A More Sober Analysis

The reaction of the press to the Anglo French defence cooperation programme is basically, calm down everyone, this is just hard nosed pragmatism.

The programme is to be delivered through an overarching Defence Co-operation Treaty, a subordinate treaty relating to a joint nuclear facility, a letter of intent signed by Defence Ministers and a package of joint defence initiatives.

This co-operation is intended to improve the collective defence capability through UK and French forces working more closely together, contributing to more capable and effective forces, and ultimately improving the collective capability of NATO and European Defence.
The measures are

  • Jointly developing a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) as a non-standing bilateral capability able to carry out a range of operations in the future whether acting bilaterally or through NATO, the EU or other coalition arrangements. This concept will be developed over the coming years
  • Building primarily on maritime task group co-operation around the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, the UK and France will aim to have, by the early 2020s, the ability to deploy a UK-French integrated carrier strike group incorporating assets owned by both countries
  • Developing joint military doctrine and training programmes
  • Extending bilateral co-operation on the acquisition of equipment and technologies, for example in unmanned aerial systems, complex weapons, submarine technologies, satellite communications and research and technology
  • Aligning wherever possible our logistics arrangements – including providing spares and support to the new A400M transport aircraft
  • Developing a stronger defence industrial and technology base
  • Enhancing joint working to defend against emerging security concerns such as cyber security

Industry is happy, the press is happy and only a few far right loonies are moaning, which is exactly why we must think very hard about this because those so called far right loonies are generally speaking the ones who have this nations interest at heart and don’t want to see subsumed into some amorphous European identity without the sovereign means of ones defence.

I always veer to a generally supportive view of the defence industry but in this matter, I care little for what they want.

The programme is a curate’s egg, some measures that cannot be characterised as anything but sensible.  But others are obviously an erosion of the UK’s ability to wield military power wholly in support of its interests whether they align with France or not.

Working in alliances or partnerships is nothing new, NATO, ISAF, UN missions and even the UK/Dutch Amphibious Force show that this is nothing unusual so why should we balk at the proposed Combined Joint Expeditionary Force?

The UK/NL Amphibious Force has been in place since 1973. UKNLAF comprises two main elements: the UK/NL Amphibious Group of specialist amphibious staff and shipping provided by the UK Royal Navy (RN), the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and specialist support craft form the British Army’s Royal Logistic Corps; and the UK/NL Landing Force, made up of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and operational units of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps’ 1st Battalion Group. UKNLAF assets operating at sea, including embarked UK/NL units, are commanded by the RN’s Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG), who becomes COMUKNLPHIBGRU. The UK/NL Landing Force is commanded by 3 Commando Brigade’s brigadier, with the head of the Dutch battalion group as his deputy commander.

UK forces have worked with French forces again, for decades. The French forces are in many ways a mirror of ours, highly professional and with a broad range of capabilities although they differ in approach and doctrine in some areas that is reflected in equipment and structures.

The CJEF will not be a standing force but available ‘at notice’ for NATO, bilateral, UN or EU operations and comprise of elements of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines, Special Forces and their French equivalents. On operations it would be commanded by either French or UK commander.

Where this leaves the Joint Rapid reaction Force (JRRF) is unclear,
under normal circumstances, the Army would ensure that the following land forces were available to the JRRF: a brigade sized grouping held at High Readiness and two Strategic Reserves—the Spearhead Land Element (SLE) held at Extremely High Readiness and the Airborne Task Force (ABTF) held at Very High Readiness. To command the JRRF a Joint Task Force HQ (JTFHQ) is maintained at 48 hours notice to move. Its impact on the UK’s existing commitment to the EU Battle Group pool is also unclear.

Not sure if there will be enough room on their arms for all the badges they are going to have to wear and what language will the command and control system use?

The carrier decision is the most far reaching and many of the implications have yet to be realised. There are many unanswered questions about the Prince of Wales and the French decision on PA2. It may transpire that the Royal Navy ends up with the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales and the French with Charles de Gaulle and PA2, this would not be a bad situation because it means that both nations would need to rely less on a combined task force. If however, and this would seem the most likely, PA2 is not ordered and Prince of Wales is sold or placed at extended readiness then the degree of reliance goes up.

Another possible scenario is that Prince of Wales becomes PA2 and the Charles de Gaulle is decommissioned, it has not been a great success by any measure. The UK and France would have more or less, a single identical carrier each. One would fly Rafale and the other the F35C but don’t discount the F35C being cancelled and the Rafale being ordered in future.

It is becoming more and more obvious that the decision to change from F35B to the CATOBAR F35C was absolutely nothing to do with capability or cost (will have a look at this issue in more detail in a forthcoming SDSR analysis post) but everything to do with the political element of sharing carriers with the French. It was only a couple of months ago that Liam Fox was declaring the sharing of carriers as ‘utterly unrealistic’

The shared A400 training and maintenance makes some kind of sense, although the aircraft will not be entirely common with differences in floors, defensive aids and other systems, the main avionics, flight systems and engines will be the same. The devil will be in the detail though, especially about priorities and surging in response to individual needs.

Beyond a common spares plan or aircrew/ground crew training will this agreement be extended to include operational support in theatre, again, a creeping expansion of common sense resource sharing to interdependence.

Satellite communications will be subject to a joint concept study in 2011 on potential cooperation for a new generation of satellites to enter service between 2018 and 2022. 2018 is a significant date because it is the end of the SkynetPFI agreement between the MoD and Paradigm Secure Communications (a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS/Cassidian)

There will be a 10 year strategic plan for the complex weapon sector aimed at efficiency savings of up to 30 percent. The scheme will permit increasing interdependence and consolidation of the industrial base. Complex weapons are more or less, missile systems and there is already a great deal of collaboration in this sector anyway with the Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missile and the Sea Skua replacement (FASGW(H)). There will also be a technology road map for short-range air defence technologies which leaves the Common Anti Air Modular Missile (CAMM) under question. This is based on the UK’s ASRAAM missile body and is designed to replace Sea Wolf and Rapier FSC, the French have the VL MICA missile.

