Carrier Strike: The 2012 reversion decision

CVF and JCA

Whilst I am mulling over the future of Think Defence, the National Audit Office has released their long awaited report to the 2012 Carrier Strike reversion decision, or in other words, the CVF F35 Switcheroo

http://www.nao.org.uk/report/carrier-strike-the-2012-reversion-decision/

The Ministry of Defence acted quickly once it realized, in early 2012, the extent to which its 2010 decision to procure the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) had been based on immature data and flawed assumptions. In May 2012, the Department announced that it was reverting to procuring the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fighter. In a report published today examining that 2012 decision, the National Audit Office has called for the Department to introduce a degree of consistency in decision-making not previously apparent in the Carrier Strike programme and to work within the financial and capability assumptions underpinning the decision, if it is to deliver value for money.

By February 2012, the estimated cost of converting the aircraft carrier for the carrier variant of the JSF, requiring the ship to be fitted with catapults and arrestor gear (‘cats and traps’), had increased by 150 per cent: from £800 million to about £2 billion.  As a result, the Department estimated that, over the next ten years, the STOVL option would be £1.2 billion cheaper than the carrier variant. This difference halves to £600 million over 30 years.

Another key factor was that the carrier variant option of the JSF could also not be delivered until 2023, three years later than the planned date of 2020. The Chief of Defence Staff judged that, in the emerging security environment, such a gap in capability would be undesirable. When the Department reverted to the STOVL option, it announced that it would deliver the Carrier Strike by 2020. However, a week later, it delayed investment in Crowsnest, the helicopter based radar system making up the third element of Carrier Strike, meaning that the system is not now scheduled to be fully operational until 2022, two years later than the carriers and aircraft.

Resolving the future of the Carrier Strike programme (comprising the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft operating from them and Crowsnest) was central to the Department’s efforts to balance its ten-year equipment budget. When the implications of the 2010 decision became clear, the Department acted quickly to put in place a unique, streamlined approvals structure, with focused attention from senior officials. This was crucial to the pace of decision-making.

The Department expects to write off £74 million as a result of the reversion decision; but this cost could have been ten times higher if the decision had been made after May 2012.

Successful delivery will require the Department to manage significant affordability and technical risks. There are cost, schedule and technical risks across the JSF programme over which the Department has limited control. The highest risk phases of carrier construction and integration are yet to come and the Department must successfully conclude complicated negotiations with commercial partners.

Today’s report notes that the carrier variant of the JSF has a greater range and payload than the STOVL variant and would have provided a more effective strike capability. However, STOVL creates the option to operate Carrier Strike from two carriers, providing continuous capability. By contrast, the carrier variant could operate from only the one carrier installed with cats and traps and therefore could provide capability for only 70 per cent of the time.

Pick the bones out of that one but in the meantime, some selected reading from Think Defence towers on the issue;

This one being the most up to date, so if you only read one, read this

Others

And my all time favourite post on the subject

mmm, we do seem to have spent rather a lot of time discussing this one:)

A Summary of the Decision Making Process

On the decision itself, summarising from the first linked post;

  • For some reason, the NSC’s Option 1, by far the most pragmatic option was rejected
  • Liam Fox and the Service Chiefs were dazzled by the Strategic Raiding fad and prestige of operating a mini me USN style ‘proper carrier’
  • Liam Fox allowed the switch decision to proceed based on estimated costs because he could not resist scoring a political point over the previous government
  • Liam Fox did not have the balls to defer any decision until after the SDSR deadline and so went forward with cost estimated prepared in weeks
  • The Civil Service failed in its duty to provide some measure of decision making governance
  • The Service Chiefs had the same cavalier attitude to information assurance and ignored all the previous work that consistently pointed to STOVL as being the most sensible option
  • The Service Chiefs were tempted by the delights on offer from the F35C
  • The RAF, specifically, saw an opportunity to simultaneously protect Typhoon and get a Tornado replacement at the expense of operational flexibility
  • Everyone was prepared to ignore the realities of the F35B development issues because it fitted their agenda
  • Phil Hammond, to his great credit, stood up to the Service Chiefs and demanded a rigourous analysis, the same rigourous analysis that should have happened, and in fact, did happen many times before
  • Phil Hammond made a brave decision to revert
  • There are still a whole gaggle of bitter and twisted people who just don’t get it and are prepared to put in jeopardy the programme(s) to further their agendas

The only one who comes out of this debacle well is Phil Hammond

The Guardian

You may have seen the article this morning from Nick Hopkins of the Guardian

This is exactly the reason I started Think Defence, to counter complete and utter nonsense like that headline.

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206 Responses

  1. The Dave-C is the aircraft we probably require; Dave-B is the correct aircraft for our composition. I feel it would have been easier for us to have crash-landed the C under FAA auspices and have then farmed the wreck out to the Light-Blue; but having the ability to land-vertically upon various platforms gives the Royal Navy that little bit extra. [Awaits painted-surface issues….]

    We, as a nation (and I am thinking “England” here) need to accept the size of our cut-cloth: With Lusty on her last legs it is apparent that our LPH will now be tasked with sub-hunting. Whether Ocoean or her elder-cousin has undertaken their designed roles for the last decade-or-so if neither here nor there: We are desparately short of the right paltforms for the “twixt-and-between” years.

    Dave-B and the QE-class begin to address these issues. With the Type 45s due to morph into light-cruisers (but when do they recieve their 6″ requirements) with the addition of Harpoon only the Type 23s look out-of-place. I’m seriously thinking a cap of nine T26s (and a similar number of Venators as C2s) would be preferable. If only we had the money and the sailors….

  2. So we cocked but not as badly as we could have.

    FF

    Why do you think the LPH will be used for ASW?
    Not sure we have any 6″ plans, surface strike will be incorporated in T26

  3. Another factor was the serious doubts at the time that the B model would actually be built.

  4. APatS:

    Weren’t CVS vessels designed for ASW? When Lusty goes that role – if it still exists – will be filled by Ocean, no?

    Sorry about the ambiguity about 6″ plans. I beleive it dates back the ‘The Washington Treaty, 1923 [?]’. Light-cruisers have 6″; heavy ones are bigger….

  5. FF,

    Yes to an extent they were but that was during the cold war. When the RN was seen as existing to provide ASW support to the USN. Both the threat and our capabilities have changed a lot.

  6. “…Unlike the carrier variant, the STOVL option has scope for both carriers to operate the Joint Strike Fighter…”

    Can anyone see WHY this is assumed? 70 extra crew doesn’t cut it for me. It’s not enough of a difference! I bet is based on that total cock, madeup, incorrect, £2b to fit cats-and-traps to the second hull. £2,000,000,000 for something that is installed on nearly every modern roller-coaster in the world – I don’t think so!

    Nearly got carried away there ;-) So I won’t mention that there is no costing for Crowsnest vs E2 included. Funny how they left out the other integral bits of the solution.

    And… £30,000,000 for the ski-jump – someone’s having a laugh!

    I think figure 12 sums it all up. F35 is central to the whole decision… why, oh why then hasn’t the decision to replace Tornado and Typhoon been closely coupled with the aircraft choice for the carrier? I assume it hasn’t been closely coupled because if someone thinks F35B will make a good Tornado replacement then I’m emmigrating.

    Also, reading between the lines… we’ll end up with 72 F35B (48 sooner, 24 later). The ideal number to maintain 4 front-line squadrons of 12 – 2 for RAF and 2 for FAA (all owned by RAF) – the same model as JFH.

  7. “Liam Fox and the Service Chiefs were dazzled by the Strategic Raiding fad and prestige of operating a mini me USN style ‘proper carrier’”

    Lol, you think that isn’t what we got?

    Or that two carriers, rather than (n)one, is somehow more global guardian?

  8. I am just trying my best not to be a smug bastard

    Back to earth though, what was the cost of conversion studies, 70-100 million

    What could that have sustained or purchased?

