QE and Jam

A guest post from Chris on that perennial favourite subject of aircraft carriers.

Every now and again I like to do something a little different. Playing the Devil’s advocate for positions that I wouldn’t normally agree with is one way of doing that.

And so that’s what brings me here today; to make the case for a third aircraft carrier.

I know, scary isn’t it?

The aircraft carrier represents one of the most powerful warships that any Navy can possess. It was during World War 2 that the aircraft carrier came to the fore and cemented its place in the naval order of battle, displacing the battleship as the key element of the surface fleet. The range and speed of its embarked aircraft allowed the aircraft carrier to scout over a wide area for enemy surface vessels, which it could then attack, generally without exposing itself to enemy gunfire. On top of this, the aircraft carrier demonstrated the ability to conduct strikes on fixed targets at significant ranges from friendly territory, as well as providing both air cover and air support to amphibiously deployed infantry.

However, becoming the pre-eminent surface ship of the war – and indeed the future – was not without its dangers. One of the reasons why I personally get very worried by many debates around aircraft carriers is the way some people begin to talk about them as if they were immune to attack themselves. Aircraft carriers are essentially a floating aerodrome, which fundamentally means that large quantities of aviation fuel and munitions are stored together in a location no longer (and significantly thinner) than your average football stadium. Even hits by relatively small weapons have the potential to start uncontrollable fires that can lead to the effective “mission kill” of the vessel, if not its sinking.

Going back to World War 2 for a moment, 19 Japanese, 7 British and 12 American aircraft carriers were all lost at sea as a result of enemy action. The fact that no carrier has been sunk by enemy action since then is routinely viewed as a sign of their apparent immunity from harm, but careful study should indicate to the wary that a combination of factors such as skilled defence, a relative lack of enemy action against them, and frankly a little luck has contributed greatly to this.

Added to this back drop is the current financial climate. In order to reduce their budget deficit, the coalition government has progressively stripped more and more money out of the defence budget, with further reductions likely after 2015 regardless of which party achieves power. With the other two services unlikely to offer up more of their own capabilities for further cuts, the Royal Navy would have to look inwardly for funding for a third carrier.

Which creates a problem.

Actually it creates two problems. Problem number one is that there is no spare money. Problem number two is that there is little spare ship building capacity. The construction of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers has required the efforts of a whole consortium leveraging their combined ship building capacity. Some of that capacity will be needed around the 2020 mark as the construction of the new class of Type 26 Frigates commences.

Therefore the only logical solution I can see – if indeed this plan is to go ahead – is to delay the beginning of the Type 26 program, as well as ultimately reducing the size of the final order. This does two things to help our third carrier. Firstly it frees up the ship building capacity needed to construct yet another Queen Elizabeth class. Secondly, it frees money back into the budget to be used on the construction of the third vessel. The final cost of each Type 26 has not yet been pinned down, but is estimated as being anywhere between the £250-350 million pound range. With inflation (and the record of UK defence procurement) that sum could easily rise.

As it stands, the order is expected to be for 13 ships to provide a one for one replacement for the outgoing Type 23 Frigates. In order to pay for a third CVF we need to claw back around £2-3 billion, which means losing around 5 of the Type 26 Frigates, bringing the final order down to just 8.

That in turn presents us with yet another problem.

As has been previously pointed out by regular commenter APATS, in order to guarantee coverage for one expeditionary task (such as deployments to the Middle East, South Atlantic, Caribbean etc) you need around 3.5 vessels per task. 3 can do it, but if one of the ships suffers a lengthy problem and/or needs a refit, you’re in trouble. With just 8 Frigates plus the 6 Type 45 Destroyers, we now only have enough ships to guarantee 4 “escort” tasks, two of which are going to be escorting a deployed carrier. That means either pulling one of the two ships from the Middle East, or pulling the patrol task in the South Atlantic.

It’s here that I put it to you that we might be able to do both, leaving just one 24/7/365 task in the Middle East. The reason I say that is because one of the main issues surrounding the Atlantic Patrol Task South is the deterrence of any further aggression by Argentina against the Falklands Islands. Considering the parlous state of the Argentine armed forces and the fact that in a case of war we would now have the ability to send two carriers south with a third in reserve, I think it would challenge the rational of having a dedicated patrol task for that region, and instead it would become more of an ad hoc thing, such as popping down during the more sunny months of the year.

The Carriers themselves I suspect would form the new nucleus of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), which routinely deploys into the Mediterranean and often onwards to the gulf. I’m sure the loss of one permanently deployed Frigate/Destroyer would be more than made up for by the reasonably regular visits of an entire carrier battle group.

And that would really be the essence of a three carrier Royal Navy and the rational behind it. As it stands now the navy often finds its assets dispersed singly over a wide geographic area. A three carrier Navy would become more about concentration of effort. It might mean the number of visits by individual vessels to certain parts of the world would be reduced, but when they did show up the impact would be greater, as a 60,000 ton behemoth sailed into view flanked by probably the worlds most advanced air defence Destroyer on one side and the worlds most advanced anti-submarine warfare Frigate on the other. Their flexibility and potency of action once deployed, and their potential for offering varied training to allies would be dramatically enhanced compared to the deployment of just a single ship.

If the money could be found to go the full hog and install the now infamous “cats and traps” (or alternatively “cats and flaps”?!) which would permit the use of aircraft like the E-2 Hawkeye, as well as increasing “interoperability” (“ugh”) with allies, then the capability of the carriers would be expanded greatly. Of course there is one last hurdle to overcome.


Specifically, a third carrier means a requirement for yet more planes to go on them. And those planes aren’t cheap. Both the B and C low rate initial production models of the F-35 currently cost over $220 million (£143 million) each. Even as the cost of new planes comes down over time, it’s still going to be considerable. That’s more money that needs to come from somewhere.

There is a chance that in the post-2020 environment the country’s finances will have picked up a little and there will be more cash available in government. If indeed we are to get a referendum on the EU during the course of the next parliament then you can almost guarantee saying hello to another £8 billion in the government’s coffers, because I have strong feeling that people will vote for an exit. With any luck the general economy will also be back on its feet, generating more tax income and spending less on benefits.

But if indeed there is more money to be handed around, that doesn’t mean to say defence will see its fair share. The fact that when it came to lowering the axe on government spending things like defence have been seen as prime targets, even while a war is on-going in Afghanistan and with Libya in recent memory, while departments like Health, Education and overseas aid were largely spared, doesn’t bode well.

That means that further cuts to other parts of defence would be needed, and somehow I don’t think the other two services would take too kindly to that.

We can always cross our fingers though and pray for jam tomorrow…

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paul g
April 19, 2013 8:46 am

I’m just off to the shops to get some popcorn and a big bottle of fizzy drink, so i can sit back and enjoy this!!

April 19, 2013 8:49 am

I know I’m walking into something. .. :)

But, yes, I do agree with this.

Ultimately, having a RFTG backed up with SSNs is the big stick. Having 3 CVFs means we always have one in our hand.

I would argue that if the RN had a few more OPVs / MHPCs it would still be able to support South Atlantic, Caribbean and Indian Ocean commitments.

Also, CVF does not mean just strike carrier it is the aviation enablers for the task force. Would only having 48 F35Bs make a 3rd CVF pointless, I’d argue not when you can properly operate assets such as Chinooks or launch mass air assaults in one go.

April 19, 2013 8:56 am

I’m in!

Especially if you regards the third as an Ocean replacement perhaps?

Although I feel a bit nervous about cutting so many t26s.

Would we have enough RFAs?

Tom C
Tom C
April 19, 2013 9:19 am

Not sure there is much point commenting on something that can’t happen..but..

Third or fourth carrier (and for that matter other ships/subs) yes, further cuts no.

The only reason this even appears attractive for even a moment is the idea of a more concentrated force. However, this would only appear feasible because of our other new warships and SSNs..which are only new/will be brand new for a fairly short period.

To maintain our ability to build them we need to keep the drumbeat going for different ship classes. A reasonable number of ships (and come on 19 is already below this, going lower is bonkers) gives us flexibility. The day we become a one trick pony we are out the serious navy game.

If we are going to talk fantasy, lets talk about a modest increase in the naval budget. That’s where this game should really be played.

April 19, 2013 9:24 am

I would love to have 3 carriers but getting back to reality we need escorts more there isn’t the political will to spend more money on defence were led by spineless morons who in one breath are spouting that defence is the first duty of any government and in the next are stripping the countries defence too the bone we are on the cusp of having the smallest army since the Tudor times we have so few ships India has a bigger navy are Air Force is a shadow of its former self and for what there is no letup in defence tasks are forces are the busiest they’ve ever been the last government saddled the country with so much debt were treading water just to keep. Afloat we just don’t spend wisely enough as a country the air tanker PFI to save pennies now we are paying an extra £3-4 billion for a capability we will never own ,anyway. Back to the carriers they should have always been built as cats and traps but as there not we should try and tie in with other countries that are buying the F-35b and offer them space when they want it to deploy with us and have additional aircraft to allow for the training when we need to deploy full air groups I’m sure the Italians and Spanish would jump at the chance to deploy that way with there fleets helping with escort tasks or asking the USMc for a Sqn to deploy and the US navy deploying a few arleigh burkes as a proper escort group then there is the need for advent supply chain. Also the decision to delay the AEW capability is one of the biggest mistakes they either need to delay the OSD of the seaking ASAC or bring forward the Crowsnest project I would love for an Ospery solution for AEW/COD/AAR but there is no money it would also give a bigger air assault capability if we could get a few for the Royal Marines in the Airlift role especially as the RAF will need aircraft to replace there merlins and puma’s why they didn’t just leave the RAF merlins where they were lose the puma’s and get the Royal Navy CV-22 for there transport AEW COD and AAR roles a fleet of 28 could do all of them with AAR cod and transport being a combined role. 48 F-35b is a good start but there is definitely a need for a follow on order and the proponents of buying F-35a for the RAF will limit the Number available in the event of an emergency which could allow for ships taken from trade as in the Falklands allowed mercant ships to carry aircraft to resupply battle losses.

April 19, 2013 9:38 am

Nice post Chris, a 3rd CVF will always be an attractive option!

The one thing I would actually not be too worried about is the number of F35B available to fill the decks/hangars, both for the reason that by the time a mythical 3rd CVF commissioned in the mid 2020’s I would hope to see a follow-on order to add to the initial 48 in place, and because operational reality will always dictate that these ships carry a mixed air-group and take on as much of Oceans role as that of the Invincible class.

Overall though the idea still concerns me. 14 high-end escorts would be enough to form a response group and leave 1 or 2 ships over for other duties, but what about FRE and the surface commitment for CASD, what about additional headaches like Indian Ocean piracy popping up? 14 may suffice as a rock bottom figure but it doesn’t have any give, no flexibility that allows us to account for unexpected operational imperatives. What if a ship was badly damaged in the way Nottingham was 10 or so years ago? Perhaps you’re thinking as I am that a RN with only 8 T26 would need to get a substantial boost in surface ship numbers from MHPC when it finally arrives?

Would we have anywhere near enough RFA as well? I think I could only be on board with you’re plan if it took into account the whole package of carriers, aircraft, manpower, escort ships and auxiliaries that are needed to operate this level of capability.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 19, 2013 9:39 am

In my mind, this links back with previous discussions about making (some) distinction between the three key RN tasks, as follows:
1 Fighting a full-scale war, or the possibility thereof – a “Grand Fleet” based on three CVF/Escort Groups ideally with A/W assets and a Commando Battle-Group embarked – one to be kept at sea at all times.
2 The “Coastguard” function – initially using the existing MHPC/OPV assets, but replacing these over time with a squadron of “Mother-ships” (SIMMS) supported by OPVs – and the systematic development of land-based ISTAR and UAV/USV assets especially in respect of higher threat areas.
3 Keeping home waters and the key shipping routes free of mines – to become a predominantly RNVR task, giving them proper ships and a real job to do.

I have to say, in my ideal world I would like to see 9 T-26 and a couple more Astute…but that is probably a non-starter, and in the end the third CVF giving the possibility of a “CASTF” would be of greater strategic importance.

April 19, 2013 9:49 am

I understand the desire for more, rather than fewer escorts. I also very much agree with more money for maritime based forces. However, as money is only going to be less not more, there does need to be sacrifices.

I would personally can ballistic missile CASD to pay for a 3rd carrier and more SSNs, but assuming that will never take off the T26 budget is the only other variable.

It may mean the RN is a one trick expeditionary pony – but hey at least we’ve got a pony. Akso, it’s a damn site easier to find allies with Escorts than it is to find one with a carrier.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 19, 2013 10:26 am

I may be missing something here, but I can’t see where you explain what the third carrier would actually do. Your rationale appears to be based on the idea that carriers are vulnerable to attack, which has some validity depending on the scale of the threat vs your defensive assets. They are however significantly less vulnerable to attack than most other assets (including land air bases) except perhaps submarines (very hard to find and target).