UAV’s form a large part of the agreement with an intention to work on developing next generation MALE UAV and UCAS capabilities, the MALE system will be the first to enter service between 2015 and 2020 with the UCAS entering service from 2030 onwards. Again, details are uncertain, how will this agreement fit in with the RAF’s Scavenger requirements and the BAe/MoD Mantis/Taranis demonstrators?

BAe and Dassault Aviation subsequently announced a long heralded teaming arrangement in order to steal the march on the EADS/Cassidian Talarion and what involvement Thales will have in these projects is anyone’s guess but given the billion pound investment in the Thales Watchkeeper UAV it is likely to figure in these future plans.

A joint project team will be set up in 2011 to agree on specifications for a prototype naval mine countermeasures system although the REMUS and Sea Fox system in service with the Royal Navy are capabilities far in advance of French systems.

The UK and France will investigate the potential use of spare capacity available in Britain’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) PFI, providing it is financially acceptable to both nations. With recent cuts to the RAF fast jet fleet there is an obvious reduction in need, possibly as low nine aircraft. This is what happens when you sign up for 27 year PFI schemes, things change and you are left holding the baby. The French know this full well and have been reportedly saying that the deal on the table is too expensive, so much for a new era of cooperation!

A number of shared facilities will be created for nuclear warhead testing. With the decision on Trident licked into the long grass beyond the next election, watch this space. The French have a new missile entering service, the M51. From a military and economic perspective, the M51 might offer a useful alternative but this would signal a sea change in the relationship between the UK and USA.

Finally, a scheme where the two sides each commit a 50 million Euro annual budget to research and technology cooperation will be continued and increased when possible. The joint work currently undertaken will be expanded to include sectors such as sensors, electronic warfare technologies, materials and simulation. Note the nice round figure is in Euros, not Pounds.

So the issue is not a military one, it is about politics.

David Cameron said

“This is not about a European army”

But quite clearly it is, the official announcement even makes it clear that the move will strengthen European Defence.

He went on to say;

“Britain and France are and will always remain sovereign nations able to deploy our armed forces independently and in our national interests when we choose to do so”

But what about the carriers and for how long, as any watcher of European affairs knows full well, it is not the first announcement to watch but what comes after, by stealth.

The CJEF is self evidently the new European rapid reaction force.

Both Cameron and Sarkozy make the point that they do not foresee any circumstances where the two nation’s interests diverge and one would use military force and the other not. Given Cameron’s rather shaky view of history it is perhaps worth pointing out that twice in the last 30 years this has happened and the next 50 years are equally unpredictable. Even more recently, there is a lingering doubt that the French were playing both sides in the Balkans and many observers commented that UK/US operations would generally achieve their goal of (usually) capturing key war criminals but UK/French operations would usually result in the target somehow getting away. In 2003, again our interests diverged, rightly or wrongly. A mere 7 years ago and in Afghanistan, although the situation is completely different today, no one can deny a certain reticence to deploy in French quarters.

At the press conference following the treaty signing ceremony the BBC’s correspondent asked if France would really despatch an aircraft carrier to help the UK. President Sarkozy’s prickly answer was

“If you, my British friends, have to face a major crisis, could you imagine France simply sitting there, its arms crossed, saying that it’s none of our business”

Well, yes I can and recent history proves me right.

For all the fine words, can we really trust the French, not at the operational or tactical level, but at the political and strategic?

Trust is perhaps a strong word, but we should be very wary of assuming that our political interests will always be in alignment.

It is a measure of the arrogance of these individuals that they seem to think they will be in power for decades to come and act as if everything will always be the same. Sarkozy is somewhat unusual in his Anglo Saxon inclinations but may be followed by the complete opposite.

On the industrial level we also have to look beyond the headlines, both defence industries are strong but in a globalising world, where Brazilian, Indian and Chinese manufacturers are threatening traditional markets the ability of national defence champions to meet these challenges must be tempered against the reality of trust. It is one thing to say we will find economies of scale but how will this work in the practical because it must, by definition, mean specialisation and rationalisation.  US industry may be increasingly wary of partnering with UK organisations as it sees ever closer relationships with French/European companies and the position of BAe in the US may also be questioned. What does this also mean for the French/Russia shipbuilding alliance and greater competition for markets such as Brazil and India?

I get the impression the Government is using the financial situation to accelerate the move to a European defence capability and increasing political unity, away from the US.

The main issue with the treaty seems to be three fold;

When does co-operation become interdependence, if we are to give up capabilities or make them so reliant on others then self evidently we lose some elements of sovereign defence capability or the ability to act alone, even at a small scale. Retaining the capability for full spectrum operations, even at a reduced scale, should be seen as a red line beyond which we should never cross.

Secondly, there is the issue of ‘were we asked’

This is important stuff but it has not been debated in Parliament and was only vaguely referenced in the election so there is a quite justifiable anger at the lack of democracy, wasn’t the coalition about new politics. David Cameron was very keen on the new politics message and the Conservative Democracy Task Force in its second reportrecommends

As set out in our earlier report, An End to Sofa Government, decisions to commit British troops to combat, and treaty ratifications, should require parliamentary approval

Finally, what are the implications for NATO and our strong political, military, intelligence (especially) and industrial relationship with the USA. Intelligence is an especially strong relationship that France is one the outside looking enviously in. Is the USA going to perceive this as a means of the French gaining access to US technology and intelligence using the UK as a politically convenient stepping stone?

