situ garrisons and squadrons. "

Simon are you suggesting that when these carriers are built we should be closing are facilities at mount pleasant, akrotiri and gib?



I think where we may differ is in that your argument for carriers as part of a defence strategy (of the UK itself, or our remaining BOTs) does not make the needle move for me. Carrier Strike is about Britain - alone or with others - flinging its' weight about in the bits of the map not still coloured pink.

Starting with the defensive, you need to consider actual or forecast threats. Who, with what, would invade or otherwise threaten the UK or BOTs? Only Argentina could possibly come into that category, and we have answered that. Put around 1500 servicemen and some very capable kit in place. After all, if they don't deter Carlos Fandango, there's little to suggest a Nelly 8,000 miles away would when Carlos is perfectly entitled to line his Navy up 201 miles away and - shudder, break international law and risk a UNSC Resolution by charging in at ramming speed. That's if he can get his Navy out of port without first sinking.

So, the offensive. PM grows a pair and decides to clench a Fairbairn-Sykes between his teeth and go and be all nasty to some TBN dictator. Look at history. No nation since WW2 has ever been in a position where carrier strike was the ONLY answer. Not even the USA. Where carrier strike has been used (Korea, Vietnam, both Gulfs) it has not been because no other options were available, but because carriers were available and so why not use them in ADDITION to land based aircraft. And that's not even counting the fact that standoff missile strike is now available with precision effects.


" the “strategic service” RAF"



Which one?


No. The carriers are the deterrent and the contingency... oh, and provide a whole host of other possibilities for taking pain to another nation's doorstep.


"Carrier Strike is about Britain – alone or with others – flinging its’ weight about in the bits of the map not still coloured pink"

Fair enough, we do indeed differ there.

Continuing with the defensive...

You need to consider actual or forecast threats and then plan contingencies for the times when the crystal ball stops working.

We knew 1982 was going to happen but standard British complacency made sure that we were still caught with our trousers down.

So, the offensive...

Can you remind me what the sortie rates were for Black Buck?

Can you remind me what the sortie rates were for the Libyan intervention?

You, like many here, have forgotten what SEAD is... a continual onslaught against many hardened enemy positions. Something we couldn't do if we mobilised our entire airforce at more than a few hundred miles. Carrier strike brings the ability to strike hard, fast and repeatedly.

Add to this a requirement for on-call interdiction and CAS and it becomes evident that the only way to deliver timely response at high tempos is with shorter ranges. An airfield that can move in and out depending on chaging situations seems an ideal solution.


I prioritise carrier based air defence way higher than any of the strike business. The ability to move a fleet around and dominate a particular area of land, sea and air seems to provide the UK with a capability few other nations have and allows us to dictate the course of world events to a certain extent.

The interesting point there is that it agrees with your original statement except the word "strike" is not needed. My strap-line would read:

"Carriers are about Britain - alone or with others - flinging its law about in the bits of the map not still coloured pink"


RT If you want to see what happens to the Army (& RN Destroyers) when the RN lacks an available carrier, just look to Crete, 1941.

No threat now? With the amount of economic chaos leading to political change, the danger of a WW1 conflict by accident/miscalculation, is probably quite high over the next six years or so.


When we (um you guys) have this discussion the anti-carrier team never say what they would do without carriers. They never frame what they think the armed forces are for beyond vague allusions masked in the jargon of a doctrinal document come uni' thesis. It would be nice to see for once some flesh on the bones of always convenient aerodrome / we can hire ships / there is no threat beyond AK wielding tribesmen synthesis. It won't happen; never has here.


@ x

Not sure about that, normally there's plenty of ideas what do without them. Whether you agree with them is another matter of course, but a shortage of alternative ideas there isn't.


@ Simon,

We have a pre-emptive vote on the defensive side. And defending something is always cheaper than taking it back.

On the offensive side, are you seriously trying to argue that Black Buck made any difference at all? Even if it did, it was far cheaper than having a carrier. Now, I'll really stick my neck on the block. At a tactical level, not having the carriers in the Falklands would not have affected the final result, although I will concede that perhaps it would have been bloodier. At a strategic level, having carriers contributed bugger all towards deterrence.

You can count the number of enemy casualties caused by fast jets flying off British carriers since 1945 in the dozens. You can count the deterrence value of Britain having carriers as.....?


