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The F35 Decision


So, where to start?

No other issue, it seems, gets people so excised as aircraft carriers and their aircraft, they remain such an iconic capability and subject area huge volumes are written about them.

One thing is certain; those looking in from the outside are not in possession of all the facts so whatever I might think it is important to appreciate this.

The statement in full from the SoS Defence…

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Carrier Strike programme.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review considered the carrier strike programme, put in place by the previous Government, as part of a wide ranging review of options for delivering effective future defence while dealing with the black-hole in Labour’s Defence budget and the unaffordable “fantasy” equipment plan bequeathed to us by the Party opposite. While the Review confirmed that carrier strike would be a key capability in delivering Future Force 2020, it also recognised the unsustainability as a whole of the Defence Equipment Plan we inherited.

The strategic decision on carrier strike which emerged from the SDSR process was to convert one carrier with catapults and arrestor gear to operate the Carrier Variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, facilitating greater interoperability with allies, with a decision on the future use or disposal of the second carrier to be taken at the 2015 SDSR. The decision was also taken routinely to embark 12 fast jets while retaining the ability to surge up to the previously planned level of 36 aircraft. As the House would expect for such a complex and high-value project, the strategic decision taken at SDSR was followed by the commissioning of a detailed programme of work to look at the costs, risks and technical feasibility of all aspects of the proposed solution. That study was expected to take eighteen months, completing by the end of 2012.

Since I took on the role of Defence Secretary in October last year, my overriding concern, after current operations and the welfare of our Armed Forces, has been to ensure the deliverability of the MOD’s Equipment Plan and the achievement of a balanced and sustainable budget. That will give our Armed Forces the assurance they need to carry out the massive transformation that will deliver Future Force 2020 – the concept for our Armed Forces set out in the SDSR. The Carrier project is a large element of the Equipment Programme and I have worked closely with the new Chief of Defence Materiel, Bernard Gray, to assess the technical and financial risks involved in it.

It quickly became clear to me that a number of the underlying facts on which the SDSR decision on carriers was based were changing:

First, as the programme to convert a carrier to operate with a catapult system has matured, and more detailed analysis has been carried out by suppliers, it has become clear that operational Carrier Strike capability, using the ‘cats and traps’ system, could not be delivered until late 2023 at the earliest, considerably later than the date envisaged at the time of the SDSR of “around 2020”. Because Britain’s carriers will have all electric propulsion, and therefore do not generate steam like nuclear powered vessels, the catapult system would need to be the innovative Electromagnetic version (EMALS), being developed for the US Navy. Fitting this new system to a UK carrier has presented greater design challenges than were anticipated.

Secondly, and partly as a result of the delayed timetable, the estimated cost of fitting this equipment to the Prince of Wales has more than doubled in the last 17 months, rising from an estimated £950M to around £2Bn, with no guarantee that it will not rise further.

Technical complexity and the cost of retrofitting cats and traps to the Queen Elizabeth, the first carrier, would be even higher, making it unlikely that she would ever, in practice, be converted in the future.

Thirdly, at the time of the SDSR, there was judged to be a very significant technical risk around the STOVL version of JSF and some commentators were speculating that it could even be cancelled. Indeed, the STOVL programme was subsequently placed on probation by the Pentagon However, over the last year, the STOVL programme has made excellent progress and in the last few months has been removed from probation. The aircraft has completed over 900 hours of flying, including flights from the USS Wasp and the US Marine Corp has a high degree of confidence in the in-service date for the aircraft. The balance of risk has changed and there is now judged to be no greater risk in STOVL than in other variants of JSF.

And fourthly, further work with our allies on the best approach to collaborative operation has satisfied us that joint maritime task groups involving our carriers, with co-ordinated scheduling of maintenance and refit periods, and an emphasis on carrier availability, rather than cross-deck operations, is the more appropriate route to optimising alliance capabilities.

Mr Speaker, when the facts change, the responsible thing to do is to examine the decisions you have made and to be willing to change your mind.

However inconvenient that may be. Doing what is right for Britain. Not burying your head in the sand and ploughing on regardless, as the last Government so often did. A persistent failure to observe this simple principle is at the root of many of the MOD budget problems that we inherited from the party opposite. I do not intend to repeat their mistakes.

The decision taken in the SDSR to proceed with a carrier strike capability, despite the massive challenges we faced with the MOD’s budget, was the right decision.

The decision to seek to contain costs, by going for “cats and traps”; on a single carrier with greater interoperability with allies, and the cheaper CV version of the JSF aircraft, was also the right decision, based on the information available at the time.

But the facts have changed. I am not prepared to accept a delay in regenerating Britain’s carrier strike capability beyond the timetable set out in the SDSR.

And I am not prepared to put the equipment plan, which will support Future Force 2020, at risk of a billion-pound plus increase in the carrier programme and unquantifiable risk of further cost rises.

So, I can announce today that the National Security Council has agreed not to proceed with the “cats and traps” conversion, but to complete both carriers in STOVL configuration. This will give us the ability to use both carriers to provide continuous carrier availability – at a net additional operating cost averaging about £60M per year. As we set out in the SDSR, a final decision on the use of the second carrier will be taken as part of SDSR 2015.

We will switch the order for JSF aircraft from CV to STOVL, which we can do without delaying delivery and, by making this announcement today, we can plan on the basis of the first operational aircraft being delivered with a UK weapons fit package.

We expect HMS Queen Elizabeth to be handed over to the Navy in early 2017 for sea trials.

We expect to take delivery of our first test aircraft in July of this year, and we expect the first production aircraft to be delivered to us in 2016, with flying from the Queen Elizabeth to begin in 2018, after her sea trials are complete.

We have discussed this decision with the French Government and with the United States. The French confirm that they are satisfied with our commitment to jointly planned carrier operations to enhance European-NATO capability.

The United States, on whose support we would rely in regenerating either type of carrier capability, has been highly supportive throughout this review and I would like to record my personal thanks to the Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon, the Navy and the Marine Corps for their high level of engagement with us. I spoke to Secretary Panetta last night and he confirmed the US willingness to support our decision and its view that UK carrier strike availability and our commitment to the JSF programme are the key factors.

The Chief of the Defence Staff and his fellow Chiefs of Staff – all of them – endorse this decision as the quickest and most assured way now to deliver carrier strike as part of an overall affordable equipment programme that will support Future Force 2020.

Mr Speaker, this was not an easy decision to take. But our responsibility is to make the right decision on the basis of the facts available to us. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues came into Government expecting decisions to be easy or pain-free.

I have a responsibility to clear up the financial mess we inherited in the MOD, just as we are clearing up the mess we inherited across Government as a whole. To set a balanced budget. And an affordable, deliverable Equipment Programme. With manageable and bounded risk.

This decision addresses one of the last impediments to me announcing the achievement of those objectives to the House, and I hope to be able to do so very soon.

But Mr Speaker, it isn’t just about balancing budgets, critical as that is. It is about the UK’s Defence – secured by having an appropriate and sustainable military capability. This announcement delivers an affordable solution to securing that capability and, with 2 useable carriers, gives us the option of continuous carrier availability. It confirms the expected delivery of the first test aircraft this summer; of the first production aircraft in 2016; of the first carrier into sea trials in 2017; and of the first flight of the JSF from the deck of the carrier in 2018, with an operational military capability in 2020. It confirms the support of our principal allies – the US and France. And that of the Defence Chiefs.

Mr Speaker, it shows that we, at least, are not afraid to take difficult decisions when they are right for Britain. I commend this statement to the House.

My opinion, as ill-informed as it might be, is that this is the correct decision and as evidenced by all posts on the subject I have consistently maintained the F35B was the most sensible choice throughout the debate.

The reason I thought and think the F35B represents a sensible, practical, pragmatic and reasonable choice is based on taking a wide-angle view across all three services.

That the F35B is more expensive in isolation to buy and maintain, or that it has less range and payload than the F35C is no revelation but that is not the point.

Neither is the objective of the Joint Combat Aircraft and CVF to get aircraft and aircraft carriers into service as a means unto itself, neither is it important to discuss the legacy, tradition or heritage of British naval aviation innovation and development.

Talk of being second only to the USN, having so-called ‘proper’ aircraft carriers is just nonsense, designed to obfuscate the real issue of delivering effects across multiple defence lines of development within, and this is the crucial part, a fixed budget.

We often hear comments like ‘if we are going to do it we should do it properly’ or this is a ‘short term financial decision’ but that sounds like business as usual and a very shortcut to increasing the size of the budget black hole. The MoD has to live within its means; I am not sure why so many people have difficulty understanding this fundamental principle.

It is not an option to raid the other services future equipment programmes either, CVF/JCA should not be allowed to dominate the equipment programme and future operating budgets because it is one of many things we need to be spending money.

If only we could buy off the shelf people might argue but it is British wealth that pays the MoD’s bills so to try and divorce the industrial, foreign exchange and intellectual property benefits of F35 from other options is simply naive.

Everything is connected, everything is important.

So yes, I accept that it is a compromise in pure specification terms in comparison with the F35C but when taken in the round, a pragmatic decision based on the realism of operating carrier strike in British armed forces, not anyone else’s.

The MoD now needs to inject some stability into the programme and to be honest, get it off the front pages. Those involved need the space, support and funding to deliver the capability and anyone whinging needs to think twice.

It seems clear that neither the RAF nor RN has covered themselves in glory with their leaky/brief games, I hope that the guilty take the time to reflect on their actions.

I am going to have a look at some of these issues in more depth in a future post but for now, the choice has been made (again) and I think the current Secretary of State for Defence needs roundly congratulating for having the balls to take a tough decision with serious political consequences for the wider good of the MoD but make no mistake, there are many questions about how exactly the comedic decision-making process went from Plan A to Plan B and then back to Plan A, this has cost anywhere between £40 and £50 million PLUS any cancellation/exit costs with US suppliers.

There are serious issues of competence to address but the two key issues that stand out for me are

  1. What and who prompted the change in the SDSR, how much have we wasted and exactly how this Fleet strength cockup actually happened, looking back
  2. Can we just get on with it, looking forward
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257 Responses

  1. “further work with our allies on the best approach to collaborative operation has satisfied us that joint maritime task groups involving our carriers, with co-ordinated scheduling of maintenance and refit periods, and an emphasis on carrier availability, rather than cross-deck operations, is the more appropriate route to optimising alliance capabilities”


    “So, I can announce today that the National Security Council has agreed not to proceed with the “cats and traps” conversion, but to complete both carriers in STOVL configuration. This will give us the ability to use both carriers to provide continuous carrier availability – at a net additional operating cost averaging about £60M per year.”

    No really?

  2. “We have discussed this decision with the French Government and with the United States. The French confirm that they are satisfied with our commitment to jointly planned carrier operations to enhance European-NATO capability.”

    Been making this very argument myself, and no surprise that america supports it as it forms the core of an independently capable europe on which america lean, rather than support.

    “This announcement delivers an affordable solution to securing that capability and, with 2 useable carriers, gives us the option of continuous carrier availability.”

    To conclude smugly if i may; “i told people so”.
    Hoorah for common sense!

  3. hehe, fair enough.

    so, that leaves us with:

    2 carriers and most of the amphib fleet.
    still two intervention brigades
    and an army of 82,000 by 2020.
    just five ‘proper’ brigades

    anyone doubt that HMG did not make a fundamental choice, re: maritime-raiding vs land-stabilisation, eighteen months ago?

    [smug mode still firmly “on”]

  4. Excellent bit of “blame game” from Phil there.

    If they decide against two carriers in 2015 there will be trouble ;-)

    Now let’s just hope that clutch that sits between a massively powerful jet turbine and that lift fan actually holds up in real life use… it’s the only bit of the technical solution I have concerns with.

  5. TD

    If PH had cojones he would re-activate a Harrier capability and he would get AR back into service.
    The money is there to do it, we can find money at the drop of a hat to fund feasibility studies but we cannot find money to do real work.

    As for the detail in the statement the lack of intellectual curiosity and rigour is shameful.
    We were told that the CVF was designed with CATOBAR in mind, however it cannot do steam.
    What rubbish, Maersk get steam from their diesels with no problems at all.
    Look at the spec of any commercial ship with diesels and a steam output is part of the deal.

  6. If I was the government I’d wonder why we are buying “adaptable” carriers which cost the same to convert as to build new ones we have been fleeced again by BAE systems and Thales we’ve paid vastly over the odds for a 65,000 ton stovl carrier when we could have built one the same size as Charles D’Gaulle it’s ok saying we’ll get 2 carriers now but they will wait till the next SDSR to make up there minds also the 1st Sea Lord has stated we won’t have the manpower to crew both ships or are they planning to remotely operate it ? this is nothing short of short-term politic’s something they swore they wouldn’t do

  7. @ Admin – “What and who prompted the change in the SDSR, how much have we wasted and exactly how this Fleet strength cockup actually happened, looking back”

    If we look at what Con Coughlin writes, completely reverse the logic on the presumption that he’s got things ass backwards as usual, then we arrive at the following:

    “Hammond’s carrier decision makes nonsense of scrapping the Harriers”

    No Con,

    Scrapping the harriers was precisely WHY the government was happy to change to the cats-n-traps F35c.

    Cost savings in the short term.

    As well as binning the harrier fleet, it allowed them to not need to find the cash to run both carriers, preferring to defer any final decision to a later date.

    Well, now the Future army review has recommended further reducing the army from 95,000 to 82,000 and lo, we can now have both carriers.

  8. This has to be the right decision.

    As we all know, the principal reason to switch from the STOVL F-35B to the CATOBAR F-35C was because the former aircraft had not merely encountered serious technical issues but was ‘put on probation’ with a view to cancelling it altogether. Any government would have needed to reconsider their original choice. The mistake our unctuous PM made was not to fully evaluate the cost of switching before committing to it.

    While there is an obvious cost penalty to this amateurish behaviour, the Coalition still has some way to go before matching the previous government’s over-expenditure and black hole of unfunded commitments (including £250 million on FRES without a single vehicle being fielded).

    I don’t know whether blame should be attached to Cameron or Fox, but I think Philip Hammond has shown that he is a safe pair of hands.

    As I said in a previous post, the F-35B is already a better aircraft than the Harrier (which you would hope after a gap of more than a decade since its technology was last upgraded).

    – Longer range on internal fuel tanks than Harrier
    – Greater weapons payload than Harrier
    – Faster and more agile than the Harrier
    – Easier to train pilots on than Harrier
    – Easier to fly and therefore safer than Harrier
    – More complex and expensive to service than F-35C but significantly less so than Harrier
    – Superb on-board systems that give the pilot unprecedented situational awareness
    – Stealth and Low Observability characteristics
    – Easier deck recovery than F-35C and in sea states that would ground all CATOBAR types

    In summary, the F-35B is undoubtedly a better combat aircraft than the Harrier it is intended to replace. Even so, the Harrier today still packs a punch, so all things considered, my F-35B cup is half full not half empty.