If all this is too depressing, have a look at the real treaty

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November 3, 2010 11:12 am

Having read the Europeanisation of British Defence Policy:


I am reasonably sanguine about what Blair achieved at St Malo, as the result was the pooling of sovereignty at intergovernmental level, rather than the delegation of sovereignty at EU level, the EU was apparently locked out of all negotiation and control over the resulting framework agreement. Moreover, it has proved useful at encouraging smaller european nations to move away from their myopic obsession with providing ‘national’ defence, a ludicrous goal from countries with defence budgets measured in billions rather than tens of billions.

I recognise the danger of mission-creep from all things EU, what in defence circles is apparently called a downstream problem resulting from additional layers of convergence well in advance of that initially envisioned, however, there is no dodging the reality that defence budgets of circa $65b do not permit advanced nations to provision wide spectrum power projection.

So, in principle I have no objection to bilateral cooperation with France providing the following proviso’s are adhered to rigidly:

1. Joint UK/FR Brigade – Great, so long as Britain intends to reconstitute its rapid reaction forces to Brigade level after the withdrawl from Afghanistan. The SDSR specifies only battle-group scale rapid reaction forces provided from 3 Marine and 16AAB, which given Afghanistan is understandable. But, only Brigade level UK rapid reaction will provide effect that is both sovereign and strategic.

2. Nuclear cooperation – With UK access to French testing facilities and French access to British production facilities. All is fine so long as there is a cast-iron firewall between sensitive technologies shared with the US and those to be shared with France. The firewall must be sufficient to meet US fears, because our deterrent costs one quarter of the French equivalent precisely because we piggy-back off US economies of scale.

3. Strategic lift/refuelling/reconaissance – Marvellous so long as it is a bilateral affair or arranged through NATO, these are not EU assets. The key phrase here is the pooling of sovereingty at an inter-governmental level, not the delegation of sovereignty to a supera-national level.

4. Carriers – We must take the second CVF carrier into full service. We need closer cooperation to preserve strategic effect, but it must not come at the expense of sovereign effect.

On the matter of nukes; what we get off the yanks is fabulously cheap given that even the worst case scenario from pinko CND types is £80b over forty years, or £2b/year.

The French deterrent, including; subs, missiles, guidance, warhead research & manufacture, warhead testing, is supposed to absorb 20% of their Defence budget, or £8b/year.

Even in the unlikely scenario that doubling the order size reduced costs by 50% a putative combined deterrent would still cost double what we pay today, and that is an over-estimate by pinko CND types!

If, and I do mean “if”, we can use french warhead testing facilities, and they our r&d/ production facilities, without compromising any US technology or creating fear of such a compromise that would destroy our deterrent relationship with the yanks, then yes by all means save costs that way.

Likewise, i can see the utility in Britain and France maintaining nominal at sea deterrence with three boats apiece on the agreement that CASD should be provided by each Navy’s operational boat should be a strategic reserve for the other in case theirs goes offline.

Could reduce missile boats from eight to six and still pride CASD to each nation.

I do note however that Grand Logistics have a link which claims frances deterrent only occupies 10% of the budget these days, but i still doubt the rersult would be as cheap and as advanced as what we achieve with the yanks today.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
November 3, 2010 12:21 pm

The point you make here: “One would fly Rafale and the other the F35C but don’t discount the F35C being cancelled and the Rafale being ordered in future.” has occurred to me also. It would actually make some sense for the RN and the MN to use the same aircraft and armaments. However, I can only see it happening if the F-35C goes TU, which doesn’t seem likely despite the constant delays and cost increases – too much riding on it.

November 3, 2010 12:24 pm

It has already been stated that the US will remain the most important defence relationship we have, the whole “what would wellington think!” business is getting out of hand.

November 3, 2010 12:42 pm

fair enough.

intergovernmental integration is not in itself a threat to sovereignty, as it is an opt-in party game, not an opt-out one.
defence integration is not in itself a threat to sovereignty, unless it leads to an over-specialisation between countries of critical functions.

November 3, 2010 1:22 pm

Mmmm’ being a looney leftie, I reject your analysis outright !

It is a “pragmatic” solution to defence budget cuts for two nations that still have global fiefdom’s and aspire to “out of area” operations that would not / could not be taken on by NATO on hour behalf’s.

As you note these will not be standing formations. I am sure English will be the C2 language as its “NATO Standard” – and how many of our military have even school level French ?

In the big scheme of things, I don’t like, but for different reasons. As I have said before I want honesty from Govt. including either withdrawing defence spending to border guards, coast guard and air defence force, or funding the properly for what you want them to do. To me this is just another element of “fudge” and will be used to justify / mitigate additional future salami slicing. I do not however see this as the slippery slope to Federal Europe (not that that in itself seems any worse than being the 52nd state of the U.S.).

November 3, 2010 1:24 pm

My own modest take on this is that is more about diluting Germany’s growing geo political influence than it is the practicalities of defending ourselves and our Dominions.

Even Cameron can’t be so bereft of common sense for it to have any other purpose.

Comments here http://www.mentalcrumble.com/

November 3, 2010 1:42 pm

Despite moves by the German navy to acquire an “out of area” capability there is still no appetite within the volk for American style interventionism. They do parallel Americans in that there is growing apprehension of losing “immediate” security at home and perhaps shall I dare say “cultural” security.

November 3, 2010 2:04 pm

sorry, just to be clear….. I’m referring to Germany’s growing politcal, industrial and financial influence over greater Europe; not their military strength.

November 3, 2010 2:07 pm

“This agreement then, simply expands France’s options and is a starting gesture to diluting Germany’s growing political influence over the extended EU.”

excellent point from your article.

November 3, 2010 4:18 pm

Once again an excellent article and, as usual, I have to agree largely with the thoughts of Jedibeeftrix.
Of course these agreements with the French are nothing to do with NATO. However, they will, I am sure, put some more adhesive into the re-integration of the French into NATO.
The SDSR and these agreements appear to be, perhaps, foundation stones for a much better SDSR in 5 years time. i.e. one that will really map out the building of ‘Force 2020’.
Just to throw one in for Admin and all of you to chew on ….. MRA4 has gone ….. what chance that Mantis, flying from shore and CVF (perhaps in consort with weapon carrier Merlin) can take on the role of MRA4 and Hawkeye? Could this be, in part, where we are going?