Simon you may like to read this on SEAD http://www.jfsc.ndu.edu/schools_programs/jc2ios/io/student_readings/1C4_The_Art_of_SEAD-Lessons_from_Libya.pdf

"Add to this a requirement for on-call interdiction and CAS and it becomes evident that the only way to deliver timely response at high tempos is with shorter ranges. An airfield that can move in and out depending on chaging situations seems an ideal solution"

provided the country in question is beside the sea and land bases aren't closer or capability is required for months on end and that uavs aren't being used with increasing capability there is no absolute.



In answer to the what do we do without carriers question...

Simple.... a lot less than we kid ourselves we can do with them.


@ Mark, +1.

What the carrier junkies often forget is geography, history, the availability of multiple other (cheaper) options, or the fact that human tension and conflict is only ultimately solved by men being on the ground.

Carriers are in the vast majority of cases nothing but one choice of enabler, and in the case of carrier strike, very often the most costly and least effective form of enabler.



I famously have a unicorn problem. The buggers keep coming into my garden from the back field, and eating my roses.

Will either of the Elephants be able to stop it? Coz it seems to me it does everything.

One of the criticism of the pro carrier lobby is that one carrier junky will say it's for x; one of them will say it's for y. When a carrier sceptic points out that it won't ever be used for x. Another carrier junky pops up and says of course no one ever thought or argued it would be used for x. You carrier sceptics are setting up straw men..

If its woolly thinking you are looking for: - carrier junkies are whole flock of sheep... at a wool convention...In Woolworths, in woolverhampton.



Don't forget economic warfare and the power of blockade. All our major wars for the last several hundred years have been won becuase we controlled the seas and ultimatly strangled the opfor into submission. Yes an army had to go ashore and fight. In many cases hard and long. But it prevailed becuase it could be supplied with materiel it needed from across the oceans whereas, ultimately, our enemies' forces could not.

Now the ultimate weapon of total blockade is the submarine. And 'unrestricted submarine warfare' did for Japan in WW2 just as it almost did for us. But for any kind of complex, less than world war, scenario where there are neutals about and international opinion to be respected you will need surface ships and aircraft to inspect, board, verify and seize. And if you accept the need for a surface fleet you need to have capital ships and layered defence to protect it from the opposition.

Your army centric view is very valid in its own terms. But it omits the key pre-condition of control of the seas. Or do you assume that 'someone else' will continue to provide that? For ever?

The next major war where control of the sea lanes becomes an issue might not be for 50 or 100 years. Or it might be just around the corner. No way to tell. But I damn-sure want an effective surface and sub-surace navy, including capital ships equal or better than any likely opfor, when it happens. Otherwise our armies, of whatever size and quality, will end up starved of food, fuel and amunition. And will die.


I will wade back in and repeat myself and add the temporal element to the discussion.

RT is right - CVF right now is unnecessary and I agree with his arguments. They have little utility in the contemporary world in themselves and the money would have been better spent on a different capability. But, in 35 years time the world may be very different. With a regional threat taking around 5-6 years to develop and CVF 25 years to build and run up - it makes sense to have a long term insurance policy. By then the distortions of the building cost on force structure would have been long absorbed and evened out.


It's funny this should turn to influence and deterrence of carriers.

I got into a discussion a few days ago on another forum about the very subject.

It was in response to a few people saying the very presence or threat of a big carrier rocking up can calm a situation, influence matters onshore and basically nip conflict in the bud.

I asked for examples for both that being demonstrable for UK carriers and anyone's carriers.

As you can imagine, especially if you know where I was, I was totally outnumbered, surrounded on all sides by, and lets be charitable here, those that think carrier fast jet aviation is the second coming, I got a bit of a rough reception.

But you know what, despite claiming (to paraphrase) I was a CVF Denier and assuring me of course I was wrong

The only example they could come up with was Honduras in 1972.

Whilst recognising it is hard to prove that something didn't happen

I thought I would have a look at the significant security events of the last 40 years and search out the footprint of carrier borne fast jet aviation, how they had sailed in and calmed everyone the fuck down (as the kids say)

Argentina and General Galtieri in 1982
Lockerbie, and Ghadaffi supplying weapons to the IRA
The Balkans, various times
Guatamala and Belize
Saddam and Kuwait in 1991
Sierra Leone
9/11 and Afghanistan
Saddam, again, 2003
Iran and the RN/RM hostage crisis
Libya, the last time
The current fun and games in Africa

So I know influence and deterrence is a nuanced many headed thing to try and apply any empirical measurements against but the supporters were adamant, it happens all the time, carriers can influence, deter and de-escalate simply by being in the general vicinity.

Am thinking about trying to explore this a bit more, with an open mind.

Anyone got any good sources or examples, apart from British Honduras in 1972?