What people actually mean when they talk about vulnerability is the consequence of a succesful attack on the ship, which is universally perceived as equalling total loss. While this may be true in some instances – particularly where a number of heavyweight torpedoes or a large number of heavy (eg Sunburn class) ASM were to penetrate the defences and detonate, it is far from certain.

It is also worth considering that most fixed installations these days tend to have single points of failure – runway intersections, fuel farms, ops planning etc that can be identified on overhead and targetted simply by having sufficiently accurate lat / long data held on file – you don’t necessarily need a complex kill chain. Not something you can do easily against a moving ship. Yes, they can be repaired – not easily – but they can also be continuously/repetetively attacked over a significant period of time, which makes them just as dead as a heavily damaged ship.

However, assuming that a convincing rationale for a third ship can be found – not LPH, but for example a desire to maintain a forward deployed carrier which can be sustained over a significant period (6 months to a year) by rotation, while still accounting for upkeep, that doesn’t mean the RN budget remains unaltered and therefore has to cough. The absolute last thing the RN wants to do is cut the surface force further to accommodate another QEC. In doing so, you reduce the ability of the overall force to protect the ship, thereby actually increasing any vulnerability. Remember, the Navy doesn’t decide whether it wants to forward deploy a carrier, MoD Head Office and JFC do, theoretically based on a combination of a military requirement, political availability / desirability of Host nation support, available units and cost. If the centre decides it wants to do that, then it will have to adjust budgets as required or request an overall budget increase.

The shipbuilding capacity issue is actually moot. Of the yards building the QEC/PoW (Govan, Portsmouth, A&P, Cammell-Laird, Appledore, Rosyth and Scotstoun) realistically only one, perhaps two, of Portsmouth/Govan/Scotstoun are going to get to play on T26. Of those three only Govan and Portsmouth are building significant chunks of the carriers and one of those is going to get shut before the start of T26, so a third carrier should be do-able with some rebalancing across the other yards depending on which gets the T26. That assumes of course that the money to build them can be found. The point is that the capacity is much less of an issue than the bunce.

The real issue (as you identify) is actually the cabs. Barring a revolution, there will be no change to the STOVL configuration, which locks us into F35B, which locks us into a fixed set of capabilities. Had we stuck with cat n trap, the option of E2 would have become available and more importantly it might have been possible to generate an MPA capability both to protect the bombers out of Faslane and to provide an ASuW/ASW/AAR capability on the carrier. Remanufacture / refurbishment of something like the S3 Viking would have allowed a force of (say) 20-25 cabs to have provided an HQ/training flight, a squadron covering UK MTs and a deployed squadron of 6-8 aboard the deployed carrier. You could also argue that the E3 could be replaced by the E2, albeit with some reduction in capability, but a significant increase in flexibility. Does the current and projected air threat to the UK justify Sentry? It most certainly did when we bought it, but is that full capability required now, or could an E2 provide what is needed, again on a joint land / ship based model?

All pipe dreams I’m afraid, but concepts/questions that I don’t believe were ever seriously addressed, largely because the incumbent platforms weren’t carrier-based or didn’t fit on CVS.

I’d much rather spend money on those aspects, rather than get a third carrier without a clear rationale for its use.

April 19, 2013 10:26 am

. Don’t think of it as an Ocean replacement, that will effect overall availability if ring-fenced by role. Think of it as the deep maintenance slot for whatever hull needs it – thus providing a means to deploy two at sea carriers near continuously. Now that we have the deck space (let’s face it the RN doesn’t have a requirement for an independently mounted 50+ fixed wing alpha strike) either carrier can embark a Tailored Air Group of mixed strike and amphib assault assets in whatever configuration is needed at the time.

April 19, 2013 10:57 am

NaB, having a 3rd CVF in my view is purely for availability reasons and having the limited ability to surge 2 groups in an absolute emergency (Falklands II for example).

A RFTG comprising the following doesn’t seem under defended to me.

– 1 × SSN
– 2 x T45s
– 2 x T26s
– 1 x CVF
– 1 x LPD
– 1 x LHD
– 1 × Point Class
– 2 x RFA Tankers / SSSs

Add to that any allied escorts and it only gets stronger. For example, perhaps the Netherlands could permanently assign one of their De Zeven Provincien frigates also like the integration of Dutch marines into 3Cdo.

April 19, 2013 10:58 am

What about other “fantasy fleet” options?
> No carriers but more escorts and amphibs
> No CASD but more SSN and escorts
Have a gut feeling that some of these options would make more sense than CVF#3 and less escorts.

BTW, quitting Europe will also have an economical/financial downside. it will be difficult to get those 8 Billion in the coffers.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 19, 2013 11:12 am


I’d love to see the ASW screen you produce with only a couple of T26 – particularly when the carrier is conducting flying ops off the MLA. Or is the threat one of those nice ones where we’re fighting the peaceful people of Umbhoto Gorge and their sharpened mangoes?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 19, 2013 11:14 am


There’s little point in having amphibs without air cover (which contrary to popular belief is NOT provided by T45). And if there’s no amphibs, there’s nothing to escort.

April 19, 2013 11:36 am

NaB: I have to say long distance MPA is a must also – though I would expect the RFTG to be carrying 4-6 Merlin ASW a/c as part of the TAG. Don’t forget the SSN also.

The numbers are also similar to the MN CBG composition.

April 19, 2013 11:39 am

Putting to one side the fact that I wouldn’t cut escort numbers to pay for this, I’d build two LHDs. That way you can maintain a forward deployed carrier with ease. You simply partner up with one of the existing T23/T26 tasks, chaging it’s capabilitiy greatly.

This is based on the LHD being able to operate a squadron of jets and another 12 Merlin for ASW/AEW/SAR.

It also addresses the lack of Ocean when we sail into battle with “proper” cover from CVF.

How would I find the £2-3b needed? Well, I’d hope that £1b of this would come from the existing need to replace Albion/Bulwark sometime. The other £1-2b is the problem, so I’d probably get people back to work by starting up a government-run ship building company, with expensive consultants/designers, but cheap labour… ;-)

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 19, 2013 11:41 am

Aren’t we still waiting for a 2015 budget decision on whether two carriers will actually enter service? The decision to bin the cats & flaps plan was said to make two ships more likely, probable even, but there is no concrete decision. Nor any obligation on a post-2015 government to stick to the current government’s plans.

NotABoffin mentions shipyard capacity. Ship blocks being built across half a dozen yards means that carrier production will begin to end at different sites long before 2018/20; I think all the lower blocks for Prince of Wales are already at Rosyth, and that Appledore in Devon finished its involvement a year ago with the completion of PoW’s lower block 1. As yards end their involvement, capacity will be lost or transferred to other projects. You can assume that cost estimates and construction timescale would be dramatically different if a third carrier was planned after 2015 than if another was scheduled from the get-go.

I reckon the ship time has long passed for building a third ship. However, the companies within the Alliance are in a very good position for picking up design and consultation work on new Brazilian and French carriers.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 19, 2013 11:58 am

@WW – Escorts without capital ships are not escorts but gunboats, which is fine if we are generally willing to park a squadron off somebody’s coast and then use it to obliterate some key part of their infrastructure if they won’t do as we ask; the whole point of a CVF Group with embarked Marines is that it offers a self-contained nuanced response; however that is only available if we have one such Group at sea all the time; with only two CVF we cannot guarantee that (Sod’s Law will inevitably dictate that when we really, really need one we won’t have either); three should just about do it.

On SSN, they are an even less nuanced response than Gunboats, in that they do not even represent a visible threat, or indeed an emergency means to evacuate Crown Subjects if required – they are almost by definition designed to wage all out war from the off…at which point “Terrorist State” comes to mind; if you doubt my point consider how much more seriously we would be taking North Korea if they had either an SSN or (god forbid!) an SSBN capacity as opposed to big showy land-based missiles…

On CASD I have an unshakeable belief that it – along with some capacity for nuanced expeditionary warfare – represents our membership fee for the UNSC – and that is our most important defence/diplomatic asset; however that is a point of view as opposed to a fact, and we have recently been round that particular loop, so I wasn’t planning on picking the same fight again!

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 19, 2013 12:09 pm

“Considering the parlous state of the Argentine armed forces and the fact that in a case of war we would now have the ability to send two carriers south with a third in reserve…”

It’s appropriate that Chris dedicates a paragraph to the Falklands; one of the two reasons we plumped for 65,000t ships was the desire to plan and equip for the Falklands War – not a new one, but the actual ’82 war.

The other reason we’re getting two massive ships is so that at a future multinational royal fleet review we wouldn’t have an aging, fat, ugly Bulwark as flagship while France, America, Brazil, India and the like all tip up in shiny new aircraft carriers. Two massive yachts are sufficient for parading up and down the Solent.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 19, 2013 12:40 pm

Brian Black

First off, the size of the ships was absolutely nothing to do with the Falklands. Having been involved in some of that early debate/discussion, I can assure you that the flying programmes and scenarios had nothing to do with that particular area of the world, so that’s one urban myth that can safely be put to bed. As for Fleet reviews, the last time the Yanks rocked up with a carrier was the D-day 50th in 1994. Prior to that it was the old USS Wasp at the back end of the sixties. The French brought CdG to Trafalgar 200, but they had to do something didn’t they!

On PoW, there is only one lower unit (the lower bow) at Rosyth, which arrived last Spring IIRC. That allowed Appledore to start fabricating the Irish patrol vessels they’re building. I believe they have some more sponson units to fabricate, but they may have already been done by now and will have disappeared into Rosyth’s shed for assembly into a block. All the other lower blocks are currently still in fabrication in Govan and Pompey and a long way away from going to Rosyth. Not least cos there’s nowhere to put them until QE is undocked – early next year, last I heard.

April 19, 2013 2:22 pm

@Simon: Even with just 2 CVFs, I cannot see the need for 2 LHDs. With 19 Escorts, we cannot support an ARG and a CBG. Having an additional CVF backed up by LPDs / LSDs / JSSs is the optimal structure in my view, unless there is money to buy 2 LHDs and more escorts so we can split the RFTG up again.

April 19, 2013 2:24 pm

Brian: “I reckon the ship time has long passed for building a third ship.” – I reckon the time is now, or 2015 latest.

April 19, 2013 2:24 pm

Well done Chris. Very interesting post.

I not only agree with your proposal, but would go one step further and say we should have four carriers. Before everyone rounds on me for being preposterous, let me say four but only two CVF types.

I’d like to acquire two Cavour-Class through deck cruisers as used by the Italian Navy. Similar to the old Invincible carrier type, these ships are extremely flexible and can be re-rolled relatively easily between traditional carrier operations, commando assault ship, hospital ship, logistics ship and so on.

We could acquire them principally for the Commando helicopter role, but add a ski jump so that F35s could easily be stored on board.

April 19, 2013 2:27 pm

Not sure if you would require £2-3 billion for an extra CVF. The unit cost is much lower. The NAO put the cost of POW at just under £1 billion. Also given the resumption of many of the civil yards like Camel Laird I am sure it would be possible to accommodate most of the 3rd CVF construction while still allowing Scotston and Portsmouth to build T26 with Govan working on the more complicated blocks the civilian yards could not handle. Given that almost all of the cost of the third CVF would be on actually cutting steel and not R&D as with the others I am sure there would be quite an economic rational to do this as part of a government stimulus possibly aimed at giving the military shipyards more time to diversify.

However I see the utility for the navy of a 3rd CVF as being very little. Firstly they would certainly have to give up the LPD’s with no hope of ever getting an LHD repalcement for Ocean. We don’t have enough F35’s to equip even a single CVF let alone 2. Also the design concept of CVF allows for both vessells to be avilable for deployment simultaneously. If two were really needed as in 1982 then I don’t think it would matter much what level a re fit was in. Just look at what was done with Hermes, scrap yard to deployment in just 4 days or ARGUS and Atlantic conveior (container ship to auxiliary aircraft carrier in ten days)

I have argued for a third CVF myself in the past but only as part of a much larger navy allowing one to be permanently based in the Indian Ocean (more for political reasons than military utility and even at a £ 1 billion I think our forces could do with an extra 3 T26 above the 13 instead or some MPA or half a dozen other things.

April 19, 2013 2:30 pm


I don’t understand:

Our task force will be composed of CVF + Albion + escorts + RFA.
I’m simply suggesting a task force that is composed of CVF + LHD + escorts + RFA.

The advantage of having jet capable LHDs is that they can operate as small carriers (simulating a third and fourth CVF) when not “at war”.

Basically instead of building a 3rd CVF and STILL NEEDING a couple of LPD, you get the aviation capability needed for continuous presence by using the idle LPD as a small carrier by converting it to an LHD.

April 19, 2013 2:43 pm

@ Simon – I think its dangerous having 2 F35 capable LHD’s. Come SDSR 20?? the CVF’s will be scrapped. The main plus of a 3rd CVF over an LHD is that it means we will always have CVF. However my preference would be for 2 smaller LHD’s along the line’s of Mistral not big enough to operate F35B but capable of doing nay job we need.

Peter Elliott
April 19, 2013 2:43 pm

Have to agree with @NAB

No point dreaming of a third carrier when we will struggle to operate and defend the two we are building.