    Will the F-35A and F-35C be better than the aircraft types they are intended to replace? Now that is an interesting question.

  9. OK – so we wasted 2 years fannying about on one decision but now have a firm and affordable plan for the Carriers their Fast Jets. Good.

    Still plenty of loose ends on the equipment programme and our ability to project power across the oceans. Unanswered questions for me include:

    AEW&C to replace Sea King (presumably Merlin)
    Maritime Patrol Aircraft (for both SAR and ASuW)
    Ability to land and sustain a Medium Brigade across an undefended beach
    Ocean replacement / Argus replacement / concurrent use of QEC #2.

    Plus the 82,000 man Army’s actual structure and armour levels.
    Plus Tornado replacement and should Typhoon be asked to do it all.

    Hopefully the full gory horror of PR12 will reveal some of the answers but I suspect quite a bit be left to fester on until SDSR 2015.

  10. Month @ 12.26

    No matter who is in power the MOD is there to muck it up.
    However Dave the Rave has just upped the bar regarding equipment disasters.
    Very noticeable how he – Dave … – was nowhere to be seen.
    In fact he seems to be lying low today – A/stan tomorrow anyone?

    However I cannot agree with your view on the F35B and the way it compares to the Harrier.

    Harrier – light fighter.
    F35B – heavy fighter
    How much money are we spending to move from one to the other?
    The Harrier force was around 80 airframes from memory.
    We are going to aim for 50 F35Bs at a cost of £8-9bill or £10bill in reality just to procure the planes.
    That is some amount of opportunity cost that we are putting on the table for a very limited fleet.

    Harrier force + £10bill – What would that get you and how would it compare with 50 F35B’s?

  11. At least the clutch is a bit of UK kit! What about the cracked bulkhead?
    Why the reluctance to say that both carriers will enter service? To base the decision on saying that both could now be completed but not to confirm that both will enter service is perverse. More tortuous “logic” to justify another bout of short-termism.

    What will it carry? What will it bring back? What will it bring back in tropical conditions? These are crucial considerations that did for Sea Harrier. Is it really going to only able to carry 2 x 500lb Paveway IV and 2 x AIM-120 internally? Why no JDAM? Why no consideration of completing F136 development? Sorry – short term money issues again. Hammond said that over 30 years he believed that F-35B would be cheaper – I’m assuming that’s the aircraft’s projected life not the carriers’. Are we to expect a split buy in 2015/16 or whenever they are forced to think about this again?

    TD – I thought you wanted the carriers cancelled anyway. Apologies if I’ve remembered incorrectly – there have been so many different discussions on this subject.

  12. I will post a more measured response later, when I have caslmed down!!!

    for now… I have heard so much bollocks in all my life!!

    1. So the fuckwits admit that the SDSR was a load of bollocks.. NO shit sherlock.

    2. They made a major decision to switch to the F35C A. to cover the sale of Harriers B. on a whim with no idea of the true costs!!! Sackable offence!!

    3. We paid for an “ADAPTABLE” design that is not fcuking ADAPTABLE…
    SUE the fuck out of the Carrier Alliance. NO really take them to court and bankrupt the fuckers!!!

    4. what fucking differnce does an extra 3 years make, theu have already taken a lifetime to get this far

    5.Its not just the fact that the F35B is a rather poor aircraft, compared to the other two which are not as good as LM would have us all believe, but going down the STOVL route fucks up our options for AEW/ISTAR in general, probably prevents the use of X47B/Tarannis, not too mention if the F35B fail (and I still think it might, you have no fall back position.

    6. What a cluster fuck of all cluster fucks. We have a government, MoD and Military leadership who are simply not fit for purpose.

    Going to gym to vent aggression!!!!

    I am embarressed to be British we have become a country of clowns, well run by clowns anyway,

  13. Chris

    “Why no consideration of completing F136 development? ”

    It had no US support and also to reduce costs of the programe…however I do think the project could/is still going ahead, albiet slower and at the maunufacturers own cost.


    Well then, the smug-o-meter must be bursting!
    “Talk of being second only to the USN, having so called ‘proper’ aircraft carriers is just nonsense,”
    Amen to that.

    We’ve done brilliantly with the STOVL idea for over 3 decades-ish and I see no need/nor funds for us to have a ‘proper’ carrier…I mean, outside the US no-one else has such systems in palce to sustain and truely work it right…the french only come close, but no dice.
    I just hope now that both carriers can come into service…

    Also, the Harrier Gr9 was not even a ‘light fighter’ really… they never performed CAP at sea, DACT yes…but them facing Su-33’s? Or MiG-29K’s? Or even SHAR51’s? I doubt it. Like the tonka and Jag, it was defensive capability. ‘Gr’ for a reason…it could do it, but not at a sustained rate.

    Anyway, sticking with what BB said yesterday, 2015 will be when its carved in stone, before that we have Pr12 to think and rant about.

  14. Why does TD care who drove the change to F35C in Whitehall unless the ThinkRAF police are planning some midnight raids after their scare around another air force getting capable aircraft?

    AAC beware, you are next.

  15. FBOT,

    I must admit that I’m with you regarding the Harrier/F35B comparison. They are different beasts and as you say, mainly in terms of size, weight or logistical footprint.

    I think the fact that the USMC are having to lose a well deck on America demonstrates the aircraft size leap from Harrier –> F35B and Sea Knight –> V22.

    I think (again, great with the benefit of hindsight) that there was a good opportunity for Harrier III for the UK, Italy, Spain, and of course the USMC. A low-observable, subsonic, STOVL jet.

    If you can get the funding, I’ll design the beast!

  16. Simon @ 13.27

    I have tried to work a couple of numbers into a potential Harrier 3.

    Looking at 15K lbs unladen.
    Looking at 30K lbs thrust.
    Consequently light fighter but chunky engine.
    Same basic layout but stealthy, more robust and better servicing arrangements.
    Looking at Typhoon cast offs / parts bin raid for sensors and information spine.
    Not sure what weapon load could be carried internally but that would go with the F35 style fuselage.

    Failing that there is always the Yak 41/43/45 …

    Where would £100mill in development money get us plus half a dozen existing airframes to butcher?
    One year fag packet design staff plus development with 200 designers for three years?
    Run an engine programme at £50 mill with RR?
    Joint venture with any interested outside parties?

    Results – 4 engines and 2 flying prototypes?

  17. FBOT,

    I’m sure RR can provide the engine (it’s essentially the F136). I seem to remember the 3-bearing swivel nozzle is patented, which is amazing since it was nicked from the Yak. Perhaps we should build it in China where they don’t recognise patents?

    Like the idea of using systems that are already available – just need flight control developing (I’ll do that on my iPhone ;-) ).

    I reckon a design that can get two 1000lb Paveways inside would make LM nervous!

  18. Chris, yes, right back at the beginning, before we had starting incurring costs on CVF I did think that cancellation was worth doing but as time has moved on I have listened to more argument and mellowed but I still think it is something that we need to keep at minimal cost and above all, realistic

  19. I’m getting screen burn from all the smugness radiating from this post. However, no aircraft numbers and no firm commitment to utilizing both ships, so could well be a case of premature smugness. Also, Hammond says that the C decision was “based on the information available at the time. But the facts have changed”, so the present flip-flopped decision is probably not the best validation for the position that “I have consistently maintained the F35B was the most sensible choice throughout the debate”. Either the facts have changed – so supporting the F35B throughout was irrational and ill-considered, or the facts have never changed – and so Hammond’s current plan is just as likely to ignore those facts as with the different plans that have come before.

  20. I’m getting screen burn from all the smugness radiating from this post. However, no aircraft numbers and no firm commitment to utilizing both ships, so could well be a case of premature smugness. Also, Hammond says that the C decision was “based on the information available at the time. But the facts have changed”, so the present flip-flopped decision is probably not the best validation for the position that “I have consistently maintained the F35B was the most sensible choice throughout the debate”. Either the facts have changed – so supporting the F35B throughout was irrational and ill-considered, or the facts have never changed – and so Hammond’s current plan is just as likely to ignore those facts as with the different plans that have come before.

  21. Simon @ 13.51

    I would go for a Pegasus on steroids.
    It is a Harrier 3 not an EU F35.

    Just a case of listing the issues with the existing aircraft and trying to sort out the issues in a flexible and efficient manner.

  22. I think one of the most interesting lines in the statement was “Fitting [EMALS] to a UK carrier has presented greater design challenges than were anticipated”.

    I’d like to know why a ship apparently designed for the possible inclusion of this kit is suddenly unsuitable to be fitted with it. We were all aware there’d be costs associated with fitting the cats, but this seems like a new revelation.

  23. Brian Black,

    You tend to get the impression that “adaptable” really meant STOVL but we’ll cross the CATOBAR bridge when we come to it.

  24. If we are saving £2Bn on not having an EMALS (just imagine – a solenoid on steroids with a bit of wire costing twenty F35Bs), can we reinvest that in cutting a large flap in the back of the ruddy boats so that we can make a proper well-dock? We don’t need so much hangar space as we’ll only ever be able to afford 12 aircraft on board, and the electric drive means you don’t need a long straight run for the propeller shafts.

    Then the bloody things may actually be useful.

  25. BB @ 14.16

    The design work for EMALS onto the CVF involved a BWoS functionary ticking a box after he had taken Sir Bufton Tufton – MOD 3rd Secretary (Acting) / Capital Ships / Aircraft Capable – out to a nice lunch and some cricket.

    It tells you ll you need to know about the quality of the design team behind the CVF.
    They have all the ability and delivery of the Fiesta team’s attempt to do a 44 ton truck.

  26. Waddi,

    So that link states that converting both carriers would cost the same as building them in the first place! I’m sorry, but quite frankly I don’t believe it. Perhaps they should have gone somewhere other than BAe to get a quote… oh, of course, they couldn’t, it’s a monopoly.

  27. In the abstract, the decision to procure 65,000 ton aircraft carriers to operate STOVL aircraft still baffles me. It seems like such a waste to me when a 40,000 ton vessel could probably accomplish the same mission (and at a lower cost). What a confusing program…

    That said, given that the time to procure a smaller vessel has long since passed, the B procurement decision seems like a wise choice. If CATOBAR configuration can’t be achieved in an affordable fashion, then STOVL is the right (only?) choice.

  28. Adun,

    You needed 65kt to operate 36 jets + AEW, which is what they kept on going on about.

    A 40kt ship will manage about 20 + AEW with a 10000nm range (~28 + AEW if you drop to a range of 7500-8000nm).

  29. I agree completely daft, minor technical point its not BAE building the carriers, it worse. It is anyone that could have built the carriers on their own, thus taking out any competition i.e. BAE, Babcock and Thales plus any marine metal fabricator available such as Appledore, Camel Laird etc. It’s not a BAE monopoly it is total UK industry monopoly.

  30. “As the House would expect for such a complex and high-value project, the strategic decision taken at SDSR was followed by the commissioning of a detailed programme of work to look at the costs, risks and technical feasibility of all aspects of the proposed solution. That study was expected to take eighteen months, completing by the end of 2012”.
    Yet we have to pay a cancelation fee to the suppliers.
    Ah so we under took a £50 million 18 month long review (surly a sensible strategy) However before that review was concluded we thought we may as well but the £400 million EMLAS system.
    Either spread sheet Phil is lying about the detailed investigation program and misleading the house (entirely possible) or some numpty really needs to get fired. I can’t believe that even in the MOD someone can order such a thing as an EMLAS without prior consent from the minister.
    I have to say that while I respect the balls to make the decision it really strikes me as sad that a secretary of state not least the defence minister would spend so much time trying to party politics and blame the last government for all his ills. However it is what I have come to expect from the present government.
    The leaks are also becoming ridiculous. I think any reader of TD could have written that speech this morning based on the information available in the Telegraph. Every cost and aspect of the thing has been in the press for weeks with amazing accuracy.
    The magic balck hole really is the gift that just keeps on giving and I suspect we will hear of it well past 2015. No one in government has yet pointed out that the vast majority of program over runs were from project’s started before Tony Blair even came in to power. Typhoon, T45, Astute, MRA4 all started and approved before 1997.

  31. How has the government gone for maritime raiding when 66% of its rapid reaction land forces are more than likely to be delivered by air and there is a very clear commitment to enduring operations on land?

    Anyway, hopefully that’s it now. Let’s just build the damn things and probably end up using them as commando carriers anyway. In the typical half arsed British fashion.

    Constant carrier availability is not to be sniffed at.

  32. The 64k ton vessel does have advantages over smaller alternatives such as a Mistral analog (aka Invincible-class Mk2).

    Greater range, stores, stability, hospital, barracks and surge squadron capacity being not least among them.

    Hindsight is all well and good, discussions should really now look at what we’re going to do about future equipment aspects such as AEW and the complexities involved in ski-jump launching a UCAV.

    I look forward to TD writing articles along these lines or accepting Guest writers. Get scribbling!


    Aside: How is the ski-jump capable Sea Gripen coming along?

  33. “At the time of the 2010 review it was decided to conduct a two-year in-depth study of the conversion costs, as early £400m and £500m estimates had been based on the use of steam catapult technology, rather than EMALS”.
    Not being funny hear but if it was going to be £400 million for steam and £2 billion for EMLAS did no one think of simply buying some diesel generators and a few boilers from B&Q to cram in the hull somewhere. I know we have talked about the cost of adding a steam system before but £ 2 billion buys a lot of piping.
    PAS2 had a common design and used steam.

  34. @ The Other Chris

    “ski-jump launching a UCAV”

    You are right about this. If this carrier is going to operate for 50 years as it was envisaged and it can quite clearly never be operated in a CATOBAR configuration as it was suppose to later in life then we really have to ask how long it will be useful for if we can’t square that circle. I don’t see the Ski Jump launching as the issue. Lost of large fixed wings planes can already do that it’s the recovery that is the big question for me.

  35. @Martin

    Your suggestions of how we might have spent the £2bn differently misses the point. The reason why this decision has been taken is that there is no £2bn – so we can’t spend it on anything.

    Same comment applies to @James who wants to spend the £2bn we don’t have on butchering a stern ramp into the QEC. Sadly nothing much will be spent on the Amphib capability until Albion and Bulwark are literally falling to bits. Given how much use we managed to eke out of Fearless and Intrepid that could be a very long time coming.

  36. Peter Elliott,

    fully aware that the £2B isn’t there – I was getting carried away. Should have specced the well-dock to start with (or indeed gone for Wasp or JC).

    Does make you wonder how the wonder-ARG is going to get ashore though, when there is not a port. Given the last usage in 1982, the carriers are likely to be hiding in the next ocean over when the boys need to disembark, and it’s going to be a slow process from the Albions and Bays.