November 3, 2010 4:44 pm

On a lighter note, I can remember doing ship recognition tests 50 years ago. We could all recognise French warships – they were better looking and had more turrets at the back. And we all knew why!

November 3, 2010 4:58 pm

I have already speculated here that UAVs was one of the drivers for the CATOBAR decision. Yes it would be good to see FAA Mantises flying from a new HMS Fulmar.

El Sid
El Sid
November 3, 2010 5:44 pm

“It is becoming more and more obvious that the decision to change from F35B to the CATOBAR F35C was absolutely nothing to do with capability or cost (will have a look at this issue in more detail in a forthcoming SDSR analysis post) but everything to do with the political element of sharing carriers with the French. It was only a couple of months ago that Liam Fox was declaring the sharing of carriers as ‘utterly unrealistic’”

To me that strongly suggests that the decision is motivated by costs and not politics. The budget situation has changed quite a lot in the last 6 months, our relations with Europe have not, and the move to CATOBAR is a clear cost-cutting measure.

To me it’s obvious that the RN was told “there’s no point having CVF unless one is available at all times. But money is so tight that either you have 2xCVF and no escorts, or you keep some escorts, but have 1 CATOBAR CVF and use the Charles de Gaulle as the alternate”.

Even if 1 CATOBAR carrier costs 10-20% more to run than 1 STOVL carrier (the numbers seem to be of that order, there’s not a huge difference) – 1 CATOBAR carrier (with or without a second in mothballs) costs a hell of a lot less than 2 STOVL carriers.

You don’t have to compare like with like, once you no longer need a second carrier. That’s why this whole thing is entirely about saving money, 1 CATOBAR is cheaper than 2 STOVL.

Incidentally, it now looks like the F-35B will be put back to 2014, and the A and C variants put back to 2017.


El Sid
El Sid
November 3, 2010 5:53 pm

PS Another thought – another cost saving is that we can just borrow French Hawkeyes rather than buying our own or developing Merlin ASaC. 2015-2020 is a bit of an awkward time in the cycle for that kind of stuff, better wait a few years until the next-gen US system is available, presumably a UAS based on the X-47B or UE-UAV or something?

Somewhat Removed
November 3, 2010 5:57 pm

Another great article and useful commentary, thank you.

I see this agreement as a fairly thin smokescreen to justify the sale of POW to the MN. However, having access to CDG is a useful opportunity to begin training both the pilots and deck hands for QE in future.

Question for all concerned – is QE going to be built with a ski jump, or is it still going to be a refit job? I haven’t seen anything definitive that says the ramp will be removed for QE’s initial commissioning. Could be a tad embarassing if we sell POW and are left with a ski-jump carrier in need of a refit.

Kevin Berger
Kevin Berger
November 3, 2010 6:09 pm

“And we all knew why!”

Errr… to protect themselves from backstabbing brits? Makes sense, you can’t be too cautious when dealing with Perfidious Albion and its scions.

November 3, 2010 6:55 pm

quick link:


these guys are pretty sure that the agreement has the potential to frustrate, rather than motivate, further EU defence integration.

paul g
November 3, 2010 7:03 pm

as this agreement was struck between the leaders of the respective countries and signed here i’m fairly relaxed, however if it was rumpy pumpy van hoopydink announcing this from the brussels gold plated puzzle palace then the spincter would be twitching. I reckon this has annoyed them over there in the ivory towers

November 3, 2010 7:31 pm

El Sid said: ““It is becoming more and more obvious that the decision to change from F35B to the CATOBAR F35C was absolutely nothing to do with capability or cost”

Really ? What about the capability to actually fly, well vertically land anyway for the F35B – which is grounded due to well documented quality control issues with components of its vertical lift system ? Sorting out these issues will cause it to be even further over budget and late. Not that I entirely disagree with you on the politics, but to be honest I don’t care if the politics mean we end up flying Rafale – as long as we have some capability.

November 3, 2010 7:43 pm

Sooo… we’ll likely end up with one carrier, sell one to the French if they scrap CDG, and have our own small, sovereign airwing. Total costs somewhere into double figure billions over a ten year period, as an absolute minimum…

…with no actual *guarantee*, even with this ‘entente cordial’, that we can access a carrier for more than about 30-40% of that decade (what with normal training, resupply and refit periods).

Anyone else think it’s a mental way to spend the MOD budget?

El Sid
El Sid
November 3, 2010 8:26 pm

@admin (5:50pm)
For me it’s an Occam’s razor thing – I can see how you can justify the “entente frugale” purely on cost grounds, there may be other agendas but that’s pure speculation.

Personally I don’t have much of an axe to grind either way. I can see how back in 2004 or so that STOVL could work out cheaper than the F-35C + bodging steam cats onto CVF because EM was too much of a risk for a nation with just two carriers. I can also see that now that EMALS seems to work, and Alsthom have got their UAV cats working, that F-35C + EM might tip the cost balance the other way, regardless of the synergies with the MN and USN.

You also have to consider how the sums might look different based on 2004 estimates of F-35 cost and the same sums in 2010. The basic thesis of B being cheaper than C relies on the additional cost of F-35B over F-35C (plus eg developing Merlin ASaC versus buying Hawkeyes) being less than the additional capex and opex of running cats. As the per-plane cost of F-35 goes up, the ££ difference between B and C will tend to go up, and that’s before you consider the fact that the B programme seems to be the one that’s having the most problems right now. That Flight article says that the average cost of a US F-35 has gone up 24% just in the last year, to $128.5m, so presumably the F-35B’s are coming in at rather more than that.

