The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game
Jutland and the British Naval Command
Andrew Gordon, 1996

I’ve spent a very enjoyable few days reading this book. Andrew Gordon is both a serious historian and credible military thinker who lectures at JSC Shrivenham.

In understanding what went on at Jutland Gordon looks both far back into the mid 19th Century and forward as far as the Falklands 1982, The Gulf in 1991 and Balkans in the mid 1990s. He pinpoints the accidental sinking of HMS Victoria in 1893 as the key moment in locking in a culture of conformism and obedience in the generation for the generation of senior officers who came to dominate the leadership of the Grand Fleet in 1914-16.

In terms of the battle itself Gordon eventually identifies himself as a Beattyite. He takes the view that Admiral Beatty’s use of devolved authority, his aggressive instincts and his willingness to bend rules when it suited him were essential antidotes to the prevailing military culture at the time. In doing so he somewhat underplays the real virtues of Jellicoe and his acolytes: the efficient organisation, attention to detail and accurate gunnery he encouraged. Strategically Jellicoe was also right to be cautious, and his cautious strategy ultimately won the naval campaign of 1914-18 despite the opportunity for a decisive naval battle having been missed.

But this book isn’t about the bitter controversy between the Beattyites and the Jellicoistas. It’s about how the culture of the Royal Navy condemned both of them and their colleagues to misunderstanding and missed opportunities. The essential lessons are timeless: the battle between centralisation and delegation; understanding the higher commander’s intent; the tendency of military technologists to claim that they have ‘solved’ problems when they really haven’t; and bringing us right up to date in the information age, the tendency of excessive signals traffic to swamp and befuddle the command organisation.

Gordon also succeeds in answering the most important historical question about Jutland: why does it matter that the battle wasn’t a resounding British victory, when Britain won both the strategic campaign and the war anyway? The answer is that it shows clearly what happens when the balance of thought in a military organisation goes out of kilter, and the role of peacetime routine, bureaucratic inertia, and rapid technological change in that process. As such the position of our armed forces today is much closer to Jutland than we might care to think.

From the arguments put forward in the final chapters I would also extrapolate that the failure of the massive investment in the Grand Fleet to deliver a resounding naval victory must have contributed to the political willingness to enter into the Naval Treaties of the 1920s rather than pull our struggling economy further out of shape by seeking to renew the arms race with a new generation of super-battleships. The naval dominance given up in the mass scrappings of the 1920s was never restored. It’s a lesson the USN should clearly have in mind in terms of the enormous ongoing investment in maintaining a dominant fleet of CVN in the face of China’s emerging strategy of sea denial. If these hugely expensive weapons can no longer deliver the knockout naval victories of 1941-5 what is all the expense actually for?

Returning to Gordon’s book it does have weaknesses. On Jutland itself Gordon’s enthusiasm for Beatty’s de-centralised approach to command may have led him astray in places. While he deplores that admiral’s attempts to re-write the history of the battle from the Admiralty in the 1920s Gordon himself passes rather lightly over some of Beatty’s more notorious failings in 1914-16, such as his failure to understand the importance of accuracy over speed in gunnery and his deliberate removal of flash protection. Gordon’s narrative implies the lack of flash protection on the Battle Cruisers was an accidental omission rather than a deliberate and reckless decision by the admiral in command, and that the poor gunnery owed as much to the lack of practice facilities at Rosyth as to Beatty’s own mistaken views. Such omissions from the narrative are allowable only if we accept the focus of the book for what it is: a study of the culture of command rather than an attempt at a comprehensive history of otherwise reasonably well known events.

Written in 1996 Gordon’s analysis also cannot therefore link its themes to the lessons of the most recent conflicts. It would be fascinating to know what Gordon thinks of command arrangements and signals proliferation in: The Gulf 2003, the Somalian Counter Piracy mission or the Libyan Campaign of 2011. One can perhaps hope for a future edition with an updated conclusion, or for a future separate study dedicated to late 20th Century Naval Warfare. Professor Gordon however appears to practice what he preaches in terms of signals restraint: he is not a prolific publisher of history books so we may be waiting a long time

About The Author

Peter Elliott is a civilian who reads, and thinks, about defence.

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Peter – Its a great book as you say, read it way back when but the lessons are timeless – some of them failed to be learned in Afghanistan – where command was often either by PR driven dictat from number 10 or, even worse, not at all.

Hohum

Jellicoe versus Beatty is a pointless debate- mash the two of them together and you have the perfect senior naval officer. One might even argue that each commanded the the part of the fleet most appropriate to their personalities at Jutland.

The mass scrappings and treaty signings of the 1920s had **** all to do with the failure to win a decisive naval battle and everything to do with Britain being in significant debt, the German fleet at the bottom of Scapa Flow and all other potential naval powers in no particular mood for a major naval race. The Admiralty actually tried to keep all of the surviving Dreadnoughts except Agincourt (which was to become a mobile naval base) immediately after the war but ran into the Treasury which was rather perplexed about what the Navy intended to do with all these ships- many of them of dubious combat value.