No certaintly of having AEWC, no certainty of having enough ASW Frigates. No long range MPA (either organic to the task group or land based). I find it terrifying that our politicians could think of sending a carrier into harms way without these things to protect it.

So if we do get a sudden rush of money into the coffers (either from cancelling Successor, leaving the EU or any other reason) I would shop for the following before a third QEC:

13 T26 ASW – (hasn’t yet passed main gate)
Crowsnest – (hasn’t yet passed main gate)

+4 T26 AAW
+4 Astute Batch 2
+ 12 MPA (? P8 ? or C-295?)

With that lot we could be sure of putting two well defended task groups to sea. Either 2 Carrier groups or one Carrier and one Amphib group.

And as Simon says if we do need more flight decks then a pair of LHD would be the favourite solution. Make them big enough (40,000T) then you could replace Albions, Ocean, and the Bays. 6 ships crews replaced by 2.

Follow-on supplies by Point Class into either a captured port or unload onto a Mexe pontoon.

April 19, 2013 3:10 pm

A 3rd CVF?? No way! Even if we could finance, fuel and staff it, there are better things to spend money on!

Far better to use existing capacity to fill out the decks of the two carriers (with F-35Bs, choppers etc), get them out to sea more often, maybe even operate both simultaneously for certain periods of time. Use the magic money to CEC-up the surface fleet, maybe buy some watered-down AW159s for use as a naval utility chopper (rather than more of the expensive trimmings of Lynx Wildcat).

April 19, 2013 3:14 pm

The reason why I favour 3 CVF over 2 LHDs is that you have commonality of platform and also true redundancy. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and to me a LHD gives the worst of both worlds in that, you need to be close (relatively) to shore to launch an amphibious assault, but ultimately further away for an airborne one. Much better to have the functions spread over two platforms.

The question of the 2nd CVF being mothballed I believe is just nonsense now. Strategically and politically it makes no sense. Much better to announce it later when you want to offset bad news.

April 19, 2013 3:35 pm

: “We don’t have enough F35′s to equip even a single CVF let alone 2.” – I disagree. It would be very rare that the TAG would be configured in a strike carrier mode. It is more likely to be a much more mixed bag.

An example of an impressive (balanced) TAG would be:

12 x F35B
4 x MASC Merlin
6 x ASW Merlin
12 x HC Merlin (or 6 x Chinook)
6 x WAH-64 attack helicopters;

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 19, 2013 4:03 pm

“Also given the resumption of many of the civil yards like Camel Laird I am sure it would be possible to accommodate most of the 3rd CVF construction while still allowing Scotston and Portsmouth to build T26 with Govan working on the more complicated blocks the civilian yards could not handle. Given that almost all of the cost of the third CVF would be on actually cutting steel and not R&D as with the others I am sure there would be quite an economic rational to do this as part of a government stimulus possibly aimed at giving the military shipyards more time to diversify.”

Not really. Neither Cammell’s nor A&P Tyne have sufficient outfit skills to do the big lower blocks and Appledore is too small. C-L and A&P are basically building large steel blocks for above the hangar deck with a degree of piping, lagging and vent trunking installed. They are shy of a lot of electrical and mech eng staff to do some of the more complicated outfit tasks. That’s not to say they’re not doing a good job – far from it – the units I’ve seen have a very high standard, but the density of outfit completed is less than that of the lower blocks.

I suspect it would be more like £1.5bn for a third ship. You have to remember that a significant amount of the material was bought in bulk for both ships. A separate order for a third would lose those economies of scale. The cost of the third would be primarily outfit labour – the “cutting steel” bit only accounts for about 33% of the overall build cost. All the production definition information and work package allocatio work would be transferable though.

Much as I wish it was not so, there is no desire for military shipyards to “diversify” from either the government or BAES. The game is rationalisation to a level where you can build one DD/FF every 18 months or so, which in effect means one yard complex – either Portsmouth or a consolidated version of Scotstoun and Govan. Plus of course the submarine capacity at Barrow. No other model is under consideration – largely because as we’re in the EU, UK yards would have to compete with others in Europe that are already fighting for a diminishing market share with the Koreans and Japanese, who are being forced to the most complex vessels by the capacity of China and Vietnam to build the staple bulk cargo carriers.

The Norwegian model is interesting, but relies entirely on them being outside the EU and therefore able to maintain the “Norwegian mafia”.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 4:15 pm

I am sorry but I really can see no reason to sacrifice 5 or so T26 for an extra CVF we would struggle to use.
We have no reason to keep a CBG on task 365/24/7 and would not have the escorts to do so.
I will be slightly suprised and very happy to see both Carriers in service.

April 19, 2013 4:43 pm

Just got in from work and haven’t read past “And so that’s what brings me here today; to make the case for a third aircraft carrier” but I agree entirely so far.

I just hope Chris isn’t proposing we sell the kitchen sink to provide for it. I’m going to microwave something then settle in for a good read.

April 19, 2013 4:49 pm

I’ve always been skeptical of the “LHD as F-35 carrier” idea, it may sound nice in theory, but how is having 5-6 F-35s on a ship going to work out in pactice?

The USMC did it with the Harriers, but their role is pure CAS, with air defence actually given to the Navy. Unless you reduce the role requirements rather drastically, I don’t see half a dozen F-35Bs being useful for anything other than CAS, the numbers are just too few for a decent CAP, and trying to set them up for a shipping strike brings in ammo logistics problems and stretches the airframe availability to the limits.

April 19, 2013 4:54 pm

I have toyed with the 3 CVF thought but conclude it is a fantasy fleet notion and one we cannot afford at this time, and therefore have to wave goodbye to the economies of scale advantages (ie would need ot start now to benefit). The priority should be the ability to field one well equipped and escorted task group as a key contribution to a coalition operation (with ability to rotate CVFs if an enduring op) or in a rare emergency field two CVFs simultaneously. I can only really foresee one case where the latter would be required and as many have said on here, it would be much more cost effective to boost the in situ defences of that place such that sending an invasion fleet is never needed. The Albions and Bays will be around for some years to come and thought of replacement with LHDs etc is probably beyond the next 2 SDSRs. I still think a dedicated Argus replacement would be useful with perhaps a facility for 6 helos. I tout Karel Doorman but there are other options (eg MARS SSS based). Raid the DFID funds for a couple as PCRSs / disaster relief / piracy patrol / motherships etc and auxiliary LPHs in a major crisis. Naval priorities for me are crowsnest, MPA, getting started on T26 (8 TAS / stike cells TLAM ASWs minimum), debate the merits of 5 further ‘simpler’ GP T26s (hull sonar, helo, CAMM and a good few guns) Vs perhaps more of an even simpler ‘choke point’ corvette type escort

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 19, 2013 5:20 pm

Hi, NaB.
I might be misremembering, but I think there was a US assault ship at the Trafalgar Day bash.

I would have to look through the build reports for the current state of PoW. I would speculate that the often quoted billion quid price tag of ship three would rapidly rise if any yard were to build a block, build a block, pause for a couple of years, then build a third block. There would quickly be a loss of efficiency over planning three from the outset, and all the contracts would have to be hammered out before work would begin – it would take a long time to reach a start point on a third ship.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 5:31 pm

USS Saipan was at Traf 200

April 19, 2013 5:38 pm

interesting article Chris(B?), thanks.

it is 3.5 vessels for a standing task, or 7 vessels to maintain six in the work-up/deploy/refit cycle, as i herad it described on warships1.

but, is this a standing task?

3 carriers needs 3x T45 and 6x T26 as the basis of a task group, which is nine escorts in total.

two standing tasks on top of that would require a further 7, so sixteen in total.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 19, 2013 5:53 pm

Carrier lover that I am, even I cannot justify a third CVF for the RN. I do think HMS Ocean needs to be replaced though. Thinking of an Invincible sized airgroup (5 Harriers, 9 Sea King) scaled up for today (5 F-35B, 9 CH-53K). So Ocean as a starting point, but perhaps stretched 130ft from 651 to 781 ft (about the same as the 1960s Victorious). 103 ft beam increased by 5 ft maybe. Much higher hangar height for the CH-53K. Mainly plods about on diesels, but with a gas turbine for burst speed. Hull toughened for light ice.
Do not delay T26. Thats how CVF became expensive.
Give QE/PoW traps for stobar. Examine F-35C to see if it can out perform F-35B on range/payload when operated Stobar.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 19, 2013 5:56 pm

Should have added that my fantasy Ocean replacement & its CH-53K would be ideal for disaster relief & should therefore be funded by DfID.

Think Defence
April 19, 2013 6:04 pm
Reply to  jedibeeftrix

A question for the professionals

How does (if at all) modern techniques like modular construction, CAD/CAM, blown fibre and commodity components, as examples, impact the refit cycle?

The question is, do modern ships need a shorter refit period and therefore a shorter refit cycle?

April 19, 2013 6:15 pm

I dunno look, you try and pitch for the other side and now they don’t want the bloody thing! ;)

@ Jedi,
Yes, that’s the impression I got from discussing this with APATS in the past. He’ll probably be able to shed some more detailed light on the subject.

@ Repulse,
“Also, it’s a damn site easier to find allies with Escorts than it is to find one with a carrier.”
— That’s part of what I was thinking.

@ NaB,
Historically aircraft carriers, and this is back when they used to be armoured, have not faired well when hit, even by a small number of small munitions. A land base may be very easy to find, getting to it is another issue, especially when you consider that we often use tanking to get our (both us and allies) land based units to their targets and back. Such bases also tend have significant amounts of redundancy built into them.

The “the sea is a wide open space” type argument I find not always that comforting. The Atlantic and Pacific are wide open spaces, and yet even in those WW2 era subs and planes had a remarkable knack of finding enemy surface vessels. When you consider that for example going back to GW1, one of the fleets was in the Red Sea, and the other was in the gulf, the area to be searched can be significantly less than just “the whole oceans”.

I don’t imagine finding a carrier battle group would be an easy task by any means. But I think some people over play it, and over play the level of immunity from attack etc. That worries me. That sounds a lot like people not accepting the proper risk that exists, which is the first step towards a monumental f**k up.

@ All in general,
If we had three CVF, I imagine on a routine basis only two would be in service and the other will probably be in refit. Yes, we’d lose some escorts, but the point would be to move away from disparate deployments to a more concentrated approach.

Routinely in peace I expect you’d probably have a CVF deployed with a pair of escorts, a sub maybe and support. You’d still have escorts to send off to places as needed for shorter tasks, and in an emergency obviously you can pool your escorts together to support the Carriers.

The purpose of doing this (if you were going to do it) would be to trade the number of deployments that take place around the world currently in order to focus on the greater combat power provided by the carriers. That would become the focus of the Navy, on providing carrier groups to go and work with international partners and to provide some of the heavy lifting when something like Libya comes up again.

April 19, 2013 6:34 pm

Look what just popped up on the subscription list:

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 6:34 pm

Phone only this evening apologies for briefness and typos.
Escort numbers for a carrier will be dependent upon tasking and location. She will not surround herself with a screen every time she passes OSB south bound.
Escort and TAG requirements will come from the fleet planners based on the Carrier programme and be planned well into the future.
Obviously if the shit hits the fan then all bets are off, nobody talks about separate service or deployment ratios and you go with what you can get.
You never know maybe the intel pukes might forecast one for a change?

April 19, 2013 6:34 pm

Ummm well you’re preaching to the converted here Chris but putting my neutral cap on (very ill-fitting in this instance) I have to say I’m disappointed with your post, as I don’t think you’ve made a very good case for, or proposed a good way of financing, a third carrier. Oh and it’s too short and no pictures. TD has been spoiling us.

Why does nearly everyone on here want to slash frigate numbers? Baffling.

I can see the merit of your “concentration of force” argument but think you should have given greater emphasis to acting in concert with allies rather than having the RN go on grand tours by themselves. Not many nations can design, build and operate carriers, it’s a high end capability which we can bring to a coalition. It also ensures we get to lead those coalitions (assuming no US involvement) rather than being led while giving us greater scope to pick and choose which coalition efforts we support. It’s no revelation that greater military prowess increases your political leverage – with allies as well.

” Problem number one is that there is no spare money.” – I’m sure regulars on here are bored hearing me say it’s not can’t afford it’s won’t afford so – just this once – I’ll accept the premise that there is no money, so we need to find it from the current budget. Alright then, rather than cancel any frigates I’d give up CASD. £20 billion to buy then shedloads more to maintain all for a system which is a one trick pony which we all hope we never actually use. Spread our deterrent around; sub/ship/air launched nuclear tipped cruise missiles and, if they don’t cost the earth, maybe even some of the USAF’s proposed Long Range Bombers for the RAF. All multirole platforms. That lot and the guarantee of being able to deploy a CBG which having three carriers gives us would ensure our seat on the UNSC, IMO.

@Brian Black – “…shiny new aircraft carriers.” – The French CdG – seriously?!