    Crowsnest perhaps, a 5 or 6 years extension to the Sea King support contract and training pipeline

    Makes you wonder

  9. APATS, RE ” surface strike will be incorporated in T26″
    – surface/ shore/ or both?

  10. ACC

    Well the move to a more modern gun and strike length silos gives potential for both. Of course only if we actually get them.

  11. It
    “When the Department reverted to the STOVL option, it announced that it would deliver the Carrier Strike by 2020. However, a week later, it delayed investment in Crowsnest, the helicopter based radar system making up the third element of Carrier Strike, meaning that the system is not now scheduled to be fully operational until 2022, two years later than the carriers and aircraft.”
    is aptly named, as in my native language ‘like a crow’s nest’ is an expression for an untidy sight, i.e. a total mess

  12. OK, I’ll show my hand (for what it is worth):

    Dave-B will be 120 ordered (based upon a simple 40/60) split. It will be key to UK engineering and I have ouigied Hammond’s spreadsheet. Crowsnest is not a key importance to QE-class: Flying the seven five-dwarves from St Helena (for example) is enough.

    I’d rather bin the RBS-Voyager contract then extend SK ASaC. Funds are available. Despite the dire times (UK GDP “only” grew 0.8% Q-on-Q to Apr 2013 – :rolls: – so we are struggling) there is money within the budget….

  13. @ Fluffy Thoughts
    “(and I am thinking “England” here)”

    So what do the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish get to do.

    @ Simon
    “…Unlike the carrier variant, the STOVL option has scope for both carriers to operate the Joint Strike Fighter…”

    Its because the £ 2 billion figure was just to convert POW. They put it at £5 billion to convert both and as we don’t have 50p let alone £5 billion spare that meant only getting POW into service as a carrier. With STOVL we can have both carrier’s operate F35B.

  14. Crowsnest perhaps, a 5 or 6 years extension to the Sea King support contract and training pipeline”

    Its still beyond me why we can’t just keep Asac7 flying until 2022. There must be more than enough sea king parts kicking round the rest of the fleet to keep a handful going for an extra 5 or 6 years. Malaysia operates Sea Kings from the 60’s (not very well mind you) and I bet they have not been looked over half as well as ours.
    Crowsnest will be great to have eventually but at present what seems to be offered up is not much of a transformation if any at all over Asac7.
    Also with the still planned but hopefully to be scrapped decision to bin Sentinel in 2015 surely Asac7 capabilities over land will be more vital than ever.

  15. We, as a nation (and I am thinking “England” here) need to accept the size of our cut-cloth

    You as a nation, if you’re thinking “England”, aren’t building any carriers at all.

  16. The date no-one is mentioning here is 2007 (QEC Main Gate).

    This was when the decision was taken to ‘optimise’ the ship design for STOVL, which presumably consisted of delteing the space allowed in the original design for CATOBAR equipement.

    It was this decision which locked us into the F35B and which ensuring that F35C or F18E/F would never be an economic propsoition. Essentially after 2007 we did not have an adaptable design.

    The notable point is how few people (including important people like the Service Chiefs, the MoD and the Secreatary of State) seem to have understood this in 2010.

  17. Once again the real reason for this cock-up is ignored. The ships should have been CTOL from the start with the Harrier and Tornado GR.4 replacements merged in a single conventional take-off and landing aircraft. This decision should have been made in the 90s instead of the RAF/FAA clinging to 3 separate types of aircraft (and thus 3 separate replacement programmes) even as the UK fell from having 32 squadrons of fast jets in 1990 to 12 by 2008. The carrier debacle is a symptom of chronic miss-management and failure to undertake any sort of credible long-term planning since the end of the Cold War.

  18. So true “replacements merged in a single conventional take-off and landing aircraft. This decision should have been made in the 90s instead of the RAF/FAA clinging to 3 separate types of aircraft (and thus 3 separate replacement programmes) even as the UK fell from having 32 squadrons of fast jets in 1990 to 12 by 2008.”
    – what would that have made the type at the time? We would still be flying it

  19. Bob,

    Completely agree!

    Now, how can we get the current (and potential future) bunch of clowns out of Downing Street and cleanse the higher echelons of national bureaucracy.

    I for one am sick of these pillocks wasting my money.

    …seems I’m in a bad mood today :-) – no, not really.

  20. Also,

    “at the expense of operational flexibility”?

    This gets trotted out on a regular basis by STOVL fetishists but when pushed on what they actually mean they always buckle. The truth is that F-35B will fly further and carry less than F-35C, that hardly sounds flexible to me. Also, CVF will not be able to operate the majority of the carrier-borne aircraft in the world today, also not flexible.

    The UK STOVL fetish comes from Harrier. Harrier was an accident of history forced on a reluctant RAF by the air ministry and on the Navy by the end of its big carriers and now the decision not dump the type in 90s means that its legacy is the UK primary future strike aircraft is less capable than virtually every other western country’s. But it’s ok because it is “flexible”.

  21. @ Martin

    Stop talking common sense. That there are still Sea Kings flying in Europe and we have lots ourselves to provide other spares (though I bet the MoD have been quietly flogging off spares) you can’t factor that into your decision making. A future system still on the CAD box costs nothing to run, is endlessly configurable, and yet can still attract millions in profit, I mean funding…

  22. Bob,

    Completely disagree on that lot. Sorry.

    It’s unlikely we need to carry 2000lb JDAM inside F35 – we don’t use them now.

    650nm against 460nm is true – we could really do with that along with the extra endurance it brings.

    Can’t see an F35C operating from the deck of Albion if necessary for a quick refuel and rearm.

    Can’t see an F35C being forward based from a motorway.

  23. @ Bob – If F35 C was chosen as Tornado replacement then we would be really f**ked as Tornado is out of service from 2018 and F35C would not be available until 2023 at best. That would be quite a gap having no carrier strike or any other strike aircraft other than Typhoon for at least 5 years.

    The extra cost of operating CATOBAR aircraft pretty much makes the case for F35B. Also not sure if anyone has noticed but there is not going to be an LPH or LHD replacement for Ocean. CVF STOVL allows us to operate large numbers of helicopters as well as F35’s. That’s quite a benefit if the only trade off is a shorter legged flavoured of F35.

    A British JEF operating 2 CVF’s in LPH and strike carrier role will be quite a force to reckon with and something that no nation other than the USA will be with in a light year of matching.

    Also we are forgetting that the real replacement for Tornado is a combination of F35B and FCAS based on Taranis UCAV. I think that combo will be significantly more effective than a manned F35C.

  24. ACC,

    Simple, CTOL JSF to replace both Tornado and Harrier. What happened instead was the RAF sustained its desire for a dedicated Tornado (first manned and then unmanned) replacement until it was finally killed in 2010.

  25. Martin,

    Did you read the doc? It seemed to imply that there’s little chance of ever operating QE and PoW at the same time. There’s only likely to be one crew.

    Also, what’s wrong with Typhoon for strike between Tornado and “the next one”?

  26. Simon,

    It’s not just 2000lb JDAMs. It is multiples of smaller weapons, and larger stand-off weapons as well as any others introduced during the types 40 year service life. Smaller weapons bays greatly reduces payload flexibility especially in the context of low RCS.

    F-35B will not be operating from the back of an Albion class.

    Jaguars, Phantoms, F-16s have all operated from motorways, so can F-35C.

    martin,

    The cost of converting the CVF class mid-way through build makes the case for the B, had these ships have been designed from the outset for the CTOL variant this would not have been a problem. The additional operating costs are minor, it was the capital costs that killed the switch.

    Prior to 2010 the OSD for Tornado GR,4 was 2025, so certainly not “f**ked”

    Finally, no UCAV until 2035 based on current plans.

  27. “I am just trying my best not to be a smug bastard

    Back to earth though, what was the cost of conversion studies, 70-100 million

    What could that have sustained or purchased?”