The single biggest and most relevant lesson from Jutland, in my opinion, relates to understanding and preparing for the use of technology. Not just its limitations but also it’s advantages. Even by WW1 the basic system layout of a dreadnought battleship was recognisable as what we think of as an integrated combat system today. The (mechanical) fire control computer was the combat management system, the guns were the armament, and human eyes were the sensors- all linked together by onboard wired communications systems. On top of that there was limited air reconnaissance and fleet wide wireless. The RN institution (and every other navy) was struggling to work out how all of this could be used to best advantage given its actual attributes. Technology is great and it should be pursued, but it must also be understood.

as

@Peter Elliott
Sounds good.
Could you give us the ISBN number?
Thank you.

@TD Could you do a thread for book and DVD suggestions?

duker

Beatty wasnt the only one to rewrite history once he moved up from operational to overall administrative command, Montgomery did much the same when he became CIGS. They must be teaching it as a part of the higher command staff courses, but not so obviously of course.

duker

The best lesson of Jutland, is what the Germans learned, ie not really to go out to battle again. From that, the RN forged ahead and built up its fledgling carrier force , including the ability to have sea launched torpedo strike on the German fleet while it was still in harbour with the Sopwith Cuckoo.
Its surprising how little is known about this, in spite of the attack only being weeks away from occurring when the armistice was announced.

Hohum

duker,

Absolutely, the RN schemes for a large carrier borne torpedo strike against the High Seas fleet in Wilhemshaven are one of the most under-discussed aspects of the WW1 naval war. Beatty in particular was in favour of massed (over 100 aircraft) torpedo bomber attacks. availability issues with the aircraft and ships both pushed back and reduced in size the planned attack but had the war gone on another six months it almost certainly would have been launched.

duker

The only remaining UK built battleship ( pre dreadnought) is the Japanese Mikasa, launched 1900, which is a museum ship in Yokosuka.

Hohum

It does not make an interesting counterfactual, destruction of the German fleet at Jutland would have made no difference to the fate of the Grand Fleet, its entire raison d’etre was to counter the High Seas Fleet- once neutralised the Grand Fleet was also redundant. Post-war no European power could even complete the ships they had on the slipways and neither the American’s or the Japanese were really in the mood to fund a massive naval race, thus the Washington Treaty followed by the Great depression itself leading to the 1930 London treaty kept a lid on things until 1936.

Observer

Oh I beg to differ on the Japs. They were on a high.

Lord Jim

One of the great mistakes after WWI was the way the established powers treated Japan (An ally) which contributed in a major way to what followed. Though Japan cancelled its initial plans for naval build up by signing the naval treaties it basically ignored them and the restrictions they put in place.

duker

The second was supposed to be King Edward VIII, but the new king struck that out for Prince of Wales

tweckyspat

I am a huge fan of Andrew Gordon having been spellbound by his lecturing style at Shriv years ago. Interesting though the specific Jutland history is, the real value of this book (as others have noted) is the brilliant analysis of the ratcatchers v regulators leadership /organisational culture. What seems incredible to me in an era of reduced class deference and the cult of the individual is that the regulators seem even more to the fore in the military than in the late Victorian period. For years this book was required reading on Staff Courses, I hope it still is. Genius

Hohum

Japan was not badly treated after WW1, it voluntarily signed the WNT (because it knew it couldn’t really afford the naval programme it wanted) and its cheating was by some standards (Germany for instance) rather minor and in some ways self-defeating. The WNT did not make Japan invade China and attack Pearl Harbour.

Nick

Peter E

Nice review of what is a really interesting thesis. One thing that also stood out for me was the element of personal loyalty and cliques (as well as being the right sort of person) which spread through the peace time navy. Beatties continued reliance on Chatfield being a classic example.

Here is Alec Guinness going down with his ship from “Kind Hearts and Coronets”

Nick

@PE

Ralph Seymour rather than Chatfield (my mistake).

Hohum

PE,

The T45 thing is a myth. The RN knew Sea Dart and its associated systems (even in an evolved form) was ultimately going to be inadequate for the long-term and was already very tentatively thinking about what to do next with the capability. The conflict fed the requirements that ultimately produced T45 but basic need was understood prior to that.

Not a Boffin

Corporate had a limited effect on GWS30 development – which was by no means an 80% solution – but the PAAMS evolution was driven by other factors which had little or anything to do with Corporate.

Of the coal-fired battleships, remember that the vast majority were armed with main batteries that were considered inferior (13.5″ and below) by the end of the war – another significant factor. Put simply, main armament capabilities increased dramatically in a very short space of time, which led to rapid obsolescence. Another analogy is aircraft development between the 30s and 40s, or the 50s and 60s – the Illustrious and “classic” light fleet carriers had relatively short RN lives because they could not support an operationally valuable main battery (the CAG) as aircraft size and capability grew. Underlying all of which was a need to recover budget balance, rather than spend at wartime levels.

For all the planning for a Taranto-style attack on the HSF, this was primarily an attempt to deal with a tactical situation (inability to penetrate German waters to get at the HSF and destroy it) rather than a definitive shift in doctrine. The inter-war mission of the RN carriers was primarily to provide air defence for the Fleet, long-range reconnaissance and the ability to launch torpedo strikes to cripple enemy ships and bring them within range of the battleships guns.

