CVF Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment FOI


In a casual perusal of FOI requests this one stood out

Dear Ministry of Defence,

Were other inovations and designs of catapult considered before EMALS was selected for use on the Queen Elizabeth class?

If so, what were they and to what level were costings completed?

The response…


Thank you for your email dated 24 May 2012 in which you ask whether consideration was given to alternative designs of catapult and arrestor gear for the QE Class carriers, other than the Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Your letter has been passed to me to respond as it falls within the responsibility of Defence Equipment and Support.

You may be aware that the Secretary of State for Defence announced to the House of Commons on 10 May 2012, that we will be reverting to a Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) based carrier strike capability using the F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, rather than the Carrier Variant (CV) of the JSF.

In the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the Government committed to a future carrier strike capability based around the new QE Class carriers as part of Future Force 2020, announcing that one would be fitted with catapults and arrestor gear (cats and traps) to enable operation of the Carrier Variant (CV) of the JSF. At that time however, we said that more detailed investigatory work was needed before a decision could be taken on conversion. That work, known as the Conversion Development Phase (CDP), had matured sufficiently by the spring of this year to provide both the MOD and Industry with a much better understanding of the technical risks associated with conversion to a CV-capable carrier. This greater understanding underpinned the 10 May announcement, as it was clear that an operational Carrier Strike capability, based on the CV JSF and a ship fitted with cats and traps, could not be delivered until 2023 at the earliest.

Prior to the detailed investigatory work undertaken during the CDP, a number of Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) solutions were considered and discounted. These included two electro-magnetic catapults – the Electro-Magnetic Catapult (EMCAT) produced by the UK company, Converteam, and an alternate version of the EMCAT system produced by US company, The Steelman Group, Inc. Following initial consideration and discussions with the respective companies, both EMCAT systems were discounted as not being sufficiently technologically mature to offer a viable solution. Consequently, neither option was costed.

Steam-based catapults were also considered for the QE Class, and initial indicative costs were obtained for these during the early stages of our CDP work. However, due to the fact that the use of steam would have necessitated the installation of unique generation plants (thereby increasing the amount of time needed for conversion), and compared with the greater operational capability of EMALS (currently in development by General Atomics and planned to be fitted to the US FORD Class carriers), these early estimates were not developed any further.

I hope that this has clarified the situation with regards to the ALRE options that were considered for the QE Class both before and during the CDP.

There you go


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Interesting, odd that this whole thing wasn’t debated back when it mattered/there was money.


“Following initial consideration and discussions with the respective companies, both EMCAT systems were discounted as not being sufficiently technologically mature to offer a viable solution.”

And steam catapult

“these early estimates were not developed any further.”


“EMALS (currently in development)”


Jump ramp + F-35B.


Options, options.
Why does it have to be steam? Movie special effects use compressed air catapults to launch cars into the air. You could use electric power to drive a compressor, so no steam generating or trunking.
Failing that, why not copy the Russians/Indians, with a ski ramp + arrester wires? A cheap flexible solution.


It is easier to generate steam than compress air. Steam is a greater “store” of energy than compressed air.

Ski ramp and arrestor gear is Short Take-off But Arrestor Recovery (STOBAR) As has been pointed out here a few times we don’t have a suitable ‘plane (without going Russian) and it is inefficient in use of deck space.


Does no one else fi nd it a bit odd that one of the reasons steam was not considered was EMALS but when EM catapults were considered EMALS wasn’t one of them, only EMCAT and a derivative – WTF?


The bottom line is the CVFs should have had all this from the start and the contract was messed up by Blair/Brown. We are going to end up spending billions on very little capability.


If QE/PoW had arrester wires then a USN/French/Indian/Brazilian jet low on fuel could at least land on a British carrier, even if it had to be craned off in port.
STOBAR gives you more aircraft options than STOVL. The only option for STOVL is the F-35B. For STOBAR all modern agile jets become options for modification. BAE has pushed STOBAR Typhoon to the UK & India. Gripen is probably a contender. If France completes the deal to India, then Rafale will probably be modified for STOBAR.