    Harrier, of course.

    The 70-100 million is a low estimate, and does not include intangibles that the MoD can’t track. It could well be only half the real cost.

  28. Are we saying, consciously or subconsciously. that the carrier problem * is really all about replacing Tornado? It seems to me to be so. Forget Harrier (as in RAF GR) as if we factor that in we might as well as start talking about a Jaguar replacement too.

    1) Typhoon supposed OSD is 2030. No doubt that will be extended. But that date is all we have to work off.
    2) What do we mean by replacing Tornado?
    2a) Do we mean another strike, reconnaissance, CAS aircraft? I think given UAV, satellite. PGM delivered by artillery (both naval and army, gun and rocket), and cruise missiles of variety of flavours mean that is to narrow remit for an aircraft procurement project.
    2b) Do we mean furnishing the RAF with a second fleet of jets to see them past Typhoon OSD date? I am lead to believe by my readings here that Typhoon is multirole and F35x will be too.

    I not the Italians have just taken delivery a refurbished Tornado.

    I never really bought into UK carrier strike. For me CVF has always been about sea control and amphibious warfare support. I have no problems with a fast, large, LPH that can host fast pointy planes that can carry missiles.

    * Setting to one side the other political reason why costs jumped a billion or so even though the project was on track.

  29. @Martin

    ‘A British JEF operating 2 CVF’s in LPH and strike carrier role will be quite a force to reckon with and something that no nation other than the USA will be with in a light year of matching.

    Also we are forgetting that the real replacement for Tornado is a combination of F35B and FCAS based on Taranis UCAV. I think that combo will be significantly more effective than a manned F35C’

    Well said! Plus the RAF should really be focusing on squeezing a lot more of the potential capability out of Typhoon first, and planning for it’s mix of F35B and UCAV’s second.

    I think we can reasonably expect to see something between 70 and 90 F35B procured (before a Typhoon replacement is considered), if for no other reason then to meet the contractual expectations as a level 1 partner with the American’s. Personally I think if we do see the above kind of numbers then we should recognise the potential in a fleet of that size and think ourselves lucky!

    Oh and yeah why the heck can’t a few Sea Kings lumber on into the 2020’s, half a dozen kept going with spares from the others would suffice to keep some residual capability going. They are sturdy beasts that have already been around for ages, what difference will a few more make!

  30. @ Bob

    ‘Jaguars, Phantoms, F-16s have all operated from motorways, so can F-35C.’

    Do you mean operated or just taken off from?

    I can’t think of many ops that have taken place with a motorway as the runway.

  31. “The date no-one is mentioning here is 2007 (QEC Main Gate).

    This was when the decision was taken to ‘optimise’ the ship design for STOVL, which presumably consisted of delteing the space allowed in the original design for CATOBAR equipement.”

    There was no deletion of space allowed for CTOL equipment. The only “change” to the ship has been the deletion of the 2.5m x 50 x 3m deck edge extension to port which allows recovery of E2C on the last wire, at full slew to port and full extension of the wire. That is a relatively small bit of steel to fabricate and put on.

    The design itself was (and remains) adaptable. The thing people haven’t hauled aboard is that the detailed production of drawings for all the EMALS/EAR systems and compartments was not contracted for and was therefore never executed. It isn’t difficult, it just takes time and money which MoD were not (at the time of Main Gate) prepared to pay for, given the preference for STOVL.

    You don’t say to the Alliance at contract award, “please build our carrier as a STOVL ship, but we’d like you to produce all the drawings and then build it with £600M of EMALS/EAR equipment that we don’t think we’re going to use and a significant amount of additional power distribution cabling and with two empty channels 100m long in the deck and their associated seating etc etc. Oh and better pay Converteam to change the ships power management software so it can fit EMALS/EAR in case we change our minds “. Quite rightly the Alliance would come back and say ” we can’t do that unless you make a decision one way or the other and in any case it’ll cost you big-time”.

    The design remained adaptable post 2007 and still is. The point is that once you start building it, the cost of changing it increases considerably.

    The interesting thing about the conversion cost breakdown is the “installation” cost and the other “add-ons”.

    The equipment cost at £577M is credible. CVN79 EMALS cost from US data is $879M, which if you halve it and then add 30% or so for non-scaleable items ends up at £380M. The EAR system (same source) ends up being about £120M. Add a bit for uncertainty etc and I can believe £577M.

    I’m a bit more sceptical about the £150M for technical assistance. This is explicitly included in the contracted equipment costs for CVN79 and is nowhere near $220M/£150M, so not convinced with that one.

    £134M for VAT? Is that us paying VAT to our own Treasury, because something is coming in as FMS? How does 20% of £577M get to be £134 anyway? More like £115M.

    £675M for installation. Assuming the vast majority of that is labour, it starts getting a bit silly. If you assume £100/hr inc overheads (which is broadly double what the rate should be), and assume 1700 manhours per man year, that’s just shy of 4000 man years to install the system. Now aside from the small matter that there aren’t 4000 people working on the ships at Rosyth and it shouldn’t take all of them a year to install, a more credible figure might be three hundred people working full time for two years, tops. That indicates you should be looking at less than one-sixth of that figure. To put the “installation” labour of 6.7M manhours in context, an entire Type 23 frigate took somewhere between 2.4 and 1.9M manhours to build from scratch. RFA Fort George took less mnahours to build from scratch.

    Ditto the “Conversion Development Phase”. Using the same rates you end up with just shy of 1000 manyears for the design and project management of the conversion. That’s not far off the total to design and manage the build of HMS illustrious back in the early 80s.

    370 man years to test and commission the system? Again, a team of 20 commissioned all of an entire T23 (weapons, hull and machinery) over two years, so a certain degree of inflation here, which adds to the £234M of inflation that apparently wasn’t accounted for first time round and I suspect would be applied across these rather high labour figures as well, so you would expect it to drop significantly.

    Not that it matters, the decision is made and will not be changed barring a catastrophe with Dave B.

  32. If the decision had been taken in the 90s to roll harrier and tornado replacement together we would not be building aircraft carriers at all.

    One and only one nation can afford to devote its resources to conventional carrier operation to an effective sustained capability. No one else needs requires or has the cash to do it that’s why stovl is the best choice to deliver a credible capability.

  33. @ Bob
    “sustained its desire for a dedicated Tornado (first manned and then unmanned) replacement until it was finally killed in 2010.”
    It’s still alive and well in the FCAS. First test flight due any day now.

    @ Simon –
    Did you read the doc? It seemed to imply that there’s little chance of ever operating QE and PoW at the same time. There’s only likely to be one crew.
    Also, what’s wrong with Typhoon for strike between Tornado and “the next one”?

    Under today’s budget there is only one crew but it’s possibly even with todays stretched budget to find £60 – £ 70 million a year down the back of the couch to get both ship’s into operation.
    Nothing wrong with Typhoon in the strike role which really says if it can do it for five years why not longer. Why do we need the F35C at all.

  34. Mark,

    Yes we would be building carriers, and far more than one nation can do it. STOVL is the best choice now because of the conversion cost- it should never have been the decision though.

    Topman,

    Yes, operated. NATO used to do frequent exercises using West German autobahn’s as runways. Correct though, it has never been done in a conflict scenario and is virtually irrelevant today.

  35. martin,

    No it is not alive and well, the procurement budget was liquidated in 2010. Taranis is just a technology demonstrator and no true UCAV is planned for operational use by the UK until 2030-40.

  36. @ Bob
    “The additional operating costs are minor, it was the capital costs that killed the switch.”
    Do you have anything to back up that the additional operating costs of CATOBAR operations are minor compared to STOVL? Everything I have seen indicates the costs are far from minor which is why we stopped doing it in 1979. I agree the capital costs were what killed the project but only because the monkey that made the decision could not see further than five minutes into the future.