We are in agreement RT I think. I do however hope that clear direction is given on how these ships can be used to the maximum because after nimrod it really is a very bitter pill to swallow if we spend so much money on them to only operate them bit part or part time.

Peter that's all very gd but the situation you portray is not remotely one the uk would be operating in alone.



And I don't for one minute think a 37 ship navy would be enough in that situation. So its a bloody good job some others would be along as well. But if we want our interests to be protected, our armies and our territories sustained, we had better bring something substantial to the party. Our European Parners are flaky enough at the best of times. And the Cousins are clearly going into a serious bout of force contraction. We have the tradition, the technology and the expertise to be world class in this area. That will buy a whole heap of influence and traction in coalitions ops as well a making us a potent foe in a soverign crisis.

So I will stick my neck out and say that at some point in the next 50 years we will be damn glad we rebuilt our navy in 2010-2020 rather than simply signing off and expecting the faires to keep us safe forever.



I was watching from the long grass.

I had a quiet chuckle.

All Politicians are the Same

@Peter Elliot

As Sir H points out over at the good old thin pinstriped line it is interesting to see what the US have fough for and what has gone. With the Army being reduced to its lowest level since WW2 it would appear even the US realise their is zero appetite or utility in long term "stabilisation" I prefer occupations (thankfully as we keep running out of pongos to do staff jobs and I hate dust :) ). whilst I would not go as far as he does in saying that he thinks this will lead to further UK army cuts because we have nobody to follow around anymore it does show an interesting swing.
They have prioritised high tech at the expense of numbers and fought hard to keep 11 CBGs though are probably going to end up with ten. we need to get over history and prepping for the last war and try to get ready for what will come next. It will be fluid, mobile and about max force concentrated within both a minimum geographic area and time frame to achieve the effect.
We are for once just about looking like we are moving towards that and the Carriers will be a crucial part.



"Where carrier strike has been used (Korea, Vietnam, both Gulfs) it has not been because no other options were available, but because carriers were available and so why not use them in ADDITION to land based aircraft."

In Korea, carriers were available long before there were land-based aircraft available. They alone were able to outflank the North Korean advance. They were able to upkeep a strong enough sortie rate, while the allied forces were pushed back to the Pusan pocket. We can safely say, Korea would've been lost without carrier air.

Carrier strike was vital in 1982, it was vital in several clashes in the Taiwan strait (a nice example for not being able to use friendly airfields), it was vital in 1956, it was vital just in every situation where diplomacy used a potential heavy stick just over the horizon.

Proposing one or two or four LHDs only shows a complete misunderstanding of naval warfare. LHDs are green water assets, very stationary; a carrier needs freedom of movement in blue waters. Either you build two different vessels, or you build vessels having well-decks of no use.

What a prolific squadron of Su-30 would do to a helo-only flat-top is nothing short but campaign-killing.


But APATS, after every war we say lest not prepare for that one, you know what, every single war we tend to find ourselves in tends to have similarities to the one before or at the least, nothing like what the sages and big brains say it would be.

Let me pose something else

The current vogue for 'no boots on the ground' is a fad, exactly like RMA was in 1998, and it will be proven to be that next time.

In fact, RMA seems to have more lives than a whole herd of cats, it was soundly discredited on its first outing, have we learned nothing

The reason they have prioritised high tech over people has nothing to do with grand strategy or vision, it is about keeping their defence industry going with the RMA wankfest with the willing collusion of the USN and USAF

Colour me cynical :)


Peter I don't see building two aircraft carriers as meaning we rebuilt a navy or protected sea lanes in doing it.

Apas but how much was keeping carriers at 11 to do with it being an election year and congress making it known that's not something they would look favourably on. there being zero appetite for occupation is very true and dare I say welcomed change of direction.

All Politicians are the Same


I think that you ignore the break points, what we actually see are a series of similar wars and then a change. Post Afghanistan, the manner of the US defence cuts, the refusal to be dragged into Syria and the lack of boots on the ground in Libya all suggest we have reached another break point.



Sorry 1982!

What was the multitude of other options we had in 1982 other then rolling over and saying have the Islands.

Prior to that particular Argie escapade people were saying exactly the same things you are saying now about the need for carriers. They were proven wrong, carriers are an insurance against not having basing rights simple as...If you want to have a global expeditionary warfare capability you need carriers there is no other way around the fact you can't guarantee access to foreign facilities.

The Falklands themselves don't need carriers to protect them but those Islands are a shining example of the kind of surprises that require them to be held in our tool kit of equipment. If we don't want them then we are not a true global power and we might as well get rid of most of the armed forces.