The logical and I think honest reply is very informative. It all stands to reason.

The reason CATOBAR was considered at initial design stage was because EMALS was just not a realistic option; still very much at concept stage. I understand changing to CATOBAR later, I don’t understand the costs and time issues that resulted from this change, and more importantly I am not sure they aren’t being hidden.

I have less problems with the plane than the ship design so maybe a small EMALS can be fitted later for UAVs


Hi JH,

Doubt it ” If France completes the deal to India, then Rafale will probably be modified for STOBAR”
– they are in the process of taking delivery of roughly the same number of MIG29Ks as we are getting “B”s for setting up a carrier wing

Interesting that the two EMCAT solutions were not examined in depth. What would be fascinating would be to know if any sort of low key development of these (or related) equipments is still ongoing.

It opens the door to the possibility that with some careful design work and lateral thinking the cost for retrofitting some sort of electronic ALRE system could actually come down as the technology matures.

I still wouldn’t rule it out for around 2030 when we are making hard choices about a successor for Typhoon. The savings from going to a single manned FJ type would be considerable.


We had a discussion of STOBAR. I used to be quite keen on a STOBAR Rafale solution (the numbers are pretty good, especially with the new engine), but I wasn’t paying attention to some important points.

If you go that way, you still get all the embuggerance of arrester landings – all the extra structure to cart about and the heavier fatigue load, plus the greater training requirement, and the operational problems, like needing a tanker overhead every time you recover aircraft, and fuel planning to come back with enough fuel to bingo to a land base.

But you don’t get the benefit of catapult launching aircraft in very heavy configurations. (which gives you a problem with regard to the tactical tanker) And the launches and landings both need the whole length of the deck, so deck management is more complicated than either CATOBAR or STOVL operations.

It keeps all the problems of “land then stop” but doesn’t give the advantages of “hurl arbitrarily big objects into the sky”.

I don’t know what the Indians are planning to do for tanking, for example, but then that depends on their operational concept. If they plan to operate like the Russians with the K ship, they are probably happy with using the carrier as a flagship with quite a bit of its own armament and a forward refuelling point.


With this stobar option for typhoon, rafale, gripen ect what does the a/c use to control itself between leaving the end of the ski jump and gaining sufficient fwd moment to achieve wing born flight and how much redesign of there complex flight control care free handling systems will be required. F35b/harrier overcomes this with thrust vectoring and the Russian jets have excellent post stall characteristics built in from the begining most likely because the carefree software development wasn’t as gd as the west.

El Sid

You’re misreading it. EMALS was considered alongside EMCAT. EMALS was not listed as considered-but-discounted because it was considered-and-selected!

@Observer :
“EMALS (currently in development)”


Jump ramp + F-35B.

That was true when the original contracts were signed in the early noughties. So STOVL was a reasonable decision at that time. However by the time of the SDSR, the risk on EMALS had been massively reduced – they had fired their first test weight equivalent to getting an F/A-18 flying in September 2010, so you could argue that it was a reasonable decision to change to CATOBAR based on that change in the facts.


@ John H

The question was asked, why aren’t we using STOBAR?, I gave the reasons. I am not advocating either way.

And as for ” For STOBAR all modern agile jets become options for modification.”

No for the reasons Mark gave. And I wasn’t fully cognisant of why “no” was the correct answer until he spelled it out to me. The more you know about it the poorer option it becomes. Has fuel vs ordnance and take-off weight been mentioned?

I admit STOVL only giving us one option airframe wise doesn’t look too clever. Perhaps back in 82 after “that war” HMG should have pushed BAE into starting designing Harrier’s replacement? Why that didn’t I don’t know. Perhaps Harrier was a little too successful down south, who knows?