@Party0929 – I agree with much of what you say but don’t forget to breathe :-)

April 19, 2013 6:37 pm

I agree with NaB who said that there is not much point having Escorts if there is nothing to escort. The question for me is what is the new ratio of escorts vs capital asset? The fact that one T45 reportedly replaces 5 T42s must have a significant impact. Why the obsession with high end escorts? Are they deemed now the capital assets?

April 19, 2013 6:55 pm

@ WiseApe,

I’d expect no less from a New England supporter. How did you get on in the last Super Bowl by the way? Oh that’s right, you weren’t in it, but we were ;)

1) I don’t do pictures.
2) It might be short to read, it actually takes a suprisingly long time to write,
3) You fund it by cutting Frigates or it’s nothing at all. There is no other really viable plan and even this one is pushing it and requires a bit of jam tomorrow finger crossing.
4) When the RFTG goes on its “grand cruises” through the Med it routinely takes part in exercises like Corsican Lion and invading Albania (I used to do the door with a little Albanian. Imagine a Jack Russell terrier that would happily rip your throat if you so much as farted in his direction). Think about the Joint Warrior exercise going on now. But imagine it with a CVF or two at the heart of it.

April 19, 2013 6:56 pm


“I’ve always been skeptical of the “LHD as F-35 carrier” idea, it may sound nice in theory, but how is having 5-6 F-35s on a ship going to work out in pactice?

The USMC did it with the Harriers, but their role is pure CAS, with air defence actually given to the Navy. Unless you reduce the role requirements rather drastically, I don’t see half a dozen F-35Bs being useful for anything other than CAS, the numbers are just too few for a decent CAP, and trying to set them up for a shipping strike brings in ammo logistics problems and stretches the airframe availability to the limits.”

6 F35? – that’s allong with a full set of copters!

No, I said use them as small carriers. The USMC put 20+ Harriers on one. When you use it as the 3rd carrier you’d need about 12 F35 and 12 Merlin, Wasp/America/etc would do this perfectly well.

I was never talking about using the LHD as an LHD as well. You either have continuous carrier capability by using an LHD as a small carrier or use the LHD as an LHD (copters only) with air power from CVF.

Jeremy M H
April 19, 2013 6:58 pm


Regarding the ASW screen. I think that is one of the important downsides of going cheap on the Type 45 in that regard. It really forces you to have 3 or more other ships in a major task force if ASW is a concern in my view. A reasonable sonar outfit on all surface ships really is a helpful thing. Just makes that task all the easier.

It is even more of a concern in that only 8 (I think) type 26 ships will have tails.

April 19, 2013 7:01 pm

@ Repulse

It is just the march of technology. Every piece kit is high end at the beginning of its life. One T45 may be able to scan more sky and control more missiles than a number of T42. But that T45 can only be in one place. And one gives you no redundancy. When T42 was being planned it was hoped that there would be about 24 in service; 12 were built. The RN were hoping to get a class of AAW destroyers with a good all round capability. If the Soviets had been around they would have probably got there wish. As it is HMG deem it safe for the RN to do without the T45 having broader capabilities, but SeaViper in and of itself is of such value it is worth building a ship for. The ship looks like an escort because that is what it was intended to be at the start of its life. In the future it may gain those broader capabilities. That at the moment it is in reality a very fast missile barge come RADAR station doesn’t mean it will stay that way.
Look at T23 that when from TAS tug on the drawing board to being built as we know and then going through all sorts of changes during their lives.

April 19, 2013 7:09 pm

to pay for ships now, and the jam later,
could we then not, have 3 carriers and 10 type 36,
the extra carrier fitted with cat and trap,
but instead of F35, why not have the F18 now- then wait untill the F35 come down in price [if ever]
the money saved may well pay for the extra ships, and F18,
and the F35 can come later,

after all the RAF does have tornado and the euro fighter, [and poss F18S ]
justa thought.

April 19, 2013 7:23 pm

2 Elephants is bad enough!!!!!

3, With the rest of the RN pushed to provide cover for them, and not enough planes to fill 2! They are aircraft carriers after all, it might be a good idea to put more than a handful on each…..

Well lets just leave it at that…
I will let others get all excited and play fantasy fleet.

Meanwhile back on planet earth… I am still waiting for TD’s updated SIMMS post.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 7:32 pm


Precisely, no matter how good a hull is it can only be in one place at a time. Totally agree with your T23 point and have made the same point myself.


I have heard the T 45 sonar is not as bad as rumoured. RN policy has nearly always seen the FF hulls further out than the AAW assets. Assuming an active sonar policy for a CBG ( some units too noisy for any advantage of a passive policy) the detection ranges in non littoral of 2087 mean many assets would be listening only. We also try and utilise Merlin.

Although not always useful in a CBG escort role you have to realise that a good T23 running on ultra quiet can have a passive range advantage over something like an Akula 2. 2087 has seen tactics devised to utilise 1 active 23 as a hunter guiding quiet passive killer 23s or air assets.

April 19, 2013 7:36 pm

B – You sly dog you, didn’t know it was you, would’ve been less polite! As a 49ers fan you should be used to batting for the other side. See, told you.

Could we do all those exercises we do (which I thoroughly approve of btw) if we only have 8 frigates? We’ve sent two to Joint Warrior, at least one is in trials after a major refit.

You’ve redeemed yourself slightly with the video.

@all who mentioned LHDs – I like the LHDs, they strike me as very versatile ships. I would even, if push came to shove, rather spend £1.5 billion on a couple of them rather than a third carrier. (Of course both would be better :-) ) If we do end up with only a small buy of F35B then I think it would actually make more sense to have the LHDs rather than a third CVF; for that kind of money we’d be looking at the smaller end of the scale though – unless sequestration hits really hard and the yanks have a fire sale!

Aren’t elephants endangered? Perhaps we could get UN Wildlife Funding to support ours.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 7:39 pm

If you read the posts you would see very few in favour of a 3rd CVF. However 2 carriers are far more real world than a mythical SIMM.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 19, 2013 8:06 pm

Let’s not forget that further cuts could be made to department budgets. There is no growth in the economy, we’re on the brink of a triple-dip recession, and our Eurozone neighbours keep finding new financial miseries – helping to hold us back.
If Labour win the next election, or if the Cons change tack from austerity to economic stimulus through a spending splurge, it will be the construction industry that sees the cash – new houses, not ships.
We’re more likely to see another round of defence cuts than another carrier. Less frigates perhaps, but none of that money left for any other MoD project.

April 19, 2013 8:12 pm


That all the modern frigates (Leander, T22, and T23) evolved throughout their lives shows how good their initial designs were from the start.

I don’t count T14, T21, or T81 as they were “one offs” built for narrow-ish roles (esp T14).

For all my tongue in cheek moaning about T45 and sonar and missiles and guns etc. I do have a grasp of why we are where are. It is very tenuous grasp I admit…….. :) ;)

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 19, 2013 8:24 pm

Hi, observer.
“…but how is having 5-6 F-35s on a ship going to work out in pactice?”

I think they initially sent half a dozen Harriers to Sierra Leone. If you want to flex a bit of muscle, and have an insurance policy against the unexpected, then in many situations that would probably be enough.
I’ve always thought that having the ability to send a small flight of jets as in S.Leone, or a dozen for a Libya style op -and to be able to sustain those levels of commitment almost indefinitely- was more relevant to the UK than the ability to shove 40 aircraft aboard a ship.

Hi, wiseape.
I was referring to a future CdeG replacement as the shiny French ship, rather than that lovely old box of bolts.
I wonder how a replacement will fair though, considering their own contracting budget.

April 19, 2013 8:41 pm

To Wiseape at 6:34

Fully agree with “it’s not can’t afford it’s won’t afford “, but not in scrapping the Successor program. Our nuclear deterent has, in fact. been used for every second of every day since the first Thor missile was declared operational – after all, how many times has the UK been nuked in the last 5 decades?

Like the idea of 2 large LHDs with sky-jumps to replace current amphibs, with option for light carrier use with a couple of flights of F35b. If we leave the EU and scrap “Global Warming” cobblers, this would be easily affordable!

April 19, 2013 8:56 pm

@ WiseApe,
You know Wise, there’s a reason many Patriots were called “minute men”…

I imagine you could still handle the exercises, yeah. So for Joint Warrior you could potentially send a CVF and added gubbins. Then you’d have another group, potentially on a cruise down the med, working with other allies at the same time. Then a third either at home getting a refit, or just on down time.

Think big!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 9:51 pm

@ Chris B

Now detail how you are employing your 14 escorts to make this happen including last years and next years programmes. Think real :)

April 19, 2013 10:15 pm


You still got 14 escorts, so even if you arbitrarily assign two to each Carrier, you still have 8 spare for other tasks/accounting for refit. The specifics of what you do with them is down to people like yourself.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 19, 2013 10:34 pm

@ Chris B

I am telling you that 14 escorts are nowhere meat enough to “think big” with 3 carriers so why should I have to probe a negative?
ok if I had to 2 east of Suex equals 6 and 1 down south equals 3 , FRE, TAPS, training etc and even multi tasking you have nothing left.

Stuart H
Stuart H
April 19, 2013 10:43 pm

As much as I would like to see three CVFs, it would make the imbalance in the fleet even greater as we would need to have further escorts too.

I’d much prefer to spend any extra resources extending the life of the existing frigates (if it’s possible) to boost hull numbers and ensure the T45s and future T26s are fully equipped.

I recall that there was talk in the initial stages of CVF designs of a hybrid carrier with a waist catapult for a fixed wing AEW aircraft. Could this still be added?

April 19, 2013 10:45 pm

I suppose the only thing would be to drop some of the tasks.

We’d need at least one T45 and one T26 with the carrier so that’s 6 escorts spoken for. We’re then left with 8 ships.

We really need one in the Atlantic capable of being “down south” if necessary, so that’s another three leaving 5.

We really need FRE and TAPS (2 ships for each local task) leaving a single ship which may or may not be available > training.

Nothing EoS, nothing in the Med, nothing in NRF, nothing in CTF.

April 19, 2013 11:08 pm

@ Apats,

I said in the article, you’d probably lose the South Atlantic task on the principle that you now have three carriers. If – in the unlikely event that something does kick off – you have to go south with two carriers (and leave one at home), and assuming for a second that we buy no additional planes, so all you have is the original 48 planned, and assuming further that 8 of those are assigned to training or whatever and can’t be used, then you still have 40 modern fighters. Which means you actually outnumber the combined Argentine Air force/Navy fighter provision.

The need to reassure the Islanders and deter the Argentines with regular presence patrols has essentially become moot.

Now you said yourself in the past that things like FRE, TAPS etc are covered by ships that are in UK waters working up for other tasks, not to mention that chances are if you have one carrier group at sea then you likely have another in home waters ready for responsive tasking.

You can reduce the E. of Suez requirement to one ship, or even turn it into a semi-regular deployment, more akin to the deployment of an escort to the Caribbean during the stormy months. You have plenty of Carrier power to show off to the Middle East nations now after all.

Like I said, this is Devil’s advocacy as far as I’m concerned, but I think it has some merit on reflection. It’s also a trade off. You’re trading the dotted deployments of Royal Navy warships in exchange for the much greater and sustained combat power of the carrier battle groups.

April 19, 2013 11:16 pm


May I point out that your statement…

“In order to pay for a third CVF we need to claw back around £2-3 billion, which means losing around 5 of the Type 26 Frigates…”

Comes in at £400-600m per T26!

Well, if that’s the case then you can bet your bottom dollar we won’t be getting T26 at all!

April 20, 2013 12:52 am

@ Simon,

The loss of those 5 would probably net you between £1.25-1.5 billion(ish) based on the current MoD/BAE estimates, then the defence budget has (supposedly) a certain amount of leeway built into it for additional capital spending.

April 20, 2013 6:09 am

Brian, guess I like my enemy forces with a bit more meat. :)

It’s probably also how a country reacts to situations. The UK went with military intervention in Libya and Sierra Leone, but historically, Singapore has a modus operandi of trying to set up a status quo and outwait/outendure the small stuff, so there isn’t much point in planning for a “small” intervention when you don’t intervene in small conflicts at all. And any planned use of military as a last resort means that your ops plans are usually for all or nothing victory or death scenarios, so the expected OPFOR tend to be pretty big.

Guess in the light of small interventions, light carriers do make sense.

As for carrier/escort deployments, if your infrastructure can handle it, permanantly assign the escorts to the CVBG in a fixed fleet formation. Carrier undergoes refit, the destroyers/frigates do so too. Cuts down on strategic flexibility but simplifies deployments and logistics, splitting the escort fleet into “independent deployment ships” and “fleet deployment ships”. You will probably have to cut down on the number of stations to patrol 24/7/365, but it can be done. Didn’t say it wouldn’t be painful, but can be done.

This would have the independent commands something akin to army reconnisance units, units with a lot of freedom, vs formation units that share in the prestige of the carrier group. I forsee some potential rivalry here. :)

April 20, 2013 6:38 am

@Observer: I like your anology with army reconnaissance groups, I’d also suggest making the comparison with UN stabilisation and monitoring forces (such as Cyprus). Would you use your Challenger tanks?