  37. @ Adun – “In the abstract, the decision to procure 65,000 ton aircraft carriers to operate STOVL aircraft still baffles me. It seems like such a waste to me when a 40,000 ton vessel could probably accomplish the same mission (and at a lower cost). What a confusing program…”

    As with Not A Boffin I am constantly amazed at how persistent this rabbit hole is proving.

    Having spent the last eight years following the design evolution of the CVF on the Warships1 forum it comes as NO surprise that the carrier is 65k tonnes:

    It is the size it is to generate the sortie rates, and thus the effect on target deemed necessary as per the scenario planning conducted by the MoD.

    They tinkered around with 45k tonnes at the same time as 65k tonnes, then they tried a compromise of 55k tonnes. It didn’t work, so they went back to 65k tonnes.

  38. I agree, unless things change on the money front we will be lucky to get two carriers and two LPDs working back-to-back providing 365 day a year availability between each pair.

    Albion and Bulwark will probably be run into the ground – well that’s one way of doing an amphibious landing!

    We now have our jet supported amphibious fleet for the next 10-20 years:

    2 x Bay

  39. @James

    As I said over on the ‘spleen’ thread, in any serious duffy we will have little choice but to send both QEC: one in the FJ Carrier role and the other as the LPH.

    We also have to hope T45 and Sea Viper will be on their game to protect such a big targets close to the shore.

  40. @ Peter Elliot

    I realsie the £ 2 billion is not there. I was just curious when the article from defence talk mentioned that the £ 400 million conversion cost was based on steam why not on thought hang on we have been launching steam catapults for 67 years why not keep doing it and not bother with EMLAS.

  41. @Peter Elliott

    In a serious scuffle both QE and PoW will operate under the Power Projection doctrine, operating Fast Jets and Helicopters simultaneously and rotating as necessary.

  42. regarding james thoughts on ARG. I wonder if any one has any insite into navy plans for landing a force 1982 style when we can only generate a single task force.

    It’s my understanding that lack of escorts has prompted the decision to move away from the two task force capability with an ARG and CBG combined in a single force. If we were in a San Carlos style situation would the navy allow the QEC class to come in close enough to shore to allow the Bay’s and Albion to offload while still using the same escorts to cover both. It would be one hell of a target.

  43. @Martin

    My understanding of the recent leaks and briefs is that the approach is to initially land on “undefended beaches” with helicopter transportation being the primary insertion method and superiority gained to secure the landing achieved through air power, primarily through FJ and Attack Helicopters (Maritime cleared AH1’s and Wildcats).

  44. Hi Mike, RE
    “however I do think the project [F136] could/is still going ahead, albiet slower and at the maunufacturers own cost.”
    – cancelled
    – they offered to finish it for 2 bn, the rest covered by the manufacturers; the offer was not taken up

  45. @ The Other Chris

    I understand the inital assault but follow on forces will have to come in with heavy equiptment. The Bay’s can’t use Mexi Floats well otu to sea (TD may have a heart attack in anything happended to them)

    Ergo either the Bay’s have to come in to shore with out escorts on the carrier stays out to sea with little in the way of escort. Or the carrier comes in close to shore with the Bay’s

  46. So just a few thoughts:

    – I would imagine that this de-risks the whole carrier operations, it must be safer to do STOVL that catapults!

    – If we are going to get carrier strike a few years earlier then it must be better than nothing, let’s not forget these ships are a STEP-CHANGE for the UK!

    – Does this sea the merlin with Search water radar in teh Sea King as their replacement for ASaC?

    – I know they say a lot of inflated conversion cost was due to EMLAS but I was always under the impression that since first concept they were partly designed to be easily (and cheaply!) converted to catapults, no?

    – Surely the 2015 SDSR will say have both ships, the french have shown that having just one simply doesn’t work!

    – Let’s hope the 2015 SDSR advocates a 2 ship replacement of Ocean! Take the olympics for example, doubt you could get a QE up the Thames.

  47. Maybe I’m off the mark here but the carrier can easily sit 200nm away from the landing zone.

    QE provides air cover whilst Merlin from QE land a couple of companies a little inland and Albion lands on the beach (again with air support).

    Once the beach is safe Albion’s LCU will offload the heavy vehicles from Bay.

    QE then moves in to increase sortie generation rates (less range) and deploys short-range copters (Apache and Chinook). These operate from the beachhead and support the front line moving forward.

    Or… you do the Bold Alligator approach and risk QE early on by putting her 50nm off the coast and play chess with your platoons.

  48. Just to clarify the adaptable bit :

    The “adaptable” design – not “for but not with” was always about :
    1. Making sure that the flightdeck was large enough and configured correctly to allow an angled deck of the right dimensions to be marked out
    2. Ensuring that there was sufficient unallocated space in the right places below decks to allow catapult troughs, catapult equipment rooms and arresting gear rooms.
    3. Ensuring that there were adequate power and stability margins in the design to allow the ships to have cats n traps fitted
    4. Making sure the flightdeck was designed to accept landing loads for a CTOL approach.

    Without including those features, conversion would not have been feasible at all, full stop. What was not done was to do the detailed design of the catapult seatings, arrester gear seatings, electrical system detail etc, largely because ITAR restrictions prevented technology transfer to the UK, until an FMS case was in place and also because most of the detail design for the ships was done in 2007/8, when EMALS was not as mature as it is now. Without the detail design, you can’t issue the production drawings to actually build the modified ship.

    So the design was adaptable, but was never and could not have been a case of “slotting the equipment in”. That doesn’t mean that £2bn to convert the PoW is a credible price though……..

    It was always likely to be EMALS rather than steam – partly because EMALS represented a more supportable option long-term and partly because if you’ve ever seen a C13 cat installation up close, the amount of piping and fitting that need maintaining are horrific. It’s not like high-pressure steam is nice fluffy stuff to have aboard either.

    To do steam would have required a dedicated boiler and feedwater in the machinery spaces with a significant capacity for generating steam. Commercial ships fitted with steam recuperators from the stack gases tend to use it for heating and water heating etc, rather than for charging a large capacity steam accumulator that loses a significant quantity of steam with every launch.

  49. My working assumption is that for an operational deployment of this kind then every escort in the RN would be pulled in. Standing tasks and training would go to hell in a handcart (or be left to our EU allies).

    For a real emergency we could perhaps muster 4 DD and 8 FF able to fight, which looks like enough to provide cover for two groups for a short period. Other tasks like ‘gun line’ and ‘supply escort’ might have to be prioritised while the insertion is on, but that’s life.

    One thing I don’t think we have enough escorts for is detatching ships to sit on picket lines a long way out: hence the need for decent AEW&C and MPA capabilites to understand the theatre picture.

  50. Simon,

    lifting a couple of companies from a QEC and flying them in 200 nm in Merlins is a huge undertaking. Not easy at all. Plus, you’ll need 10 Merlin, and 3 hours per return trip, and presumably a second set of crews if you wish to repeat.

    Albion’s 4 LCUs can land the 6 Challenger Albion can carry in 1.5 runs ashore, but cross-loading from Bay to LCU then running ashore and returning is going to take hours.

  51. @TD

    “1. What and who prompted the change in the SDSR, how much have we wasted and exactly how this Fleet strength cockup actually happened, looking back”

    The more important question to ask is why on earth we chose STOVL F-35 and QEC to begin with? The cost problem that’s come about now is from converting the ships. The other leaked analysis suggests that F-35C is far more capable and about 25% cheaper through life. So why the hell did we start building STOVL carriers?

  52. Why are these ships considered so wonderful, if the ship-to-shore connector part is half-baked?
    “cross-loading from Bay to LCU then running ashore and returning is going to take hours”

  53. NAB @ 16.32

    The scenario you describe suggests that the design process behind the CVF being declared CATOBAR ready was not worth a bucket of warm spit.

    The question has top be asked how much did BWoS charge for this piece of non design?

    Then comes the issue of the catapult technology that the design exercise took into account – Trad or Mod?
    If it was Mod what details were available from the US when the exercise was carried out – very little detail I would suggest?
    If it was Trad then why is the production of steam such a big issue. It is not as if the basics including the steam required have only just become public knowledge?

    The whole process brings UK ship design and MOD project management into disrepute, everybody claims things are hunky dory until real work has to be done and then everyone realises that they have been kidding themselves on as well as the MOD.

    Are there anymore subjects where BWoS has carried out a fag packet analysis and charged a detail design price? Now just what are we getting for our £127mill design contact for the T26 programme?

  54. Well at that time we had 2 valuable fleets of STOVL jets in service, which were presumably thought to be valueable assets we would rely on until F35 came into service. Sigh.

    ” why the hell did we start building STOVL carriers?”

  55. ACC,

    RFA Fergie* is your friend. Actually, for £5M, she’ll be anyone’s friend.

    I’m rather expecting that when she is eventually commissioned, we’ll have a rough gang of FBOT’s welders sort her out for a Brigade to run through her Ro-Ro innards in quick time, and that the real Fergie will act as the ship’s figurehead, lashed to the pointy bit at the front, bare-breasted and red tresses flying, waving a union jack as she crashes ashore with an armoured Brigade up her chuff. Would terrify Carlos Fandango, and finally give the taxpayer some useful service.

    * Old beater of a north sea Ro-Ro, equipped to crash onto a beach and provide a 200m pontoon to get the boys ashore once the Bays start offloading through her. £5M max.

  56. Henry said “merlin with Search water radar in teh Sea King as their replacement for ASaC”

    Probably. I suppose the RAF HCs will provide the airframes. How many are there now 28-ish? How many would ASaC Merlin? About 12? And that would leave the Junglies with 16…….

    I can’t see HMG coughing up for 12 or so MV22 though I am warming to it I am not a fan. Can you imagine how much revenue it would generate, sorry how much it would cost for HMG for somebody to do the conversion? Eek.

    There are left field out of the box solutions but the UK aircraft industry isn’t really up to those sort of ventures. They don’t do innovative and cheap only staid and expensive.

  57. A Brief History Of British Naval Warfare

    “Exocet inbound, sir!”
    “Sheffield sunk, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Atlantic Conveyor sunk, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Ardent sunk, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Antelope sunk, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Sir Galahad hit, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Coventry sunk, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Air Red! Air Red!”
    “Sir Tristram hit, sir.”
    “Damn! Why didn’t we see that coming?”
    “No AEW aircraft, sir.”

    “Right, now, these new carriers. Shall we build them with cats and traps so that they can operate the proven and highly effective E-2 AEW aircraft?”
    “No, sod it. What would we want those for?”

  58. Jedi @ 15.42

    What are we actually getting from the CVF?

    How big a flight deck – 15 / 18K m2?
    How big a hangar – 3 / 4K m2?
    How much Avgas capacity – 5 / 7K m3?
    How much aircraft stores capacity – 1 / 2K tons?
    How many sorties before resupply – 200 / 300 / 400?

    All these numbers suggest that at 65K tons the CVF is a bit of a porker. I fear we have BWoS working the “it is big therefore it must be expensive” angle to the max.

    Either that or they were using the Audacious class numbers and then going pro rata for the extra 30m length and the extra 6m beam.

    As I have mentioned before the weight angle does not make sense to me, the 40K tons of steel that allegedly each ship needs looks very wasteful especially if we are paying BWoS by the ton.

  59. a,

    you’ll have to ask yourself why the Sea Lords did not request AEW when the investment decisions were being made. Was it possibly that the arguments – as you outline – were so strong that they thought they would automatically top up on unrequested funding for AEW having successfully got the two spastic carriers approved? There was always the risk that would not work, however, leaving the situation as you describe it. They may not have factored in the total disgust felt by both other services and the MoD itself for the Andrew’s handling of this whole fiasco, and that the result may be a resounding “sod off” when they go back to ask for AEW.

    Or to put it another way, there is no chance whatsoever that T26 will pass Main Gate, Dubious and Doubtful are not going to be built, and nothing else dark blue will get sanctioned for a decade.

  60. AEW

    Tethered electro copter up to 500m altitude.
    They can be the warload of any Colonial Sloop in the vicinity.
    This would do the donkey work.

    To this can be added the new upmarket Lynx that can use its radar to add detail where and when required.

    Failing that there is always the concept of the small tethered airship.

  61. And so a decision has been made a quite sensible one in my view. This really has got people going into overdrive.

    I do find it odd that many who are jumping up and down in rage at this decision are the very same people who said we should keep harrier and bin tornado as it can offer the strike capability we need if we’d just spent the money to integrate the weapons ect. Role on 2 years and we order a jet with a night and day range and weapons carrying capacity over harrier and it now cant do the tornado mission strange that. F35B can carry up to 14K pound of ordnance I wager a small bet we never load it up anywhere near that as we never have with any other tactical jet yet.

    As for aew surely a carriers aew is for local protection and enhancement of it low level over the horizon radar picture a merlin at 5-10K ft is more than capable of doing that. If you want to control a strike package I guess we’ll have to make do with E3D as has been the case in any op since they entered service in any air force in the world.

  62. Let’s face it finding an innovative solution to a Great British cock up is what we are good at… We just need to acknowledge it’s a cock up and move as quickly as we can to a plan B. Buy the 60 F35Bs to get a credible interim capability and then stop digging. Then put the boffins to work on finding another “ski jump” type solution… Perhaps we could make STOL a/c actually a decent capability for example…

  63. Repulse,

    60 x F35Bs is anywhere between £6B and £9B, depending on what they come in at. That’s quite an expensive “interim capability”, especially as we have used carrier aviation in the last 65 years on – wait – maybe three occasions.

    Let’s not forget the other £2-3Bn of assets that the Sea lords conveniently forgot to order (AEW, MPA, AAR, etc), in the hope that MoD would roll over and say “yes” once the main spastic carrier battle had been won.

    And all for what, precisely?

  64. Some serious bollocks dropped in there somewhere – an “adaptable” design that can’t use gas turbine exhaust to generate steam OR fit EMALS….. ? Very fishy – no clause in the contract to penalize for lack o adaptability then ?

    It’s a lot of money for a plane that can only fly 83nm further than a Harrier GR9 when on internal fuel, with just two bombs and two AAM’s, and with dubious “low observabtility” characteristics against the latest land based radars !

    I really hope it eventually works as advertised, but really, Monty:

    – Longer range on internal fuel tanks than Harrier – yep, but not much

    – Greater weapons payload than Harrier – I would hope so, its twice the size

    – Faster and more agile than the Harrier – faster for sure, more agile ? Well it can’t VIFF…..