    “It’s not just 2000lb JDAMs. It is multiples of smaller weapons, and larger stand-off weapons as well as any others introduced during the types 40 year service life. Smaller weapons bays greatly reduces payload flexibility especially in the context of low RCS.”
    The trend for weapons since 1944 has been for them to get smaller. So why would this change in the next 40 years?
    Also if we ever did need to drop those 2000lb JDAMS on a bunker deep in enemy territory and it just so happened the Americans were unable to fulfil that mission then we stick them on our nice new Taranis UCAV. I bet we could get an entire fleet of them for the £5 billion cost of carrier given the prototype was only £126 million.

  37. Bob

    No we wouldn’t and we wouldnt even be involved with f35. Perhaps a mistral type vessel or extend the invincible class but no way the navy builds 2 65k tn carriers for two 9 a/c sqns of sea harrier.

    Care to name a nation outside if the USA who operates a sustained at sea conventional carrier capability.

  38. Bob,

    “It’s not just 2000lb JDAMs. It is multiples of smaller weapons, and larger stand-off weapons as well as any others introduced during the types 40 year service life. Smaller weapons bays greatly reduces payload flexibility especially in the context of low RCS.

    F-35B will not be operating from the back of an Albion class.

    Jaguars, Phantoms, F-16s have all operated from motorways, so can F-35C.”

    1. So how many Brimstone can F35B and F35C carry respectively?

    2. I guess Harrier didn’t operate from the back of Fearless then in 1982?

    3. As for the Jag, Phantom and F16… I’m talking about forward austere basing not the odd takeoff and landing. I’d suggest even Gripen would struggle in reality.

  39. @ Bob

    The £ 1 billion FOAS budget was liquidated in 2010 but this was not to buy any hardware merely to look at what could fill the requirement. The UCAV work being done under FOAS was transferred into the FCAS. Ok it’s not as yet designed to produce a UCAV but Tarranis is pretty much as close to a UCAV as anyone any where has come at the moment. There is no reason why Taranis cannot be considered a prototype rather than a technology demonstrator. It has bomb bays and full stealth coating’s. Personally I think its easier to get a technology demonstrator threw the treasury than a prototype. Its not dissimilar to the threw deck cruiser.

    If we can get a UCAV in 2030 why waste money on an F35C replacement for Tornado in 2023 or later.

    Personally I think we should just go full steam ahead on Taranis now and get it into operation for 2020 on our own.

    Does anyone know when the first flight will be. They seem to be keeping it close to the chest. Was suppose to be Q1 2013.

  40. x,

    “I never really bought into UK carrier strike. For me CVF has always been about sea control and amphibious warfare support. I have no problems with a fast, large, LPH that can host fast pointy planes that can carry missiles.”

    Me neither.

    The more time I’ve spent on this site, the more I’ve realised that sea control (for presence, defensive and offensive) is the main justification for carrier(s) – even though I’ve tried to find other options I keep coming back to a carrier ;-)

  41. 1) “However, MBDA acknowledges that the UK’s recent decision to revert to the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B “brings some challenges”, as the type’s weapons bays are shorter than those found on the carrier variant F-35C”*

    It is not just weapons available today, it is future weapons, smaller bays means smaller weapons and less weapons. That is an inescapable fact.

    *http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/pictures-mbda-sharpens-spear-missile-design-for-f-35-integration-373453/

    2) So? F-35B is not Harrier and one instance 30 years ago is hardly representative of an actual requirement

    3) The infrastructure required to support F-35B means it will not be operating from “forward austere” airfields. As happened in Afghanistan, a runway will be built.

  42. Bob

    So were agreed….

    If it’s got to be the B rather than the C, then its a dog of a concept and we can scrap the Elephants completely… as a waste of money….

  43. martin,

    Your post is riddled with nonsense, not least the old “through-deck cruiser” myth (the treasury knew exactly what the invincible class were as did the entire cabinet). A technology demonstrator is a million miles from being an operational aircraft and as interesting as Taranis is F-35C will do more being a bigger airframe with a wider range of roles. F-35B (previously F-35C) is now the Tornado replacement, whatever comes in the 2030s, more F-35s UCAVs or a some combination of the two, will be the Typhoon replacement.

  44. I was highly critical of the reversion decision at first but reading here has convinced me it was the right call for the Royal Navy given where the project had gotten to at that point. Without rehashing the whole thing I think it has some positives (surge ability, short-term affordability) and some downsides (the main one IMHO being missing out on things like the E-2 and UCAV’s designed for catapult launch) but is overall a pretty reasonable decision for the UK.

    When it comes to the F-35B I suspect Challenger is right. The UK will get about 70-90 B models before it has to make a decision on Typhoon replacement. I suspect that that replacement will be the F-35A (or whatever conventional land variant replaced it) at that time for commonality sake (the two variants share a huge number of major components even though they have many differences). I am less convinced that a system like Taranis will be ready to be a Typhoon replacement as opposed to a supplement in that timeframe.

    My feeling on UAV’s is that the next generation of combat oriented UAV’s will be what amounts to unmanned F-117’s. Basically strike aircraft that carry a couple of bombs and are at their best hitting pre-set targets. They will obviously have some real-time re-targeting capability but I think that people will be circumspect about trusting their com links with the things in a high ECM environment and thus won’t go all in on things. They will do a few other things but I think the above will be their main combat role. They will then slowly evolve from that but software development will be slow, expensive and painful for more dynamic roles.

    I think military forces, being pretty conservative, are going to want to see UCAV’s perform well in a limited spectrum before they consider them full replacements for manned aircraft. So I think you will see a manned Typhoon replacement.

  45. IXION,

    Not really, if it has to be B then it is a wasted opportunity and the UK has ended up with a lesser solution than it could have had (I am not advocating another switch- that is unaffordable) but ultimately the B option will provide a capability far greater than the Invincible class with Harrier ever did.

  46. The “surge” argument is another of those that does not stand up to critique. A CTOL carrier can launch aircraft almost as fast as a STOVL one (EMALS has cycle time of just 45 seconds). Rapid launch also requires aircraft to be ready to launch and CVF will carry so few aircraft it is effectively a non-issue anyway.

  47. Bob,

    1) I completely agree that “smaller bays means smaller weapons and less weapons. That is an inescapable fact.” , but you can take that to the extreme and say that F35C is not big enough to do a proper bombing run, so it’s pointless. However, the reality is a difference between what we want and what we need. I subscribe to “sea control” over and above this silly “strike” business so value F35C for it’s endurance, not it’s weapons bays.

    2) So? So, the point is that Harrier was used (I have no idea why) on Fearless in ’82 and also shipped south on container ships. Could even have been used from the container ships. The point is it demonstrates some of the flexibility you rapidly dismiss.

    3) If there’s time and a logistical supply chain that can provide for a proper airstrip then I absolutely agree, F35B will NOT be operating from austere fields, but, if there isn’t time (or the required logistics) then a forward based F35B sitting aside a fuel truck with a tent for maintenance of a few bits and pieces might seriously compromise any advance an enemy might think of making. It also allows deeper pentration into hostile territory than the 460nm limit immediately implies.

    I’m all for the F35C and CTOL/CATOBAR CVF but to dismiss the undeniable benefits and USPs of an alternative is short sighted.

  48. Bob I think in this context surge relates to extra pilots and aircraft over and above what’s expected to be on board.

  49. @X

    ‘I never really bought into UK carrier strike. For me CVF has always been about sea control and amphibious warfare support. I have no problems with a fast, large, LPH that can host fast pointy planes that can carry missiles’

    Totally agree!

    Whatever the intention may have been at the start these ships and the aircraft they will host are going to be mostly about fleet protection and limited power projection ashore, which isn’t a bad set of capabilities to end up with is it!