If we went for a 3 carrier model, then all non UK standing tasks would need to be done by MHPCs or RFAs. Anything too dangerous for theses assets would need to be done by a SSN or the active RFTG or by allies or not at all.

April 20, 2013 7:01 am

: “Would you use your Challenger tanks?”

SURE!!! Which town do you want me to destroy in the name of peacekeeping? :)

Stabilization operations in disturbed areas is something I have an extreme adversion to. Those operations tend to be messy, meatgrinders and intervention very often has a habit of backfiring as all parties in a conflict see you as foreign intervention. Or foreign targets. Best let them sort out the mess themselves, just take steps to keep the crap from spreading. Saves you a heap of bodies.

As for MHPC patrols etc, I don’t see anything wrong with that, Ops tend to 2 extremes. Low intensity where even a speedboat with a GPMG can be used, like anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, immigration control and border patrols, and high intensity with airstrikes, swarms and sub attacks etc.

For low intensity, MHPCs and RFAs do the job just as well, if not sometimes better than escorts, while for high intensity conflict, even a T-45 destroyer should turn and run for help, much less a LPD. So if the behavioural patterns are the same for a T-45 and an LPD, then there is no reason to say an LPD can’t do the job of a destroyer in a case like, that is there?

April 20, 2013 7:04 am

This is confusing. Is it supposed to be A LPD or AN LPD? Conventional grammer says A (starting letter not a vowel), but it just doesn’t flow off the tongue properly.

April 20, 2013 8:21 am

Hmm, I like fantasy fleets…
3CVF Makes a lot of sense, Frigates/Destroyers make a lot of sense too!
How about combining the two? Japanese style? DDG22?
Whatever their reasons for calling what essentially is an escort carrier a Destroyer, it’s a very multirole ship in all the ways classic Frigate/Destoyer cannot be.
So we go down to 14 traditional escorts, eventually, they serve to protect the CBG when the brown stuff goes in to the air conditioning system, and thats all! Peactime it’s all about flag waving and so them turning up in foreign climes is desireable.
I would like three carriers for the extra redundancy like a few others around here but balk of the idea of a ship like that being within 100 miles of any shoreline ever, except home port!
Any Tom Dick or Harry with a speed boat and a Smith and Wesson taking pot shots at it, gives me shudders!
So we need cheaper alternatives to be part of the task group which is where MHPC and a Cheap Flat top comes in, personally I think anything that can carriy more than two choppers should be a flat top?
Juan Carlos springs to mind?
Hull built over there and fitted out over here, Helps Spain which makes us look good, Fits in with the Smaller yards making stuff while were winding up CVF and starting Type 26, this would mean spending of course but not until albion and bulwark come of age, I’d like three of these so we have some redundancy here as these ips would be multirole, to get em past the bean counters, capable of limited action on their own but if the fan scenario happens they go with other assets, not sure if it needs a dock but I’d like some CB90/CTRUK on davits.
MHPC needs to be brought fwd a bit to provide peacetime/wartime support for the Juans.
A sort of mini fleet within a fleet, MHPC needs to be multirole too, working as a light escort and a sweeper, cheap, chopper capable but working thru CEC from the Juan? No more time to outline my thoughts any more than this but I’m looking to the 2030’s here…

April 20, 2013 10:09 am

I am sometimes unsure if the planners and RN have grasped that if we are to operate CVF effectively it needs a fundamental change in how we operate the escort fleet. If we are operating CVF as a carrier strike group way off shore and F35b heavy with no amphib element then how many escorts are needed? I would hazard a guess that it should be 2 T45 and 3 to 4 T26, and one Astute. If we have a mixed group with amphib assets and are going to conduct landings possibly independently then you probably need a couple of T26s at least to cover that including fire support tasking. The reality is I fear that our HVU will frequently sail with just a couple of escorts. Fine in peacetime flag waving but gives little chance to work up full task group skills. Assuming we have two Cvfs I would allocate our escorts into three squadrons, two of which are permanently linked to the CVFs and one being a ‘home fleet’ to cover FRE and contingencies. I think that drives the size of our first rate escort fleet. Thus I get to about 15 first rate escorts 6 in each CVF squadron and three for home (or 5 in each possibly more realistic) I would then propose 9 second rate escorts in three squadons to cover home / North Atlantic, south Atlantic, and maybe med. I may reach a conclusion that 4 T45s and 11 T26s may have been the optimum mix in line with French assumptions but as long as we increase the utility of the T45s (asw and ashm) we should be ok. I am not saying this means that all 5/6 ships in a CVF squadron are always active or always idle it’s just more for operational grouping purposes and tasking. 2nd rate escorts would be hull sonar, lynx, camm (maybe fitted for but not with), and a decent gun fit

April 20, 2013 11:29 am

The Invincibles were often “escorted” by one ship; initially I expect it will be a 2087 T23. I think it will be the same with CVF unless there is something “happening” be it an exercise or war. I suppose it will all about tempo. If CVF sits next to the wall a little more often than the Invincibles and numbers can be massaged the RN may may look it like we have more than we have. I think we have to put the idea of a US CBG style deployment with a Daring, a brace of frigates, and even a SSN out of minds. Never mind the fleet train to support 4 ships. The point of CVF is we have it when we needed and when we need it force will be concentrated. (Same with the amphibs) All feeds back into T45 not being a true GP escort, what is turning into a fudge on CrowsNest, not replacing T and S boats one for one with A boats, hot having enoug Merlin ASW (or having an AShM cleared for it and indeed general lack of firepower within the fleet), and just not having enought hulls full stop. etc

April 20, 2013 11:32 am

“The Invincibles were often “escorted” by one ship; initially I expect it will be a 2087 T23. I think it will be the same with CVF”

Would have sounded better perhaps as

“The Invincibles were often “escorted” by one ship. I think it will be the same with CVF initially I expect it will be a 2087 T23.”

Pick your capability gap, ASW or AAW.

April 20, 2013 11:35 am

I note my typos increase when I know I can’t edit the post…….

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 11:53 am

A US CVN is not escorted properly until East of Suez in fact recently until South of Bab el Mendeb.
They cross the pond with 3′ or 4 escorts who all disperse in the med. Only the Tico stays close to the carrier. They then regroup at suez.
I would not expect a QE to have an escort in ul waters, 1 on a US trip, 2 maybe in the med and 3 or 4 for a peace time E of Suez deployment.
We will ask allies to contribute as we have with CDG and it is no coincidence 6TH fleet are getting 4 extra Burkes.

April 20, 2013 12:42 pm

What of course you could do is build a cruiser sized escort, put some anti-air missiles on the front and then make it “through deck”. That way your carriers are actually escorts ;-)

Also, I’d suggest CVF will always be escorted by a 2087 (outside of UK waters) simply because I’d expect it’s own ASW capability would be cut down to about 6 Merlin so that there’s space in the hangar for all the other toys it will lug around most of the time.

It’s probably then going to meet up with an existing T45 task either “down south” or EoS, as that is where I think the T45 tasks will usually be.

April 20, 2013 12:44 pm

@ MickP
“I would then propose 9 second rate escorts in three squadons to cover home / North Atlantic, south Atlantic, and maybe med. I may reach a conclusion that 4 T45s and 11 T26s may have been the optimum mix in line with French assumptions.”

Kind of where I’m at really, my idea for the MHPC is sort of like the “Venator”, low crewing with some multirole adaptability, via camm launchers and sgima seahawk installations rotated through the fleet and obviously MCM sets, so about half would be MCM and half Mini AAW, with one of my Juans being the teeth using choppers and maybe basing short term F35’s, chopper would be a mix of Merlin, Lynx and Apache depending on the role but with limited emrgency use for the jets…

April 20, 2013 12:49 pm


That is what I sort of said. The US still has an enough escorts for the CBG deployments. Even though as you say the screen will leave the core of the group to do other things. If intel told them something was to happen they would be able to rapidly concentrate. We in the UK are struggling to plonk a frigate on a single station. Though US numbers are falling they still have depth we don’t. LCS won’t fill Perry gap and that is what will hurts the USN in coming decades.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 1:12 pm


Indeed the screening units could concentrate in the med and 6th fleet and Nato assets as well but that also applies for us.

I guess the point I am making is that we will be able to escort s CBG with what we should have. If we are involved in a major fubar situation then iaw defence planning assumptions we will work with allies providing a powerful core to a coalition TG.

April 20, 2013 1:14 pm

Nothing anyone has said suggests that we need more than 12-14 first rate escorts, given a primary task of CVF / task group escort (that’s with 2 CVFs), which would give between 1 and 4 escorts available depending on threat. We are hampered to an extent by the lack of GP nature of the T45 but hopefully that will come with time and incremental updates. So that’s 6 T45s and 8 fully equipped T26. The question I keep coming back to is whether 5 of the ‘GP’ T26 is better than 9 say of a smaller cheaper 2nd rate light frigate / corvette type vessel. I don’t think the GP version will be sufficiently different from the full ASW variant to offer real cost savings – I just feel they’ll be a fitted for not with variant. That’s been debated a lot on here I know nad I still don’t know the answer in my own mind. That said, if we have a navy of 6 T45s (‘GP’), 8 ASW / TLAM T26s and 10 La Fayette type ships (ie a French model), I’d be pretty happy that we had a balanced capability.

April 20, 2013 1:32 pm

Like that fleet but I’d like to eventually see Albion, Bulwark, Ocean and Argus Replaced by three “thru deck” ships but as I say I’m looking 2030’s here
So 2036-2040 ish
3 Juan Carlos alikes Multi role Helicopter Destroyers
6 Type 45’s about to be replaced by type 27, (6X Type 26+AAW) he he…
8 Type 26 ASW
12-16 MHPC 8X Mine hunter and 8x light escort
4 Bay replacements (Cheap, big docks, might be inclined to have those as the only docks, freeing up space on the Juans…

April 20, 2013 1:53 pm


Looks like we are back into fantasy fleets territory whether we like it or not.

But one thing I would insist on would be a fixed ORBAT for the CVBG. I know it would be a waste sometimes (often), but it allows the admiral on station to be able to predict availability and if he wants to detach some ships, it is his personal call.

I’m just remembering Malaya in WWII where the capital ships were assigned penny packet and really could not form a coherent force at all. The carrier ran aground somewhere in Europe and the Prince of Wales and Repulse were still sent out, contributing to their lost due to the subsequent lack of air cover. Send units out as coherent fighting formations or risk defeat in detail.

April 20, 2013 1:56 pm

@Jules. I think, all things being equal, albion and bulwark would only be replaced one for one. We can design our own or go the LHD JC route possibly but was attracted the other day to the idea of the LPD 17 flight IIs for a multitude of tasks


I think PoW is replacing Ocean so realistically, the chance of getting another flat top in the next 10 years would be some sort of Argus replacement. I keep pushing raiding DFID funding to get one or two multipurpose vessels for all sorts of peacetime work and coming in as auxilliary aviation ships in a crisis; something that can bring aviation closer inshore than we would really want to with CVF. I wasn’t envisaging a full flat top but would not rule it out, eg an austere Ocean like Mark 2.

I have moved away from the MHPC idea being a good one. I think MCM is too specialised and is one of our strengths thus would hate to dilute. I would rather build a dedicated MCM / Hydro vessel (with a secondary patrol angle) and look at another dedicated patrol asset. Feeling in a friendly to the French mood, I do like the Adroit / Gowind as ultimately a River / Clyde replacement

April 20, 2013 2:06 pm

@Observer, that was a better way of putting the point I was trying to make in my first post today. If we are to operate CVBG as our prime independent intervention / naval and marine expeditionary force then everything else should revolve around that and CVF / HVU protection should be the priority.

April 20, 2013 2:06 pm

@Alien8ted – This isn’t a political site so I don’t bang on about it, but I think the mess we the west are in is as much political as economic.

@Stuart H – Re: AEW – All well and good but how would they land back on?

B – A full minute? Not now, not with my back. You still haven’t said why the frigate budget.

@All re escort numbers – I’ve read on a US site – think it was Navy Matters – that one reason a Tico class cruiser sticks like glue to a CVN is to act as a tug if it breaks down?

The Germans, French and I think Spanish have all trained as part of a US CBG in recent years so in a coalition effort we should expect them to provide escort numbers to a QE based task group. The problem of course comes if we are acting alone, at least initially (as per France in Mali) while we wait for allies to stop hand wringing. Imagine the last Corsican Lion but with a QE in place of (or as well as) CdG. If they can get it started. ;-)

April 20, 2013 2:25 pm

“…If we are to operate CVBG as our prime independent intervention / naval and marine expeditionary force…”

Isn’t that what we already do with the RFTG – specifically assigned assets for a small intervention task group? Usually consists of one destroyer and one frigate… plus tankers, Bays, LPD and an LPH currently.

I’ll reiterate the need for more than 14 first rate escorts…

3 for EoS
3 for APT(S)
2.5 for APT(N)
2.5 for med
4 for RFTG
2 for FRE
2 for TAPS

This is based on 6-month deployments, 2-month RnR (ship and crew) before going back out, an 85% availability (current T23 figure) and an expected 1 in 4 in refit.