So I can imagine that even if “all the MoD studies showed STOVL was cheaper than CATOBAR” as recently as 2009, the price of a “discrete package” as you put it now favours CATOBAR, and that’s before you’re buying one discrete package with CATOBAR and two packages with STOVL.

I don’t know for sure, but it seems plausible – and no conspiracy theories are needed.

(7:31) – for clarity, the quote you ascribe to me was from the article, I was disagreeing with it! Incidentally AIUI the F-35B isn’t grounded, it’s just not allowed to go VTOL at the moment.

November 3, 2010 9:48 pm

Sorry to be a bit thick and slightly of topic, but I thought we (UK) built 3 carriers – Invincible, Illustrious and Ark Royal – to ensure we had two available.
If things play out right we (France & UK) get 3 carriers soon. If we share, and re jig, (to avoid UK getting CdG) will we (France & UK) not have two active carriers? Why then, do France need a PA2?

November 4, 2010 1:13 am

El Sid -apologies for my confusion !

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 4, 2010 3:55 am

Am I correct in believing that this agreement is mainly spin by both nations to give the impression that although both are cutting their armed forces to the bone because we will work together the 2 halves will still make a credible sized military.

Co-operation with the French is not a bad thing by any means and in fact we have done so quite often in the past both operationally and in the areas of developement and logistics.

The “Sharing” of carriers again is not a bad thing if both nations are limited to 1 carrier each, with 1 being operational at all times. Could this actually lead to the establishment of a joint airwing of 12 F-35C, 24 Rafale, 2-3 E-2C and 6-8 Merlin ASW available at all times to which ever carrier is on duty. Quite a capable airwing in my opinion.

However in my opinion though I see the UK’s Naval Air Wing being bigger than the 12 aircraft mentioned. The UK needs at least 2 squadrons of aircraft whose pilots and ground crew are currrent on carrier ops ie training on a regular basis. I cannot see the RAF using its training budget to qualify and maintain the proficiency of its F-35 aircrew in carrier ops and simply doing the course and relying on a refresher course in times of emergency will not cut it. I hope and wouldn’t be surprised that come the 2015 review the RAF finds out that will not get any of the initial F-35 purchase but will have to wait for a follow buy of a similar size. This would mean the Tornado numbers being reduced but extended to 2025 or the RAF being left with the Typhoon, which will by then be up to full capability with additioanl pilots in each squadron to keep aircrew numbers up.

Returning to the agreemetn, I do not think is would be a bad thing to appear to be seen moving away form the influence of the USA. All to often now we are tarred by the same brush when it comes to the opinion of other nations of the UK. In certain areas, Africa especilly France is a far more relevant partner than the US and given the predicted race for resources this is going to become a more important theatre. Historically both the UK and France have had close ties with Africa and with a few obvious exception have a good relationship with its nations. There is a lot both nations can offer Africa in the form of training and support, to a greater extent than now and we both could be a major aid to stability.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
November 4, 2010 4:15 am

“On a lighter note, I can remember doing ship recognition tests 50 years ago. We could all recognise French warships – they were better looking and had more turrets at the back. And we all knew why!”

Now now, Michael, you should know that the best-looking of all the final generation of battleships were the French “Richelieu” and “Jean Bart”, and they had both of their 15 inch quad turrets mounted at the sharp end!

November 4, 2010 8:45 am

At the end of the day, its easy to say the treaty is worthless because we cant trust the French, but how many English Soldiers are you prepared to sacrifice to protect Reunion, or Mayotte, or Guiana?

November 4, 2010 8:53 am

Quite right DJ.

“However in my opinion though I see the UK’s Naval Air Wing being bigger than the 12 aircraft mentioned.”

It will be.

Pilots who stay on their carriers twelve months of the year swiftly leave the service.

Realistically you would need at least three squadrons eventually of twelve aircraft, which when OCU/OEU, squadron maintenance, deep maintenance, and attrition reserve are factored in requires at least 72 aircraft.

November 4, 2010 9:31 am

I’ll try and not be facetious. My question is – is the Royal Navy big enough to support these carriers? Has it got enough men (or women) to support two carrier groups – or even one?

November 4, 2010 9:46 am

there aren’t going to be two carrier groups, one would merely relieve the other as the duty carrier whilst the first runs through work-down and work-up.

up until this point 23 escorts have (just) been able to pursue all standing tasks in addition to providing a carrier task group & an amphibious task group.

in future, one can easily imagine that it will be a single combined task-group, which should be easily realisable from 19 escorts.

i would like more escorts and separate taskgroups, but then i would also like the moon, regardless, it is viable.

November 4, 2010 10:23 am

I’m not really sure about the significance of the CJEF. So it will be a forum for cross-training and increased future collaboration, allow officers to bond, hammer out common procedures etc. but I’m confused. There are so many different ‘scaleable’, ‘reaction forces’. I mean NRF (is that still around?) EU Battlegroups, JRRF, now CJEF, but each country only has a few rapid reaction units. So for the UK it’s likely that the marines or paras are going to be first up, depending on who’s turn it is to be spearhead or whatever it’s called. So why does it matter what command structure they deploy under? I can imagine COBRA debating whether it should be an NRF or a CJEF deployment, while the same unit of marines is waiting at the airport to be deployed. Am I missing something? I suppose the different commands have different funding sources?

El Sid
El Sid
November 4, 2010 10:57 am

Lord Jim (3:55am) wrote :
“I cannot see the RAF using its training budget to qualify and maintain the proficiency of its F-35 aircrew in carrier ops”

No doubt you can’t see the RAF using its training budget to qualify Harrier aircrew for carrier ops. Hold on a minute, let me introduce you to Joint Force Harrier….

The whole idea of the F-35 buy seems to be JFH on steroids, regardless of cap badges. If they’re needed in Afghanistan, they’re based in Kandahar, if they’re needed to defend oil installations in West Africa, they fly off QE (or CdG).

Incidentally, the talk at the time of the SDSR was of 40-50 F-35C’s, not as many as 72.