    – Easier to train pilots on than Harrier – according to the marketing dept, but we will see

    – Easier to fly and therefore safer than Harrier – I’ll give you this oen

    – More complex and expensive to service than F-35C but significantly less so than Harrier – actually, possibly not, Low Observable coatings and all that…. :-)

    – Superb on-board systems that give the pilot unprecedented situational awareness – LOL, they are on the second manufacturer for helmet mounted site, which still cant be made to work, so lets see how the rest pans out

    – Stealth and Low Observability characteristics – not “Stealth” but LO, only partial, mainly front aspect, and only in limited frequency ranges

    – Easier deck recovery than F-35C and in sea states that would ground all CATOBAR types – maybe but maybe not, rolling vertical landing to improve bring back weight ???

    Like I say, hopefully it finally does what it says on the tin, but right now we have committeed to an aircraft that could still fail spectacularily to meet it’s mission objectives, or even fly reliably and safely for the required number of hours / sortie rates.

    Big gamble ?

  65. Finally a decision has been made. I admit I was a fan of CATOBAR and the C variant but when it became clear that we would only get one conventional carrier with the inherent problems that brings (ask the French) and we would be unlikely to see any service from it until 2023 I changed my mind.
    For me the most telling fact is that the end users have stated that the technical differences in range and payload between B and C make very little difference to Ops.

  66. @James: Nuclear weapons have never been used by the UK so let’s ditch them also… :)

    We are trying to predict what we need for the next 65 years. Only time will tell who was right or wrong.

    In terms of numbers, we are trying to get a 13 a/c squadron permanently afloat and a surge capability of 36 – that is the interim solution. If it can be done with less than 60 a/c the great.

    AEW will be the Merlin there is no other obvious option. MPA was f*clef up by the RAF pure and simple. Is AAR really needed or a nice to have?

  67. Topman

    ‘AEW will be the Merlin there is no other obvious option. MPA was f*clef up by the RAF pure and simple. Is AAR really needed or a nice to have?’

    I would agree on the first I really can’t see any other option that’s realistic. It will a good asset I’m sure and for anything larger there is the E3 fleet. As to AAR it’s been vital on nearly all air ops, although there have been times without it. So I would say needed. Indeed one of the biggest user of RAF AAR on ops are the USN flying from their carriers, it’s needed without a doubt.

  68. Jed yeah f35b has a combat radius in excess of 450nm so quite considerably more than harrier.

  69. All this is very interesting and the conversion figures were jaw dropping, so forensic Phil did the right thing

    But do we have to buy an all F35B fleet – since the B is now a very niche product for the UK forces (as the MOD admits, not foreseen to be used when Typhoon is available for given munitions)

    Can’t we just do what the Italians are doing and buy the minimal number of B’s required for carrier work and give the RAF the option to choose A or B (based on their conops) for long range strike.

    Why do we seem stuck with the wrong plane twice when the Italians only have to suffer it on their carriers??

    As per the future – well simples- go back to Converteam and get an EMCAT (Based on the EMKIT work) designed to fit the CVF at reasonable price rather than adopting the EMALS system that’s designed for the Ford class. It’s classic current MOD to prefer something developed elsewhere at any cost than taking some time and patiently developing (within cost) its own solution.

    The lack of confidence in the MOD at the moment must be a real problem, they can only function as a competent financial organisation when a minister takes over and micromanages, witness the permanent secretary trying not to answer any public accounts committee questions

  70. Repulse / Topman,

    Realistically, nothing more is going to be bought. No AAR, MPA or new AEW platforms. So the Andrew will have to make do with what they’ve already got (are those Sea Kings with dustbins on the side still in service? Or is Merlin AEW funded?) Don’t know, but whatever is funded will be bought, nothing else will be.

    It is probably a more productive discussion as to how to make do with what we will have, rather than design and argue about all sorts of new stuff that we should have. And for that, you can cheerfully blame about 6 specifically and personably identifiable (and now all but one retired) Admirals. Frankly, I’d like to take every single penny of cost overrun on CVF and JCA out of their pensions, and put them in jail until they die for the damage they have done.

  71. …as an equal opportunity blame-sharing game, I’d make the same point about FRES as well. I can think of three individuals at one star or higher, 2 service, one civvy.

    And Gordon Brown, as well for the CVF fiasco (AKA “Jobs for Fife, an’ I dinna’e care the cost”).

  72. @ James don’t worry we’ve got plenty of AAR cover from FTSA (shortly). So it’s one thing the admirals can tick off their list.

  73. TD,
    To answer your two points, namely:

    “There are serious issues of competence to address but the two key issues that stand out for me are

    1. What and who prompted the change in the SDSR, how much have we wasted and exactly how this Fleet strength cockup actually happened, looking back

    2. Can we just get on with it, looking forward”

    My reply:

    1. Don’t know, but whoever it was, I hope they are fired (really I do).

    2) Yep – decision made – lets stop carping and get on with it. The F-35B is still a very capable aircraft.

  74. Lack of ASaC/AEW was the major capability flaw in 82. For me CVF should have been built around E2 (or another fixed wing platform) from the get go not the FJ.

  75. James, The SKasac goes out of service in 2016. They are old airframes. Considering the fact that since 2009 they have been invaluable in Afghanistan die to their ability to track record and replay ground movement of enemy forces (the level of detail needs to be seen to be believed) and also act as C3 nodes for SF Ops I would ask the army to help fund them! Only joking but they will be replaced and we should look at them as a very useful multi role capability. T26 has long been factored into the procurement budget.

  76. APATS,

    1. No issues on principle as you suggest with Land forces sponsorship (there are no such things as service budgets, not for kit anyway), but are they actually funded for replacement?

    2. T26 is going to get sunk. It may well be past IG (I was tipped off on TD a few weeks ago, checked with a mate, pukka gen), but MG is unlikely to get passed. Just too expensive, as the Andrew have been loading it up with requirements, assisted by QinetiQ, and it’s all looking a bit pricey. It has also been identified as a ship (are therefore very special to the Andrew), and thus symbolic for the Army and the RAF to say “fuck off, you are not having it”.

    On point 2, all very childish, but the mood is apparently that the Andrew have brought it on themselves. And it is not without some reason, there are all sorts of other capabilities that could get funded ahead of T26 that would be really useful as well.

    Don’t shoot the messenger…!

  77. @ FBOT re AEW alternative platforms

    There could be a fixed wing alternative that could generate exports but BAE isn’t Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or Embraer and the words cheap, cheerful, and innovative aren’t in their vocabulary.

    I can’t believe that BAE can’t build a fixed wing aircraft capable of carrying 3 tons that can work in 260m x 30m space with a stall speed of less 40kts.

  78. I fear the wrong decision was not about which version of F-35 to order, but actually ordering these superfluous carriers in the first place. Despite the wishful thinking of some contributors there is no longer a capability to build an updated Harrier (oh and hasn’t the RAF just been making a lot of experienced jet pilots redundant…?). Nor is there the money to produce any kind of AEW solution, be it attached to Merlin or Osprey. So we are stuck with two giant, highly vulnerable ships capable of carrying helicopters and perhaps F-35B. If Congress goes ahead with the budget cuts linked to sequestration in January 2013 there is also a very good chance that the ‘B will be cancelled too, which will leave us with the option of fitting an angled deck or having no jets at all. So at that point we will be out of the naval fast jet business.

    And for this the Royal Navy accepted the loss of 6 Type 45s, the 4 Type 22s, a reduced SSN programme, etc. The bottom line is that the Royal Navy are intellectual pygmies, obsessed with the idea that if they have two big toys this will make them the premiere European navy, as in ‘We will provide the flagships, the rest of you provide the escorts’. It should now be clear that the French Navy has effectively overtaken the RN and that outside Europe we will soon be eclipsed by rising naval powers such as Brazil and South Korea. For example, consider the Marinha do Brasil’s current acquisition plan (look up Prosuper on Google):

    6 x SSN
    15 x SSK
    2 x aircraft carriers (and we can guess where they will look for these)
    4 x LPH
    30 x escorts

    The Royal Navy and the RAF have played silly buggers for too long and here on TD we have debated all the issues ad infinitum. As both forces dwindle I would like to suggest they are merged into a single Royal Naval Air Force, the top brass of each is seriously reduced, their roles restricted to the North Atlantic and European theatres, and these two white elephants sold to a nation that knows the value of airpower or, failing that, simply scrapped. By doing so we can make the reductions in expenditure necessary to maintain modern and properly equipped, albeit smaller armed forces.

  79. James, I am quite prepared to bet anything you like about T26 not getting sunk. No matter how much the Army and RAF want to squeal about it.
    1. Stupid deal with BAE.
    2. The job losses involved in cancellation especially in Scotland in run up to referendum.
    3. We have got Carriers to protect.
    4. The T23 cannot simply go on forever, cancelling T26 is the equivalent of withdrawing every MBT and artillery piece in the army. It means that we cannot escort any sort of group at all so unless you want to ask the French or US the Army doesn’t deploy.
    5. I have quite a few contacts as well and current security clearances.

  80. James is right, even though a bit extreme:
    -being past IG is not the same as funded

    Duke class kit upgrades must be funded? They make up a big part of the T26 budget (or take away from it, depends on the angle)
    – why did we not start to push the Dukes through the refits plenty quick and keep the T22s to hold the fort for a while?
    – the whole T26 build could then be tackled at a leisurely pace, saving the ASW versions to be last (first half of 2030s for the 8 of them)

  81. Fatman, I did look at the programme, they are looking at precisely 5 extra Frigates and 5 Corvettes the rest are small patrol vessels. 1 very possibly 2 Carriers with not even a decision made yet alone steel cut. Interestingly enough they talk about 5 large, well 10k plus amphibs. A quantum leap for the Brazilian navy but hardly the force you posted.

  82. @x
    Fairey Swordfish…?
    Radar-equipped…low stall speed, great endurance, carrier-capable…RATO if necessary…what’s not to like..?
    And the Andrew still have one available…

  83. Hi APATS,

    The Brazilian Marines are a well equipped force that totals the same as RM and 16X put together, just that they have kept [until now]buying their ships second hand (from the US and e.g. Sir Galahad)
    – if Canada and Australia have said ‘no’ to T26 co-operation, what do we have left? Brazil? Turkey?

  84. James,

    Two companies from QE at 200nm on Merlin… easy. You need 8-10 copters – perhaps we need inflight magazines for the transit ;-) Four assaults in the first 24 hours would put 800 men in from QE. They’d be happy to get off the ship since they’ll have been squeezed in a touch.

    Albion carries 4 LCU. There would be one more in each Bay. I’d land a 6+ platoons behind 6 Challenger on the first wave to the beach. In addition another 4 platoons would be landed from LCVP.

    Each Bay then carriers another 24 Challenger each (48 total) which, as you say, would take a while to offload once the beach and perimeter have been secured.

    Not that we would take that many tanks anyway.

  85. I see no issue with Merlin AEW if we’re confined to a 200nm radius of operation (24-7 cover obviously). The F35’s situational awareness will provide battlespace intelligence over the beachhead/landing zone. Merlin is only needed for fleet AEW (nice if we can forward deploy a flight though).

    And finally, wasn’t it Lian Fox’s Ozzy mate who told him what to do about everything?

  86. Without wanting to divert the thread. I was wondering what extra things the RN were attempting to load onto T26. Funded or already in service and coming from the T23s as they come out of service will be.
    1. Artisan Radar.
    2. 2087 Sonar.
    3. Merlin Helicopters.
    4. Sea Ceptor.
    5. DNA Command System.
    The mission bay has already been sacrificed to save money with boats now going to be launched from coverable bays in the superstructure.
    Unless the argument is that the hull, propulsion and accommodation are loading up requirements the only things left fo discussion are.
    1. Comms Fit, same as T23?
    2. Main Gun, would like to see the new Otobreda Lightweight 5 inch with capacity to fire Vulcano ammo giving an NGS capability up to 70km unguided or 120km guided. Surely a useful asset but to save money we may go cheaper.
    3. Nav radars and systems, off the shelf or from T23.
    4. Anti ship Missile, an interesting one, with JSM going to be integrated with F35 maybe the NSM variant.
    5. Land Attack capability may be sacrificed for cost, leave space for future.
    6. CWIS, off the shelf plenty in service elsewhere.
    I am struggling to see where all these mysterious recent additions spring from? In short the T26 could at its most basic go to sea with the only non structural items not coming from a T23 being an anti ship missile and CWIS.

  87. @ ACC

    I think Turkey aren’t too concerned about T26. They are boasting at the moment that their indigenous ship building industry can meet all their defence needs.

    @ Gremlin

    You may well snigger at the humble Stringbag but it did its job.

  88. T26 Progress

    No-one has yet put forward a case as to why we are going ahead with this class while at the same time upgrading the T23 fleet in various stages over the next 4-6 years.

    Fair enough to upgrade the 8 youngest hulls to get them up to speed on the ASW / point defence AAW front but why waste money on the 5 “Patrol” spec versions when we are supposed to start getting new T26 hulls into the water in the next decade starting in 2020.

    Surely given our lack of funds we could run the 5 oldest T23s into the ground, no new kit just use what we have as they would be useable flag waivers till 2020/2024.

    That would allow use to focus the T26 as a low cost patrol frigate / colonial sloop and gain vital experience at building low cost / high utility platforms which would have a customer base beyond the RN.

    Even better if we used the cash saved from the Patrol T23s upgrades to bring forward the build of the first ships.

    BWoS Glesga aka UCS – Naval could be transformed into a stand alone business divorced from the waste and game playing of Head Office to build a niche doing lots of low cost shipping.

    Portsmouth would then be free to do the MHPC mission modules / naval payloads / specialised boats to be carried in the Colonial Sloops well deck. Or they could move into FMCs or corvettes and build another stand alone business.

    If that was to happen then the efficiencies could be used to provide much better value to the RN / MOD. Then with a track record of innovation, cost leadership and vision the task of building a proper Tier / Level 1 ASW platform would not be the shot in the dark that the T26 looks to be at the moment.

    The future looks bleak with PH in full spreadsheet mode, a MOD / RN past caring about local ship building, a diminishing workload and a crest fallen waste of space PM who will never want to get involved in anything military ever, ever again.

    Add in the Whitehall r*t f*ck that would be the threat of closing YSL / GS in the run up to a Scottish referendum, it would all come too easy to the desk warriors in Whitehall.

    Consequently train wreck on the agenda.

  89. x, I’ve been wondering where all the mentions of Turkey originate from; would be very different from what they have now
    – but aren’t all that they build licensed designs (MEKOs etc) anyway?

    Brazil even more would want to build locally – maybe buy the first two or so to get a handle on all aspects

  90. @All Politicians are the Same
    I suggest you do some proper research from Portuguese and Brazilian sources rather than just English ones if you wish to understand the magnitude of the Brazilian Navy’s aspirations. Some of their official documents actually show the PA2 (French variant of the CVF) as a model of their planned carrier acquisition. A brief summary of numbers will be found at:

    Yes, the plan is spread into the 2040s, but that is the whole point of building a navy – you do it in stages, not create something overnight that you cannot operate. On the other hand it does not seem to be taking the UK very long to dismantle the Royal Navy.