    @Martin

    ‘Nothing wrong with Typhoon in the strike role which really says if it can do it for five years why not longer. Why do we need the F35C at all’

    Exactly, you can only really justify a NEED for F35C or a similar long-range strike aircraft if you first call a complete halt to any further Typhoon development and the idea of UCAVs bringing a niche strike capability to the party further down the line.

  50. @Martin

    I think Bob is a bit nuts with his fervor here but I do think he is right to caution about the state of the Taranis and over reliance on it as a cure all for the future. I don’t think it is all that close to operation and it would take a fairly major miracle to put it in active service in 2020.

    A few major things have to happen to get a combat version into major service.

    1. If the range is really intercontinental it will have to be a lot bigger. The X-47 and Phantom Ray are incredibly similar aerodynamic platforms (all three are flying wings) with fairly similar thrust to weight profiles and similar SFC for the engines. The X-47 will take you about 2,100NM’s.

    I am going to say with pretty good confidence that the current Taranis version that is about 40% as big is not going to have intercontinental range yet. In fact it probably won’t do 2,100NM’s. The math on this is fairly simple. Really. The engine will burn 0.81 pounds per hour per pound of thrust of gas. That means it would burn the whole MTOW in 5 hours. 5 hours at 600 NM’s gives you a range of 1,500NM’s. At a realistic fuel fraction of .2 to .4 you are not going even that far.

    An intercontinental range would to me say you are going to need something at least half the size of a B-2 (if you take out the crew and some carrying capacity for weapons). Certainly you can’t bend the laws of physics to make the current one go that far.

    2. I think that at some point when the thing starts to fly people will have to admit it is not supersonic. Simply put the aerodynamic shape is not much different form the X-47B which is a subsonic aircraft. The X-47B has a T/W of around .36. The Taranis has a T/W of .36. I don’t doubt that in a dive both the X-47 and the Taranis could probably hit supersonic speeds. But sustained straight and level flight without an afterburner? I don’t see it.

    If that is really a capability desired on any production variant that means more thrust which brings heavier engines and more fuel consumption. Again this thing has to get a lot bigger to really do what we are asking of it.

    The point here is that Taranis really is at this point basically a demonstrator. To make anything like the stated program capabilities you need something a lot bigger. That means a lot of structural work and then more testing of all that work as well.

  51. @Bob

    You misunderstand what I mean by surge. I am speaking to pushing RAF planes out onto carriers if you need more fixed wing assets. Not strike packages.

  52. “Do you have anything to back up that the additional operating costs of CATOBAR operations are minor compared to STOVL? Everything I have seen indicates the costs are far from minor which is why we stopped doing it in 1979.”

    The UK stopped conventional carrier operations in 1979 because the Ark Royal was worn out (with replacement cancelled over 10 years previously) and because we had decided to concentrate on providing two main capabilities to NATO – an armoured Corps and RAF contribution (12 FJ sqns) to 2 ATAF in Germany, together with the major contribution of ASW capability to STRIKFLTLANT, which meant ASW helicopters, escorts and submarines, plus Nimrod.

    None of the resultant force structure was really supposed to do anything else, which is why we were lucky with Corporate.

    The requirement for defence now is vastly different and based on defending our wider interests in Europe and beyond, which is why contrary to belief of some, carrier air is required.

    Some indication of what the minimum requirement for flying hours is can be gained from this latest dit.

    http://hamptonroads.com/2013/05/budget-squeeze-forces-navy-cut-flying-hours

    which indicates that your normal carrier air wing pilot averages 25 hours per month, but taht the minimum required to maintain flight safety proficiency is 11. I would assume that the latter does not involve remaining deck qualified. Carrier qual requirements can be found in the NATOPS manuals.

  53. Simon,

    1) Unfortunately the UK primarily used the Invincible class, post cold-war, for strike. Strike is what CVF was designed for. Sorry to burst the bubble.

    2) Yes, we all know what Harrier did, F-35B is not Harrier.

    3) If there is enough time logistical capability to produce a base capable of operating F-35B then there is enough of both to produce a longer runway.

  54. Breguet Range (cruise climb) = (V/sfc) . (L/D) . ln (Wtakeoff/Wempty)

    So with a V of 600 knots, an SFC of 0.81 and an L/D of 12 (assumed)…

    If 50% of the aircraft TO weight were fuel and it comes back without dropping it’s ordnance that’s a range of 6161nm.

    3000nm is considered intercontinental.

  55. Jeremy,

    My apologies. To answer your point though, RAF flies F-35C too, joint Force F-35C = problem solved.

  56. If we look at the way carriers have been historically used then it is dependent upon the threat. WW2 carriers were used to carry out strike missions vs other carriers whilst ensuring that strike missions from the other carriers did not succeed so they were also doing Fleet Defence.
    In the Falklands the Carriers role was primarily Fleet Defence during the Gulf wars and Former Yugoslavia carriers could concentrate on strike or CAS or recon as the air threat against them was lesser.
    People get far too hung up on definitions made by Politicians who could probably not explain the difference in any case. The primary mission of CVF based assets will depend upon the mission and the threat. From this the make up of the TAG will be decided. This can and will vary.

  57. Bob,

    “Unfortunately the UK primarily used the Invincible class, post cold-war, for strike. Strike is what CVF was designed for. Sorry to burst the bubble.”

    Well if you think “primarily” then so be it. I was under the impression Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and Iraq were predominantly no-fly enforcement with FA2. 6 x GR7s is hardly “strike” ;-)

  58. Simon,

    Sending an aircraft to drop a bomb on a target is a strike mission. Being able to fly further and deliver more or bigger ordnance makes you more capable at strike missions. Being able to fly further for longer makes you better at no-fly enforcement.

  59. Mark said “If the decision had been taken in the 90s to roll harrier and tornado replacement together we would not be building aircraft carriers at all.”

    That is the danger phrase isn’t it? It is so loaded because every sees that phrase and thinks CVN, 80 cabs airwings, with a half dozen Tico’s and Burkes orbiting it. I think some here have to look past that image. Look at the advantages of being able to field and service a large number of helicopter from a platform that can pace with USN groups. Helicopters aren’t a panacea, but they are the ultimate force multiplier. They operate at human scales as well vast heights and distances. What other vehicle can carry a pallet to a grid reference and carry a radar kilometres into the air? I am still amazed at the synergy between helicopter and frigate in the ASW role.

    Manned aircraft will be with us for a long while yet. But I think we are missing something if we don’t recognise that cruise, PGM, and UAV are eating into GRA envelope. Why can’t the Army commander or RN commander have control over his own strike, CAS, etc. assets? It is events on the surface that dictate where air power is needed. Perhaps we need to define what air power means? A shell flies through the air but is fired from a gun, so is that airpower? If CAS effects can be delivered by a PGM fire mission from a gun why should we buy an aircraft whose costs would cover 500 PG munitions?

    Lastly some have us to look beyond the Cold War. Our defence focus goes beyond this,

    http://www.thetravelempire.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Europe_pol981.jpg

    and now, as it was before 1900s, is this,

    http://www.mapsofworld.com/images-mow/world-map.jpg

    Operation Ellamy didn’t show us how flexible land air power is, on the contrary it did the opposite. It showed how “we” struggled to operated at the edges of our own continent. Why were the Italians with all their Tornados operating a carrier off Libya? And the French why was the CdeG at work? Sorry the closer you are to your target, given the short range of modern jets, the more sorties you will generate. If the two nations closet to Libya needed carriers what about us? And what if France hadn’t been keen on action in Libya and close their airspace to us? What then? Actually to argue that airpower is the tool of modern warfare that everything else hinges off, and then to argue that having all that power operating off a platform closer to the point of need makes it some how less effect, actually it is detrimental to how efficiently that power is exercised, is to me slightly flawed. As Chinese cash is already influencing politics in Africa will we always have that convenient airfield in theatre? As we start to compete for resources mid-ocean where then that convenient airfield? And if the future of conflict is war amongst the people will we need huge large amounts of FJ power anyway? Invinvibles worked post Cold War, Ocean has been worked to death, and so having more of the same on a larger scale can only be a good thing. And lastly lets factor in something else. Voyager is a cock-up. When that contract expires CVF will still have decades to run. For all its faults, and as I said further which weren’t entirely the builders’ fault, CVF will be good value for money.