Interesting that no-one has so far mentioned the actual driving force behind the Grand Fleet, its technologies and those that came after it – a certain Adm Fisher…….

Hohum

NaB,

Re PAAMS, absolutely. Corporate just happened to take place just as a significant evolution in ship based air defence technology was taking place- commandable autopilots for missiles, radar advances etc.

Re Dreadnought scrappings; the papers are clear, the RN wanted to keep them all, the Treasury asked why and RN said “because, erm, great naval power….and stuff” to which Treasury said “not good enough” with the squabble ultimately settled by the WNT. Carrier scrappings in the 50s and 60s were because there was far too many of them, the 1950s carrier fleet never exceeded more than six units in a mix of trade protection and strike configurations meaning there was significant surplus. The Victorious modernisation, whilst demonstrating appalling project management, did produce a wonderful ship that was more useful than Hermes was when completed.

Re Torpedo attacks on HSF: Yup, but thats usually how shifts in doctrine occur, had such an attack been successfully undertaken there may well have been a sharper and earlier swing to carriers (in the same way a big armoured offensive on WF in 1919 might have embedded that doctrine in western Armies). Genuinely interesting counterfactuals those.

Re Fisher; a genius, and like all geniuses utterly mad, he served a very useful purpose in the early part of the naval race but should never have been brought back to the Admiralty, in my view.

Hohum

The vision for the light fleets post-war was really as escort carriers, not as strike carriers, and they were perfectly viable as such. Really until 1956-58 the RN (and the RAF/Army for that matter) planned more or less on the basis of re-fighting WW2 just this time against Russia and with early nukes, thus there was an emphasis on building up reserve capacity. This wasn’t just about personnel but about designing things that could be made quickly and cheaply in emergencies (frigates, Short Seamew etc). “Broken-backed warfare” was the parlance of the time, the basic idea being a brief nuclear exchange delivered by manned aircraft (that fighter command and AAA could go some way to reducing the impact of) followed by WW2 again. Thus lots of old ships got kept in reserve through the 50s to support this concept.

Sandys brilliance was realising that, with the emergence of thermonuclear warhead armed ICBMs, this was nonsense at about the same time (and probably ahead of some) of the professional defence establishment.

david

If you are in Athens visit a Dreadnought era, Italian built battlsehip, or as some argue armoured cruiser. Fascinating afternoon spent aboard. This is a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_cruiser_Georgios_Averof

david

Try what I consider to be a companion volume ‘In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology and British naval policy 1889-1914’ by Jon Sumida, published in 1989 and in paperback in 1993. Superb, even for the layman.

Not a Boffin

The building of the light fleets was perfectly justified in that we’d lost four of the early carriers by 1942 and were struggling to get more built quickly – recognising that the escort carrier was not the way forward. If anything the wartime light fleets would have been analogous to the USN CVL – a way to get decks capable of fleet operations to sea quickly.

Once the war ended and demob started, they were capable of fielding a useful Firefly/Sea Fury/Avenger CAG with a relatively small manpower complement in a way that the armoured fleet carriers were not. The Fleet carriers were also handicapped by either being knackered (through being bombed to b8ggery – see Illustrious/Vic/Formidable) or having double hangars and therefore inadequate hangar height for the rapidly increasing aircraft sizes in the pipeline. Which led to the RN making the very sensible decision to hold the fort with the Light Fleets and a couple of Fleets, while waiting for the Eagle/Ark/Centaur classes to complete. Even then, the size and speed of naval aircraft increased so rapidly that big rebuilds were required for all. A process that didn’t really stop until aircraft stopped growing in size towards the end of the 60s/early 70s. Interestingly, the USN only managed to avoid some of this through having built the Essexes large enough in the first place and even then, that class lasted an average of under 20 years with many of them having extensive rebuilds. Those operating towards the end of 60s and 70s also had less capable aircraft aboard (F8 vs F4 and no A6) than the Midways and beyond. Weapon system obsolescence is painful…….

The RN escort/trade protection role was then to have fallen on the original light fleets, only a combination of fiscal reality and the wizard wheeze of getting the commonwealth/NATO to provide that capability via transfers intervened.

I’m pretty sure that by the time we got to the nitty-gritty of ordering PAAMS/T45, Corporate was the last thing people were mentioning as justification – although having a war where we actually lost major equipment in recent memory would obviously be a useful point of reference.

Hohum

PE,

No, destruction of the HSF at Jutland would not have got you more than Rodney and Nelson. Those ships were built, and allowed under the WNT, to give the RN 16″ ship to match those built by the US and Japan (Colorado and Nagato class), nothing more and nothing less.

Light Fleets were an excellent idea for building cheap ships quickly that could take a smallish WW2 strike carrier wing.

Post war the RN had every intention of modernizing the armored carriers but only managed Victorious, her completed state was completely different to that proposed when she first went in for said reconstruction. Ironically the double hangar ships would have been better candidates for reconstruction as they could have been rebuilt with a single hangar without having to increase the draft as was done in Victorious. The reconstruction scheme was abandoned mostly because the RN had more carriers than it could man or equip with aircraft.