Waldo – it depends on how you define “active”, but the idea of three Invincibles was that 1 would be on active service at any one time, one in maintenance/refit and one working up from maintenance. Warships spend a huge amount of time in dock, so even having 3 Invincibles didn’t mean that we’d have two available to go fight for the Falklands or whatever. It’s quite a big deal for 1 CVF to be continuously available to fight based on a fleet of 2.

Except that the UK won’t have 2 active carriers, as the current plan is to mothball one. Hence the deal to borrow CdG. Except CdG is smaller (~40,000 tons) and has been a nightmare from the very start – the Wikipedia article will give you some idea – and by 2020 will be getting on a bit (it was laid down in 1989), the Frogs might well decide to just cut their losses and buy our spare one on the cheap.

November 4, 2010 12:34 pm

I really wonder about this idea of French aircraft using our carrier and vice-versa. This is OK for the occasional landing – but operating a carrier air group? A CAG isn’t just a couple of dozen aircraft is it? Weapons, spares and specialised tools will be needed to operate. And then there is the language problem. Is the CdG labelled in English? To my mind the whole discussion amongst the politicians just illustrates that none of them have any actual military experience. The same applies to the civil service manderins.

November 4, 2010 2:02 pm

@Micheal – and therein lies the rub – they can’t give us details yet, because they have not spoken to their respective militaries to sort out the details.

While all MN Rafale maintainers have to learn English ? Possibly. Will everying on the British carriers be “double labelled” – not too difficult I suspect.

While a Rafale squadron my succesfully embark for a “training cruise” with emphasis on safety, slow tempo of operations, French pilots getting used to UK deck handling procedurces, RN ‘Chock heads’ getting used to working with Rafales etc this is very, very different from high tempo ops (which would of course also require the spares and munitions). Exactly the same the other way round for F35C embarked in CdG or PA2.

So if they are serious about this, expect the announcement of UK withdrawl from F35 program – and a purchase of Rafale ????


Is it really not that difficult to mix and match different missiles and weapon types in the magazines, and bring onboard French MN technicians to support a squadron of Rafale (12) for air defence, 3 French E2C while the FAA F35C squadron takes on the strike / attack role……. ????

November 4, 2010 2:51 pm

Well, the lessons of history are always handy. When has a carrier operated with someone else’s aircraft? How did it go?

November 4, 2010 3:27 pm

Just breaking now it seems HMG’s contract for the carriers was flawed. Osborne said that BAE had them over a barrel.

Of course the key question is now did the barrel meet design specs, was it delivered on time, and on budget?

November 4, 2010 3:58 pm

that isn’t news, it was the price of the ship-building merger.

quite rightly BAE and VT wanted guaranteed work if they were going to go to the trouble of merging their naval shipbuilding.

November 4, 2010 4:33 pm


“The formation of BVT will be the prelude to a full manufacturing contract for the aircraft carrier (CVF) programme, which will be signed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and BVT shortly. BVT will also sign a 15 year partnering arrangement with the MoD. This arrangement will guarantee BVT’s leadership of defined future programmes with respect to design, build and through-life support.
BVT will employ over 7,000 people and will have a turnover approaching £1bn per annum.”


“Working closely with the two dockyard companies—Babcock and BVT Surface Fleet Ltd—MOD has confirmed that the alliance option is the optimum solution for providing effective, affordable and sustainable support to Royal Navy surface warships.
The new arrangements help to promote a sustainable industrial base that retains key operational support and system upgrade capabilities within the UK, and are therefore vital to our ability to maintain and support the Royal Navy.”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 4, 2010 4:39 pm

I think several posters have hit the nail on the head. The timing of the new carriers coming into service may well allow the French to get rid of CDG and buy a QE class as a replacement. This would solve a lot of interoperability issues as the Carriers would be for all intents and purposes identical.
We must however remember that there will be another Defence review prior to either carrier entering service. The world may well look slightly different in 2015. Will we be in Afghanistan? If the last 30 years have shown us anything it is that there will almost definitely be another geopolitical event that shapes our defence priorities before 2015. To that end the fact that we are pushing on with the construction of 2 carriers and the procurement of the aircraft to fly from them should be taken as a small victory.
Another interesting point raised by posters is the interoperability between the FAA and MN will make it easier to conduct full scale “surge” ops on those occassions when the will of both our Political masters is in tune.

November 4, 2010 5:33 pm

cheers, good to know even if i dislike the tone of the headline.

what was flawed about the contract, in BAE/VT’s (BVT) position i would have done the same?

November 4, 2010 5:40 pm

Vive Le Entente Cordiale!

We fought with the French during the first world war. We would have continued to do so during the second, if Hitler hadn’t over-run France so quickly. As it was, we equipped the resistance and Free French Forces. After the War, Anglo-French agreements led to Concorde and a whole series of excellent aircraft. In short, partnering with our nearest ally has always been a fruitful endeavour. We have many common interests. France’s recent desire to return to the bosom of NATO is a good thing. Cameron and Sarkozy seem to get on exceptionally well. So, really, I view this agreement as a very good thing. It’s not as if it can’t be undone if things goes wrong or the political landscape changes in either country.

We’re also forgetting something else here. Right now, we don’t have many other choices. Britain is broke. We have to reduce our national debt. So expenditure has been cut to the bone, not as a long-term policy but short-term necessity. If George Osborne has done his sums right, we should be in a much healthier situation by 2015. Then we can start to spend again and re-equip our forces properly. Of course, if a new and serious threat emerges between now and then (e.g. Iran, Yemen and/ or Pakistan), we may well need to change our defence expenditure plans. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.

Meanwhile, perhaps the standard of catering will improve in British messes, we already wear berets, now all we need to do is teach the MoD to speak French!!!!

In short, my wine glass is half full not half empty.