  60. x,

    Please don’t try and sell CVF as just a big “value for money” LPH ;-)

  61. @Simon

    50% fuel faction is fairly optimistic in my opinion to start with depending on the weapons bays. To fit the proposed mission profile someone gave (the Taranis dropping 2,000 pound bombs) it would have a payload of 4,000 pounds or so which would have it 22% payload, 28% structure and 50% fuel. A lot of what I say is presuming a payload similar to that of an X-47. Now if you want to drop the payload faction to that of an X-47 then certainly you could probably get a similar range to it on the smaller platform and possibly somewhat better since we are pushing less structure through the air.

    But if we presume that payload is a similar faction to the X-47B on the Taranis then it is probably sized to carry a couple of 500 pound bombs right now. That would give you the range you needed and allow for the smaller platform but it is not really a replacement for a manned aircraft in that case which is the problem that was being addressed. Nor is it really a heavy strike asset.

    The other problem is a huge number of components (com equipment, a lot of radars, ECM equipment, target designators ect) don’t shrink just because you have a smaller platform. If you want to carry a SniperXR type targeting system it will weigh what it weighs regardless of your platform size for example. The computers on a 44,000 pound UCAV are likely no bigger than those on an 18,000 pound one. ESM systems don’t change weight because you have a smaller platform. You may get by with less capability to save weight but otherwise these fixed weights really can start to add up.

    Right now everything on the Taranis sounds great. It has not flown yet and it has not been mission-equipped yet. The lesson we know from history is that almost every aircraft ever developed looks lovely when it is a demonstrator with an engine and aerodynamic form. Then you start stuffing weapons and full mission systems in it and they become like a pregnant wife. They gain weight and get bigger. If this thing is going to do what everyone wants it to do then it is going to get bigger unless BAE has outdone everyone else in the world by an order of magnitude when it comes to UAV design.

  62. “People get far too hung up on definitions made by Politicians who could probably not explain the difference in any case. The primary mission of CVF based assets will depend upon the mission and the threat. From this the make up of the TAG will be decided. This can and will vary.”

    Absolutely spot on and the primary rationale behind the size and aircraft capacity of QEC. Would have been nice to have f/w AEW, AAR and ASW/ASuW, but the principal requirement is to have a ship capable of carrying sufficient numbers of aircraft to be useful across a range of scenarios. Not a ship struggling to range 10 cabs and launch more than 30 sorties / day.

  63. “Not a ship struggling to range 10 cabs and launch more than 30 sorties / day.”

    Which carrier is this then? Garribalidi?

  64. @ Topman and Bob

    I took surge to mean brining extra pilots and aircraft onboard as well as in 1982 when RAF pilots came onboard with zero carrier training. How long does it take to work up flight crews for CATOBAR operations. Even trained naval pilots need something like 30 landings to re-qualify for a new tour let alone airforce bods who have never been to sea.

  65. x

    Well not really danger at all. There is no way none at all the raf would have taken close to 15 sqns worth of harrier and tornado sqn and decided I know we will buy a carrier and ctol aircraft. It would have been develop the replica aircraft and the option would poosibly have been taken to upgrade the few remaining harriers and run on invisible. Nor does the uk require going to that level of carrier capability. The uk contribution to Libya or any other operation since the Falklands has not in anyway been affected by not having a cvn style carrier or even considering having enough for a sustained capability. As for France using there carrier prob because the navy have introduced rafale first and are further on in its service experience than the airforce and it was available and I think worked up had that carrier been in one of its frequent refits what would have happened. Did the French carrier stay out thru the duration how did there carrier get on in mali? As for the Italians well there role may have been similar to the us marines one.

    You say voyagers a cock up. Well I’ll disagree there the aircraft itself is fine infact the cheapest most capable availble the mode we have choose to pocure it by most certainly is.

    And uavs, satellites cruise missiles artillery ect haven’t really eaten that much into the mission tornado was designed or required for. Nothing you have covered could have done southern watch or the role it carried out in Libya.

  66. Mark,

    Is “invisible” a typo. ‘Cos I like it :-)

    Invisible
    Illusion
    …and…
    Ark Removal

  67. @ Simon

    I will try not to. I am seeking help for my problem. For example I only eat plane (sic) crisps now and avoid ones that taste of helicopter. :)

    @ Chally

    I honestly don’t see the problem some have with CVF. Well I do it is because all they see is jets.

    Um. It is easy to see how CVF will be used at a broad strokes level,

    1) Support of USN CBGs: Just as the Invincibles were intended to be used in the Big One as screening assets. Pingers, baggers, and local CAP.

    2) Support of USMC: F35b (Ours’ and the Cousins’) providing CAS and CAP. AEW. Extra helicopters for the assault.

    3) With Le French: 24 F35b plus 24 Rafale isn’t to be sniffed at. The FJ not being able to land on each other’s decks is a non-issue. If either ship weren’t there then the other wouldn’t be able to land on anyway so………

    4) UK-only: Eg those Islands again. If the FAA kicked Argie backside with 30-ish SHAR what could we do with 24 (or 36) F35b? Plus (hopefully) AEW, every escort fielding Sea Wolf (Sea Ceptor to come), and with Sea Viper making Sea Dart look like a rocket in a milk bottle. Actually that orbat would scare most nations. Yes it lacks a bit of depth. 12 T45 would be nice, more T26 than we are getting, etc. and so on as has been said here thousands of times before, but you get my point……

    If CVF set sail with 12 F35b, 8 ASW, 4 ASaC, 8 Junglies, and a clutch of Wildcat it would be enough for most emergencies. If not we swap out what isn’t needed and add in what is needed.

  68. CVS with a mixed SHAR/GR7 CAG.

    As I understand it, the CQ requirement for USN aviators (once trained) is 10 day and 10 night launch and recoveries, which they tend to do in a couple of days as they embark, basically by arriving at the ship, trapping and then getting shot off again to do a circuit before trapping again until the requisite number of launch / recoveries accumulated. I have the old RN standard kicking around at home somewhere as well.

    By no means weeks and weeks of training to stay current contrary to the assertions of some. BUT – once CQ’d you stay embarked for the deployment, which may be where the reticence comes from……

    Initial training will of course be more intrusive, but that is essentially achieved through a combination of practicing carrier approach and recoveries to a land-base followed by periods of at-sea recoveries on an available deck. I suspect a judicious use of USN training pipelines (at a suitable price) would provide an acceptable solution, as it appears to do for the MN. The cousins will probably be glad of any additional throughput/cash to offset their fixed overheads.

  69. @ Mark

    Voyager the aeroplane is fine. I meant the PFI contract. Sorry. I should have been more precise. I couldn’t remember the name of the company when I was bashing away.

  70. X – I think you and I are on the the same wavelength – the flexibility it brings is incredible.

  71. “CVS with a mixed SHAR/GR7 CAG.”

    30? Someone’s doing something wrong then! I’d suggest 50/day is more like it, especially after the forecastle was filled in.

  72. But then one of us has been involved in understanding what needs to happen to generate sorties and how that translates to deck ops and one of us hasn’t. Not meant as a pop, just a statement of fact.

    You can suggest 50/day all you like. The facts are that even a CVN running round with a CVW of 75+ cabs could only generate 120 sorties per day on a sustained basis. the surge trials have demonstrated an ability to do over 200, but that required more manpower and some interesting ways of getting deck space. That’s a ship btw with over 6 times the number of f/w aircraft available and more manpower than you can shake a stick at, plus with a deck designed to accept a large number of aircraft. As opposed to a ship that was designed primarily to operate helicopters and a handful of f/w aircraft and for which even the additional deck area at fly 1 did not overcome the inherent restrictions of the overall design.