Hohum

PE,

Yes we would have signed the WNT. Understandably the British populace was anti-war in 1920 and the UK needed to reduce government expenditure, the WNT was the perfect solution to that. Sinking the HSF in 1916 would have made no difference. WNT happened because nobody in the world wanted another naval race.

In most cases the post-war reconstructions were worthwhile, they produced capability for less than building a new vessel and filled useful gaps.

The Other Chris

You may be interested in this footnote in history on the WNT, where Britain attempted to go further than simple BB reductions by banning them in exchange for increased Cruiser ratio.

Original cutting here:

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1926/02/02/page/1/article/britain-seeks-league-return-of-sea-scepter

Rough transcript copied from here:

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2015/02/ground-based-air-defence/#comment-322819

Chicago Tribune, Feb. 2 1926, Volume LXXXV No. 28

Britain seeks League return of sea scepter

Would revise 5-5-3, Ban Battleship.

BY ARTHUR SEARS HENNING.
(Chicago Tribune Press Service.)

Washington, 1) C., Feb. 1.- [Special] Great Britain, it was learned today, aims to regain at the league of nations disarmament conference her old position of acknowledged mistress of the seas.

She relinquished that position at the Washington arms conference and accepted naval parity with the United States for the purpose, it now seems, of inducing us to scrap a naval building program that would have made America the greatest sea power on earth. Having attained our definite acceptance of that position and found us neglectful of maintaining parity in fact, Britain is maneuvering for a new agreement according her a recognized actual naval superiority.

Early Conference Postponed.

How much of the British scheme will be revealed at the preparatory conference remains to be seen, but some of the details have trickled through the to Washington from our observers abroad. It appears now as if the preparatory conference would be postponed from Feb. 15, the original date, to some time between between March 1 and May 15, such postponement having been asked by France, Italy, Japan, Czecho-Slovakia and Uruguay. To notification by the league pf the postponement request, Secretary of State Kellogg replied today that we were ready to proceed on Feb. 15, but would not object to the proposed delay.

Where English Plans Converge

The British plan, in the first place, proposes an agreement by all nations to abolish not only the submarine but the battleship. Britain sought at the Washington conference to scrap the submarine, but France declined even to a limitation, and that’s where the Hughes armament reduction plan was torpedoes and only salvaged in part, for the British in retaliation declined to limit cruiser and other auxiliary tonnage.

Now the British contemplate going a step further and proposing not only that the submarine be banned but to abolish battleships as too expensive. The Washington conference provided for the replacement of the existing battleships beginning in 1930 and the British now would allow battleships to disappear gradually as they become useless.

Wants 5-5-3 ratio dropped

Under the British scheme navies would consist of cruisers [limited to 10,000 tons by the Washington treaty], destroyers, and minor auxiliaries, aircraft and aircraft carriers. But Britain does not contemplate an acceptance of a 5-5-3 ratio applying to cruisers and other craft, and that’s where her ambition to regain her supremacy of the seas come in.

Britain wants far more cruisers, destroyers, and other craft than the United States on the ground that the far flung British empire requires more ships for adequate protection. Even if eventual agreement were to be on the basis of a parity of cruisers Britain would be in reality superior to America, for there are scores of British merchant ships which are potential cruisers, having been built with that possible view.

To promote acceptance of these ideas in the United States, the British have been propagandizing in this country. First came Prof. Ross, naval historian of Cambridge university; then Lord Lee of Fareham, and finally Sir Francis Bridgeman, formerly first sea lord of the admiralty. The latter urged on President Coolidge, Secretary of the Navy Wilbur, and others abandonment of battleships and submarines.

Not a Boffin

The reconstruction scheme was abandoned because the RN belatedly recognised after starting Vic that aircraft growth was such that they’d always be behind the curve with those ships – as the vast difference between originally envisaged and actual conversion showed. Not enough time, not enough capacity and as you suggest, nowhere near enough money to convert, man and run.

Hohum

NaB,

Nope, Vic once reconstructed could operate everything the RN then had either in inventory or planned (Phantom wasn’t even being thought about in the UK then), the reconstruction programme ended because the RN had more carriers than it had crews to man them or planes to equip them. The 1950 staff requirement was to be able to operate 40,000lb aircraft and thats what she came out able to operate.

The vast differences between plan and end product didn’t have anything to do with aircraft size. The changes were due to a complete inability on the part of the admiralty to freeze the design. Thus they kept adding things, an angled deck, Type 984/CDS, Tacan then new boilers (but only after they had started reinstalling deck), some of those changes meant other planned components had to be changed too such as abandoning a scheme to install a side lift as the displacement, and thus draft, grew from the in-build additions.

Not a Boffin

“The vast differences between plan and end product didn’t have anything to do with aircraft size”.
Angled deck, steam cats and boilers to feed them nothing to do with aircraft size and speed? Ooookaaaaaay.

