Too Expensive to Cancel

Over the last few weeks and no doubt many times today, usually in reference to CVF, the term

Too expensive to cancel

Will be heard






There have been contracts placed but every day in the real world contracts are cancelled, organisations sit down and work through the issues and usually a compromise is reached.

Where a compromise cannot be reached then one party is in breach and the other party may resort to legal remedy.

In this case BAe would be facing the MoD in a court room whilst major decisions on other programmes that BAe are involved with are still to be made.

It beggars belief that BAe would put in jeopardy their entire future UK defence portfolio on potential losses from one project.

The capital costs of CVF pail into insignificance against their running costs and especially the running costs of her aircraft when measured over the next few decades.

Are we really saying the the UK Government is being bounced into a bad decision because it is scared of facing BAe in the High Court, is this really what decisions on military and security capability are being based on these days?

If the reports are true about one CVF with a handful of aircraft in a decade or two then this must go down in the annals of the worst government defence decision, since the last one.

What we should be doing is working out a strategic plan (remember that word) for the Royal navy with BAe that ensures both parties benefit in the long term.

This ridiculous decision makes no sense for either party.

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October 19, 2010 10:38 am

A better headline would be; “It would be too stupid to cancel……. given that they cost only £44m/year to run”

Which if true is in fact less than some frigates.

October 19, 2010 10:50 am

Perhaps the term “too expensive” does not refer to the money involved, but the jobs – and thus political support – to be lost. The trades that are involved in this massive shipbuilding project are numerous and regional (job) impact substantial.

October 19, 2010 10:51 am

they are allegedly less expensive to run (an undefined parameter admittedly) than the T22’s and the Vince’s.

Richard W
Richard W
October 19, 2010 11:07 am

Agreed. After all, even if you couldn’t avoid paying for it, you still wouldn’t build it if you didn’t want it. I’d suspect that there has been some less than honest bargaining going on.

Those who never wanted CVF (Dave and George) have been persuaded to go along with the programme on the pretext it can’t be cancelled. The navy on the other hand are playing a long game and figuring that once the things are built circumstances may let them be used as they always hoped they would.

The naysayers are muttering about selling one. But it doesn’t matter, it has to be built before it can be sold, and that’s years away.

October 19, 2010 11:18 am

“Its the people costs that really count”

True. A Maersk E-class go to sea with a crew of thirteen. And before anybody says anything about damage control don’t I am not in the mood for it.

(Only jokin’ as always.)

October 19, 2010 12:28 pm

Cancelling CVF make no sense. We need these ship’s. No one doubts the need for military air power in the future but how best to deliver that air power. Wedded to airfields in western Europe or free to rain the Indian Ocean or where ever else needed.

Cancelling the project would obviously waste money they have started actually building the ship. We could likley offset penalties by ordering more frigates and destroyer escorts from BAE however whats the point in having escorts if there is nothing to escort. We can say that the planes are expensive but we need to replace Harrier and Tornado with something. We have run the Invinciblesfor nearly 30 years. These ship’s are cheaper to run than the vessels they are replacing. If we cancel CVF what do we replace it with. More frigates? More Amphibs? Whats the point if we can’t provide air cover or do we spend another decade planning and pissing more money up the wall on a smaller less capable vessel because it’s less politically sensitive. If we cancel CVF we may as well get rid of the entire fleet and just keep the River Class OPV’s. Canceling CVF makes as much sense as canceling MRA4. We have already paid for the thing. To say that canceling it saves us on running costs is silly. If you worked for my company and used a procurement strategy like that you would not last long. Military procurement in an ever changing world is difficult. Whats needed today might not be in 10 years. It might be needed again 10 years after that. Queen Elizabeth and her sister will last 50 years. Longer than many of us. I can guarantee there will be atleast one occasion in the next 50 years when we will thank god these vessel were not canceled.

October 19, 2010 12:52 pm

Also BAE only recieves 20% of it’s work load from the UK. The thought of pulling out of the UK may actually cross BAE’s mind. BAE is the only defence contractor in the UK left. It directly employs 40,000 s people in the UK. To go to these guys and say let us out of CVF or we won’t order anything else from you in the future would be an interesting conversation to say the least. Who would we buy from if not BAE? From abroad? putting 200-300 thousand people out of work in the UK not to mention F**king up our balance of payments even more. Doubt that would go down well for the government in the next election.

Phil Darley
October 19, 2010 1:47 pm

Running costs will be tiny as it looks like they will be in dock for the next 9 years!!! :-)

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
October 19, 2010 2:47 pm

: Word has it that MRA4 has been cancelled and it’s proposed base in Scotland too, so, um, that’s one nonsensical decision for, and one against.