November 4, 2010 6:32 pm

@ Monty

I am tea total, it help keeps the mind on an even keel. Please don’t drink the rest of the glass…….. ;)


Nothing for BAE, but from our point of view as tax payers it wasn’t very good!

November 4, 2010 10:19 pm

it wasn’t good that we couldn’t back out of a contract, that we had requested, as well as insisting on them merging with their competition?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 5, 2010 4:11 am

Regarding the RAF’s training budget, things are alot tighter now and the pot of money allocated to training is even smaller. In the past how much time and money was allocated by the RAF to maintain their pilots carrier qualifications. In addition it will take alot more time and money to train up pilots to CATOBAR qualification and for these pilots to maintain their abilities, much more than the occasional cruise! This is totally different form the current JHF.

Turning to the contract for the carriers I cannot blame BAe Systems for ensuring that there were severepenalty clauses in the contract given the time the Government spent dithering over the programme and the investment the company would have to make. What should have been done by the MoD was to match this with clauses of their own if the Carriers were not delivered on time and budget.

This is one of the main areas reform is needed. Because of political needs, jobs etc, BAe in particular have been given preferred status in many MoD programmes. As sole supplier they do have the MoD over a barrel as happened with Astute and Nimrod where they threatened to walk away if the contract were not renegociated on more favourable terms, leading to the end of fixed price contracts. This is why Off the Shelf purchases need to be more heavily looked at. BAe must be made to realise that now and in the future they no longer have a monopoly when it comes to big MoD contracts. FRES SV is a start in this direction with the ASCOD 2 beating BAE’s CV90 platform but it is still in the developemental stage and seems to have been slowed down.

Yes we need to try to maintain certain manufacturing capabilities but if UK companies cannot be competative and deliver on time and budget then they only have themselves to blame. The MoD must do its part and reform its commercial and programme management skills, moving at a more managed pace in programmes with the aim of getting a platform into service at minimum spec and adding improvements incrementally rather than trying to do everything all at once. This lessens the chance of requiremetn changes during developement and manufacture, and leaves a more stable programme which contractors can work within. This in turn increases the chances of programmes meeting time and budget targets.

Finally a question. Before the CVF programme what was the longest time it has taken for a UK warship to go from design to entering service?

November 5, 2010 9:05 am

Lord Jim
That BAE is our only supply is also a factor of them being the only ship yard that would entertain dealing with HMG.

If you tried just announcing a 2 year delay on Sky News when you had a contract with a Korean Yard, they’d build it, launch it and sue you when you didnt pay up.

Its easy to say that programs must be delivered on time and on budget, but thats just not possible when an order for 12 general purpose cruisers with top of the line AAW/ASW/ASuW/CIWS systems is altered to 6 AAW destroyers with a gun and a AAW package.

Its easy to think Governments are these awesome customers, but ours simply isnt.
It could have an order book stretching for the next decade and “surge” work when yards are quiet, but it doesnt, so it doesnt get the value it would.

November 5, 2010 9:14 am

Monty does us all a service when he writes “France’s recent desire to return to the bosom of NATO is a good thing”. It might be a good thing, but it reminds us of what went before. One day France was a full member of NATO, the next day it wasn’t. One day the NATO Supreme HQ was in France, the next day it was evicted. One day we’ve got an Anglo-French aircraft carrier, the next day they’ve buggered off with it.

November 5, 2010 9:17 am

France has just signed a $20bn deal to supply China with aircraft and NUCLEAR F-IN FUEL!

Thats our relationship with America gone.

November 5, 2010 9:53 am

Lord Jim said “Finally a question. Before the CVF programme what was the longest time it has taken for a UK warship to go from design to entering service?”

Look at the post-war carriers first. Ark Royal was on the stocks for an age.

But I think off the top of my head the record must be the Tiger Class cruisers see;


Of course the design changed somewhat and there were other complications too. Even then they were poor. Setting aside the complications of the awesome Mk26 twin 6in gun system (whose reliability wasn’t as bad as some would have you believe.) Blake was known to Jack as Snakey Blakey as the hull was curved. Ahh! Don’t build them like they used too.

November 5, 2010 10:19 am

i heard paddy ashdown say on radio 5 that he has been aware of the anglo-french co-operation programme for a long time and he was implying he had been in at the negotiations , he also spoke to the germans who are chomping at the bit to get involved with this . one other thing portillo signed a treaty with the french as did blair and now cam , does anything actually come of these bits of paper ?

November 5, 2010 1:07 pm

Well, of course nobody would have expect this agreement to please many of the British people. Nonetheless, Churchill himself proposed in 1940 the merging of both countries, in the middle of French defeat. This common declaration is not going that far.
Secondly let us see what comes out concretely out of this summit. Many bold declarations end up finally in bolder declarations, while concrete projects are delayed.
Thirdly Germany, the traditional main partner of France might feel somehow abandoned, with its rigid rules of engagement and its constitutional framework herited from Cold War time.
If you want, can have more details on: http://europeandefence.blogactiv.eu/

November 5, 2010 1:40 pm

interesting reading F, thank you for linking your blog.

November 5, 2010 2:46 pm

I would be interested to hear what people here now on balance think about this Government’s approach to the Defence of the UK.

All things considered, I view the SDSR as no more than a cost-cutting exercise rather than a serious attempt to set out a proper strategic framework to guide definition, planning, procurement and management of the UK’s military needs.

We recognise the urgent need to budgets, but where does this leave us militarily?

November 5, 2010 3:00 pm

“I would be interested to hear what people here now on balance think about this Government’s approach to the Defence of the UK.”

If in 2015 the next SDSR finds the shekels to bring the second carrier and second LPD back into service, and makes good the loss of the fourth Bay, thus permitting the Marines to act as a Brigade level rapid-reaction force, with the intention of doing the same with 16AAB, then I will be happy for Strategic Raiding will have arrived.

But any prognostication about the value of this SDSR is entirely obscured by Afghanistan until 2015.