No carriers or amphibious assault capability and we might as well disband most of the Marines and Army, which regiment do you want to get rid of first RT ;-)

Carriers are bit like Condoms, you might never need them but you ain't doing anything without them.

In the end it is an academic argument the first QE class is floating out this year and the second goes into final assembly...shall we do another Nimrod and pi$$ all that away now because some people don't like big floaty steel grey things that launch aircraft? There might well be an argument ten years ago for four Covour type carriers but I don't actually particularly see the cost savings for four forty thousand ton carriers vs two 72 thousand ton examples. As the choice has been made over a decade ago why bother having a debate now over other choices, we have made our bed so we might as well sleep in it.

All Politicians are the Same

@TD, what we tend to see are a series of similar conflicts followed by a break point and change. The US cuts in manpower, the refusal to get embroiled in Syria, no boots on the ground in Libya and Afghanistan retreat all send out the signal we have reached another such point.

All Politicians are the Same


Who knows what affects the US pork barrel military decisions but the fact remains they prioritised them big time.

Gloomy Northern Boy

A fair point Boss, although I can't help feeling that Carriers would have been useful IF the ROEs they potentially operated under had been a little more robust and a little less hand-wringing and soggy liberal...so...Somalia ...pirates...carriers not useful if we are terrified of even arresting them in case they claim asylum and cause embarrassment to the Home Secretary...carrier very useful if it is understood that it's arrival means that the RM are about to arrive onshore, double-tap anybody carrying an AK, burn you village down, blow up all your boats and SUVs, drop all your confiscated weapons in the water as they fly home for tea and medals, and employ CAP to obliterate the relief column from the village next door if they are foolish enough to try it on...

However, most everybody is now convinced we won't do that...I suspect they think the Cousins, Russians and Chinese might...

QE/PoW could have great utility if at their first outing in those sorts of situations we fucked somebody over with such vigour and clarity that nobody could miss our having come under new management in a very serious way...as I firmly believe we will need to sooner rather than later...

"Grenville" Cloomy


Fair point APATS, am deeply sceptical though about people predicting the future of warfare, especially if that future involves lot of expensive big ticket development programmes



Back upthread I started off by saying that both SSx and Surface Ships are necessary for the control of the seas, and that capital ships and layered defence are necessary to protect those surface ships from the enemy. That was the context.

In terms of rebuilding the navy I am thinking of Astute, T45, T26 and MARS, Crowsnest and (hopefully) some form of MPA as well as QEC themselves.

Not sure we could enforce a less than total war blockade (ie sanctions) against anyone if the Russians or the Chinese or Indians sent a battle group to chase our frigates away and we had nothing bigger in theatre to head them off with.


TD What about HMS Bulwark responding to Kuwait in 1961, when Iraq threatened then?


John, to quote one of my earlier posts

In response to Iraq making a claim against Kuwait and moving troops south, British forces in the area were placed on 4 days notice to move. HMS Bulwark and 42 Commando were off Karachi and she joined the three frigates in area, moving into the Gulf. Plan Vantage was a prepared Reinforced Theatre Plan which envisaged supplementing local forces with those flown in from the UK.

On the 29th June HMS Bulwark started her voyage from Karachi and on the 30th the 2 Hunter squadrons moved to Bahrein from their respective regional locations and were operational the same day. A pair of Shackletons also moved to the same location and Canberra’s went to Sharjah (now part of the UAE) HQ 24 Brigade was moved into the Gulf from Kenya using a combination of RAF and civilian transport aircraft.

When the formal request for assistance came on the 29th British forces were poised ready. The first units to enter Kuwait were elements of 42 Commando flown off HMS Bulwark by Whirlwinds of 848NAS. The RAF Hunters arrived the same morning at Kuwait New Airfield and Britannias flew in 45 Commando and the 11th Hussars from Aden. A small contingent of the 3rd Dragoon Guards was put ashore from HMS Striker (the same HMS Striker mentioned above in the Palestine section)

The build up continued with Comets, Britannias and Beverleys bringing in 2 Para, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskillings and 2 company’s of Coldstream Guards complete with their equipment.

On the 4th the planned build up was complete and the composite force took up positions along the Mutla Ridge. The RAF aircrew were rotated onto Bulwark and Bulwark also provided the only air defence radar capability.