Arrester wires still let you land low on fuel allied jets.
Yes you may need some new lines of code for STOBAR, but not the end of the World is it? + you might be able to use some STOL transports.


If I was the captain of CVF I wouldn’t want ‘planes that weren’t deck qualled on my vessel attempting a landing. It would be such a rare event if ever. A multi-billion pound ship verses one allied jet no.


The pr of saving an allied aircraft should not be sniffed at.


Nor should the potential embarrassment of loosing your carrier to a few months refit or putting your own airframes on deck at risk.

What makes carrier operations expensive is the high risk and high attrition. Planes virtually crashing landing don’t last as long even with beefed up gear. Ordnance sometimes has to be dumped. And so do airframes.


“Just how difficult carrier operations are is evident from figures, recorded by Robert Rubel, which show that between 1949 and 1988 the US Navy and Marine Corps lost 12,000 aircraft and 8,500 aircrew.”



I believe that the whole adaptable design went wrong when we mis-costed the oil/nuclear option. i.e. nuclear allowing steam cat options. By the time we got to SDSR we had only the EM catapult versions to consider and they don’t currently exist… oh, well, actually, they bleedin’ well do, on every soddin’ roller coaster that’s been built in the last 20 years – “not being sufficiently technologically mature” – my rear end :-)


I assume allied naval pilots will have plenty of deck landing experience on the carriers of their own nation, so why should they automatically turn into a fireball on the deck of a RN carrier fitted with arrester wires?


x: mind you, the casualty rate for the RAF in the early jet age was absolutely terrifying – a machine for destroying Meteors and National Service Kevins – and I suspect that’s what your man’s stats are capturing. 6.7% of the total losses for the period 1945-1988 were in 1954 alone, I see.

Here’s the RAF data series from this PPRuNe thread:

Year|A/C Down|Deaths
1945 592 638
1946 1014 677
1947 420 176
1948 424 205
1949 438 224
1950 380 238
1951 490 280
1952 507 318
1953 483 333
1954 452 283
1955 305 182
1956 270 150
1957 233 139
1958 128 87
1959 102 59
1960 80 46
1961 74 55
1962 68 50
1963 60 41
1964 62 33
1965 46 71
1966 62 33
1967 60 60
1968 51 43
1969 31 22
1970 36 25
1971 40 72

People hate Duncan Sandys, but the 1957 defence review looks like it saved a remarkable number of lives (you wonder what % was accounted for by getting rid of the RAF Reserve flying squadrons, as weekend pilots on Meteors = nasty accidents). The thread is well worth reading for the stories (another goodie is here) – telling that the accident rate was so high there were students who washed out because they were terrified to move on to the Meteor.

Not a Boffin


The decision on steam (read nuclear) was made long before the “adaptable” design was even conceived – circa 1995 IIRC. The Staff Target (Sea) as was, (7068 I think) was explicit that the ship would be non-nuclear. That decision was made based on the difficulties (read cost!) that the US and the Sovs were having at the time in disposing of their nuclear propelled ships. People were also blissfully unaware of the potential industrial base issues looming in terms of reactor design and construction.

IIRC, the STOVL option has always been (standfast 2010-2012) the default preference, provided that it could meet the UK requirement. Personally I think a more rounded, open view of the CTOL option for both source of supply and ability to get OTS cabs for other requirements would have been more sensible, but the harsh facts are that EMALS/EMCAT were both pretty high-risk until the last 2-3 years, which in a risk-averse cost-constrained project is only going to lead one way.

With the benefit of hindsight, the nuclear option was probably worth looking at for a bit longer, but only in terms of reducing demand for F76. Using steam catapults is not something we want to be doing, EM is by far the preferable option, for which EMALS is definitely the leading option. Converteam were paid to do some more development work on their EMCAT, but why re-invent the wheel if you can get it off the shelf from the US? Particularly when you can get the US contract values for supply of the EMALS & EAR system in open source documents.