November 5, 2010 4:12 pm

@ ming

The same Paddy Ashdown (ex Royal Marine) who not long back wrote a paper that said (paraphrase) “we” should scrap the Royal Navy. What a toss pot.

November 5, 2010 4:43 pm

F. said “Thirdly Germany, the traditional main partner of France might feel somehow abandoned, with its rigid rules of engagement and its constitutional framework herited from Cold War time.”

Only since WW2. Their post war partnership runs against the grain as much as the British Army effectively garrisoning the Continent during the same period. I think I could argue that France opting out of NATO did as much harm to the balance of British forces than any government what ever the political hue.

November 5, 2010 7:25 pm

you wait until sarkozy loses the next election , this will all unravel because their likely to vote in a rabid socialist anti anglo goverment and maybe dave might have to keep the pow instead of selling it to brazil, india ,china {he’s off there shortly i bet he ask’s them if they want to by a carrier}

November 5, 2010 7:41 pm

Personally I am hoping for good things from US 2012 elections. I hope we don’t sell the LPD or Bay as we will need them for when we invade the Yemen. Won’t need the carriers as the RAF will be flying from Djibouti. Only jokin’ the French won’t want to join in the fight they will only want a slice of the rebuild contracts.

November 5, 2010 9:33 pm

“you wait until sarkozy loses the next election , this will all unravel because their likely to vote in a rabid socialist anti anglo goverment”

that is kind of the test i suppose; if the entente survives a post sarkozy president then we are on to a good thing.

presuming the the nuclear cooperation with the yanks is all kosher with them, and i assume it is, then i see this surviving regardless.

what i am curious is whether the political will for joint operations will fade away in the face of divergent political goals from a president with no personal capital involved in it.

i am cautiously optimistic, it is too sensible for it not to make sense.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 6, 2010 12:54 pm


My point was that the system is broken, both in Industry and in the MoD/Government. You cannot fix one without doing the same to the other. The MoD must be more realistic about the inital configuration of platforms to ensure the basics are sound and a programme is funded. Industry must provide realistic costings and delivery schedules.

The proposed 10 year budget for the MoD will help tremendously and the MoD must resist the temptation to add requirements during the design amd manufacture phases. If the MoD provided stability to a programme from its end, industry will be enabled to deliver programme on time and budget, with delays or cost overuns harder to defend. In return if industry delivers, the MoD’s confidence in them should lead to more programmes.

Buy initially delivering a vanilla platform, there is greater opportunity or export sales as a platform is less specialised and can be taylored to customers needs. For the MoD it allows incremental improvements to increase capability in a more flexible manner.

Returning to ship building, yes BAe Sytems now controls the only yeards capable of manufacturing large warships but it is the yeards and their workforce that is important not BAe. If BAe cannot be efficient and competative then it is welcome to get out of the business and sell those yards to a company that is able to. But then again we are hardly self suffcient in many areas of military procurement as it (look at ammunition and propellants) is and if the required reforms are introduced in the MoD, especially in it’s procurement practices, It will not be cost effective to maintain quite a number of manufacturing capabilities without Industry realising that the money train has stopped running. The MoD is the Customer and Industry should meet the Customer’s needs as long as the former knows what it needs.

November 6, 2010 5:18 pm

we all know we have to work in coalitions these days ie NATO ,EU etc but sooner or later the west is going to get involved with the YEMEN , and i also believe IRAN this is when these alliances will be tested , the americans do not trust the french we are their top intelligence partners followed by canada, australia, new zealand .

November 6, 2010 5:36 pm

Michael asked about ‘other’ aircraft operating from a carrier of different nationality. In a previous life I had the honour to be a ‘goofer’ on Ark IV …. you may be aware she was c. 55,000 tons and flew off Phantoms and Buccaneers. We used to send a/c to Yank carriers but the yanks only did touch and go on our deck. Apparently it looked a trifle small for them!!!
Roll on the next SDSR when, perhaps, the government will have some more money and will have gained in knowledge and experience thereby realising that just one carrier will not be enough and the reason for ordering two was really a rather valid one!!

November 6, 2010 5:50 pm

I once did an approach to a carrier – in a P2V-5F. They weren’t amused!

I was wondering if anyone had actually operated from someone else’s carrier. It was vaguely rhetorical, as I am quite sure no one has.

It’s interesting that no one mentions the fairly difficult time our servicemen are about to experience. Might be harder to recruit them in future.

November 6, 2010 5:51 pm

It would be nice to be optimistic wouldn’t it? But seeing as Ocean has proved over and over again we need another LPH HMG never gave “us” another one. They don’t learn; they won’t learn.

El Sid
El Sid
November 7, 2010 5:55 pm


“FRANCE was Britain’s greatest ally during the Falklands war…according to Sir John Nott…while President Reagan was pressurising Lady Thatcher to accept a negotiated settlement France helped Britain to win the conflict.”

I didn’t know they’d lent us Super Etendards and Mirages for the Harriers to practice on.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
November 8, 2010 9:38 pm

@El Sid:
No, iirc they gave us intel on the operation and capabilities of Excocet so we could counter-measure them apparently.

El Sid
El Sid
November 9, 2010 1:30 am

@Dangerous Dave

Bear in mind the source of this, assuming he’s being quoted accurately – if anyone knew what military help the French were giving us in 1982, it would have been John Nott…

November 9, 2010 6:47 am

They didn’t give us any help on the Exocet.

November 9, 2010 4:45 pm

France provided aircraft and pilots for the Sea Harriers to practice shooting down, they also told us that the argentine exocets were standard models, a weapon we were well aware of the capabilities of.

They didnt give us missile destruct codes, because they dont exist outside James Bond films.

The French had their own reasons of course, if the Falklands had fallen, it would have convinced every Tin Pot dictator that frances verseas territories were ripe for the picking.

French Guiana is much more vulnerable than the Falklands…