On the 9th of July HMS Victoria arrived with Sea Vixen fighters, AEW Gannets and much improved radar which extended coverage out to 150 miles. On the 18th, the RAF also established a second air defence radar site although it was not as capable as that of HMS Victorious. No moves were made on Kuwait and by the 20th plans for a stand down were in place. HMS Centaur relieved HMS Victorious on the 31st of July and by late September all units were at their normal locations.

No invasion came and one might reasonably chalk this one up to the effectiveness of an all arms deployment that rapidly built up ground forces that were supported by a range of airborne capabilities from both land and sea.

Does that count as a score draw?


Thoughtful, TD, thoughtful.

Chalk it up as a big purple tick.


But it is exactly what I have been talking about Peter

Rightly or wrongly, Kuwait in 1961 is trumpeted as a big score for carriers, proof positive of exactly the kind of influence and coercive impact that only they have.

And yet, the actual truth shows something completely different

Hype v Reality

Hence my question to the chaps at MP.net


Apas a genuine question did they protect the air wings as well last I heard rumoured they could go down to 5 air wings?

There carriers and the pacific is much easier to see a clear strategic requirements than we have.

I don't think anyone's arguing against having a navy Peter.

All Politicians are the Same

@ Mark

They accepted a 2 year delay in F35c orders.

No announced cuts in air wings and a friend of mine who will "hopefully" get a CVN drive (F18 driver very young promotion to Captain) thinks they will keep them but if the budget situation not sorted by 2016, who knows.



Sound like @RT would cheerfully settle for a combination of SSN and some Amphibs. No 'spastic carriers' or 'floaty little boats' required in the red corner.


The point is that our new Carriers are going to be big purple asssts ideal for an operation such as you describe in Kuwait 1961.

But imagine if someone else hostile had also been able to come and park a carrier off the Kuwaiti coast at that same juncture, and if we had had been using amphibs instead of carriers, it would have pissed on our chips somewhat.

That's my point about control of the sea. And while I'm all in favour of going purple in proximity to land I'm not checking out completely from dark blue fightyness either. Which incidentally is why I think our design pitched somewhere between an America and a Ford in terms of capability is a genius 80% compromise that offers superb value for money.


Apas cheers

It's still a navy peter just not one you like. For me RN ssns with tlam arguably change the strategic landscape and offer a greater conventional deterrent value than carrier strike.


TD What about Aden 1967? RAF & Army on the ground, but being withdrawn. So once those units were too small to properly defend themselves, 2 RN carriers sat offshore (Hermes & Albion) to provide overwatch. I do agree that carriers do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of an all arms whole. It may make sense to have a carrier at the start & end of an operation, while deployed Army & RAF units do the middle bit.


But thats not what I was talking about

It was the oft repeated trope that carriers can end conflict by just rocking up

Clearly, total fantasy, but it does not stop the myth being repeated by carrier junkies!



"...not having the carriers in the Falklands would not have affected the final result"

What would have protected the ships that delivered the troops then? The whole fleet would have been massacred.

"...having carriers contributed bugger all towards deterrence"

Well that was because we were about to lay them all up and/or sell them. The Argentinians simply timed it all wrongly. If they had waited a month they would probably have got the Falklands.


Thanks. I'll give the SEAD PDF a read.

"...provided the country in question is beside the sea and land bases aren’t closer"

And the converse is also true for when there are no nearby land bases and the country is by the sea - which the vast majority are.

"...but how much was keeping carriers at 11 to do with it being an election year"

And what difference would that make?


"They have little utility in the contemporary world in themselves"

Nearly every carrier that exists is constantly being called upon for something or other. Maybe that's just because they are big ships or maybe it is because they can deliver air services to 70% of the world's surface.


"Carriers are bit like Condoms, you might never need them but you ain’t doing anything without them."

Love it :-)


If you're going to play the "how many times had a carrier actually made a difference card" then one could ask the same about Trident. You can't measure the value of a marketing campaign and you can't measure the value of something that didn't happen.



Careful not to fall into the trap of playing 'top trumps'. As TD says any effective military force will be a combination of many arms used in concert.

For instance SSN don't have the deep magazines to sustain a high volume bombardment. They complement rather than replace the hundreds of sorties in a few days that an airfield can generate. Resupply for a sub means either transiting to a home port of meeting up with a tender. And reloading a sub with large mutitions at sea is a distincly dodgy business that I think hasn't been tried since 1991. Our submarine tender (amongst other roles) is RFA Dilligence, a surface ship. Which if deployed in an 'hot' theatre also has to be protected from other air and surface threats, and found a sheltered cove in which to conduct her business.