It isn’t just about the type of aircraft – it’s the numbers you can fit aboard. The Fleet rebuilds were supposed to give 48 f/w, but ended up accommodating little more than half that, plus helos. While Vic could take the Vixen and the Bucc (at a lower than max weight) operations were not optimal and more importantly, while the Phantom was not on the plot when the conversion started, it was clear that the Vixen/Scimitar (40000lb class cabs) were not going to be particularly capable by the late 60s. The F4 (60000lb) entered US squadron service not long after Vic recommissioned and the Bucc (S2) was 50000lb+. People could see this coming by the early 50s, which is partly why the rebuilds were cancelled, but primarily because fiscal reality – in terms of ability to man the ships and the bang you were getting for the buck – bit hard.

duker

The Victorious rebuild was such a financial disaster, was the main reason for no more being done.
Of course the long time was one of the reasons the cost went up. For the price they could have got close to a brand new Ark Royal class. Hobbs great book on British Aircraft carriers details construction was to be done from Oct 50 to 53 but took till 58, the design was changed while construction was underway for an angled deck. The electrical system was outmoded pre war DC, the original boilers were plated over with new hangar and flight deck and then pulled out for complete replacement. Before work started the cost was 5.5 mill pounds, after reboilering and new radar it was 14 mill but final cost in 58 was around 30 mill pounds.

as

@Not a Boffin & Hohum
Have a look for this book:
British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development & Service Histories by David Hobbs
ISBN-13: 978-1848321380
It will hopefully solve the argument you to are having.

duker

The reduction in heavy armored hangar in Victorious ( sides 4.5 to 1.5in, deck to retain 3in) was supposed to mean Victorious only increased in dspl from 31,000 to 33,000 t. The final displ was 35,500. Adding side bulges improved stability.
With the single deck, Victorious also had an american style 8 ft gallery deck beneath the flight deck for accommodation and operations rooms.

duker

I see too that it has British 9.2″ guns

Hohum

Steam cats were in the original 1950 staff requirement, as was the ability to operate 40,000b aircraft, and thats how she was completed. The specifications of the cats, traps, and lifts were unchanged from the original staff requirement to her commissioning and remained so (whilst she operated Buccaneers, as did the even smaller Hermes) until the end of her life.

Angled decks were about efficiency of operations.

The RN, in 1950-52 (reconstructions beyond Victorious were cancelled in mid-1952) were not thinking beyond Scimitar, Vixen and Buccaneer- or rather their theoretical specifications, the Buccaneer specification was written about the same time (1952). The F-4 was not even embryonic then. The RN spent 1953 and much of 1954 fighting tooth and nail just to keep the heavy carriers and the Buccaneer programme.

Aircraft size had nothing to do with the rebuilds being cancelled, the real issues were the size of the carrier fleet and the depth of the modernisation which changed everything on board, much of it not related to operating aircraft. Plans prior to 1954 had called for an operational fleet of two heavy and three light carriers, one of the light fleet carriers was pruned in 1954. If the issue had been aircraft size the so-called “1952 carrier” would have been built, it wasn’t because the RN actually had plenty of carriers as it entered the mid and then late 50s. There was certainly a realisation that with the amount of new equipment installed in Victorious in her final form (much of it not related to the aircraft), Type 984, CDS, associated power systems, 3″ guns and the new boilers it may be easier to just build a new ship and that was what the “1952 carrier” was about.

When the “1952 carrier” was abandoned in mid-1953 design work was actually refocussed on smaller carriers, starting at 24,000 tons (evolved from the Hermes concept) reaching 35,000 tons by 1955- or about the same size as Victorious. They kept growing, apparently reaching 45,000 tons by 1959.

There are interesting lessons in the Victorious rebuild around cost control, design freezing, undertaking adequate assessment and planning phases etc. Compare the reconstruction given to Victorious to those given either to Ark Royal, Eagle or any of the USN carriers (Midway or Essex) and its clear just how extreme the exercise was. On that topic, building new carriers wouldn’t solve the manning issue- the new ships would have used the same equipment and carried the same aircraft and thus had the same manning requirements.

Hohum

as,

I both have that book and have seen a good portion of the actual archive material on the subject, but thank you for thinking of me. I would also recommend rebuilding the royal Navy by D.K Brown.

duker,

The April 1953 cost estimate for the 1952 carrier was £26 million, the December 1953 cost estimate was £14.16 million (which covered the final configuration). I see no reason why a new carrier would not have experienced similar cost growth to the Victorious reconstruction which finally completed at £30 million.

Not a Boffin

DKB and Hobbs are great reference sources as is Friedmans book – and the ships covers and some other material too. Have sat on my shelves for some years.

I’m not having an argument, although Hohum appears to be doing his best to do so. All I’m pointing out is that a significant contributor to the depth and cost of the reconstructions was the increase in aircraft size ongoing at the time. That is not saying that during VIcs reconstruction, the RN suddenly discovered a new large aircraft, decided it wouldn’t fit a reconstructed Fleet carrier and canned the rest of the rebuilds. What it is saying is that during the early stages of the reconstruction, it became clear that aircraft were and would continue to grow in size and recovery speed, such that the sums spent on the reconstructions would constitute less value for money than originally thought – particularly given the poor material state of some of them – because they would not be able to operate sufficient numbers of the aircraft to come. That – added to things like 984, improved messing, electrical work (always a killer) and the fact that the RN could not afford to man more than half a dozen carriers (fiscal reality) is why the programme was canned. Funnily enough, similar (but more extreme) conclusions were drawn for reconstructing CVS to operate F35……….