  91. Simon, re your beach assault.

    I can only think that you have not read Clausewitz’s dictum “clout, don’t dribble” (“klotzern, nicht kleckern”), and have certainly not watched Apocalypse Now.

    You don’t do beach assaults over 24 hours to get 800 men ashore in penny packets. You do a beach assault in 5 minutes to get 800 men ashore, preferably by both air and sea, and the air element at maximum mutually supporting range from the sea element. You do it with maximum aggression, or at least potential aggression if it is undefended.

    This is what a proper all-air assault looks like:

    SF pre-deployed
    NGS (on call)
    CAS on call
    AH 2 minutes before assault wave, then circling overhead and neutralising threats to 4 kms.
    Assault wave 1: 2 x companies
    Assault wave 2: 2 x companies plus C2
    Assault wave 3: organic indirect fire assets, NGSFOs, engineers, rear link detachment.
    Support wave 1: medics, ammunition.
    Support wave 2: ammunition, water, light vehicles underslung.

    Now, you want all three assault waves coming ashore within 5 minutes. By my reckoning, that is something like 30 Merlins. The two support waves need to be there within one hour, so that is another 10 Merlins.

    Can you get 40 Merlins into the air from a QEC 200 nm out, plus 8 AH, plus a couple of CAS pairs, and airborne C2, and is it easy?

    That’s only one Commando. You need to do all of that three times more in the next 4 hours to get the whole Brigade ashore.

  92. Hi FBOT,

    RE “upgrading the T23 fleet in various stages over the next 4-6 years”

    I have (only) read between the lines that to even it out in expenditure terms, the deliveries will stretch out to 2035, also dictated by when even the youngest current hull will “die”.

    So take the difference between (2012+6) and 2035 and divide that by 8 or 13…one and half years a ship, and it is not a big ship. You would ideally probably want 35-50% concurrency in construction (I don’t know if there any benefits from that when in the fitting-out phase)
    – over to the shipwrights for comment

  93. James

    ref: “but the mood is apparently that the Andrew have brought it on themselves.”

    Definately not shooting you as the messenger (my Father was Cavalry, he wouldn’t let me) but that kind of shit really, really pisses me off !

    The frakkin 1st Sea Lord did not get out of bed one morning pior to 98 SDR and say “bugger me, I think I will mortgage the future of the RN for the sake of 2 carriers, yep, grand idea…..” and then bimble off and frakking make it so.

    Carriers were a government forgein policy and defence policy ‘decision’. Various flavours of HMG wanted to do “expeditionary warfare” and thought carriers would be a good idea. Not the RN, not the MoD per se, but the Cabinet.

    Now I am not saying the Admirals are completely blameless for not getting them made into Cavours, or cancelled out right when the chances presented themselves, but the RN top brass of the mid-90’s did not invent the aircraft carrier or the concept of expeditionary warfare, because they thought it would get them one up on the Air Vice Marshalls ! Similarlry how many Generals jumped up and down in outrage at the whole “we will go into Helmand and come out without firing a shot” bollocks ? (and lets not even get into Iraq and “Snatch LR”).

  94. Genuine question, have we ever put that amount of people, that quickly ashore before?

  95. I prefer to look at research that is realistic rather than aspirational. They are really going to introduce 15 Frigates in 7 years, at 2 a year? Sea trials teams, work ups, engineering trials, personnel to cover all these? I also like to take into account things such as training requirements and manning. There is a fair amount of South American, mines is bigger than yours involved in the extremely aspirational plans of the Brazilian Navy. A bit like the Argentinean nuclear Submarine. Nothing wrong with being optimistic though.

  96. @ Simon Well Augusta -Westland, have certainly kept that quiet!

    @ F35B Whether we like the decision or not! We have made our bed, and now we must live with it.

    Time to crack on with it, and make the best out of it.

  97. Topman,

    yes, with some regularity. D Day (possibly not a representative example ;) ) 6 Divisions in 4 hours. More recently, on various AMF exercises, an entire Commando including supporting arms and first line support in less than 4 minutes, by both RIB / LC and air. 24 Airmobile Brigade could put an anti-tank Battlegroup onto something beach sized (although typically onto 3-4 areas) in under 2 minutes, when the Chinooks were available, and with supporting Lynx flying ahead.

  98. Mark at May 10, 2012 at 18:54

    Wikipedia (and it’s all I have to go on) says F35B “combat radius” on internal fuel, with itnernal weapons is 383nm – so were does the 450nm come from ? not disputing – just asking ?

    Is it with external tanks ? If so then all that money to buy a so called “stealth” aircraft was wasted was it not ?

  99. @ James

    I thought someone might say D Day! :)

    Interesting I didn’t know it happened so often.

    ‘an entire Commando including supporting arms and first line support in less than 4 minutes, by both RIB / LC and air.’

    How many is that about 600? What was the split air/sea and how far out did the troops start when they went to their ribs and chinooks?

    Also has that sized and time wise assault happened in an operation, possibly suez?

  100. AH to 8km. The newer “man portable” motars have ranges to 8km, any less and they can still pop a few rounds on your beachhead to ruin your day.

    5 min for 3 waves with only Merlins is a bit unrealistic, and 30 of them is stretching it, even without the need to generate AH support. A lot of the assault, especially Wave 1 would be using landing craft, not heliborne, though it really helps a lot if your light armour could swim too. I’m guessing 1 company by air ~ 12 Merlins, assuming 1 squad per helo, and the rest by sea.

    That is, assuming you can find an LZ for the helis that someone hasn’t mined 8 ways to Sunday. Fast rope/Heli rappel?

  101. Topman, Even Royal doesn’t have that as doctrine. For starters they would land on top of each other or you would need a bigger beach!
    We do not have the capability to make an opposed beach landing. So generally SF are ashore and themselves and ISTAR push inland to provide recon. The beach is run by the beach recce team from the amphibs. You take the LPDs close inshore under cover of darkness first light and offload utilising the flight deck, dock and LCVPs simultaneously. Each LPD can operate 2 Merlin/Junglies at the same time when you are 2NM offshore it is amazing how quickly you can shuttle Royal ashore especially utilisng the Bays flight decks as well. Thye first load can fly from the LPH or CVF drop on the beach and then the helos make the short shuttle hops.
    4 LCVPs will also be making runs first load from the davits but after that the docks on the Bays and Albions.
    Hopefully a faster LCU will speed things up.

  102. I wonder if anyone has looked at QE/PoW to see if they could operate Russian style i.e ski ramp + arrester wires?
    That could be cheap & flexible.
    At least French/USN aircraft could make emergency landings on RN carriers even if they had to be landed at port.

  103. Not easy “Can you get 40 Merlins into the air from a QEC 200 nm out, plus 8 AH, plus a couple of CAS pairs, and airborne C2, and is it easy?”

    That is why I raised the Chinooks: take them on QEC, then prepare by flying them out to Albions/ Bays, so their larger capacity is used while not denying most of the 9carrier’s] deck for other uses
    – also, to avoid the “repeat 3 times” was the reason why I mentioned C-17s for a drop (of one bn)…2 Commandos, the initial tank squadron and a parachuted bn is a good start to mustering a brigade?

  104. James,

    Hang on…

    8-10 Merlin on QE – lands 2 companies.
    8-10 Merlin on Albion and 2 Bay – lands 2 companies.
    6 LCU + 4 LCVP from Albion and two Bays land another 2 companies behind 6 tanks.

    The vertical assault can now be done four times in 24-hours landing a total of sixteen companies – a total of 18 companies (~1800 men) landed.

    The first wave delivers one Commando battalion, the remaining troops come in a little bit less well organised as three copter waves of 400.

  105. James, you cheated :)

    Chooks drop 30 people per load, though it loses the ability to fast rope. Merlins don’t have that kind of capacity.

    I’m really of 2 minds with the rope. Having to stick to known LZs makes me nervous, though the extra space and capacity is nice, but not worth taking an area defence mine in the rotor IMO.

  106. @All Politicians are the Same
    Go and do the research properly and open your eyes to the speed with which Brazil is developing in all kinds of ways – you are making some very patronising assumptions about the (in)ability of the Brazilians to make the transition into great power status. Their long term goals may be aspirational, but they are real targets and have been discussed at international conferences. They have built their first submarine and have signed agreements with the French on acquiring nuclear reactors for nuclear boats. The UK has just sold three OPVs and a license for 5 more. BAE is targeting Brazil as a prime customer for Type 26/Global Combat Ship with building to take place there. The country is deciding between ordering Rafale and F-18 which will give them a potential carrier capability. And so on. All this is linked to major economic growth and a desire to secure a permanent place on the UN Security Council. Your ‘realistic’ thinking is the same sort of complacency that prevented many observers imagining the rise of the Chinese and Indian Navies.

  107. Topman’s initial default position was that the assault was all-air from 200 nm out, with a declaration of “easy”.

    We tend not to have enough support helos to do all-air, hence the mix. And to generate the mix, you need the boats close inshore.

    So the question is how much risk are we prepared to take with our QEC, when the only amphibious ships we have cannot offload very quickly?

  108. @ APATS the entire commando was from James not me. I was just thinking out loud how much of the beach assualt talk that was going on up thread was realistic. How often have we used it and have we all the right kit to do the numbers we would like and so. Thanks for the info.

  109. A serious question. What would be better for the Army or the Marines. The Merlin or the Chinook as a Main Assault Helicopter, flying of CVF.

    Would 8 Navalised Chinooks be better than 10 Navaliised Commando Merlins?

  110. Fatman, I have exercised with the Brazilian Navy and generally they are pretty good but they are not trying to evolve they are trying to move from jet flight to moon landing in 2 decades! Good luck to them but I also know how difficult it is to expand at the rate they are trying to and keep up existing skill levels never mind develop the required skill set to operate Carriers, SSNs and modern escorts. There is a difference between being able to afford to nuy or build something and running and manning it.

  111. Cat and pigeon time

    If we cant deliver a reasonable number of personnel over the beach in a reasonable time and only if the enemy decide to take a day off what exactly is the point of the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy’s amphibious capabilities?

    Equally, if we cannot air drop and sustain an reasonable airborne force, what is the point of maintaining the Parachute Regiment?

    In your own time!

  112. @ James

    ‘Topman’s initial default position was that the assault was all-air from 200 nm out, with a declaration of “easy”.’

    Not me gov.

  113. Jed

    The jroc sar document delivered from the pentagon to congress in april estimates the f35b mission radius kpp currently at 469nm this required a takeoff distance of 568ft without a ski jump an increase of 22ft.

  114. Topman,

    there’s no point in putting an entire Commando ashore in blobs and blobs over 24 hours for anything less than an entirely benign environment. British tourists arrive more rapidly in Malaga airport than that at the height of the season – this is not Butlins!

  115. Hmm good question James. And I suspect the answer is “not very”. So my guess is that the RM are going to have to sneak on shore. At least some of their light armour swims, so that should help a bit.

  116. @ James

    I’m slightly confused (easily done) to which comment of mine is your post @ 20.48 replying to?

  117. Regarding AEW options, transferring the Searchwater’s over to the Merlin platform is almost a given.

    IIRC plans call for the equipment to be palletised. This implies little alterations to the aircraft itself under the MASC (now Crows Nest?) project.

    Interestingly if the equipment is indeed palletised, then carriage in the rear of a V-22 (unfortunately named TOSS proposal) might be a relatively rapid transition, with the Merlin as an interim step:

    1) Remove Serachwater equipment from the retired Sea Kings;
    2) Convert Searchwater kit to self contained pallets;
    3) Slide them into the back of an appropriate Merlin;
    4) Wait for the inevitable V-22 purchases (Rolls Royce Allison engines as political sweetener);
    5) Slide some pallets into the back of a few appropriate tiltrotors.

  118. TD,

    JC x 3, 1 @ CVF with some small affordable number of F35B aboard and the rest of the space taken up with ISOs, 2 @ LPH/D positively bulging with helicopters.

    £3B, airwing = £2B.

    Cash left over. In fact, enough for son of FRES!


    sorry to misquote you (the original text is too difficult to find), but I recall you thought it was less than complex.

  119. Observer, others will know better, but isn’t this
    “At least some of their light armour swims”
    just the Vikings
    – v useful, but have no utility in armour role

  120. @ James

    ‘sorry to misquote you (the original text is too difficult to find), but I recall you thought it was less than complex.’

    No problem. Whoever it was it wasn’t me.

  121. Simon RE: Merlin or Chook

    Both. I mentioned that the Chinook can’t drop infantry very well, no bar to hook up + the back ramp door, but its capacity and loadcarrying is wonderful. OTOH, having to put infantry in hard to reach places, you need the Merlin. I suspect the loss of one SF Chinook in Afganistan just after OBL was killed was due to a pre-placed ambush at an LZ. So they each have their strengths and limitations and are best used together rather than an all or nothing approach.

  122. @ACC

    “Observer, others will know better, but isn’t this
    “At least some of their light armour swims”
    just the Vikings

    You rather swim ashore in nothing but a “bullet-proof” vest? At least the Bvs are proof up to 7.62. I’ve always wondered 7.62 NATO or 7.62-S lol. Got to put that to one of their sales rep one of these days.

    BTW, swimming in vests is a serious “not recommended”. You might not come back up.

  123. On Amphibious offload. (remember we only do unopposed landings) A Chinook can carry 50 booties? So even if we keep the Carrier 50Nm offshore. Let’s say it launches 4 Chinooks, so we have 200 Royals enroute, the LPD and 2 Bays have detached and with escorts proceeded inshore, docked down and at 6Nm launched their LCUs and LCVPs to arrive at the beach at the same time. They have continued to close to 4Nm. The 2 LCUs from the Bays bring 1 Ch2 each. The 4 from the LPD are 1 x beach recovery vehicle and 3 x 50 RM (round figures so i can count). Now before the LPD and Bays closed the coast they embarked 2 Merlin on the LPD and 1 each on the Bays from the AOR. So let’s say each Merlin also launches with 20 Royal onboard. The 4 LCVPs from the LPD are also launched with 30 royals in them. So we have utilised 6 LCU, 4 LCVP, 4 Chinook and 4 Merlin to put 570 RM and 2 CH2 plus the beach recovery vehicle. The helos can then do short hops backwards and forwards between the Bays, LPD and shore as required moving under slung loads, personnel as required whilst the 6 LCUs move heavy equipment and 4 LCVPs light equipment. The LPD and Bays have the ability to refuel Merlin and Chinook.

  124. @APATS

    50… maybe, but that’s a bit overload. There are only 4 banks of 8 seats with belts.

  125. @TD

    Less beans for dinner in the future? :P

    Though you do have a point that a lot of the world can be covered by land based air.

    OTOH, in the defence of carrier air, there is also the problem of people unhappy with you dropping an arifield in the middle of their backyard.