And @Mark remember I started with economic warfare. Lines of supply and security of the seas. Just becuase our ships and planes are most visible when conducting a Day 1 SEAD campaign doesn't make it their only, or even their primary role.


TD Rhodesia declaring UDI in 1965 & UK gov worried that Rhodesia would invade Zambia, so they sent HMS Eagle to stop it (& it did). That gave the RAF time to deploy to Zambia with Javelins. It should not be RAF Vs RN. It should be the two working together.


Whilst I've been lurking here for a while - and congratulations to TD on an excellent website - I'm otherwise new, so may well have missed something, but two things mystify me about this discussion (which I've greatly enjoyed following).

Firstly, I'm confused as to how it moved into suggestions that we should build four Cavours, or do away with carriers entirely. Surely, whilst much about the future is uncertain, on the carriers it's quite clear that we have the QE class, that one will be brought fully into service and almost equally certain that only one will be operated at a time (outside of a major crisis or perhaps a Spithead review) because the navy doesn't have the personnel to run both at once. The only question - as TD originally posed - is the exact status of the second carrier. Realistically, an acceptable buyer is hard to foresee, scrapping it would be embarrassing (especially to a likely Labour-led government post 2015, going on the opinion polls, given they ordered them) so doesn't the debate narrow to the exact form of "extended readiness" or rotation of the two ships that might result?

Secondly, the discussion reads to an outsider rather to presuppose that Britain Stands Alone (TM). Whilst clearly we need to retain the ability to act unilaterally in extremis, isn't it more likely that our major assets will end up contributing to joint actions with allies - US, European or otherwise? In this context, whilst many nations can provide escorts (the ships, not the... although possibly also true) very few can provide a carrier, whether it be needed for CAS, strike, commando or major humanitarian lift. One could imagine, for example, with the combined impact of sequestration and pivot on the US; if things get sprightly in the Spratlys they might wish to move a CBG from the Gulf/Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, and if the CdG is in one of its languid Gallic refits, no one else can backfill the perceived strategic need (regardless of the effectiveness of a carrier for deterrence, politicians appear to feel the need for one) to ensure things don't kick off in the Middle East whilst Uncle Sam's back's turned.

Isn't this how we'll use the carriers? To gain strategic influence for the UK by providing a capability that very few allied nations can offer.

Would one order them if designing a UK military from scratch now? Maybe, maybe not. Would we order Challenger 2 tanks? Or - and now I appreciate I'm being dangerously controversial for a newbie - horses? But as we already have, or have paid for, both the kit and the capability, surely that question is irrelevant. We have horses, tanks and carriers and the skills to use them: can we gain strategic value* for the cost of operating them?

(*Or at least fertilise the regimental rose garden.)


@TD: I can't recall a carrier junkie declaring their appearance will stop a war. But I can recall them mentioning that their presence over the horizon could be considered a deterrent to one starting. One that is really only deployable by a superpower that can afford to keep one up front, but nevertheless one that carries all it's supplies with it and requiring no political negotiations to use.



TD is cross fertilising this thread from his enjoyably provocative trolling in another place. One with a whole ward full of Carrier Junkies. But he's hardly being subtle either:

"Surely you mean embarked Admiral/Commodore/Air Vice Marshall/Air Commodore and his/her staff

Do we not live in a purple world these days?"

@TD you're not the messiah: you're a very naughtly boy.


I'm going to regret getting involved in a Carrier thread... but here goes:

Interesting idea to turn dry store ships into Aviation Support Ships; complimentary with QE's and also adding capabilities/aviation vessels to RN?



Monty, we have another Monty who regularly writes and comments so have changed you ID to The Other Monty :)

Hope that's OK, welcome to TD and thanks for the kind words by the way

Great comment as well, be a lurker no more!


TD I also saw a brief mention of HMS Victorious being involved in deterring Indonesia from invading Malaysia in 1964, but do not have details.


Peter I'm not sure where you think I mentioned top trumps or indeed said a ssn can replace a carrier strike, what I did say was the strategic landscape and conventional deterrent value of the ssn is higher.

That has been shown on a number of occasions, the Falklands being the biggest uk example it has now been seen that from the 70s, Argentina considered the ability to take the Falklands dependant or where our ssns were and for the war itself the use of an ssn meant the entire argentine navy went back to port, the same strategic value cannot be said of carrier strike. It was also made clear by the Americans that when forces went south to the Falklands the one thing they wanted the uk to maintain was its northern ssn patrol that to me is again highlighting strategic value.