The lesson was (and still is) that bigger ships are better able to accommodate change over long service lives – particularly when exacerbating circumstances such as aircraft growth impose necessary changes. Like angled decks which were primarily a function of aircraft recovery weight and speed, requiring something radical to maintain flight deck operational efficiency and strike numbers. The reason Vics rebuild was so much more extensive than the other ships mentioned was because she was considerably smaller to start with and had the armoured hangar configuration, which means considerably more structural design and detailing effort is required.

Hohum

PE,

As I pointed out in the post directly above yours, the 1952 carrier would have used the same equipment and carried the same aircraft as Victorious, the capability such a ship would have provided in 1960 would have offered practically the same capability the existing carriers offered.

Hohum

PE,

The RN was struggling to fill the carrier fleet it had with aircraft by the late 50s.

Hohum

NaB,

There is not a single shred of evidence to support that assertion. As I have pointed out twice previously, the original 1950 staff requirement for Victorious called for 40,000b aircraft capability and that remained unchanged throughout the reconstruction. By the time the last reconstruction was cancelled in mid-1952 the RN was still only looking at Sea Vixen and what would become Buccaneer. They actually looked at even smaller carriers after 1952. Aircraft size was not a contributing factor to the abandonment of the reconstruction programme. Cost, in terms of operation, and value (versus putting the same equipment in a new hull- even one smaller or the same size) was.

Simon

Interesting “discussion” between Hohum and NaB.

It does seem a little infuriating that history is repeating itself. Fewer aircraft. Fewer crew. Mitigate an unknown future (both technically and strategically) with an “adaptable” (large) carrier and then finalise and build it to not be economically “adaptable”.

…all in the interest of the Public’s money.

Hohum

PE,

No I am not. What you are missing is that the RN needed a certain number of hulls to actually provide the capability they used to justify having the ships themselves. The 1957 review set the force at three air wings to allow one EoS and two WoS, the two WoS airwings were weighted to ASW.

The operational requirements that were driving force development in the 1950s were very difficult to those that drove CVF.

Not a Boffin

What Hohum can’t seem to get his head around is that the “40000lb aircraft” envisaged in the 1950 SR was not an actual aircraft per se, but rather what the RN thought at the time (actually the logic goes back to 1942/43) would be at the high end of performance in the late 50s. In actual fact, a 40000lb cab was somewhere between the Scimitar (35000lb) and the Sea Vixen (46000lb) – both of which were already looking less capable than what was reflected by requirements and designs emerging elsewhere in 1952, (F8/F11/F3H/F4/F100/Mirage etc), sometimes at lighter weights. In other words, in 1952 the RN was beginning to realise that 40000lb-class carrier aircraft might not deliver the performance relative to other aircraft that they thought it might. Which is why (quite apart from the difficulties in accommodating taller aircraft in revised hangars) the designs took so long to work out and part of the reason why so many changes were required. Which made them expensive for the capability the aircraft numbers able to be accommodated delivered. Which was A (not the main) – but A – contributory factor to the cancellation. No-one disputes that inefficient management and cost-overruns, coupled with the financial limitations on manning etc was the primary factor. However, to suggest that these things were unaffected by actual growth in aircraft weight and performance is also incorrect.

Thankfully history is not repeating itself with QEC, irrespective of what Simon thinks. The aircraft limits on Vic and the other 40s built carriers were real, physical limits that could not be overcome at any economic cost. There are no such limits on QE – not least because in general aircraft size stopped increasing in the 70s – the limits on aircraft numbers often referred to are planning assumptions which can be changed. One also suspects that a future CTOL conversion may well become more affordable once the ships have been delivered and are removed from the ACA contract structure.

Hohum

NaB,

Sorry but thats just nonsense. Nowhere in the surviving documentary evidence is there anything to support the following:

“in 1952 the RN was beginning to realise that 40000lb-class carrier aircraft might not deliver the performance relative to other aircraft that they thought it might”

In fact quite the contrary, every reference is to Scimitar, Sea Vixen and NA.39 (to be Buccaneer) all of which were operated successfully from both Victorious and Hermes. It is not until much later that the RN starts considering aircraft beyond what Victorious could operate, it wasn’t until March 1965 that an RN carrier (Ark Royal) launches an aircraft (a Buccaneer) at 50,000lbs.

The Other Chris

Blackburn were certainly aware of it in 1952.

That’s when they received preliminary information on the requirement ultimately leading to B.103 (Buccaneer) fulfilling NA.39 (Boot, 1990).

They had already confirmed higher weight necessity and acceptability on studies through to B.95, as well as seeing the dH 110 (Sea Vixen) be selected for F.4/48 with that very trend.