    Pros and Cons.

  126. APATS,

    50 seems a bit ambitious for Chinook. Remember the boys are going to be carrying shedloads of kit for 3-5 days, batteries, ammo, etc. I think 30 is more like it (each man at 90 kilos plus 70 kilos of kit, but it is the bulk not weight that cuts down on passenger space). Call it a Troop or Platoon per Chinook. That’s therefore 10 Chinooks for two companies each of 120 men ashore, not your four.

    (edited: that was in response to your earlier comment. 55 on the RAF website is ridiculous, but what you’d expect from the RAF. 55 Fray Bentos pies, or 5.5 loadmasters in their grow bags, maybe, but not tooled up troops. No way)

  127. Why did we ever rotate the Gurkhas away from the air-assault bn role!
    “RAF website claims 55”

  128. James, It was an estimate but we still have the capability without increasing chinook numbers to put 400 plus ashore and I was not overly generous with numbers on an LCU Mk 10. It is rated for 100 so lets say 70 and we are back to my 570 on the beach at once.

  129. @ Observor. Thank you

    A couple of weeks ago I did come across a report on the web, stating, that the American Company that makes the gearboxes to power fold the rotor blades for the Ch-47. Had been approached by an unnamed foreign CH-47 operator. Asking for information and prices for converting some of their CH-47’s.

    Barring the USN, we are the only country that could (eventually) deck down, a Chinook. As neither the Mistral or Juna Carlos Class LPH’s Hangers can hold a Chinook. Although I’m not holding my breath, that it is us.

  130. There’s such an aura around Bravo November that I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually carried out the Black Buck raids and not the Vulcans!

  131. There are photos readily Googleable of a Chinook struck below decks on Juan Carlos I.

  132. @The Other Chris


    They’re not supposed to know that. :)


    If it did, good for it, but the pilot had better be very careful of what he’s doing or he’s going to get a lot of angry marines in the cargo hold. And the hold is directly connected to the cockpit. lol

    55 is possible standing in the cargo hold, (32 seated, 18 standing) but if you have seen how these things fly normally, with 60 degree bank turns and all (I swear they always choose FJ rejects to fly those things), you.. might not want to stand. Straight line flight though, might be tolerable.


    32 seated. I counted the seats 1st time I flew on one.

  133. Observer. “FJ” is redundant. All Kevins are rejects. If you want to be flown in a support helicopter, arrive alive, where you are meant to be and not in the next door field, pointing toward the enemy, and on time, fly CHF.

  134. 18 Chinook loads to move 1 light battalion
    34 Puma loads to move 1 light battalion

    Extrapolate Merlin lifts from those figures.

  135. ACC @ 20.18

    From memory I thought that the T23 programme would deliver one hull per year starting in 2020.

    If the yards involved are employing 2K people on the shop floor you would be looking at a wage bill of £80mill pa to deliver one ship.

    To me that is starting to look a bit inefficient so the reliance on MOD work only would put up the price of the kit. That is why I think export / civil work is needed, if we can only sell to the RN then change is needed and it is needed badly.

    If you look at what Flensburger can produce with a shopfloor workforce of 700 – 3 Ro/Ro’s pa some very big – you get to understand the productivity gap that exists between RN and real civil shipbuilding.

    Regarding the future and my thoughts of Going Large with Colonial Sloops the warload would remain the same – all equipment RoRo / LoLo / BoBo – but the hulls would increase in size, robustness and utility. Consequently Flensburger level productivity would allow it all to happen.

  136. It’s taken how long for the BBC to find out how much The Air Tanker deal is actually going to cost us?
    Hammand is being made to look a right Pratt, by Kirsty Wark.

  137. X,

    that is only the F Echelon, without supporting arms. Add 25% to those figures for the full fighty bit, another 25% for each day of supply for food and ammo / water.

    So for a light battalion fighting for 24 hours: 24 Chinook. For a light Brigade (whether Commando or Air Assault), 96 Chinook lifts. Another 24 Chinooks per following day keeping the Brigade supplied.

  138. @James

    Did some RAF bloke accidentally drop a 250 pound on you once? I sense a great hostility to the RAF. :)

    About the carriers though, steel has been cut, money spent, so no choices there, LPH in the next 30 years maybe. For now, CVF

  139. James, Inserting and supplying a batalion by air would be a logistical nightmare.

  140. Observer,

    there’s nothing wrong with the RAF that an anthrax-tipped nuclear bomb would not cure, and indeed be socially rather more acceptable. The loss of Lincolnshire in achieving this is sad, but for the greater good.

    That’s the part of the RAF I like. I do not include RAF Movers in among that lot.

  141. James, Topman,

    It was I that said about 800 men on 8-10 Merlin from 200nm in four waves over 24 hours.

    I then explained to James that there are other assets in the mix too at…

    Assault from QE and Albion and two Bays

    …which now seems a little pointless if you’re implying that Chinook can only lift 30 men. I was working on 120kg per man. The majority of the supplies would be flow in later on or delivered by LCU.

    James, what the weight of one of your troops with all his kit?

  142. @APATs

    If you’re inserting heli/air-borne forces, sometimes you don’t have a choice of supply options, especially in the initial stages where follow on forces have not linked up yet, though I hope it isn’t everyone that needs to be supplied that way.

  143. simon,

    planning figure used to be 160 kilos of man plus kit, in a volume of 2m x 1m x 1m. Bulk is the issue, not weight.

  144. From Hammond, on TV
    – 39m spent on design
    – add contract terminations and skijumps, and it goes to a hundred
    – you get to 250m when you include rolling landing capability costs… that is a lot, when the original software enhancement for it was to cost £17m (there must be some physical modification to do as well?)

  145. “That’s the part of the RAF I like”

    Dead by Anthrax and Nuclear blast? :)

    Simon, it’s the ergronomic factor. The Chinook can carry more than what is man portable, but …seriously, you don’t ever want to fly standing in one of those, so that limits you to 32 men, not including palleted supplies/heavy weapons and belly slung cargo.

  146. There we go:
    “Merlin has space for only 16 of your chaps (at about 2.5t)” gives a factor of 2 for 1, in Chinooks favour
    – but the two rotors take up a huge area; the loss is less when they work “alone” on the flight decks of Albions/ Bays

    This is why I originally was asking that if you need 6 “B”s for CAP and at least 6 for CAS, what is the (remaining)ferry capacity for Chinooks on the QECs

  147. James, Observer,

    I’d be happy at 120kg (160kg would snap me in two) with another 24 chaps in my Merlin at 200nm standoff for one and a half hours, but then I don’t actually have to do the job for a living :-)

    What exactly (or roughly) constitutes the 160kg?

  148. Simon,

    you may want to put 16 SF 500nm away, but you wouldn’t for 1/2 a platoon of regular infantry.

    24 Airmobile used to have a concept they called “air density” – an amalgam of capacity, speed to objective, loading / unloading. It was measured in men/kms/hour. Took a bit of getting used to, but once the Kevins had done that and learned to read proper grids instead of lat/longs, all went well.

    160 kg is 90 kg man, 70 kg kit. Most of the 70 kg kit is batteries, ammo, mortar bombs, IED gear, radio, 24 hours of food and water. Personal clothing / sleeping bag is about 3-5 kilos.

  149. ACC,

    We’ll need 12 Merlin from QE to insert two companies if we insist on 16/drop.
    We’ll then need another 12 from Albion, two Bay and something else.
    This along with 4 LCU and 4 LCVP will insert a battalion.

    You’ll still need 12 jets to provide 24-7 cover from 200nm.

  150. ACC,

    Although 6 Chinook can land the same as 12 Merlin I don’t think it has anything like the legs (someone correct me), which brings QE within missile firing range!

  151. How about another question

    How does putting GMLRS in a lightweight form (the old LIMAWS(R)) for example, maybe putting an LMM on a Watchkeeper, having Hellfire on Predator/Mantis, Apaches operating from forward locations and CAMM/FLAADS on a truck landed from an LCU change the calculation about how many aircraft you need for close air support or counter air

  152. Simon, 4 LCU and 4 LCVP can insert 400 plus on their own. In theory 550 but would use 1 LCU for the beach recovery vehicle. 2 Bay and 1 LPD can put a Commando (manpower) over the beach by Amphibious Landing Craft simultaneously. So you then start to look at how many helos to supplement and who lands where what kit etc you want early. It is all about tradeoffs and planning.

  153. TD,

    Budgetarily dangerously close to zero as far as the RAF and FAA are concerned for CAS and tactical strike or fix (although you are mixing up different effects in your list).

  154. TD, Do not think it alters the DCA argument very much as you will want to keep hostile air away from teh beach and ROE against engaging radar blips over land is never easy.
    A nice shiny T26 with its OtoBreda 127/64 lightweight and Vulcano ammo able to engage targets up to 100km inland would help! As obviously would apache and a good spotter UAV.
    I would say that good NGS capability, arty and mortars ashore early and AHs could free the FJ up to do DCA.

  155. les Etats unis vous pompe votre argent et l’avion ne sera pas à la hauteur du Harrier (regardez les videos), le f35 n’est pas du tout à l’aise à l’atterrissage, il y aura des crash.

  156. The F-35’s autonomous detection equipment is part of the networked AEW package. You’d need a few up in the air to help designate all of those CAMMs and ASRAAMs until their own terminal guidance kicks in.

  157. TD, Libya was a NATO led operation, using mainly NATO members’ aircraft flying from NATO members’ airfields. So instead of mischievously plotting your radius from Misrata, mark the same radius from every single NATO airbase and then see how much of the rest of the world is still not covered. Now imagine a floating airfield filling in many of the gaps.
    For the UK and NATO, that both have global aspirations, the ability to only be able to operate within or on the fringes of the NATO area is wholly unsatisfactory. How dare you poo-poo aircraft carriers at a time like this!

  158. RE “We’ll need 12 Merlin from QE to insert two companies if we insist on 16/drop.
    We’ll then need another 12 from Albion, two Bay and something else.
    This along with 4 LCU and 4 LCVP will insert a battalion.

    You’ll still need 12 jets to provide 24-7 cover from 200nm”

    It would seem that the hangar can have 10 “B”s and 22 Merlins in combination, plus whatever is held on deck

    Add whatever the escorts, Albion and Argus can bring to the party
    – all in all quite a bit, but Ocean-like capacity will be sorely missed

  159. ACC 4 LCU and LCVP can virtually deploy a batallion on their own. Add in the LCU from 1 or 2 Bays and you definitely can.

  160. James, you ok today? You seem grumpier than usual.

    Assault landings, facinating subject.

    If I had Chinooks, I’d use them to land more “interesting” stuff like light strike vehicles and Warthog modules deeper into the enemy perimeter rather than infantry. Mechanised raiders operating from cargo/RSTA Hog “motherships” can seriously harass and delay any enemy coming to interdict your landing, and the added mobility/situational awareness increases the chances of an intercept as opposed to straight leg infantry, but that’s just preference.

  161. Observer, I quite agree with ““interesting” stuff like light strike vehicles and Warthog modules deeper into the enemy perimeter rather than infantry”
    – that is why I was “harking back” to Ocean which, by the time we will have all these assets we are talking about, will be gone

    It would land a Commando with its own asset (so still 2 of them across the shore line, with a few tanks, at the very beginning), one equivalent BG paradropped a bit further in and then “enhanced” in the way you suggest

    Someone here had picked up from MoD that Vikings will be used on exercises on their return
    – are they so worn out that only taking them out of garage for “Sunday walks” can be warranted?
    – other nations Marines favour 120mm mortars (US, France, Brazil…) – We should buy a couple of new rear units for Warthogs, just for this use
    – BTW, we don’t have any light strike vehicles (Jackals with HMGs?)

  162. Going off topic here but has anyone seen BAE’s new Scout Vehicle CV21|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

    It’s quite interesting to read the articles because it contains the phrase “private venture fund’s”. I had to check that the article was actually talking about BAE and not some other company as I was unaware this phrase was in their lexicon.

    At an apparent cost of £ 1 million each with no R&D could we see the Army U tun on ASCOD and take this instead. Even if it does not cover the entire FRES SV concept would it be useful for the intervention forces such as 16 AAB that need something air mobile.

    Interesting to see what happens when we take away the baby’s bottle of unlimited MOD funds for R&D.

  163. @ James

    That is how many helicopters needed to move so many passengers.

    MoD figure.

    We are only interested in moving “the” battalion in the initial assault.

    Don’t forget I am the idiot who keeps on saying UKNL needed 17,000 tons per 30 days and that GW1 wouldn’t have happened without a long maritime logistical support train.

    Fully aware of what is needed to keep a formation in the field. That is why I advocate a big navy and lots of RFAs and a well equipped commando brigade over 100,000 US Army Ghurkas……..

  164. @ACC

    “- BTW, we don’t have any light strike vehicles (Jackals with HMGs?)”

    Hell, even land rovers with MGs or roof mounted ATGMs. Whatever works. Effect 1st, brand later. At ~3t per rover, you can do 2 per Chinook trip.


    Looks like someone is listening when I ranted about “public funds-private company’s profits”. Hopefully this will turn up practical, affordable pieces of kit instead of the most expensive laser firing doodad which will be out “next year” ad infinitum.

  165. @ ArmChairCivvy

    It would seem that the hangar can have 10 “B”s and 22 Merlins in combination, plus whatever is held on deck.

    Are you sure the RAF Merlins have folding rotors to get into the hangar?
    Most images have 5 F35s at the front alongside the ski ramp and another 5 aft between the lift and the deck edge. Both locations seem safe from flight ops. There is also space beside the islands for the 4 Merlin AEW. So that would give 20 F35 and 26 Merlin, do they need a SAR helo or 2 as well?

  166. @ Observer

    That is how James sees the British Army as a sort of wholly owned overseas subsidiary of the US Army. :)

  167. James and Observer,

    I’m having real problems with this 160kg trooper – he’s totally immobile. He carries a similar weight to a wounded soldier.

    I really don’t believe that the initial wave of troops would be statically positioned. Sorry.

    Are there any Marines on here that can confirm that the initial wave of an assault on enemy held territory would be with heavy, immobile troops?

    In addition, I’ve always been lead to believe that a platoon would be 25 men – three troops of eight plus the platoon leader. I believe that an Army platoon is a bit bigger.

  168. @ Simon

    But that is the light infantry way. Train your best troops to the height of physical fitness and then weigh them down with everything you can. This is why sometimes you read of troops ditching even body armour.

    What happens is that the unit will leave its baggage at the start line (held by another unit) and then advance to contact with just the tools of their trade.

    It doesn’t make much sense does it? There arguments for foot patrols to have a couple of quads and trailers to lighten the load. But the argument against is that even these smallest of vehicles impinge on tactical mobility. This is one of the reasons why the US Army is investing in robotic mules; it must be remembered that mankind colonised the planet on the soles of his feet.