They remain the only assets we can send anywhere in the world in any treat environment with almost total impunity offering maximum political bang for your buck if you will, today with tlam an Argie president would need to way any attack on the Falklands against the possibility she could have a tlam join her for tea and there be nothing see could do about it or know about it until it happened


The politics of Washington


The us navy played it brilliantly.



More links. Great. Will read. Update: Can't read. Need sign-on account. Oh well!

Didn't reckon much to the SEAD one. It seemed to suggest that there's no point in planning to tactical level as the tactics needed change too quickly, only the strategic level needed defining for J-SEAD.

Still doesn't change the fact that SEAD requires a LOT of very rapid strikes* early on in a campaign.

*Strikes might also include SF sabotage, etc.


Can anyone sufficiently justify why we would ever need both carriers operational simultaneously except in some kind of doomsday scenario?

One operational and the other tied up with a skeleton crew swapping places every few years seems to be the best situation on offer, and is that such a terrible thing?

It would essentially emulate the Albion/Bulwark situation now, and even the fully crewed Ocean/Illustrious conduct a one on one off rotation with them rarely, if ever deploying together. The advantage will obviously be still operating one flat-top at a time but at three times the size with the associated massive uplift in capacity as well as capability.


Found a differrent link to the page...

"The aircraft carrier remains the centerpiece of American sea power and is fundamental to a national security policy based on forward deployed presence and power"

That quote could stand just as well for the UK.



I can't. I think the idea of a single complete crew derived from Lusty's and hopefully a second smaller skeleton crew derived from Ocean's available to crew the second carrier as an LPH only emergency is a good compromise.

Essentially we end up with 2/3 of the carrier crew deployed on the active carrier and the reamining 1/3 on leave/rest/etc.


"Can anyone sufficiently justify why we would ever need both carriers operational simultaneously except in some kind of doomsday scenario?"

Yes,if the Charles de Gaulle is undergoing maintenace and the French/or any other ally has an problem while the RN

is already involved in another theatre.


@Challenger 1982 If we had only one carrier then and had lost it we would have had no fighter cover. That is why many feel you MUST have at least two active carriers. No matter ours are now bigger - the bigger they are the harder they fall!


Thanks TD, I'm very happy to be The Other Monty - or TOM for short, I guess.

TED: 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall'. That surely does not apply to carriers. Up thread someone (apologies, I've now lost track of who) linked to the USN report on the Falklands that underlined a key learning was that larger ships, generally, have greater survivability. They assessed that a super carrier could survive two Exocet hits whilst the smaller British carriers of '82 were vulnerable to even one.

More broadly, your point seems to envisage a situation where we are in a hot war, at sea, and either alone or in a situation where our allies are too stretched to replace our losses. That sounds to me like the crisis situation often referenced as the only time that both QE carriers might operate at the same time: the one in service sails at the start of the operation, meanwhile all leave and training is cancelled, those in non-essential shore roles are transferred and a scratch crew starts to work up the second vessel to put to sea and join her sister as soon as possible (rather like Intrepid in the Falklands).

That doesn't appear to be an argument for running two carriers routinely.



I hadn't considered the fact that an LPH needs less crew, your way makes a lot of sense. If we did ever need to deploy both ships then using one as a fast-jet carrier and one predominantly as a large LPH seems the likeliest and most effective outcome.

It's the only way i can see of retaining the second ship in some capacity whilst it being useful in an emergency situation.


I really can't be bothered to go into detail about what an anomaly 82 was, how it came about through a combination of Argentine militarism and British Imperial retreat and how unlikely it is that we will see either a repeat operation or anything quite like it again. I do get very tired of it being the one and only benchmark some people think we should go by.

We should be looking at what's likely, not spreading ourselves thin by trying to cover every vaguely possible scenario.


'Yes,if the Charles de Gaulle is undergoing maintenance and the French/or any other ally has an problem while the RN is already involved in another theatre'

I know we still often like to see ourselves as some sort of global policeman but i didn't realise we had been given the job officially!

Where are the rest of Frances allies in this scenario, in particular the US with it's 11 carriers? Where as well does it state that we are obliged to offer support to another nation at the drop of a hat? How likely is this scenario of France or another ally being in peril, the RN conducting another high-intensity op and being unable to extract resources to help and the rest of the world just watching from the sidelines?


@ The other monty

That is a good point. However I am not really talking about how they are destroyed. I'm talking about how sorely missed they would be.

As for having one in extended readiness that as we saw in 82 can work. But really you need two fully trained crew for both carriers to be effective in a shoooting war.

Why are we so lacking in personnel in the Navy There is unemployment in the country and the navy needs more personnel. Increase navies personnel budget. Increse recruitment and voila. Yes over simplified I know but surely if the RN has identified it is undermanned it should get more people.