If training and operations with the RFTG were conducted close to home then the FRE and TAPS could probably be served by the two escorts assigned to the task group, but this is pretty limiting.

April 20, 2013 2:45 pm

@Simon – on RFTG yes sort of, but I think having a 65000T CVF with 12+ F35s on, makes it a little more than what it was, not quite US CVBG but I think that is where the first rate escorts will revolve around. Other than RFTG in your table, couldn’t all the others be performed by 2nd raters – at least APT(S), APT (N), Med and FRE? It moves away from discussion about CVF but if you have 9 second raters, 8 T26 TAS and 6 T45, say that gives you:

3 T45 covering EoS
3 2nd rate APT (s)
3 2nd rate APT (n)
3 2nd rate (med)
3 T45 – RFTG
3 T26 – RFTG
2 T26 – FRE
2 T26- TAPs
1 T26 – spare

April 20, 2013 2:51 pm


I know that applies to us too. I very fond of the USN and the Marine Nationale. I know we all help each other. The conversation here was about what we could field nationally. I think many of our friends here think the RN’s future is CBG based around CVF a la US. As we have both said in our own way the reality will be much different in that we will continue to deploy as we have done. But none of the international co-operation makes up for one or two problems with the Fleet. Some of which could be solved even without recourse to more hulls or personal just installing proven systems and proven hardware. That isn’t to say we aren’t short of ships and a dozen or so ASW helicopters (pseudo-ships!.

April 20, 2013 3:08 pm

If for example, the US happen to pitch a royal snit similar to what happened in the Suez Crisis? Or France gets annoyed by British criticism on how they handled country XYZ?

Can you really be certain that a single political booboo or just bad timing won’t put all your international co-operation in jeopardy?

US opposition to Suez was based simply on the stand that the USSR invaded Hungary at around the same time period, and in return, the UK refused basing rights to the US when the Yom Kippur war kicked off, and France almost left NATO etc etc.

Can you be certain history won’t repeat itself at the worst possible time or that local anti-war protests can’t force the withdrawal of support from any international coalition?

Interoperatability and coalitions are nice to have, but you just can’t be certain they will be always there for you. Best not to rely on them for the really critical stuff like defence of your carriers.

April 20, 2013 3:20 pm

“Looks like we are back into fantasy fleets territory whether we like it or not.”

Isn’t every Naval thread here like that? XD

Its interesting reading regardless, interesting ideas on here – though where the funds come from the Navy’s chunk… at least with Dave-B, it being a joint asset will spread the costs of the fixed wing part.

I agree with x’s point that there is FAR more than pointy-fixed wing potential the carrier brings. Our CVF wont ever be like the USN’s or the frenchies in the way they operate (and our flat tops never have). Which means we can inter-operate with allies, but also stand on our own.

btw, “pseudo-ships” x? What next? :D Wonder what the crews would think XD

April 20, 2013 3:33 pm

@ Observer

Exactly. Nothing wrong with working with others. But sometimes I think by “working with” some are really saying “depending upon” (and by inference they mean the US.)

We need 6 more SeaViper systems at sea, a proper AEW/ASaC system (I am not going to say Crowsnest), more anti-ship capability, all T23/T26 at sea with 2087 or equivalent, SeaCeptor for QEC, AAR for QEC, 12 second rate frigates, and 12 better 16 SSN. That is bottom line.

But it isn’t just the RN. How many more AAR tankers does the RAF need, and without the PFI rhubarb? We could do with 12 C17 and 30 A400m. And they are just the bits I have a grasp on. I better those who understand aeroplanes could add a few more essentials on to those two.

And then there is the more boring stuff we forgot like satellites so we can see the bad guys and target them without going cap in hand to Uncle Sam for intel. Go look who has that capability. We are in the odd situation where we have global reach but “mole” like strategic self-reliance capability.

April 20, 2013 3:35 pm

@ WiseApe,

Lol. Now why the frigate budget? Because you’re not going to get the money from anywhere else. It’s that or nout.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 3:38 pm


The US was privately furious we stopped in Suez.

As for carrier escorts we will be able to escort 1 CBG with 2 T45 and 4 T 26. Recent experiences have however shown that our presence in a high threat environment is as part of a coalition and normally at the behest of the US.
Defence planning assumptions are political and we have to equip to fulfill them.

April 20, 2013 3:57 pm

@MickP those La Fayettes look ok. Would they be cheap enough and capable enough though?

The Mintcake Maker
The Mintcake Maker
April 20, 2013 4:11 pm

@ Chris.B
Good thought provoking post.

I would sooner any money saved went to converting the two carriers to cats and traps so that between us and the French we could deploy a proper carrier 365 a year because I find it fairly unlikely that the UK by itself would need to permanently deploy a carrier to a specific area of operations continuously.

The way I see it, there are 2 possibilities: STOVL and have interoperability with the USMC and Italian navy or CATOBAR with interoperability with the French and US navies. However there has been rumour in the air that the Italians want to cut their F-35 order even more and since the 2014 costs of a full F-35b are going to be $220m then I’m guessing they may choose to ditch more or all of their F-35b purchase, in which case if they get rid of all F-35b’s that just leaves the USMC as current operators.

However I am open to the possibility of keeping the carriers as STOVL because of their inherent flexibility so I was wondering would the cash strapped French consider STOVL. CdG is due to be replaced in about 2035 and the Rafale M is good till 2040ish (according to wiki), therefore the French could go STOVL but that would mean operating with a foreign aircraft which may upset some but they have done it in the past with US made crusaders. What do people think the odds of this happening? Would the French view this as a step backwards?

So I said I would sooner have the carriers as CATOBAR config (mainly to operate a decent AEW and maybe a long-range ASW system) but how would I pay for that? First of all the cost to convert the carriers was around £4bn however I believe it would be a bit cheaper if we actually converted them after they were built rather than trying to alter already proven water-tight contracts. So I’d guess the cost might be about £3bn instead. I would also save money by not buying into the AAG (advanced arresting gear) but instead buy a modernised DAX-II by McTaggart and Scott (their website still lists arresting gear as one of the products they sell).This it does away with all the fancy electronic breaking stuff that AAG uses and integration into the ships power grid reducing cost.

I’d get the conversion money from cutting 3 Type 26 (@ £350m) would give us about £1bn, after paying for 2x Type 2086 TAS to make all 10x Type 26 vessels ASW. I also believe that the costs of the F-35 won’t come down that much in the next few years because everybody including the US will trim their orders slightly.

Even if the price dropped by the magical 25% they keep talking about by 2020 (so still too late for our first 48 planes) its quiet pricey. So I would buy 20 F/A-18E (@ £80m based on the Aussie order and current quote for more) and 28 F-35c (@ £130m that’s 10% less than what they cost in 2014) instead of 48 F-35b (@ £130m) saving another £1billion. Assuming another 48 aircraft are bought in 2020 when the price of the F-35 has dropped by 25% and we bought another 20x F/A-18E’s and 28x F-35c we would still save £600m. Standard CAW would be 12x F/A-18’s, 4x F-35c, 4x Merlin ASW, 2x Wildcat ship guard and 3 x MASC (hopefully E-2D for both FAA and RAF, replacing E-3)

This means out of my magical £3bn needed convert the carriers to cats n traps I’ve found £2.6bn and have provided; an all ASW capable Type 26 fleet, an aircraft for the FAA that does good for 80% of time and provides interoperability with allies, a stealthy 5th gen aircraft in service for the UK.

But this is never going to happen, so that’s all fantasy.

So keeping with STOVL I would still cut the last 3 Type 26’s giving us about £1bn wriggle room. I’d still fit buy 2 more Type 2086 TAS sets to fully equip the Type-26’s and make sure they are bloody well fitted with strike length VLS (maybe also fit to the 45’s as well). I’d also buy 9x AW-609 tilt-rotors and fit them with folding blades and either searchwater radar hanging off the back or LM vigilance pods (which ever gives the best detection range) or another radar system. With the blades folded the width nacelle to nacelle is only 1m more than the wingspan of an F-35b meaning they can easily be accommodated on the carriers and would provide superior AEW since they are pressurised.

Use the carriers for the next 10 years as the carrier/LPH role until the LPD’s can be replaced in around 2030 with 2x 35k to 40k LHD’s. At which point the CVF’s should be more carrier like and the LHD’s do more of the helicopter side. Form 2 Amphibious Strike Groups semi-permanent (better than RFTG), with 2x Type 45’s and 2x Type 26’s assigned to the active group and one of each to the resting/training group. The carriers post 2030 should have an airwing of 16x F-35b, 3x AW609 AEW, 4x AW101 ASW and 2x AW159. The ASG could then split in half and the carrier could have an escort of 2 ships and the amphibs would have 2 escorts, meaning we could deploy the carrier separately if needed.

Sorry for the long rambling reply


April 20, 2013 4:14 pm

@X – From yesterday, where we really ever contemplating 24 Type 42s? If so, were they all the same spec or was there some planned variation?

@Brian Black – The French have already kicked their second carrier into the very long grass. I sometimes wonder – during quiet moments at work – whether MoD came up with that ridiculously high figure to convert CVF to cats n traps simply to put the French off trying to buy PoW. Imagine the Treasury reaction if they’d put an offer in!

I imagine our French counterparts are hiding behind the sofa waiting for the results of their own defence review. Will they keep CdG never mind fund a replacement?

April 20, 2013 4:18 pm

@ Mike


If we are to consider escorting CVF we should consider Merlin. Twelve ASW Merlin cost as much as one escort. Twelve mean at least 3 should be available; not a substitute for a ships’s high endurance but it means there is an ASW asset available. Those 12 Merlin can be distributed across all hulls in a group from CVF to accompanying RFAs. And finally the helicopter is 4 to 5 times faster. As I have said the helicopter is the module that we know works. So yes a pseudo-ship….

April 20, 2013 4:34 pm

@ Wise Ape

Yes. See,


All T42’s should have built to resemble the Batch 3 ships.





and then consider where all that salty water ends ups on the fo’c’sle , fuel efficiency, hull life, crew comfort etc. Batch 3 were wider in the beam by 2ft as well. Hulls are as important as missiles and guns. Manoeuvre is the fundamental weapon of warfare. The RN got its money worth out of T42. But a larger class all built to B3 specs and it would have been a great ship. The only thing missing Sea Wolf……..

April 20, 2013 4:36 pm

@ George – I only use La Fayette as an example of a balanced force. Plenty of other actual and planned things out there that could be considered. As for ‘capable enough’ , it depends for what. If we start to gold plate them we loose the value. I intend them as clear second raters – ASW defence (hull sonar), decent gun fit and point defence missiles (latter possibly fitted for) -might just have a few spots that things could be bolted on in time of crisis. Basically a patrol platform in peacetime

April 20, 2013 4:52 pm

Thanks X.

April 20, 2013 5:59 pm

The one thing I do agree with you on is the lack of a pressing need for high-end surface ships being committed to the South Atlantic.

Of Course in an ideal world id have over 30 frigates/destroyers so I could easily have one on rotation down there as well as in a number of other places, but with 19 ships to play with I really don’t think it’s an effective use of resources. With a garrison and Mt Pleasant based Typhoon’s I see the RN contingent being more about reassuring presence, patrolling the far flung settlements around the Falklands as well as South Georgia as a token embodiment of British resolve as opposed to any real war-fighting capability.

And an ad hoc SSN visit every few years wouldn’t hurt to remind the Argentinians who’s boss!

Something between a high-end escort and the singular HMS Clyde would suit me. A couple of Portsmouth built large OPV’s anyone? With two based in the South Atlantic they could cover each other for maintenance and refit periods, enable Clyde to head home and lead the fisheries flotilla and maybe even enable one vessel to visit further flung outposts like St Helena whilst the other remains closer to home.

April 20, 2013 6:11 pm

APATs, privately they were furious (actually more dismayed IIRC), but publicly, they still had to kick you guys in the nuts, which is the exact point I was pointing out, that things can get so messed up that they might want to help you but was forced to hurt you due to external factors.

If you can support the carriers without other people’s help, good, that was all I wanted to point out, that you do not go so low that you end up depending on other people’s mercy or competence.

April 20, 2013 7:50 pm

@ WiseApe

The B3’s weren’t perfect. Not that “band” at the top of the hull to strengthen it. But they were superior to B1/2, like most things built in the 70s and 80s they were built to a price.

T42 problem with weight as much as money hampered plans to fit SeaWolf. But it isn’t hard to wonder what impact a PDMS would have had down south. (And Sea Dart launchers saved from being drench by icy salt water. Not good.)

Nice to wonder about an Oto Melara 76mm instead of the Mk8 too…..

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 7:57 pm


Remember the T42 was designed for export we were going to get the T82 as carrier escorts until the dastardly crabs “moved” Australia.

April 20, 2013 8:23 pm

Well don’t see the need for a third cvf plenty other things the navy could spend the money on.