    It depends entirely on what you’re trying to do both with your aircraft packages and your alert posture. As an example – I would not be surprised if a force of 10 SHAR or GR7 if launched in pairs every hour might be able to sustain that launch rate for 24 hours, getting you close to fifty sorties. The limit there would probably be down to the inspection & maintenance (as opposed to servicing) requirements on the cab, plus the availability of aircrew and the ability of the ship to man the deck, the FDO, Flyco, squadron office, SE store and so forth on a 24 hour basis and that’s before we get to whether you have to arm/re-arm / de-arm the cabs.

    Whether those forty-odd sorties would generate any military effect is another question entirely. There’s c0ck-all use in launching cabs for the sake of it. Critical mass comes into play and with that comes demands on space, people, facilities etc that may not be apparent at first look. That is why the ships got bigger between 1998 and 2002. It’s not that they were carrying more aircraft – it’s just that a better understanding of the pinchpoints and likely impact on manpower requirements drove a bigger ship to get around them while achieving the required sortie rate.

  73. I am all at sea with respect of the technical issues here…I built my Airfix Kits very badly because I wanted to get them into action, mostly in combined operations against the Hun…however a number of points do strike me:

    1 A big flat-top is very useful for all kinds of things…F/J, helicopters, embarked Marines, evacuees…it is a versatile platform…would have been more versatile if designed and built with cats and traps from the off, but it wasn’t…so that ship has sailed.

    2 It is however expensive, and a useful target for cuts in public expenditure…and the politicians who make those decisions know even less about defence than I do and care much, much less…the only thing on earth that is actually real to any of them is winning and keeping office, and all their decisions are about that.

    3 Thus they might cut CVF to save money or embarrass their political opponents if they think it will help them get or keep office…

    4…but they will not under any circumstances on earth say “we think CVF was an expensive wrong turn, so we have decided to scrap or sell it…and then find yet more money to change direction completely and build a different sort of RN/a much bigger RAF with many more fast jets/many extra Army Brigades with modernised kit”…

    5…and what they are much more likely to say is “CVF is a white elephant; the service Chiefs are useless for letting us buy it …scrap it and cut defence by 50% for the lovely cuddly DfID”

    It therefore seems to me that it behoves those who disagree that defence is a waste of money to think about ways in which even elephants can be useful, even if they might have picked a different pet…because no likely political process that scraps it will redirect cash into their pet project or favourite service; it will just cut the cash and the capacity permanently.

    Think on, as we say in these parts

    GNB

  74. NaB,

    Sorry on two counts. 1) Didn’t realise you meant sustained, 2) Didn’t realise you were talking about the 10 jets only.

    No worries about the “pop”. It’s taking me ages to extract information from various sources. I’ve even done my own computer model of flight deck movements to prove/disprove the CVS/CVF/CVN sortie generation rates… not that they work yet, but I don’t see the following being unrealistic for a month of operation, do you?:

    8 SHAR at 3 sorties per day = 24 sorties per day sustained.
    6-9 Merlin/Sea King ASW = 12-16 sorties per day sustained.
    3 ASaC = 5-6 sorties per day sustained.

    I’m only going on historic evidence and a statement made by the USMC that 12 USMC AV8-Bs are expected to deliver 40 sorties per day. But I’d expect that is at full-tilt with hangar and on-deck maintenance over a couple of shifts.

  75. @Simon seems a bit high I’d be surprised if you could get 3 waves of 8 (or combination) everyday for a month out of 8 fj regardless of type.

  76. @ George

    :) CVF will bring a lot. It is a shame it is has been tarnished by politicians playing silly beggars and those still looking for an FJ to knock out important Soviet targets 50 miles or so behind the lines.

  77. Topman,

    Thanks for your input. I was thinking 3 sorties of 2-hours each (6 hours per airframe per day). If you think a month is too much, then how long? Two-weeks (~90 hours on each airframe)?

    I’d certainly expect to field 12 jets in a normal squadron putting only 4-hours per day (2 sorties) on each, which I guess should bring it to about 120 hours each month before a frame-swap, but I was under the impression that Harrier was a little more reliable than the “supersonics” giving a greater MTBF?

  78. I am fed up with the whole saga.
    If we wanted a STOVL carrier, we should have built 3 “Super Invincibles” i.e. 800ft long, panamax width (110ft).
    If we wanted a Midway size carrier, it should have been CTOL.
    Now we have an expensive, muddled abortion of both. Any change will add cost & delays. No wonder the Country is in such a state if this is the level of our decision making.
    We should have made a proper decision in 1998 & stuck to it.
    Perhaps this is the start of my rant thread.

  79. This “muddled abortion” might just be pretty useful though.

    If you picture it with 6 jets stashed on the aft starboard pad, and two ready to go on the runway with 4 Chinook ready to drop 200 Marines in a single wave on spots 2-5 to the port side, a Crowsnest Merlin poised on spot 1 and a couple of ASW Merlin operating from the forward starboard area it starts to look like a Sea Control / Commando Carrier with a much heavier “hit” than USS America.

  80. Isn’t having to go to work a nuisance – means I always seem to arrive late at TD’s carrier parties. Anyway, I largely agree with Bob, so much so that I’m wondering if I have developed dissociative identity disorder! I’ll know if I start using the royal “we.”

  81. @Simon – absolutely right – and it is also what we have; so what about some positive thoughts about the benefits of being the only European Navy with a new carrier in terms of @Chris B’s coalition building strategy? Or thinking about how we sell the benefits of getting both to sea? Or keeping the build programme going so we can replace Ocean and achieve at least some economies of scale? (That was a special thought for @x and others – you know who you are!) Or how it might support a Light Cavalry Regiment (in Red Trousers) undertaking land operations in support of a recently landed Royal Marine Commando?

    A surprisingly positive Gloomy…

  82. Hi Simon, about sortie rates
    – a much modelled and exercised topic in the USN
    – consistently, over decades, they have found that you have to plan “pulsing” into the plans of using carrier air
    – the maximum sortie rate starts to fall off quite badly after the first 2-3 days (MBTF is only partly the reason as no one wants the F in it)

    Well, they used to have to luxury of just swapping out the carriers in the “front line”

  83. Sounds of very rigid material creaking under unbearable strain as I try not to go off on one, It will snap in a minute

    Much more of this worship of the Wompom (look up Flanders and Swann), style Elephants. Of the variety of Elephants can do this… and that… and the other. And rant will happen… I am on rant condition 2…

    Mainly coz when you challenge it’s omnipotence, a different Carrier junkie up and said “well it was never supposed to do that, no one EVER said it would do that”.

  84. @Simon without sounding condescending fj need a lot of maintainance. 3 hours per day would be a lot. Look online at the figures for day to day UK flying. It all depends on how often you want to Carrey on the op how many hours on station etc. 6 hours per day per airframe is very short term.

  85. “If we wanted a STOVL carrier, we should have built 3 “Super Invincibles” i.e. 800ft long, panamax width (110ft).
    If we wanted a Midway size carrier, it should have been CTOL.”

    Sorry John, my rant thread now. You don’t understand the first thing about aircraft operations at sea or ship design for that matter. WTF makes you think that your CVS on steroids is remotely related to Panamax or to the operational requirement? The size issue is largely unrelated to STOVL / CTOL. The reason the ships weren’t designed to CTOL was partly to do with organisational vested interests and equally to do with perceived technical risk. You may wish to ponder whether a panamax beam is actually credible for a ship of that size over the proposed life, given payload uncertainty, damaged stability requirements and through-life growth. You’re of course entitled to your opinion, but reading lots of Jane’s publications and being handy with Gary Google does not automatically endow credibility.