If BAe pulled out of the UK, at least it would mean that MoD are more likely to base purchasing decisions on capabilities and value, rather than “buying British” or “protecting jobs”!

October 19, 2010 3:24 pm

Word on the street from Woodford is that all nine a/c have been cancelled and Kinloss shutting.

October 19, 2010 4:15 pm

Nimrod cancelled – we get 9 x P8 instead = good (but not likely)

Nimrod cancelled – we get nothing else instead = insane (but likely if the base is to be closed down!)

October 19, 2010 4:45 pm


BAE are a business if we had an order for (say)20-30 Absalon like vessels (or whatever youb can come up with a case for; and told them ‘You sue about the carriers and you don’t even get to make the cutlery for the mess’ they would be happy to talk.

And if the were not and wanted to take their bat and ball home; well then at last we can start ordering kit that works.

The too expensive to cancel routine is just B*ll*cks.

Also I am curious 2 carriers with 36 planes each would have been barely credible, how does one with less planes get anywhere near credible, it will not be available much of the time. And as this floating managerie of white elephants will constitute the defacto RN; be far too important to risk when/if it does all work.

Try roaming the Indian Ocean anywhere in range of the Indian Airforce/navy if they do not want us there!

Richard W

I doubt (hope) that the mOD budget will never get in such a mess again. I supect you are whistling to keep your spirits up. I would not hold your breeath on getting either carrier on to the ocean with f35 on it. There will be another review before 2020 when the line ‘look how well we’ve done without fixed wing naval aviation, so we’ve decided not to build the other one with cats and traps.

As for a fleet of River class, could do worse.

October 19, 2010 5:01 pm

It’s been proposed before, but perhaps it now needs to be seriously considered – joint use of CVF.

Have the USMC embark (elements of) a MEU ACE (Harriers and helicopters), and perhaps F-18/F-35s in the near future. Yanks happy, UK (could be) happy because a CVF is a very usefull, not to mention visible, piece of power projection kit.
RN crews can remain proficient, and the USMC could gain a STOVL carrier as they are getting their amphibs cut as well.

Then there are the Spanish and Italians, which also have carriers which also require drydocking. During their ‘down time’ the CVF could form the nucleus of a NATO/Euro carrier wing.

October 19, 2010 5:09 pm

Don’t see how the review does what Dr Fox said it would do on the tin:

“Defence as a whole must come out in a stronger position.”

El Sid
El Sid
October 19, 2010 9:39 pm

I wouldn’t get so wound up, you’ve got to remember the politics of this. We’re in an age where the coalition are having to cut all sorts of newspaper-friendly pet projects, and they rely for power on a bunch of sandal-wearing beardies who would prefer the RN to consist of nothing more than eco-friendly pedalos armed with teddy-bears. Telling them that cancelling the CVFs would save £500m wouldn’t free up £500m to buy 2 Absalons, it would just mean that £500m got spent on group hug lessons or something.

At least we’ve ended up with two hulls, and the fact that the RAF are standardising on F-35C’s means that we can put 36 on PoW should we need to. We also have the option to divert US F-35B orders onto QE in 2016 should we need to – again that’s not something they’re shouting about at the moment, all the talk is about mothballing and not spending money. So we’ve preserved a lot of strategic flexibility with minimal upfront cost. It’s not ideal, but it’s probably the least bad option.

Somewhat Removed
October 23, 2010 10:52 am

Did Gordon Brown not state, when he confirmed the order for the carriers, that he had deliberately engineered the contract to be ‘too costly to cancel’, both to safeguard shipbuilding jobs in his constituency and to ensure a future government could not cancel the project? Can’t find the news reference, but am certain this was the attitude taken at the time.

October 23, 2010 12:01 pm

Just wondering….what do you think about cancelling the second big carrier but building 2 smaller ones that are designed for steam catapults ?

That way the yard’s & BAe still get the work but the navy gets the right ships, that is if we do buy the F35-C.

October 23, 2010 12:07 pm

I would build a slightly stretched Cavour, but that would F35b.

Despite having some of the ablest naval architects in the world (surprisingly considering our near defunct shipbuilding industry) it would take too long to design a new carrier.

Well it would take the MoD(N) to do it…….

October 23, 2010 12:52 pm

I’m not really sure why they have decided to go for the F35-C over the B model….is it more than up front costs ?

Is it really for technical reasons, that they have doubts that it will be able to do all it’s supposed to ?

I thought the advantage of STOVL was that it was much safer compared to cats & traps, that it cut the costs of cats “n” traps and that the aircraft can be launched & recovered even in a dead calm.

If that is correct, why throw that capability away?