What is interesting about the FoI answer is what it doesn’t say. What elements of the estimate caused the cost to balloon from £900M+ to £2Bn? What work did this represent? Who conducted it? Did they have any conflicts of interest? Not expecting any of that to come out, but might make very interesting reading.

All OBE now because unless the F35B goes spectacularly t1ts-up, we ain’t going back.


Not a Boffin,

What you say concurs with a FOI request I made some time ago. I asked for the financial rationale/calcs for why oil/gas was considered more cost effective than nuclear for CVF. They said the info was too old and they couldn’t supply it.

This is the same department that could happily provide me with live ordnance utilisation figures for 1982, so I guess the decision was made well before the massive hike in oil costs happened.

It’s a no-bariner for me, the carriers should have been nuclear. They should have used 4? x PWRs. The same as used in Trafalgar/Astute. i.e. a common nuclear powerplant for all our military needs.

As for disposal, well we’ve got to sort that one out for household/commercial power generation so I don’t see it as an issue. It simply has to be sorted… or perhaps we should have wind/solar powered ships ;-)

Not a Boffin

To be fair to the MoD, some fairly explicit reports on the expenditure of munitions in Op Corporate were produced – some even open source, so that’s not too difficult to supply.

When you look at costing nuclear surface ship build, the UK has no direct experience at all. There would be considerable read-across from submarines, but not necessarily in terms of design requirements and standards. The costs involved in nuclear certification of the build yard would also have been considerable. I doubt any more detailed analysis than “would nuclear add X% or more to the build cost?” was undertaken and it’s a pretty fair guess that the number exceeded X. There would also have been some qualitative analysis on through-life costing and disposal, which could only have looked at the costs the US were experiencing and the way our boats were beginning to pile up in Rosyth and Devonport with no defined disposal route and concluded – “No f8cking way!”

Technically, fitting 2-4 PWR would probably have been a challenge in structural and space terms, but that’s another debate.


RE “It’s a no-bariner for me, the carriers should have been nuclear. They should have used 4? x PWRs.”
– I wonder if the French who have the experience, and put down £200m for being part of the early planning, decided for oil or nuclear for their PA2 (before it got canned)?

Not a Boffin

I think it was actually £100M for access to the “designs” circa 2005. At that stage, there was very little flesh on the bones of the design other than the propulsion system which was probably the most mature systems element of the design. Essentially it was a developed concept / feasibility design. Reputedly, the French Chief Engineer went ballistic when he realised how little they would get for the money they’d paid……


Not a Boffin,

Just for reference I asked for live ordnance used per type, per airframe type, per year from 1980 till now. They were happy to provide all the data for £8600. Guess I’ll have to start saving ;-)



My understanding is that once you get above 8000t the hull volume needed for any particular propulsion is much the same. It is where that volume is found that causes naval architects “problems”.



From my understanding the French were very concerned about the propulsion system within the PA2/CVF design.

Me too – I think she’s extremely under powered. I doubt she’ll manage the 25 knots they claim. She really needs 6 x 20MW drives rather than the 4 currently being installed… but what do I know!


@ Simon

Yep. The way to get more from less HP is too use innovative hulls forms. But aircraft carriers don’t lend themselves to such. Despite all those trimaran concept drawings from a few years back.


I’m not sure how nuclear power is a no brainer when you factor in just how expensive it is, If you’re merkin great not so much if you’re us. Three Gerald Fords are costing 42 BILLION US. The last Nimitz cost over 6 billion US and they’ve been building em for decades. They carry near 6000 crew and they have 11 of them they need to be nuclear and they have the cash and experience to do it right. We are just not in same ball park as the Americans. I think its better to compare to the French carrier, the one that breaks down all the time, needs to be refuelled every six years and is a first of class design, like ours.