Simon257

Well as we have all seen the Dreadnought-2050 story in the past week, and discussed in the open threads. Could we see the return of the Battleship in the second half of this century?

http://www.defencetalk.com/russia-us-china-returning-to-battleships-era-65251/

Hohum

The M.148T specification issued to industry to cover the NA.39 requirement specified a maximum take-off weight of 45,000lbs and folded dimensions of 51ft by 20ft. Thats within the operational capability of Victorious and its thus unsurprising that she was able to operate Buccaneers right up to the end of her life.

As a side note, M.148T wasn’t issued until August 1952, two months after the cancellation of Implacable’s reconstruction.

The Other Chris

Yet a 60,000lb aircraft was where Buccaneer ended up, targeted at larger carriers and early RAF joint adoption, neither of which materialised.

Not a Boffin

Of course all the references are to those aircraft/SRs because those were the only ones on the immediate plot (short term naval aircraft plan) and were needed to replace the Sea Hawk and Sea Venom imminently. Unsurprisingly to anyone, they were operated from those ships. No-one said you couldn’t – that really would be stupid, given that they were. However, what was clear was that in comparison to other aircraft coming into or due to come into service in the mid 50s both Scimitar and Vixen were relatively limited (subsonic, limited weapons systems). That future-looking perspective and the difficulties of designing truly high-performance aircraft to operate from the constraints of a BS4 and on a “short” recovery deck were becoming clear. However, the catch 22 was that the rapid contemporary gains in aircraft performance militated against canning the Scimitar/Vixen and hanging on with the Hawk/Venom for a decade or more.

The “40000lb aircraft” dates back to 1942/43 and a generic naval aircraft specification against which the future carriers (what became Ark/Eagle and the Centaur class) were designed. It was based on what USN aircraft might evolve to in the lifetime of those ships – and as can be seen, was somewhat less than the reality. The difficulties of achieving the assumed recovery speeds within acceptable WoD (and hence ship speed/operability issues) were becoming apparent both in the systems necessary for the aircraft to get near these values and in the impact on the ship to provide sufficient facilities (hangar height, cat stroke, angled deck run out, ship speed) as a compromise. All of which contributed in one way or another to the difficulties experienced during Vics rebuild.

In essence, the RN knew it was going to have to do something beyond Vic and the 40000lb aircraft and in 1952 was already beginning to think about ships capable of operating 70000lb/150kt cabs. That perspective contributed to the lack of value ascribed to further Fleet carrier rebuilds and their subsequent cancellation.

Hohum

Yup, but in 1952, as far as the RN was concerned 45,000lb was the lot.

There was, sometime in the early 60s, a plan for a further deep Buccaneer modernisation for the RN but it went nowhere, IIRC (and I may not) it was sacrificed to temporarily stave off CVA01 cancellation.

Jeremy M H

@Simon257

A couple points. One I don’t buy the Russian program as real until it hits the water. Two I don’t think the desire for bigger will be driven by protection concerns so much as power generation and sensor concerns. Magazine capacity will play some role but I honestly think is less of a concern than most would think.

Most Western ships in particular can carry plenty of weapons, particularly once an anti-ship missile is put into VLS cells, that I don’t see that driving size up.

Bigger more power hungry radars and directed energy weapons or rail guns may do it.

Personally I would like to see the USN get nuclear cruisers again simply to facilitate speed deployments and carry very powerful electronics. But that is at least 15-20 years away.

Hohum

NaB,

There may have been people thinking about 40,000lb aircraft in 1942/3 but that clearly didn’t go very far. In 1945 the desired standard for new carriers was 30,000lbs (Eagle/Ark Royal and the 1942 light fleets). Scimitar and Sea Vixen hung around so long because their development was painfully slow, what would have been good aircraft in the early 50s didn’t start flying from carriers until the late 50s by which time they looked archaic next to a Phantom but the UK could only undertake so much aircraft development.

Aircraft weight had nothing to do with the cancellation of the reconstructions, there is no evidence at all to support that theory. The fact that RN looked at even smaller fixed wing carriers afterwards is actually evidence against it.

Not a Boffin

The “1952 carrier” programme was based around a 70000lb/150kt generic aircraft spec, reduced in some cases to a 60000lb one. So while the near-term aircraft may well have been 40 (or even 45) klbs – because it would have to fly from Hermes and Vic – it is clear that recognition that this would not suffice for medium term aircraft was alive and well, reducing the perceived effectiveness of any further Fleet rebuilds. It’s a constraint on the aircraft design imposed by the ship, rather than a desired parameter.

Hohum

Yup, and the whole thing was abandoned with the RN moving back to looking at smaller ships. Again, there is not a single piece of surviving documentary evidence to support the assertion that the rebuilds were cancelled due to aircraft weight.

Simon

History repeating would be the same mistakes made again.

So what were the mistakes?

A lack of appreciation for the growth trends in aircraft and weapon systems.
A lack of appreciation for the type of aircraft needed (almost the same as the above).
A lack of appreciation for the cost of modifying the carriers to accommodate these changes.
A lack of public/political will to invest (manpower and money).

So by my reckoning that’s almost the same as now (and recently). We are making the same mistakes yet again… maybe not in exactly the same way, but we’re making them all the same!