If we were wanting to free up cash for such things my choice would be to scrap all the subs ssbn and ssn. Replace with 12 SSK something similar to the Japanese soryu class and move tlam to the type 26. Don’t know how much would be left but I’m sure that would free up a few billion.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 8:33 pm


An SSN is a power projection tool, an SSK is not.

April 20, 2013 8:33 pm


Yep. What I find interesting about T82 is SeaDart was back aft. Now whether this was to improve arcs or keep it dry, or because after SeaSlug in tne Counties the RN thought that was where big fireworks needed to go I don’t know. :)

Have you any seatime in T42? Or do you prefer something less claustrophobic like an SSN?

For those who don’t know what I am yabbering on about…….




All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 20, 2013 8:49 pm


Funnily enough only 2 appointments on a 42 and both on Manchester. First time as a YO and then many moons later as an AAWO.

Manchester was the first batch 3 but retained the batch 2 layout forad, so she was almost a batch 2b :).

April 20, 2013 9:14 pm


It is the space for’ard in the B3 that amazed me. You can really appreciate the size of Sea Dart because you can clearly “see” the size of the magazine. And I also find it amusing in a cramped ship how there is a senior rates’ mess up there too; the naval architect obviously know who runs the ship and who needs looking after. :)

April 20, 2013 9:15 pm

I think the T82 design was a good one for the primary Carrier escort, AAW and ASW, no need for a hanger as always meant operate with the carrier. Knowing CVF was coming, but a bit fantasy fleet I admit, I would have gone for 3 or 4 double ended T45s with no hanger, better sonar, torpedoes, 4 76mm guns and closer to 90VLS, including some strike cells. One would always have accompanied each CVF. T45 itself would have been broadly as is but more GP and T26 would have ended up being a more basic patrol / TAS tug. Possibly a 4+8+10 or something like that

April 20, 2013 10:01 pm

@ mickp

Yes. That makes sense. For the 4 76mm mounts I suppose you are envisioning something like a double ended Horizon deck house type arrangement? Such a move would free T45 for more general work. Better than schemes to shove SeaViper into a smaller hull like T26. When you see Darings in the metal as it were you really begin to appreciate how big they are compared with what has gone before. And that size is essential for SeaViper to be effective.


Of course you could furnish this with some sort of ASROC type weapon that could go some way to making up for the lack of a helicopter. Even with lots of helicopters available in the screen (ha! we should be so lucky) an ASROC would be useful to have….

April 20, 2013 10:26 pm

Mark said “my choice would be to scrap all the subs”

What all of them? Oh lummy! Left hand down a bit…….


April 20, 2013 10:27 pm

@x, yes I was. For something that will be close to the carrier most of the time and not doing shore bombardment, 4 76mm makes much more sense. I suppose you could fashion a hanger on. essentially by putting the stretch in the rear and giving a raised. shorter flight deck like the Ticos, with the VLS aft of that and then 2 76mm on the stern, but then there is the cost. Asrocs in VLS, torpedo tubes, a decent sonar and helos from the CVF would probably do

It will never happen I know, but 4 of those, GP upgrades on T45s then T26 becomes something different, TAS tug and patrol, built in numbers, for economies of scale…………

April 21, 2013 12:55 am

Ow mike, ANOTHER ship type? :)

Subs are still useful in the concept of the “fleet in being”, just the suspicion of their presence in the area forces the enemy to allocate resources to chasing them down, even if there is really nothing there and they are a tool of ship assasination, if they can get into range, they can kill an enemy ship without the problem of an AShM-CAP/AAW/ECM duel first. As to SSK/SSN, I’d leave the strategic implications to those more knowledgeble than me.

Peter Elliott
April 21, 2013 6:06 am

\Fantasy mode on\

If we are talking about a Cruiser for the RN there is one possible role not mentioned so far.

If the ballistic missile threat continues to proliferate – and especially if its in the hands of unstable regimes with extreme views, then we might decide we need to supplement CASD with Anti Ballistic Missile Defence.

Now T45 may have the basic potential, when upgraded, to score a hit. But our 6 hulls are likely to be fully committed to carrier escort and existing taskings. So asking them to take on a standing home-defence patrol as well is not that practical.

And if the one ship on patrol is potentially going to have to take down a saturation attack from 2 or 3 missiles each packing 10 or more warheads its going to need a lot of missiles.

So thats where your class of four ‘double ended’ Sampson / Sea-Viper cruisers comes in. And in the event that all four ships are servicable you can always send one on overseas tasking anyway, filling up the VLS with AshM and LA missiles. Build them big and bad eneough and we could even break out a few battelship names…

“Temeraire”, “Lion”, Bellerephon”, “Repulse”

You get the picture

/End of Fantasy/

April 21, 2013 6:24 am

@ the minicake maker
“However there has been rumour in the air that the Italians want to cut their F-35 order even more and since the 2014 costs of a full F-35b are going to be $220m then I’m guessing they may choose to ditch more or all of their F-35b purchase, in which case if they get rid of all F-35b’s that just leaves the USMC as current operators. ”

Can we have Cavour then? I like Cavour! (Well I can Dream!)
I think everyone agrees more would be good, in everything really but it’s nice to see no one is looking to rebuild the Empire! Well not too much anyway so in a way were being fairly realistic having a better handle on whats required than most of the rest of the population. I can’t see the bean counters going for anything unless it can do more than one thing, which of course means compromises here and there, it’s just a matter of how and where. MHPC is a vital next mov I think and it needs to be right but it also has to hace sufficient numbers to be effective , for that were realistically going to need a bugdet of around 2 billion to get at least twelve or it’s just not worth bothering with. They would replace all the minesweepers and Minehunters but not even try to replace the oceanagraphic squadron, as I just don’t really think you can put all that gubbins in a pod you need to sling out of the stern? I just nees two modules a sweeping/hunting one and a Camm one, thats it, it needs to be a lot bigger than a minesweeper though, I want three Sqn’s one in he Med, one in diego and one for the Clyde, they would undertake all the patrol tasks etc in thse regions and if possible rotate down to the arab penninsular too, so I likely need fifteen so to have three in refit, we need to find ways to keep them in the water like HMS Clyde rather than always in port like their more complex brethren, so that means that most of the pointy bits come off and can be re-furbed while the ships in the water which of course means spares, spare modules, spare seahawks, anything and everything we can do to maximise availability, Deisel only of course for fuel efficiency and reasonable sprinnt peed but ot ultra qick but it’ got to be quick enough to catch a supertanker with bunch of Somali “Fishermen” on board with their catapults! All of my flat top stuff will just have to come when Albion, Bulwark and Argus bow out.
So In reality I think I need Two Billion, maybe a tad more and I want them in reasonable time too, which may need the Hulls to come from abroad but the fitting out to be done here, it must be Helicopter capable but no more than half of the displacement of a type 26. I’m tempted to put a 57mm on it while i’m at it but not sure of it’s utility if you have a couple of Seahawk mounts as standard? Roles are changing and the Vessels we get need to change too, AAW/ASW need not be the sole preserve of Frigates and destroyers if CEC was taken up on the smaller vessels to be controlled by the Flat top in a Mini ARG with the Flattie/LHD/LSD/LPH and a Sqn of MHPC. Point is you leave the first tier navy to do the heavy lifting and the flag waving/sabre rattling but more mundane basic sea control to the mini LHD battle Groups, three more Austere Oceans would do me eventually to replace Albion, Bulwark, and Argus building them flat top also ensures you get proper hanger facilities for the choppers, Three Mistrals would do I guess but built here of course! That would probably lose me my F35 ability, these three however come in their own sweet time, (And not out of my 2 billion) MHPC is the urgency to me to get hulls in the water that can go and play on their own in peactime but come together as a Group when we are in the Soapy Bubble to become greater than the sum of their parts…

April 21, 2013 7:13 am

@Mark: “If we were wanting to free up cash for such things my choice would be to scrap all the subs ssbn and ssn.” – Whilst I agree CASD should be scrapped to free up cash, SSNs gives us an ability to project power anywhere in the world (ok with a few thousand miles of the coast), even with our limited resources.

To me having a always ready RFTG, is exactly principle – it would give the ability to deploy a task force at immediate notice to any place we need. To do this we need to be clear what the task force composition needs to be and make sure that we can ensure it’s availability and not be overly concerned about losses.

April 21, 2013 7:21 am

Having one of something (e.g. France with CdG) is having a fur coat with no knickers. Having two of something is better, but there is still a fair chance you open your coat and you are naked. Having three means that you always have something on and what’s more you always have a back up pair.

If we were suggesting having 3 CdGs then I would agree this is Fantasy Fleet stuff.

What, I think what people are not appreciating (or agreeing with) is that the proposal is that the core of UKs naval power outside of it’s territorial waters is focused on SSNs and the provision of a RFTG. To pay for this, we would replace all non-UK standing commitments currently done by T45s / T23s with either MHPCs / RFAs or just simply stop doing them.

April 21, 2013 7:33 am

In terms of the T45 being under equipped – I’m starting to appreciate the impact of this.

Four fully multi-role FFs/DDs (decent AAW and ASW fit with CEC), a SSN plus ASW Merlins based from the carrier is a strong escort for a RFTG in anyone’s book.

I understand that senior RN bod recently said that in the future there will not be Destroyers or Frigates, just Combat Ships. If that means that the RN ends up with a single high end class with comprehensive capabilities – I’m in.

Lastly, I wonder if the Albion class had been designed to have one (or two) medium calibre guns up front, a hanger and point air defence – it would be able to operate in a more solo manner with stand-off support from the core RFTG group further off shore.

Peter Elliott
April 21, 2013 8:17 am

Question for @NAB:

I was pondering on the question of LHD designs. The beauty contest is between: Mistral vs Juan Carlos vs Wasp/America vs BAE vapourware. Not the actual designs but the design concepts in terms of tonnage, capacity layout etc.

The basic operational premise is that there will only ever be one RN Amphib Group and wherever it goes it will stick together. So you might as well have fewer ships and bigger. ie a single design that combines the carrying capacity of the Bays with the Landing Craft and HQ facilities of an Albion, and the Helicopters of an Ocean. You then have a class of 2 big ships to replace 5 or 6 existing.

Juan Carlos looks very attractive becuase on paper it can carry a very high number of vehicles on its two decks, and its flexibility allows it to swing role between Vertical Assualt, Horizontal Assault and even Sea Control. But its only 27,000T displacement. Which led me to ask: what’s missing compared to a Wasp/America?

Maybe the answer is magazines and bunkers? Presumably if we wanted a ship that can project a fighting force far from home and ‘do everything’ that our Amphib group needs to do then it would have to be pretty self sufficent. And maybe a JC / Mistral sized ship doesn’t have the logistic capacity to do that? Or not for an extended period without a long RAS train coming behind it.

Which suggests to me that a truely flexible swing role design able to do that range of tasks between between Amphib HQ, Veritical or Horizontal insertion or Sea Control it maybe needs to be on the Juan Carols plan but nearer to 40,000T than 27,000T.

What do you think?

April 21, 2013 8:45 am

Further to PEs question: What is the generally accepted optimal approach – a single LHD or a LPD / LPH combination?

April 21, 2013 9:12 am

Today on Cowboy Builders we are tackling the CVF. Melinda is touring Dunfermline for some free aircraft, John is fitting a catapult and Dom tries to find someone in charge. Cue shot of 1SL in tears.

April 21, 2013 9:37 am

I don’t know how we got onto cruisers from a post suggesting we cut frigates but naturally I’m all for them. I assume we’re selling off the National Parks and the Royal Family to pay for them?

While we’re at it, here’s a suggestion for the BMD role:


I used to think X’s fantasy fleet of 104 front line ships was rather excessive (mine never passed 84) but now I’m beginning to see his point.

April 21, 2013 9:59 am

Regarding SSN power projection ect you’d think we’d never done anything pre 1963. Yes ssn have better speed under water and greater submerged endurance but they were originally designed to hunt soviet ssbns under the polar ice cap for long periods how much of that still goes on I don’t know but they cost significant amounts of cash and we have very few available. After all carriers and amphids also project power which we may be increasing with the spare cash in this theoretical discussion were having.

If we’re planning more operations in the gulf, med and African coast then there is an argument that the shallower warmer waters found there is a more natural environment for SSK subs with aip propulsion. That’s we’re the upholders spent there brief service life. We could even use diligence as support. Moving tlam off the subs to type 26 makes that system cheaper and increases it launch capability and allows the subs more time to go back to the intel/sf and hunting ships and subs that there gd at.

April 21, 2013 10:12 am

“Today on Cowboy Builders we are tackling the CVF. Melinda is touring Dunfermline for some free aircraft, John is fitting a catapult and Dom tries to find someone in charge. Cue shot of 1SL in tears.”

Can Melinda sweet talk the M.O.D./Gov into brining fwd MHPC?

Peter Elliott
April 21, 2013 10:13 am


Your argument only holds up if we also scrapped CASD.