  169. @ Observer -laser firing Doodad. I recon the MOD can find a cheeky billion down the back of that couch they all sit on to buy one of them.

    Does any one get the impression that TD is just try to see how high he can get the comments counter on the new blog set up with all his cats and pigeons and talk of aircraft carriers.

  170. x,

    You say that’s the “light infantry way”, but does that include a Royal Marine Commando?

  171. X @ 8.29

    On the issue of the load a foot soldier is expected to carry – mental.
    The size and weight of his personal backpack is ridiculous.
    Any footage of foot patrols in A/stan would make you weep.
    They are not soldiers, they are camels with a gun.

    I have to laugh abot the concerns people raise regarding quads to help lighten the load.
    How much tactical mobility has been lost by asking soldiers to carry a huge backpack?
    They turn foot patrols into a waddle – everybody moves in slow motion.

  172. Simon,

    the weight referred to is not for fighting – it is the load carried ashore. For fighting / patrolling, you strip down to about 20 kilos of load, being ammunition and batteries, mostly. The rest is dumped centrally and brought up later by logistics vehicles, or returned to and carried for foot-borne movement.


    I’m curious about your belief that I see the Army as the US’s Ghurkas. From where do you get this notion?

  173. The backpacks in Afghan are carrying very important things the absence of which would see casualties sky rocket. That’s the nature of the beast in that AO. I know the blokes would rather carry the weight than constantly get fucked up with there being nothing they can do about it.

  174. @ Simon – I think TD is just trying to rub it in the faces of the nameless Think Tank.

    It’s that or he just want’s to see if the new comments feature will crash again when it get’s over 1000.

    Not sure what is going on but I smell conspiracy and ISO container’s.

  175. James @ 9.23

    Even 20kg is too much in that environment.
    What weight is the gun?

  176. IF the Italians (and maybe Spanish) also finally purchase the F-35B, would it be concievable for them to also operate from a RN CVF during a NATO operation? The same goes for other nations Helo assets. Trying to be optimistic I can see the CVF(s) being a very useful NATO asset even if they are not used as true Carriers.

    Also if you put a paletised Fuel container in the back of an V-22 would it be a viable AAR platform? I know it has been discussed befor but I would like to see a small V-22 purchase to provide AAR/AEW&C and maybe inproved long range COD, maybe 10-12 airframes sometime around 2025

  177. Hi Jim,

    RE “Are you sure the RAF Merlins have folding rotors to get into the hangar?”
    – they WILL have

    RE “Most images have 5 F35s at the front alongside the ski ramp and another 5 aft between the lift and the deck edge. Both locations seem safe from flight ops. There is also space beside the islands for the 4 Merlin AEW.
    -So that would give 20 F35 and 26 Merlin, do they need a SAR helo or 2 as well?”

    Simon got us some good indications earlier with his supernatural space perception … I just simply went to Beedall’s Section 24 and divided the max number of B’s and the max for SeaKings (each roughly a Merlin) by two and combined the halves
    – the ASW, AEW, CSAR, AH was all in the “small print”, ie. what could the rest of the Task Force carry (with Ocean already retired)
    – I was not including anything carried on the deck (as I am not aware of what kind of conditions the various pieces can tolerate; cfr. the well wrapped-up Harriers on the Atlantic Conveyor)

  178. Hi Simon,

    Not all of it will be carried, once you have the feet squarely on the ground, RE ” having real problems with this 160kg trooper – he’s totally immobile”
    – cfr. WW2 recce patrol behind the lines, estimated duration 1 week: 40-50 kg CARRIED, plus personal weapon
    -Jomping in the Falklands: 90 pounds on your back (again: add personal weapon?)
    – neither of those figures would include water; in the first wave you would carry your own for 24 hrs… how much is that?

  179. 20kg is the nature of the beast. Infantry don’t spend time on fitness and aggression for no reason.

  180. thanks paul g,
    just to validate the scenarios in our discussion, now we need a similar piccie for a C-17 doing the same

  181. Yeah, but extending the already impressive range by the new Voyager fleet
    … has it been done

    Next : How many C-17s for a bn-sized drop (at an extended range); gives an idea of how many tankers on the way (and where from, if not tagging along)

  182. @ FBOT re SA80 A2 L85

    Google is your friend,

    Best to think of it more as system not just a rifle; a gun is large thing that is operated by the RA or RHA btw. The SUSAT is a thing of wonder. And the bayonet for a mass produced piece of cutlery is rather good. But as somebody with an engineering background, if not a firearms enthusiast, you wouldn’t care much for the rifle itself if your saw the competition. Even after being breathed on by H&K it is tawdry; it feels cheap and the plastic feels very plastic. In terms you would understand it is very much Rover not Ford and definitely not BMW. It doesn’t feel heavy but that is more to do with the balance of bullpup layout; it feels “pointable”. But if you were to put it on a table, without shooting it, next to say an M4 or HK416 you wouldn’t take the SA80. Let alone compared to exotica like a Beretta ARX 160.

  183. Phil @ 10.55

    In what context?

    You start with 18/19yr olds – immature physically by some margin.
    Then you try to improve their fitness and their aggression.

    You are not really starting with top quality raw material so their is a limit to what you can do.

    Consequently to load them up like mules is not the way forward, 20kg and more backpack plus a gun results in patrols waddling about with limited freedom of movement and a big target on their back.

    Not sure of the solution, just that one is needed.
    From reports I have seen the BA are working on this.
    Just a case they need to “move faster” with their work on electrical trolleys and similar contraptions.

  184. @ Simon

    Yes. Royal Marines are light infantry. A Royal Marine party trick, often deployed to aid trapping, is to show easily they can do push up with a fully loaded bergen. They are scarily healthy chaps. But 25 to 30 kg is a lot to carry all day even if you are strong.

  185. LJ v22 would be interesting in that role. I’ve always thought one of the big disappointment with the yellow sea king decision was any hope of having a csar capability. So maybe a csar osprey/sf insertion/cod maybe a option.

    Using cvf in such a way is possible. It may also interesting to see how much non jsf nations embark on cvf. Perhaps having a LO a/c on a French carrier when the French were not involved in the program may have been a tad problematic.

    Acc don’t think we do aar in c17 it’s USAF standard after all. Nice pic TD but can’t help think it’s somewhat of a waste to use c17 as a troop transport.

  186. FBOT,

    the infantry have always been heavily laden. It’s inevitable.

    There are two variants though. The names have probably changed now, but in my day it was CEFO – Combat Equipment Fighting Order, and CEMO – Combat Equipment Marching Order. CEFO was all you needed for 24 hours, CEMO everything for 3-5 days. I can’t remember the standard weights, but it was something like 20 kilos including weapon and radio for CEFO and 50 kilos extra for CEMO which included 200 rounds for the section MG and two 81mm mortar bombs. You get used to it.

    Things started getting worse in NI when you had to carry the ECM gear on top of CEFO, although the CEFO in NI was rather stripped down, and from what I can see from AFG and Iraq, it’s no better there. There’s also body armour as well. Research into lightweight batteries would be money well spent.

    Both the RM and Infantry have standard tests both in training and normally annually at the unit. The RM do 30 miles cross country in fighting order in 8 hours, the infantry 8 miles in fighting order in 90 minutes and 20 miles in marching order in 8 hours. (I may be out of date – that was certainly the case 10 years ago, but things evolve all of the time).

  187. Waddling is an Afghan thing. It is necessary because the nature of the conflict requires regular, prominent patrols amongst the civilian population. Blokes aren’t firing and manoeuvring to meet the Imam or chat to locals. In a more conventional conflict the patrol will carry what it needs and nothing more. A fighting patrol will be light and fast but light is relative. Munitions and water weigh a lot. It’s too bad.

    Weight will always be a problem. It’s more of a problem in Afghan but not in all operations.

    20kg is nothing frankly. It’s bread and butter. And I don’t understand your comments about the poor raw material. Are we recruiting homeless people?

  188. Thanks Mark,

    I thought that was the case… was just too lazy to check (but inspired by the Bold Alligator propaganda piece), RE
    “Acc don’t think we do aar in c17 it’s USAF standard after all”
    – so the Grizzly, then,it is. Not a bad range (!) with just troops onboard

  189. Phil / James et al

    Lightweight batteries should not be an issue.
    Money being spent big time on systems for computers / hybrid autos.
    Any thoughts on a solar collector?

    Poor subject matter – 18yr olds – not good enough for front rank sports unless you are a man/boy like Wayne R or Duncan E for the more mature amongst us, consequently if our standards have been set to match their capabilities then they are too low.

    Without sounding like an 80’s pop song, I think war should be over 21’s only. Fair enough to do basic training but actual rough stuff should be heavily age limited.

    Regarding the standards / tests – fair enough to get physical fitness sorted but doing this in battle at marching weights is a waste of energy.

  190. FBOT,

    I don’t know anything about current battery technologies or weights.

    Solar collecting probably not realistic – you cannot rely on it being sunny, the panels are often shiny and will glint, the straight edges poor for concealment, and being on the outside will inhibit quick access to kit in pouches. Plus probably not soldier-proof. They may be OK for vehicles, but power is not normally an issue on a vehicle.

  191. There’s uber lightweight batteries out there right now. Massive difference in weight. Solar charging even in Afghan is a painful process not really practical.

    18/19 years olds can be perfectly fit enough to fight. PARA Reg churn out robust and very fit 18 year olds all the time. They can tab with the weight fine.

    The new magpul magazines are surprisingly lighter though.

  192. with ref to amphib landings (my experience is limited to going round the isle of wight for 24 hours before “storming” the beach in my 4 tonne box body [from a mexeflote TD])! Will the gameplan change somewhat if PACSAT gets into service? The offical blurb vid on youtube says it can do 4 runs in the same time as a LCU can do 1. Also again repeating myself (who cares) WRT heli lift with the K-MAX having a new lease of life that could be an option stores carried by that (greater external hook lift than merlin) troops in merlin has to be better than losing the 2nd troop lifting merlin for supplies/ammo/etc. Contra rotors in my eyes no need for folding 1 man crew, bingo!!

    to finish on a lighter note perhaps SF could get ashore on this!!

    and the vid

  193. @Simon

    You might not want to believe it, but as James and Phil said, being a mule is part and parcel of the game. My loadout already involves a 40kg radio set (+batteries, dipole antenna and handheld modem) and 12kg of sensors. It seriously sucks, once you sit down, you need help getting up, and this isn’t counting extra clothing and food and water or even things like your rope and carabina and gloves for rappelling. Sometimes we cheat by leaving most food and extra clothes behind, and survive the whole deployment on hardtack and water alone. Your stomach will curse you, but your back thanks you and at least you can move. With help.

    RE Solar collectors, no way in hell. You got too many things drawing power (TI/NVG/NVB/Radio/Modem/sensors) and solar is notoriously inefficient and unreliable and the panels/sheets get damaged way too easily and as already mentioned, damn hard to conceal from air.

  194. Hi guys. Silly question coming up but here it goes….

    Now that we are back to the B variant that obviously means both carriers will get ski ramps. However what will happen with the flight deck itself? Will it be angled like the post 2010 images showed or revert back to the older, straight design?

    It’s only a rather minor observation and I know their is no need for it anymore. However I just felt that the angled deck made the ships look more impressive, like real super carriers and not like a couple of huge Invincibles.

    If anyone could answer my question then that would be great.

  195. Challenger,

    I can’t imagine that the deck would be marked out deliberately wrongly to un-aid the pilots takeoff.

  196. James, Observer, plus all other chaps on the ground,

    Hats off to you all with that weight.

    I hate to think about the damage you’re doing to your knees and spine with those kinds of loads.

    Why do you all carry batteries (I assume you mean the electrical kind)? Why doesn’t one chap in the troop carry a radio-isotope thermoelectric generator – we are, after all a nuclear power? They’re used on deep space probes simply because they last a long time and are light weight – relatively.

  197. @Simon

    Yeah, knee problems are among the most common medical problems in Singapore, I’m at a local hospital and you almost get 1 case of knee replacement per day. Heven knows what the load is like in a regional hospital. Other than armour. Their main problem is lung cancer…

    Re: nuclear batteries, other than the political fallout and what happens when one of those things get hit (area contamination + MOPP gear is a must + refueling), those generators that you talk about only generate a trickle of power to ion thrusters and sensors and even then, through capacitors and using burst transmission. They’re very low energy, I can see it powering a radio, but not with all the other stuff attached (Night vision devices x 2, modem, Thermo-imager, seismic sensors, camera etc + Laptop for the sensors). They do use it in medical stuff like pacemakers, which gives a general guideline of how much power they actually produce.

  198. You know I like to simplify things into a bit of maths, but is it reasonable (going on what James said about the 1-day 20kg and 3-5day 50kg additional weigths) to assume the following (ish):

    SA80 assault rifle 5kg
    Other (rope, bivvy, clothes, etc) 5kg
    2 mortar bombs 10kg
    200 MG rounds 10kg
    Consumables (SA80 ammo, water, food, etc) 10kg per day???

    I guess it’s the last bit I’m really interested in – i.e. the daily weight usage to keep a trooper alive.

  199. Observer,

    I kind of regret suggesting the radio-isotope. Just trying to “think outside the box”.

    Got it… excersise bike with dynamo ;-)

  200. @Simon

    I appreciate that, I’m not talking about paint.

    I meant that in several images of the carriers post SDR their was a very clear overhang to accommodate the angled flight deck.

    With Queen Elizabeth already rather far in-to the construction phase is their now going to have to be more changes made? Are we going to have a carrier retrofitted a second time back to the original specifications that existed prior to the first retrofit! (if that makes sense)?

  201. Simon, re the nuclear battery

    apart from all of the eco-greenwash worries Observer mentions of it being blown to pieces by a shell, there’s a few more practical reasons:

    1. It is going to be in the wrong place when you need it.
    2. It is a single point of failure.
    3. Batteries come in many bespoke sizes and voltages and connectors.
    4. You can just guarantee that the soldiers are going to find a way of breaking it, or wiring it up to something inappropriate.

  202. Hi Observer, RE
    “Other than armour. Their main problem is lung cancer…”
    – check your diet; in HK (where I go more than S-pore; even though I wish it was the other way round) the incidence of lung cancer is 7 x higher than for a comparable population (and no one there serves; so military acquitted)

  203. Challenger,

    Sorry, I see what you mean. Not sure that it matters either way. I think it was only POW that was going to be converted and I don’t think the build has progressed far enough to include that section of the flight deck.

    There are others here that will know much, much more about what has been built/committed to be built.

  204. Lung Cancer,

    Both HK and Singapore are densely populated industrial cities so will suffer more than other places that actually have lots of green space.