October 23, 2010 4:34 pm

Going CATOBAR means (in theory) American and French aircraft will be able to use CVF. Occasionally “Allied” navies do touch and go exercises on each other’s decks. Um. Traps have to be set for each different type, it isn’t a one setting fits all. What every body seems to be “arguing” about is whether F35C (+ CATOBAR) is cheaper overall (through life costs, range, less maintenance, pilot training, etc. etc.) than the technically more complex F35B. Harriers were more difficult to fly than normal planes. Whether this is the same for F35b with all its clever fly-by-wire computer stuff I don’t know.

It is very rare for it to be dead calm at sea. Even STOVL Invincible launches benefited from extra wind to help things along. Note that US amphibs don’t have a ski jump.

October 23, 2010 4:57 pm

Thanks X :)

Also i was thinking of how safe is CATOBAR compared to STOVL.
I have seen youtube vids of accidents with COTOBAR, where the steam pressure wasn’t set correctly for that particular aircraft or an engine failure, they look horrific…..

I haven’t seen or heard much about accident’s with Harriers…..i remember a long time ago 1 SHAR pilot getting lost & having to land on a container ship and 1 in the Falklands war that either blew up or crashed shortly after take off.

Wonder which is safer, CATOBAR or STOVL?

btw i read Martins article at fantasyfleet, this more than anything makes me think that the Gov. thinks that another large ground war is likely in the next 5 or 10 years & that the Raf can support it easily. It never ever thought in terms of, what can you do with a $60 Billion budget.

I need to be smacked upside the head !

October 23, 2010 6:08 pm

The USMC had a terrible safety record with the Harrier when it was first introduced. As more was learned about the ‘plane and the design itself was “fettled” safety improved. But is is very much a pilot’s aeroplane; it is machine for the best of the best.

US carrier ‘planes like the FA18 can land themselves; but whether it is pilot or computer in charge landing a ‘plane on a carrier is likened to a controlled crash; hence carrier planes have beefier landing gear, substantial airframes, and consequently can be a bit heavier than comparable land based planes. Launching isn’t as much a problem but still dangerous.

I think from what I gather is that carrier (shipborne) aviation is dangerous. You would have to ask the more learned commentators here for actual figures.

October 23, 2010 9:21 pm

Thanks for the reply.

I can’t seem to embed the links, but search Youtube for carrier crashes.

Based on the vids that have been posted, CATOBAR looks dangerous as hell compared to STOVL. I haven’t been able to find any that feature Harriers. I know crashes don’t happen often, imagine the press outrage if 10 people were killed due to a crash in the first month of a new CATOBAR RN carrier….

October 24, 2010 10:52 am

We are moving t F35C because F35 b does not work.

I fully expect withing the next 2 years it’s cancelaltion will be announced.

A lot of people signed up for it, but as the price per craft has rocketed (it may well now cost more than typhoon), the nimbers people want have declined.

All the 2 nd rank navies (italian spanish uk japs) and the US marine corps want it, but the numbers wanted have fallen from over a thousand at one time to few hundredss and almost all the development budget is going into the B version now.

If iw as SAAb i would be woking hard on on the stobar Grippen, lots of navies will come Knocking soon, which is whyt taht canny swedish company is doing just that.

October 24, 2010 10:53 am

Sorry about that last post you got the un ammended version!

paul g
October 24, 2010 11:45 am

saab/bae which is handy!!! plus if you look at the specs the EJ200 (typhoon engine) would fit in there nicely, some good vids on youtube of the gripen doing STOL on the roads of sweden

October 24, 2010 12:56 pm

Michael said “CATOBAR looks dangerous as hell compared to STOVL.”

The USN doesn’t suffer that many crashes. But your sentence hides a truth in that carrier aviation is specialised. With the exception of exchanges for experienced pilots in for a long service career it is do a tour and then go and do something else activity. Safety comes from experience and honing skills and appreciating that the carrier aircraft is part of integrated fighting machine and not just cargo.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
October 24, 2010 3:56 pm

In retrospect, the decision to push the carrier size to 60,000 tons severly weakened the case for STOVL anyway, since such a vessel is big enough for CATOBAR which has significant performance advantages.

Maybe three STOVL carriers at c.30,000 tons – still 50% bigger than the Invincibles – would have been a better solution for the RN’s future, necessarily limited, expeditionary ambitions. More baskets for the precious eggs…

October 24, 2010 5:25 pm

Yes 3 Cavours (better 4 for 120,000tons of shipping giving surge) would have been better. A couple of stretched Darings to carry a few dozen TLAM. And 3 (better 4) nice big fast 30,000ton LPD/LSD.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
October 24, 2010 5:54 pm

For the Carrier to be effective ALL squadrons equipped with the F-35C form the 40+ we appear to be purchasing, must be carrier qualified whether they are light or dark blue.