As long as we have to sustain a nuclear sub design, build, maintain and operate capacity for CASD then it makes sense to leverage it by combining an SSN capacity based on the same yards, facilities and technology. You would save no infrastructure or maintenance cost by swithcing to SSK, becuase you still need it all in place to support your SSBNs.

Where is would work for your proposal is if we ever canned CASD. In that scenario there would not be enough critical mass to sustain Barrow or the maintenance facilities on the Clyde. So we would logically close it all down, buy our SSK off the shelf from Germany, and base them down on the South coast (thus avoiding the risk of rebellion by the perfideous Scots as well).

It would be a big saving to the MoD budget but not necessarily to UK Plc when you consider the social costs of closing down an industry of that size, complexity and value.

And not necessarily in the national interest either, if you think CASD is worth having and SSN are truely war winning Capital Ships (HMS Conqueror anybody).

April 21, 2013 10:15 am

“While we’re at it, here’s a suggestion for the BMD role:


I used to think X’s fantasy fleet of 104 front line ships was rather excessive (mine never passed 84) but now I’m beginning to see his point.”

Depends on the Ships if it’s including all those little Archer things which I think should be given to the Coastguard then 104 it is if not 84 might do?

Peter Elliott
April 21, 2013 10:28 am


I suppose the reason why I raised Ballistic Missile Defence is that it is a vaguely realistic scenario in which the political case for an increased defence budget could be made.

Its nothing to do with ‘capability creep’, ‘industrial sustainement’, ‘gold plating’, ‘raid the welfare-schools-hospitals-dfid’ arguments we usually come up with to fund our pet fantasy projects.

If we imagine for a moment the UK becomes in range of ballistic missile armed Iranians, North Koreans, or some new flavour of grade 1 nutter then the whole Threat and Security analysis really would have changed. And the argument for pushing the % of GNP spent of defence back up a few notches could then realistically be made.

Thats why I introduced it the idea.

And also becuase the idea of modern day RN Cruisers / Battleships is quite cool :-)

April 21, 2013 10:42 am

I knew that 104 figure would comeback to haunt me…….. :)

You could shave that down to 80-ish. I prefer a system of 4 for 1 for everything. But that is wildly optimistic. More realistically only 4 for 1 for submarines and 3 for 1 everything else. Though CASD I would prefer 5 for 1 as was the original hope when Polaris was introduced. And for some tasks even 2 for 1 or 1 for 1may work; HMS Clyde in the FI vs the Castles in the FI.

Peter Elliott
April 21, 2013 10:58 am

remember that there is a babalce between military optimisation and financial optimisation.

If we already have a QEC (+escorts) sitting offshore to provide fixed wing CAP and CAS, and a Dock Ship (+escorts) sitting inshore to provide landing craft, can we really afford a third group (including escorts) sitting somewhere in between to operate helicopters?

It might be militarlily sub optimal to combine Helicopters with with either Fixed Wing or Landing Craft. But our escort resources are very finite and the combination has to be made somewhere. between 2020 and 2030 the Helos will combine with the Fixed Wing. After 2030 I hold out the possibility of moving them inshore. But still with only 2 HVU locations not 3.

“Further to PEs question: What is the generally accepted optimal approach – a single LHD or a LPD / LPH combination?”

April 21, 2013 2:14 pm

A quick question that I thought id pop into the currently running RN thread as it seems vaguely appropriate.

When we talk about surface ship numbers vs standing commitments it’s obvious that you need a minimum of 3 ships for every 1 that is on active operations, which should mean that we can support 6 deployments with a fleet of 19 ships in total.

However, where do the fleet ready escort and the needs of deploying/returning Vanguard submarines come into play with regards to the above? Being 2 UK based commitments does that mean that they don’t come out of the 6 ships total we have to play with, or do they in fact count, thus leaving us with only 4 other hulls to deploy further afield?

April 21, 2013 3:23 pm

I had better do something about this 104 and provide something a little more sensible. In no order and completely ignoring what the RN does or doesn’t do now. And having three hulls for one available for surface ships, and four for one for submarines.


16 SSN : Atlantic North (supporting CASD), Rest of Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Plus one (supporting CVF, elsewhere, and reinforcing the first three stations as needed)
12 SSK : North Sea & North Atlantic (supporting CASD), Mediterranean & Gulf, Perisher & Other training


HVU: 9

Carriers: 3 CVF

Amphibs: 6 (Enough for 1 ARG at sea of 2 ships)
3 LPD : 6 LCU Mk10, military lift 750 to 900
3 LHD: military lift 900



Destroyers: 12
1 for CVF
1 for Standing NATO Maritime Group 2
1 for Other tasks eg. Gulf
1 for Atlantic (FRE ?, BDM ?, ARG escort as needed)

Frigate (First Rate, ASW, 2087) 12
1 for North Atlantic to support CASD (TAPS)
1 for CVF
1 for Other tasks eg. Gulf
1 for Standing NATO Maritime Group 2

Frigate (Second Rate, 28kts, diesel)
1 for CVF
1 for WIGS (Sorry no Absalon today. You may have a RFA equivalent of the HNLMS Pelikaan instead. Perhaps even a Hellenic Navy Jason Class LST if you eat all your greens. )
1 for FRE, Trade Protection, Officer Training, Submarine Training, Gibraltar
1 for ARG (Permanent escort, NGS)



2 Thetis Class for Falklands

4 Rivers (with flight deck)

4 Under 1000 tonne patrol ships (Irish Sea, Channel, North Sea, Faslane) My ideas shift on this all the time from Islands (good sea keeping) to small 450ton vessels (fast). Sea keeping vs Speed etc




I would prefer a 3 ship ARG so as much as 3Cdo could be moved in one hit. That is to say have a LF of 1000 to 1300 battle group accommodated in the ARG but the ARG has capacity to move say another 500 to 600 but not in overload. Having 3 x groups of amphibs (1 worked up, 1 in refit, 1 in working-up/returning/self maintenance ) means we should have 6 available in an emergency. I would live CVF to have 4 permanent escorts (yes I know what I discussed with APATS this is fantasy fleet and I would like a US style CVF deployment) of 1 T45, 1 T23/T26, and 2 second rate frigates. To be honest what I have described above isn’t much different to what we had back in the 80s. Probably actually in some areas like escorts a bit light. But with more capability in others like SSN and amphibs.

I have refrained from asking for my 8 15,000 ton nuclear cruisers with BRAHMOS and 8in guns. Do you see how much I give up for you people? If we are all speaking Chinese by Christmas don’t come running to me. :)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 21, 2013 3:32 pm

On Wasp vs Mistral vs Juan Carlos, I haven’ t got time to say much now, other than the biggest difference between the three is the troop lift. Wasp carries something like 3-4 times the troops of Mistral & JC and also has a much higher complement. Now part of the latter will be the usual American way of doing business, but it will also reflect being manned up to properly support the flightdeck and dock functions 24/7. Not necessarily the case with the european designs – although they will use a much more mercantile apprach & technology for the ships systems, which will let them run the ship with fewer people. Essentially Wasp will bring everything to the party, I doubt the european ships actually do – they’ll do one bit at a time.

In terms of building blocks, you might think in terms of a ship capable of deploying a Cdo group (say 750 troops), plus attachments and a Jungly squadron, plus add-ons and some sort of LC group. You won’t always deploy the entire brigade, so a future that looked like two decent sized LHD designed around RN requirements, plus the existing Bays, plus a Point or two would do the job for me. Send an LHD if you need a Cdo group, Bay if you need something less, the whole shebang if you’re using the Bde, with Points for follow on vehicle lift. The only reason we have LPD today is it offered the cheapest way forward once we had built Ocean, which itself only arose from the Amphib studies of the 80s. They said we need a dedicated LPH to support the Bde on the Northern flank – as CVS will be part of STRIKFLTLANT. By the time folk realised that we were moving back towards a wider expeditionary role which might be more suited to an LHD-type ship, Ocean was in build and the LPD contract was too far advanced to go back on (conkers deep in NAPNOC with VSEL) and no budget to do anything else. Sometimes people look at the wrong things when you talk Cold War legacy………

April 21, 2013 3:34 pm

The worst part is it’s not that fantastic really is it, just what would be required to sustain global operations?
I’ve not even got into thinikng about Subs either!, admittedly seven SSN Seems very light, I was hoping for eight and some deisels one day, how many out of seven can we put at sea at once I wonder, will te Astute end up being more reliable than Trafalger? Could we re-furb some Trafalgers or when the hull is done is it done? Just thinking outloud and I must admit I know nowt about Subs…

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 21, 2013 3:41 pm

I’m as keen on Fantasy Fleets as the next crackpot – my own preference by 2030 would be 3xCVF, 3XCanberra (Built by Navantia, fitted by BAE, replacing Ocean etc), the necessary high end escorts to make up three CVF/Commando Carrier Groups (Maybe 18) – with all other tasks being met by a combination of SIMMS-type “mother-ships” and OPVs (part-funded by other budgets because they would have many non-MOD responsibilities) – and Mine Hunting to keep the North Atlantic and North Sea Trade Routes open as the prime task for RNVR (give them a real job with real ships, but home-based and with time to build up towards a full-scale war that requires full time deployment).

I’d also like two more astute, and if it was technically/operationally feasible I would distribute the CASD between six hulls also capable of launching big conventional land-attack missiles; I am all for nuance, but by no means convinced that there is a cheaper alternative to CASD – not least because most of the Politicians who bang on about the possibility were CNDers at some point in the recent past. I simply don’t believe they have had a real change of heart.


Sorry I raised my voice

Contrite and Gloomy

April 21, 2013 3:44 pm

@ Jules

No the Trafalgars are worn out. Submarines are complicated. They work in an extreme environment. Biggest act of treason ever whoever signed off on just 7 Astutes. Forget other nations wanting to build A-bombs the true test of industrial worth is can you build a nuclear submarine? There are times I would swap CVF for 12 SSN and 12 Darings (full cream).

As I said that figure of 87 isn’t far off what we had in times not so long ago even if the make up is slightly.

April 21, 2013 4:05 pm

I’ve got less submarines (no SSKs but some SSGNs) but I’ve got cruisers and four carriers. Went Venator-type ships for 2nd rate frigates and MCM so fingers crossed those modular systems work. They’re included in my figure of 84.

How have I paid for it all? Easy, I decided we’ve got enough railway lines thank you, but the really big earner is I’ve copyrighted the English language as a national asset. Anyone else wanting to use it must purchase an annual licence to do so.

Edit: Hurrah for the return of the edit function.

April 21, 2013 4:24 pm

@ Wise Ape

I didn’t include MCMV or hydrographic vessels just the ones that are “warfighters”. :)

SSK are important because they give a route to SSN command. And the two types complement each other. Why Astute didn’t come with VLS for cruise missiles I don’t know.

April 21, 2013 4:28 pm


Wow, that is one hell of a fantasy!

I like some of you’re ideas though, I’ll take those two Thetis type ships for the Falklands (sure Clyde could be found another useful role back home). The South Atlantic just doesn’t warrant a high-end frigate or destroyer presence when one looks at the state of Argentine forces and our own desperate shortage of hulls. A mix of Protector, a couple of decent OPV’s and the occasional visit from an SSN would do the job nicely.

My own fantasy fleet is far humbler. If I saw both carriers in service, both Albion’s back in proper service, the Vanguards replaced 1 for 1, 8/9 Astute’s, 16 T26 (8 full fat and 8 stripped down) a big enough clutch of Black Swan inspired MHPC so that they can do more than their primary tasks, a 1 for 1 Archer patrol boat replacement that can act as a coast-guard, 4-6 replacement ships to replace the Albion’s and Bays quite far down the line in 1 evolved class, oh and those 2 large OPV’s for the Falklands in the interim…..and id be a happy boy!

Still fantasy, but a bit more achievable, realistic and justifiable in my book.

April 21, 2013 4:54 pm

@ Chally

That is very much an ideal. I am happy with 2 CVF. I would like 12 SSN and 4 SSK. As I have often said T45 needs more toys. I would really like to see T26 have twin hangers/enough hanger space for 2 Merlin. I would rather have 12 T26 than 13 if it meant all those at sea (that is not in refit) had 2087. A pair of large LPD (6 LCU, lift about 750 to 900) to follow CVF about. Looking at it the essential we are short of is that diesel frigate.

April 21, 2013 5:00 pm

Well much like Challenger, my key priority is getting the fleet working around 4HVUs – 2 CVF and 2 Albion. I agree 1 or 2 more SSNs, but for me the jury is out on Astute, let’s see how the class develops. I’m not sure I’d build any more without VLS. I view SSN / SSBN construction as a critical national asset. Trouble is I’m not sure the Govt does. It needs a continuous drumbeat of production and development rather then build some, wait a while, start again. We must know enough about Astute now to be able to envisage Astute Batch 2. Evolution not revolution. We can’t get complacent though and all the time we should be challenging the approach. Joining with the US on the launch modules for successor is one, sensible thing. At the extreme, we just build Virginias in the UK, but the design skills ‘in house’ are as important as the welding etc. Can’t we say design Astute Batch 2 to incorporate the VLS being factored into the latest Virginia?