In the US Refuelling costs billions. The last Nimitz to be refuelled could cost in the region of 3 Billion US to refuel by the time they finish though that includes updates and will take four years to finish. The USS Enterprise has eight!! reactors. Our latest sub reactors don’t exist yet (our current basic design is over 27 years old) and will be based off newer American designs (its been in the news)

Our Carriers are not being built to completely to military standards in the same way the US ones are, to basically save money. If we went Nuclear I just don’t see how we could do that, naking the things even more expensive than they already are.

There are a fascinating set of papers that can be found online written by people involved in designing the requirements for our Carriers as submissions to the Royal Institution of Naval Architects that pretty much show why we’ve ended up with what we are getting in design terms.


It is all in theory about through life costs, fewer oilers, greater utility, etc. etc.

What you have to consider is that a ship will use on average twice as much fuel at 30kts as at 20kts. Of course CVF will do a bit less than 30kts. Carrier ops are all about sailing into the wind at top speed, apparent wind, etc.


Carrier ops are all about sailing into the wind at top speed, apparent wind, etc.

That’s one advantage of STOVL aircraft speed, WOD etc not a factor.



WOD is very much a factor for STOVL ops.


Please can you provide a link to some of these “fascinating set of papers” I’ll be very interested if the design comes from anything other than 40 aircraft at 90 tonnes of AVCAT per five-days.

I think if you press the MoD you’ll find that nuclear would currently be cheaper in through-life-costs. In fact the US claim something about $100 a barrel (or something) being the break even for the new America class?


@ Jim

I was talking in general.


For those talking up the nuclear option mmoomin is right. The through life costs of our nuclear submarine fleet are truly epic, although I don’t have any figures to hand to prove that. However, the safety case associated with maintaining a nuclear plant (i.e. the terms and conditions under which Rolls Royce will agree to maintain your plant for you) are phenomenally restrictive and would severely impact on the availability of the carrier. The conventional option allows for shorter maintenance periods, at lower risk and potentially selecting from a variety of contractors. There is also the restrictive overseas berthing problem – there are few nuclear or Z-berths available for nuclear carriers, somewhat more for conventional vessels.

As for the CATOBAR/STOVL discussion the entire issue has nothing to do with practicality or technological maturity and far more about BAE workshare. Operating the C variant effectively makes Typhoon obsolete, and BAE is counting on many more years of Typhoon upgrades and maintenance. Clipping the F35’s wings secures them much more future work, and has no impact on the hundreds of airframes they’ll be building for the US military. Installation of the catapult would have been problematic if we let BAE do it, because they can’t even manage a basic refit of a frigate let alone a complex major system installation, and the sensible option of sailing the carrier to Newport News and letting the US fit it for us also diverts funds from BAE’s coffers. And BAE cut corners with the quality of the flight deck steel and the whole damned design, making the conversion doubly, triply expensive by having to basically redesign the entirety of the upper deck below the flight deck, thus completely exposing the lie that these carriers were ever designed to be ‘adaptable’.

I’m fairly sure the EMCAT system works on a small scale already, so a viable option to launch heavy UAV’s. If only we had any, or even the liklihood of funds to buy any.



What do you make of paragraph 6 of the following?

I know this is the USA but we are a nuclear power, have nuclear weapons, nuclear power stations and nuclear recycling facilities. Conventional power is short-sighted even for commerical/domestic applications!

How much power can a four acre flight deck generate if it were covered with solar panels ;-)

Not a Boffin


Redesign of the gallery deck doesn’t correspond to any GA drawing I’ve ever seen. The quality of the flightdeck steel has not had any corners cut – far from it – which is causing one or two other issues.


Any FD ops, STOVL, CTOL or pure rotary are very dependent on WoD. Funnily enough the STOVL SRVL serial will be even more so. However, the magnitude is probably about 5 kts less for STOVL cf CTOL.