All Politicians are the Same

It is not so much about running 2 Carriers as having 2 decks. If we are doing an amphib op in anything like a threat environment then the last thing you want is your "provide" of air cover all of a sudden switching roles to launch rotary wing assets at arguably the point of greatest vulnerability.

Now that is not an argument to run 2 70k Carriers but if the only other flat deck we possess is another 70k Carrier?


Who says an LPH needs fewer crew? Crewing a platform is dependant on the design not the role. The air wing will change, the core crew will not. Lusty is much older and is manpower intensive; OCEAN is newer and in addition has a far less complex power plant.

Where is our manpower? Does anyone seriously think that the sustained budget cuts of the last decade or more have merely trimmed flab from a wasteful Service? They have been deep and fundamental - and totally un-newsworthy. And we are haemmoraging people at all levels because the terms and conditions now are properly s##t. Join the Navy and spend 22 years being flogged from pillar to post, deployment to BOST to deployment with twenty per cent of your shipmates gapped, and forget any ideas of having a family. Or a life. There aren't enough hard-core nutters out there to keep it going when things are this bad.


Where are the rest of Frances allies in this scenario, in particular the US with it’s 11 carriers? Where as well does it state that we are obliged to offer support to another nation at the drop of a hat? How likely is this scenario of France or another ally being in peril, the RN conducting another high-intensity op and being unable to extract resources to help and the rest of the world just watching from the sidelinës?

Imagine the RN helping the Ozzies out around West Papua because once more like in 99 the US is very slow in responding in order to avoid upsetting anyone in Djakarta,meanwhile the French need to deal with Lybia again etc.

And if we can rely on the 11 US carriers all the time why does the UK buy them?because we can not rely on the 11 carriers,east timor proved this point.The UK/French agenda may not be the same as the US agenda.



I agree with you basic premise about the two decks however [ space left for NaB to interject ] I think CVF can quite easily interleave rotary and fixed wing ops.

Basically copters can be ranged on the port sponsons whilst a jet cycle can operate from the runway. Obviously there's a limit to the number of jets that would fly per cycle simply because there wouldn't be as much room for lots if we embark copters but I'd suggest 16-24 would be doable.

Once the jets have flown, the copters can be readied, boarded and launched.

Another option on a ship as long as CVF is to run jet ops from the forward 200 meters, leaving the whole rear area for copter ops (I think 3-4 spots can be operated here). Maybe this means less heavily armed F35s but for a CAP above a landing area to see off unwanted intruders it seems ideal.

All Politicians are the Same


It is workable in theory but most things are, now imagine doing it with an air raid building, CAG screaming at the OOW to get wind over deck to launch the alert 5 fighters, the STOM operators and some hairy booty telling everyone the next wave needs to launch now and the PWO demanding that the Ship come to an ASMD course now :)

A single deck no matter how big constrains concurrent activity and makes things far more complex.



The UK isn't obliged to come riding to the rescue at a moments notice just because a friendly nation requests it. As i said we aren't the global policeman we once were and sometimes think we still are.

Helping the Australians in some fictitious scenario where they require a carrier around West Papua is peripheral and unlikely in the extreme! Do you have any more convincing possibilities to support your argument?


@Simon - I'd be a bit disappointed if a 70k tonne carrier could not do at least some degree of dual ops like you suggest, however, my concern would also be needing to expose it closer in shore to support helo ops. I think if we are still serious about a decent amphib capability an LPH (ocean replacement) would be useful. In the interim we could no doubt manage with using the LPDs / LSDs s forward platforms for assault waves. In the longer term the situation resolves if we replace the LPDs with LHDs. I think that is the most likely route. Will be almost impossible to argue for another flat top at least for 2 more SDSRs (notwithstanding the economies of scale that a 3rd CVF could bring!)


TAS, I think there is a post in there. We hear about gapping and poor quality of life but lets have it explained. We (as in me, mostly) don't do enough posts on people and skills and yet as I think we can all easily appreciate, it is people that make the difference


Challenger,the UK still has got obligations around the globe whether you like it or not,if you think the West Papua scenario is unlikely okay that is your opinion,I think it is getting more "interesting " down south every year.

Plenty other scenario's in SE Asia involving Malaysia,Singapore to whom the UK has obligations.

If you want to be an Island which people listen too you need a big navy...period!These large carriers will also provide

Europa with a powerful tool to look after it's interests,not just the UK.

Regards and have a nice weekend!