    I’d guess diesel and mobile phones are the main culprits – although this will be vehemently denied by petrochemical and communications companies… you know the same companies that said lead in petrol was okay… for business!

  205. Simon says “the damage you’re doing to your knees”

    It isn’t just the weight that causes them knee problems but all that stamping they do during drill. The navy being slightly more reserved don’t stamp about like 3 year olds……… :) ;)

  206. James,

    When you say batteries come in various sizes, voltages, etc, do you mean you carry around AA, AAA, C, D cells? I would have thought the quickest and easiest way to reduce load is to standardise on a power pack that has mutliple voltage outputs and connectors. It really isn’t difficult.

  207. RE. AEW.

    Aren’t the F35’s with their ‘fantastic’ top secret sensor package and next gen radar/sensors with high capacity network comms an actual AEW aircraft in itself. I.E. instead of lack of E2 capability then a AEW&C Merlin plus a F35B further out tasked with AEW is sufficient?

  208. The Other Chris. I suppose I must be The Original Chris!

    I don’t believe the 2023 date. I don’t believe the £5bn. I don’t believe it will be cheaper over 30 years. The EMALS situation needs clarification – 2 weeks ago it appeared there were no problems with the conversion and the US publicly stated the price and that it would not rise. Are there any documents to back up what Hammond was saying – both in his statement and in answer to questions after? I find this more important than what an ex-newspaper editor said to Comedy Dave and vice versa in between Angry Birds marathons.

    But what really made me choke today was that other clown – Richards – saying in the Telegraph that STOVL rather than CV was OK because of our “major investment in air-to-air refuelling”. Major overspend, I grant you, but I can’t see Voyagers refuelling F-35s before they enter enemy airspace on many occasions. Surely, a buddy pack will be needed and at least 1 of the 12 will be so configured at all times.

    Re. Harrier III. I still think we missed a trick by not going ahead with P.1216!

  209. Chris, NAB made an informative post about the issue with EMAL, either here or on the vent your spleen. Basically as far as I could make out EMALS was not a mature design when they were trying to make it fitted for but not with and the actual changes required were underestimated. They though 80 compartments would have to be altered and it turned out that it would actually be 200.
    Interestingly enough the planners have said that the range and payload difference actually makes little difference for envisaged ops.

  210. Simon,

    batteries are mostly brick sized for man pack radios and ECM gear, and smaller but bespoke shapes / sizes for other things like sights. I do recall that PRC 349 used AA batteries, but that was about it for commercial batteries.

    I recall a 5 day patrol in which I carried 3 batteries for the VHF 351 radio. Each weighed (according to a technical manual I still have for some unknown reason) 2.4 kgs, and were slightly bigger than house bricks. In addition were 3 batteries for the “White Sifter” ECM gear, much the same size and weight. Others in the patrol were carrying similar numbers of batteries for “Yellow Chimp” and “Brown something or other” ECM gear, and others still ammunition, extra water, night vision equipment, tripods, and we all carried hand saws and wire clippers to help get through the blackthorn hedges. That was only in Northern Ireland. Lord knows what else they carry in AFG nowadays.

  211. James,

    I guess this was at the same time that a mobile phone was the size of a housebrick too? I hope you’re not talking about brick sized lithium polymer batteries – if you need that much power then I’d guess it’s better for the engineers to put in a national grid before you do your assault ;-)

  212. JWD,

    That 750 men was landed on 6 assaults – we’ve been chatting about getting about that many in on a single assault with copters available from the front line amphibious vessels and QE. Looks a touch difficult to say the least.

    Hopefully we’ll order LHD1 of three in the near future… fat chance!

  213. Simon

    A ration pack stripped down weighs probably a couple of kilos.

    Water is really really dependent on what you are doing. If you’re fighting hard you’re going to use more water than you can reasonably carry. If you’re conducting patrols in a temperate environment you’d be good with about 2 litres a day.

    In Afghan the loads are horrendous and yes, knee’s, hips and backs are not being done any favours, but such is combat and war.

    If it was fun everyone would want to do it!

    My patrol load in Afghan as a medic was 39 kilogrammes excluding my rifle. That was just for short duration patrols. That was made up of:

    Osprey with front and back plates and side plates
    Med Bergan with kit (11 kgs)
    1 3L camelbak
    8 magazines with 25 rounds ea
    1 frag
    1 smoke
    1 bayonet
    1 set HMNVGs
    Spare batteries (AA for PRR, stubby ones for LLM)
    1 admin pouch (TAM, Gerber, compass, MIST cards, markers etc)
    1 personal med kit
    1 SIG P226 w/15 rounds
    1 drop leg with med kit
    1 set Tier 2 groin protection

    That was basic out and wonder about kit. It got heavier if we were out longer, food, more water, batteries etc

    As for batteries, radio and ECM got new light weight batteries when we were out there, MUCH lighter than the bricks James remembers. The PRR radio’s use 2x AA, the HMNVGs use 1x AA and the LLM use a funny stubby size I’ve not seen in civvy street.

  214. JWD ref:

    “Aren’t the F35′s with their ‘fantastic’ top secret sensor package and next gen radar/sensors with high capacity network comms an actual AEW aircraft in itself. I.E. instead of lack of E2 capability then a AEW&C Merlin plus a F35B further out tasked with AEW is sufficient?”

    No, not really, the F35’s traditional nose mounted radar can only point in one direction, scanning a rather limited slice of sky compared to an AEW platform. For sure it could “contribute” to the overall air picture compilation via Link 16, but it is no AEW platform.

    Just out of interest – according to wiki Merlin service ceiling is 15,000FT, if it can reach this altitude with a SearchWater or LM AESA pods then it’s radar horizon against a sea skimmer at 10ft is 154 nautical miles. If we say the T45’s mast is 120FT high, then it will only spot said sea skimmer at 17 nm

    Radar horizon calculator:

  215. @Phil

    Medic! Where the hell is your stretcher??!! :P


    I won’t be surprised if it were. Power usage for those things are horrendous, and despite all the tech improvements, basic power needed to broadcast a specific range for radios is still the same, the physics don’t change.

    Think you misunderstood about the population comparison. The rest of the services don’t have that high a rate of lung cancer as compared to armour. We suspect it has something to do with particle inhalation. If it was country environmental, all the services would have about the same rate.

    Re: Weight

    And those that were described by Phil, James and I got off easy. One of my unit mates got stuck with hauling the Log-Periodic antenna as well. Google it.

    “You can just guarantee that the soldiers are going to find a way of breaking it, or wiring it up to something inappropriate.”

    With the corresponding radiation leakage…

  216. Observer,

    Can’t imagine that antenna can be camouflaged in many ways!

    As for the lung cancer, yup I got the wrong end of the stick, but diesel particulates are a major contributor, although nearly always denied.

  217. @james, brown was joker, also came in red and blue flavours. sextant was vehicle carried in 353 casing, antler came in about 86-87 think that was brown as well. chimp was in 351 case and was mainly yellow and red, jokers were powered by AA. The ATU (antenna tuning unit) on the chimp was an afterthought because the chimp didn’t work without it and it cost a fortune (see fu*k ups and paying the company loads to sort out their fu*k ups is nothing new). Can you guess what i spent 2 years of my REME career fixing?

  218. Paul G,

    I did my first NI S Armagh tour before I did my RSO course, so was less informed then. I dimly remember all of these Brown / Blue / Red / White / Yellow etc ECM gear all covered slightly different parts of the spectrum, and we needed most if not all to cover the whole patrol.

    I also remember White Sifter was spectacularly good at blotting out the TV broadcasts. So, after a bit of a set-to on a Friday night with some beered-up boyos in a Gaelic club in Newry, I mounted a town centre patrol the following mid afternoon with every second man carrying White Sifter (couldn’t get any more). It was the occasion of the all-Ireland Hurling final from Croke Park in Dublin, and everyone was crowded into a couple of pubs in the centre to watch it. Ha ha ha ha. Plus we then did PID checks on them all, which kept most out and on the street until well after 3 am the next morning. We had to have a second RUC shift to cover that, and a second set of dogs.

    (I had had a small fridge dropped onto my back by the Fenians the week or so before, so was in no mood to make life easy).

  219. @Chris

    “says: May 11, 2012 at 17:18; I suppose I must be The Original Chris!”

    Unless you joined more than a year ago, then you are in fact a Junior Chris. The more Chris’s the better though. We can form some kind of Chris subgroup within the TD community.

    Re; Weight (mainly FBOT)

    As someone who does a fair bit of weight lifting, once you reach a certain strength level then 20kgs really does become small change. You have to remember that “felt weight” (how heavy you perceive an object to be) decreases as strength increases, to the point where I can imagine that having it spread over your shoulders would not feel that heavy.

    For those who are in/recently come out (shall we say 10-15 years?) how much barbell training do the military a) make you do and b) suggest you do?

  220. Well this has bee discussed to death – sad to say I think we made the right decision even though I think we’ll be left with our pants down later this year when the F35B dies.

    The real scandal is the apparent reason behind the epic cost increases in modifying the carriers. TD found this article ( which says that the work required to fit EMALS requires a major redesign of most of the upper structures in the deck. ‘Far more invasive than planned’ is the phrase that caught my eye.

    Is that not a contract breach by the Carrier Alliance, in a carrier design that was supposed to be ‘readily converted to cats and traps’? That needs to be exposed – and I’m delighted to say I think Hammond seems to be the man for the job.

  221. SI, NAB posted quite an informative summary of the reasons. The main point being that EMALS was nowhere near mature enough during the CVF design phase to make a proper assessment of what would be required to convert.

  222. All PATS @ 17.24

    The whole blame game regarding the cost of CATOBAR tells you all you need to know about why the country is in the state it is.

    Absolutely no analysis from the media – churnalism in the mainstream and new age media.
    Pre pack stories regurgitated by the pliable and the lazy to the gullible and the easily led.
    Agendas being worked in the open without any questioning or dissenting voices.

    If the EMALS design was not mature then the arrangements to accommodated it should have reflected this state of affairs – just what form did BWoS expect it to take when they were making sure the design of the CVF was adaptable? If the design / technology was immature then the arrangements should have reflected this – ie big spaces / flexible layouts / design re-use.

    The CVF was claimed to be adaptable by those getting paid to do the work.
    When faced with reality this was then changed to no not really, reality did not live up to our understanding.
    Consequently please pony up a lot of extra cash so that we can do the job we claimed we could do in the first place.

    Good work if you can get it.

    Numbers are thrown about without any challenge being made to what it actually means.
    The talk relates to 250 compartment needing changes rather than the 80 that was the initial number.
    The question has to be what sort of EMALS did BWoS design for in the first instance?
    Surely uncertainty breeds big estimates and certainty generates small Actuals.

    That is the way engineering in the real world works, why should BWoS / MOD ship design be any different? This is the reality gap that is destroying the MOD / Services in the UK, the current system is so rotten that the extraordinary has become Matter of fact.

    At least we have some numbers.
    Contact / Component cost = £125mill.
    This provides for 2 EMALS and a AAG delivered to Fife by GA.
    Cost to fit this to PoW / second ship in class is heading towards £2bill.
    At what point did absurdity leave the building?
    The total cost of two hulls is £5-6bill including design / research / FoC costs
    We have had nudges and winks to suggest that the PoW cost approximates to £1bill.
    We are now expected to believe that this coat will triple because we are going CATOBAR – tripe of the highest order..

    Now, finally onto the 250 compartment figures – how EMALS will cause this level of change.
    First the number is pure data – no context to generate information – how many compartments are in the CVF?
    Then more context – where are the compartments – are they in the hull blocks or hangar / FD slices?
    Next up more context – are the changes structural, volumetric or equipment driven?

    All we have is a number – 250 – and a cost – £2bill – and we are expected to push it through on the nod.
    The whole situation stinks – agenda driven, cost inflated – it has nothing to do with what is best / correct / right for the RN.

  223. @ FBOT

    It is when you compare CVF to CdeG things go a bit off. Many of CdeG’s “problems” would have been solved by having an extra 10k tons of displacement. There is an awful lot crammed into that ship. CVF seems “full” but doesn’t seem to offer much beyond what CdeG offers. What has that 23k tons been used for? As I have said before if CVF was meant to be adaptable for CATOBAR the space in reserve should have been enough to fit a conventional steam system. CdeG being a nuclear ship has no problem generating steam. I don’t believe that steam generators, arrestor gear handling spaces, catapults etc. would use up 23k tons of volume. Don’t believe? I know it can’t possibly require that much volume. We have a ship that is equal in size to both CdeG and Ocean combined yet will not perform better than either of the former. I will be disappointed if CVF turns out to be lemon once it is under going trials. If that is the case I hope HMG screws BAE into the ground.

  224. FBOT

    I found this reference over here at post 28:
    Translated from the French by Google:

    “Note that the French have focused last year on this issue, Paris has proposed to recover the hull of the Queen Elizabeth to make an aircraft carrier catapults and thus have a second building to support the Charles de Gaulle. But this track was eventually excluded because of the cost of work required. “It (HMS Queen Elizabeth, ed) require between one billion and one billion euros and a half to change, including adaptation of part of the hull to install catapults,” and had said Admiral Guillaud, Chief of Defence Staff, at a hearing before the Defence Committee of the National Assembly, October 5, 2011.”

    So, if I understand correctly, the French looked into taking the half built hull of QE off our hands in mid 2011 (presumably when less finished than relevant to current estimates now) and putting steam catapults on it, and the cost then was 1-1.5 billion Euros.

    Not that it exonerates a flexible design culpably not designed for flexibility, but at least its another data point to triangulate with.

    PS: what cost to “getting medieval on its arse with blow torches” and raise the deck to make space instead of mucking about with reconfiguring compartments?

  225. @FBOT: it’s more evidence, if more were needed, that the presumably deliberate exclusion of Newport News from the design contracts was Euro-insanity of the highest order.

  226. Sorry coming late to responding and I may have missed some comments so maybe repeating other posters – if so I do apologise.

    I agree, not the ideal solution but not dreadful and at least a decision has been made, we will have two carriers giving all year round coverage, and combined with today’s PR12 maybe we can have some stability and sensible planning at last.

    But I really, really hope that the provide the CVFs with an angled flight deck and arrestor wires. Why?

    a) We can at least recover our allies’ Rafales, F18s, Hawkeyes and F-35Cs even if they cannot launch again. It might even provide and option for one-way CoD if it was required.
    b) It gives us an option so that, should something unforeseen happen to the F-35B (which I now doubt – not the case 12 months ago) we could go STOBAR Sea Gripen, Tejas or even (gasp) Typhoon!

    I would also rather see the RN have two dedicated F35 squadrons and so enable one squadron to be embarked permanently – ideally with 18 and not 12 aircraft. By all means have the training and servicing done jointly though.

    And one final comment on PR12 – where oh where is the MPA regeneration? Most of the rest I can live with.

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