X – we can generally sort most propulsion systems, 8000te or not. You’re correct in that it’s where the volume is required, coupled with the available tank top dimensions and prop sizes. Another area where trimarans/multihulls look good to the layman, but when you get into the detail it falls over fairly quickly.

Not a Boffin

Quick dumb questions if I may?

1) Is it possible the unexpectedly high cost of conversion to Cat ‘n’ Traps had to include additional gas turbines/propulsion gear/props to increase that Wind Over Deck to a safe range for CTOL?

2) Is it plausibly cheaper (at this stage in a build) to avoid mucking about with 260 odd compartments and just raise the whole deck with a new gallery the thickness of the arrestor gear? You would then reveal other problems I realise, including perhaps rebalancing the ship, but anyway?


Simon there were several designs considered from what I’ve read with a lot of variation of aircraft numbers. I still maintain going Nuclear isn’t the no brainer it’s made out to be with the UK’s limited budget. I’d rather not half ar** a project where you are going to build a very limited number of reactors for a very small ship class that is going to need a huge investment in maintenance facilities and basing for nuclear surface ships and be built to some very tough standards all of which will push the cost ever skywards. Based on the costs I think we’d only end up getting one carrier thus making the whole excercise pointless and little more than a eminently cancelable vanity project.

I apologise if this is verboten but this forum has a very interesting thread about UK carrier engineering


Also as I recall the America is a mixture of mechanical and electric propulsion.US Gator ships have not been particulary effieient. our new ships are fully electric drive so there won’t be the efficiency losses associated with prop shafts and gearing. I don’t see that its an apples to apples comparison.



But we already build reactors for 10-11 subs! Increasing the numbers of the same PWR2/3/4/etc would actually save money by increasing economies of scale for production, maintenance and disposal.

The argument cannot possibly be about the actual powerplant production or through life logistics because we already have that problem. The issue (as revealed by the MoD to me in a FOI request) was cost.

So, using this as a baseline we could suggest that if we needed 4 x PWR2 to operate a carrier the size of CVF (just picking numbers here) we’ll need 8 in total for both ships which will cost no more than the total cost of 8 Astute! We’re building 7 Astute so my ballpark is that 2 x nuclear carriers will have a similar through life cost as 7-8 Astute. i.e. Nuclear CVF costs a similar amount of money as our Astute fleet.

I think this would be money well spent.


The French assumed they could “just use a couple of SSN reactors” for Charles de Gaulle and had endless trouble, especially with the drive train (if that’s a word at sea). The ship ended up being underpowered and running flat out more often than expected, hammering the gearboxes.



That’s nothing to do with the actual power plant, that’s just bad gearbox and propshaft design. I think the US had similar problems with both Arleigh Burke and San Antonio. You would have thought we had all got that bit right by now!

Not a Boffin


Answer to both your questions is no. QE speed is sufficient to operate cats n traps (the latter is more demsnding), albeit with some operational issues.

“Rebalancing” the ship is another term for complete redesign. Doubt that the damaged stability case would pass with another deck on top.

Alex – I think you’ll find re CdG that the propeller design and build company did some rather naughty things, hence the props lost blades at sea and the ship initially ran with a spare pair of props from Foch. Interestingly the company’s offices were burned down in a fire shortly after things started going t1ts………

MMoomin – efficiency losses with boxes and shafts etc are typically low percentages. The main gain in efficiency for America will be moving from steam turbines and turbo alternators to an integrated power-station style approach.

Simon – I repeat – it would be very costly to work reactors into a surface ship design, both from a design rules and safety case PoV and also structurally & arrangement wise. As for solar panels, I’ve yet to see any that will routinely tolerate high point impacts, local heat input, scratches and having chocks and chains dragged across them, not to mention spills of fuel, hydraulic fluid. They need to be fairly high-friction as well….