Perhaps it’s just inevitable without a crystal ball.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Simon

So what were the mistakes?
A lack of appreciation for the growth trends in aircraft and weapon systems.

We are building 65K tonne carriers

A lack of appreciation for the type of aircraft needed (almost the same as the above).

Flying a 5th generation jet

A lack of appreciation for the cost of modifying the carriers to accommodate these changes.

That was due to technical immaturity at the design phase.

A lack of public/political will to invest (manpower and money).

In what way?

Not a Boffin

I don’t think anyone has suggested they were cancelled due to aircraft weight. What is being said is that the demands placed on the ships (new build and rebuild) of the rapid increase in aircraft weight, dimensions and speeds at the time had effects on the facilities required which in turn affected the costs and reduced the number of aircraft that could be operated (bang for buck) and therefore the perceived value from doing so. By no means the only factor – fiscal reality in terms of conversion cost and manpower being the main driver, but contributory nonetheless.

The Other Chris

Worth remembering that, for all the avoidable-in-hindsight issues, we’ll have knocked out two carriers while Russia, India and China have been having trouble producing or even refitting one of their own.

Even the US has had trouble in this time-frame, though they’ll definitely sort that out.

Something to be genuinely proud of.

Not a Boffin

In what way has there been a lack of appreciation for growth trends in aircraft and weapons systems this time around?
In what way has there been a lack of appreciation for the type of aircraft needed this time around?
The cost argument is somewhat spurious as it is less a factor of changes required for aircraft, than a programming/phasing issue, caused by unwillingness to pay for some design work at a particular stage of the project, rather than wholesale changes required.

Simon

APATS,

Particle weapons – power generation for such.
Range – fuel load and tankering for such.
Endurance – fuel load and efficient wings for such.
Payload – maybe not such a big deal until it’s payload AND range (such as COD).

Are you saying the carriers are now suddenly economically convertable? The reality (or lack of it) is then compounded by a lack of interest to invest in the armed forces, which tightens the purse strings and makes mistakes even more high-profile.

Simon

NaB,

Missed your post.

In a nutshell much of what I’m eluding to can be described by the words HALE, X-47B and crowsnest.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Simon

“Particle weapons – power generation for such.”

Before particle weapons become any form of reality then power generation will change.

“Range – fuel load and tankering for such”

The QEC will be pretty frugal actually and we have tankers, with more coming as they enter service.

“Payload – maybe not such a big deal until it’s payload AND range (such as COD)”

You do know that even the USN are swirching to V22 for COD.

I am saying that the carriers do not need to be converted from the incredibly flexible valuable assets that they are.

mickp

@TOC, having seen QE and PoW last weekend, totally agree. Much as I have fond memories of Ark Royal, Eagle etc, in my view even with VSTOL, these two are the best we’ve had in terms of current capability and future proofing

mickp

I would add of course that being ‘on a roll’ we should have built 3….

The Other Chris

NaB just needs the paycheck signing and he’ll get on it.

Not a Boffin

Not sure why you’re trying to avoid (elude) a nutshell – unless you meant to say “alluding”.

Nor can I see where HALE (a generic name for a type of platform), X47B (a USN demonstration UCAS which may or may not enter production) and Crowsnest (a programme soon to deliver a capability from Merlin and QNLZ) have to do with anything.

When last I looked the only HALE in service anywhere is Global Hawk which is in no way carrier compatible (in any flavour) primarily due to wingspan – just like all the other HALE demonstrators. Nor is it clear what function said HALE might provide – although I sense the acronym AEW (hopefully not linked to PAAMS) lurking somewhere dangerously close.

X47 is a developmental aircraft that may at some stage in the future lead to a production design (for which there is as yet no US requirement). If it does mature, it may be a UK aspiration and if so it may need catapults and arrester gear – both of which can be back-fitted to QNLZ/PoW if required. The price will be dependent on the time pressures of any such retrofit and the contractual construct with the organisation doing it, a price which may (I repeat may) in this case be quite different from those previously outlined.

Crowsnest will provide a cost-effective capability – if somewhat less than the original MASC requirement envisaged.

Simon

If you were here you would have seen me type aluding (missing the other l) and then picking the wrong option in the auto-correct list.

MALE/HALE – it’s the LE part that’s important. ISTAR type activities. Perhaps even some CAS.

Long endurance is not going to come from anything other than a dirigible or high aspect ratio aircraft. When it becomes an essential for operation we will probably need to convert QEC/PoW. Unfortunately the die has been cast as it has recently been proven that it is too expensive because of some shortsightedness in the design office or procurement departments.

I’m not blaming anyone. I just think that we’ve done it again. History repeats itself ad infinitum.

Not a Boffin

Long endurance is a relative term……it does not necessarily mean dirigible or high AR aircraft. All depends on the kill line / threat sector and or area coverage you want.

duker

A Stretched Merlin ?. With 3larger engines ,they could be looking at Chinook market ?

Simon

Long endurance is a relative term

Yes. Relative to the current market leaders. I little like a “fast” CPU.

The “kill line / threat sector” is dictated by the equipment you have and when stretched will require a more efficient approach.

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