Not a Boffin,

I was joking about the solar panels. What I’m really interested in is a wind turbine powered ship ;-)

Still don’t agree with you about the nuclear power plant though. Sorry. I agree it would very costly to re-work reactors into CVF. But reactors are heavy and would basically constitute the ballast of the ship design. Plus there is less change in displacement as miles are done. Plus you have more space for more aviation fuel.


But Simon the PWR2 design is based on the PWR1 design bought from the Merkins in 1965!! PWR2 is 27 years old itself. Our new bombers are going to have reactors based off much newer US designs and will take years to formalise the ball park cost designing them and the manufacturing facility is 3 billion (bet that grows).

Our current reactors/ practices fail ‘good practice’ guidelines stated by the regulator hence the switch to newer American designs, which are still not surface vessel designs and won’t be ready until the 2020s.

The total cost of 3 Astutes is 3.8 Billion.

I think we understand that the reason for not going nuclear is cost. As I said we are not America and we don’t have the design experience, capital expenditure, man power or surface fleet facilities to do what you are proposing thus it will cost a lot more money because we’ll have to build a lot of it up from the bare bones and the carriers would take even longer to tip up.

You add to that that we’re ignoring the extreme likelyhood that shoving several very heavy reactors into an aircraft carrier not designed for them will probably result in a total redesign. You’d be messing about with the bouyancy of the vessel, what would happen in pitching seas? You’d have to redesign all the compartments to maintain the stability of the vessel and to fit the things in. Currently two of the generators are in the sponsons I can’t see fitting two nuclear reactors in there would do much for the ships sea keeping or the ability to land any aircraft on them.



…then we’re hardly a nuclear power!

Without a project we’ll never get your “design experience”. That’s why the sensible French spend time making mistakes and learning on their power stations and CdG.

Just for note, I did not suggest redesigning CVF. The generators are in the sponsons so that we don’t have huge downtakes and they’re relatively light.

If the French can do it on a 40,000 tonner (still packing 3600 tonnes of aviation fuel) so can we. Or, if we take your attitude, we can’t.


I think you’re being a bit glib about the enormity of going nuclear powered. The French have had nothing but dramas.



As I understand it the CDG had ‘dramas’ primarily with it’s downstream, power plant :- Turbines, reduction gears, and propellers.

Rather than any issues with the reactor instillation itself.



I know CdG is a bit of a mockery but really they messed up the drive shaft / prop and built the runway too short for E2. Other than that I think she was an okay design.

However, I’m not really trying to be glib, I’m trying to point out that with the attitude of “it’ll never work” or “we can’t do that” then we’ll never achieve anything. It’s not a very British mentality!

Need to revert to a “can do” / “will try” ethos.


Going back to the Americans they’ve had a drum beat of carrier construction for decades so they know what they are doing. Even then the Gerald Ford class was supposed to cost 8 billion ish to build and is now looking at 43 billion for three.

As it is we are building the two biggest naval vessels the UK has ever seen with a lot of revolutionary technology in them. We haven’t operated proper carriers since 78 and built a ‘proper’ carrier since the 40s/50s. Theres enough can do technical challenge in there as it is. I think it’s been forgotten that what we are getting is a massively complex and difficult project as it is.


I’m not sure I’d go the nuclear route, I’d be happy with turbines and integrated propulsion technologies. Certainly CATOBAR, EMALS, Nuclear and new first of class massive ships sounds high risk doesn’t it?


There are only a few reasons to go nuclear for a large carrier but, to me, they are incredibly valuable and worth every penny.

1. Freedom and range – no reliance on any other ship.
2. Cheap excess power – for cats or simply high-speed.
3. Double the aviation fuel and ordnance – double the strike effect.

Working together these allow a nuclear carrier to get to any point on the globe and inflict double the force in half the time. e.g.

QE conventional fleet = 20 days to Falklands.
QE nuclear (followed by conventional fleet) = 10 days to Falklands and 1000 sorties in the tank. 10 days later (when the JP5 has dried up the tankers arrive).