    Simon – Topman is correct, 3 sorties per day over any length of time is pushing it for a number of reasons. IIRC NATO planning assumptions used to be about half that for any sort of sustained operation. The actual modelling of sortie rates is a complex amalgam of equipment, real estate, systems, people and procedures, not to mention the sortie itself, in terms of purpose, duration, non-organic systems and effect. If it makes you feel better, by all means model away, but don’t expect anyone with actual knowledge and experience to take it seriously. The model used in the design was (if memory serves) called Sailor, which was a vastly more complex version of something DERA used at the back end of the 90s, whose name escapes me now.

  86. Just to add a bit more.I wouldn’t get too bogged down worrying about the sortie rates on their own.more important is what effect you are trying to achieve. More concern are fh, more often it’s that that is the driver. Might well, in some cases, be better to fly fewer sorties but of longer duration. You might well be working with allies who provide support you need, might be other ops going on at the same time as yours in the same aor. Sortie rates are important, but they aren’t the be all and end all and they don’t tell you a great deal on their own.

  87. Has anyone (not on TD, but in the wider defence world) ever answered the question “Do we need the things, or would the vast cost of the system (boats, jets, Crowsnest) be better spent on something different, or was it all merely a political device to bung some work at the last Prime Minister’s favoured Scottish shipyards?

    Of course, that is all now a moot point, as we are building / buying the things, but I’m still struggling to understand how useful they are going to be in the future. My main worry is that it will all become a self-licking lollipop – we will design our defence policy around the fact that we have a maritime capability and too small an intervention capability on the land, and not look at the actual needs that our defence policy should be addressing, which might be hundreds of miles inland, and not conducive of bombing the crap out of the natives, but rather supporting a complex peace enforcement with land presence.

    In short, every time we do a Falklands, we will need the things, but that is only about once a century. Every time we do something else, we won’t, and that is about annually.

  88. NAB
    If you think the current QE/PoW/F-35B procurement is fantastic, then that is your belief not mine. I can at least disagree without being rude.
    You are right in that I am not a Naval Officer or ship designer.
    I can however see, that ships fall into broad categories. It is then that what type of carrier the Nation needs should be decided.
    Do we want to carry on with STOVL? If so , the Invincibles proved too small for a decent sized airgroup, so logic would enlarge the design while still being able to use the old existing locks on the Panama canal, while keeping it to 800 ft in length, lets it get into those smaller ports, denied to larger ships.
    If we want a Midway sized ship, then it is logical to use & equip it the way the Americans used their Midways in the 1980s. So cats & traps & a decent sizes balanced airgroup. The Midway example is more capable, but more expensive than the “Super Invincible”. This is a decision that should have been made in 1998 & then stuck to.
    All these changes & postponements, have just cut capability while adding cost. QE maylook impressive, but now the Treasury has stripped out all the armour, bulkheads & subdivision, how survivable are they in a real fight?
    Logical replies would be better than insults.

  89. @ John Hartley

    The us specifically built the much larger Forrestol Class super carriers as they found that th midway size was not optimal for fixed wing aircraft. e built the QE at there 65,000 tonne size because after exhaustive study we found it to be the best fit for STOVL operations. Yes a smaller carrier than the Forrestol can do CTOL ops and yes a smaller carrier than CVF can do STOVL ops but they are less than optimal. As is frequently pointed out on this site steel is cheap and air is free so what would really be the point in a super CVS if costs were similar to CVF and our own research showed it was less the optimal. Given the chances of us getting an new LHD or LPH are near zero I think we will be very glad of the size of CVF even when she is operating less than the three squadrons of F35 b originally planned. That extra size will be very useful for troops and helos.

  90. “I’m sorry captain she canna take no more!”

    Elephants! Elephants! Big shiny white: (with apologies to the old Pepsi adverts): – CapabilitydestroyinWASAWPYKfantasyfeedinglookatthesizeofmyship ELEPHANTS.

    Nellie and Dumbo were sold to the general public, and to the general political classes, by the RN establishment:- as CVF:- as half arsed (but still usable) Nimitz type fixed wing carriers. OH YES THEY WERE! Very little of any of the published material before the cheques were signed said anything about some super LPH or some such. With the good reason that had it done so the project would never have got of the ground.

    We were told 36 F35 fighters/bombers on 2 ships. of 65,000 tons with self defence capabilities, armored bulkheads etc etc. With at least 8 T45 and frigates- a Britsh RN carrier battle group, capability.

    What have we got (or at least we are told we are now going to get: -10 years late and so stupendously over budget, that the people concerned should be put up against a wall and shot?
    Well its not even half arsed anymore. its more like the pimple on one arse cheek. A floating tin shack with 12 count em a whole 12 of the f35B.

    But that does not stop the carrier junkies, oh no that’s just a reason to extol their ‘flexible capability,’* as these lollipops start licking themselves, and dragging everything, and everyone else in to help with licking.

    Future helicopters will be sized for elephant carriage, how long before the RN get told – you can’t have that kit as it cannot be deployed from an elephant, all RN surface combatants will be defined by what can they do to protect the Elephant. (Elephant singular note as we are still along way form having the cash to keep 2 going. You know the 2 that were the bare minimum to maintain credible capability back in the mists of the late 90’s).

    The original concept was a bit half arsed- I thought that the day they said we were getting 2 not 3. and as strike carriers, and the 36 planes per ship were marginal.

    I looked in vain for the fleet train needed to actually supply these shiny pachyderms for any kind of serious long distance mission, realized it was not there, or ever likely to be.

    I was forced to conclusion that they were a vanity project for old admirals, who wanted trouser cred with the spams, and could not forgive the French for building a nuclear powered carrier when we could not. (Ok the French one turned out to be the biggest floating Turkey in modern history but at the time who knew)?

    NAB

    We could have had the capability we are now getting, for half the price twice as quickly, and even 2 or 3 ships had we started with a 12- 18 aircraft design. I has been done by other navies. And although the Americas are a silly price a UK version, based on polish / Scandinavian, built 35,- 45,000 ton hull, would have cost nothing like as much. And probably been a damn sight more usable.

    *Flexible capability:- Encyclopedia Ixonius :-

    A state of circular logic in the mind of a carrier junkie that refuses to recognize that what we have ended up with is nothing like what we were sold. But because it’s a CARRIER; and your not a proper navy if you don’t have one, and other navies will laugh at us in the changing rooms, it is to be forgiven everything.

    Every paper tiger must be waived to justify it’s acquisition; Anything than can be stuffed into a 65,000 ton hull, must be done so in order to justify it’s existence.

  91. @RT

    The thinking is that Carriers allow us the capability of doing things differently and better.
    The Political will to intervene with a large long term land presence anywhere that is not a direct threat to the UK is minimal.
    Public opinion even less.
    Having said that the capability is retained to rotate a brigade on an enduring basis.
    What you can bet the farm on is that.
    1. Every legal/resolution hoop will have been jumped through.
    2. We will examine far closer the scale of what we undertake.
    3. We will expect far more participation from our NATO/EU allies.

    In a European context only ourselves and France can supply required complex systems such as Carrier strike, SSN, stand off cruise missiles etc. A few more countries have some amphib capability, Spain, Italy, Netherlands but loads can provide ground forces, all previously named plus Germany, Poland to name but 2.
    Given the fact that the planning assumptions and political will see us operating in a coalition it makes sense to shape our armed forces to provide certain capabilities and reduce European reliance on the USN.

  92. Ixion,

    Damm it here was me thinking we were getting s 65k tonne carrier that could be at sea with 36 F35B a squadron of Merlin ASW. An AEW capability protected by advanced T45 and T26 escorts with an astute class SSN in associated support.
    I cannot imagine how useful thst BG could be, oh wait actually i can!

  93. NaB

    Just adding to your reply to JH, A great deal of planning and research went into the original decision, it was assessed that that option was what the UK and RN could realistically have and operate. The design itself is another matter, but the decision was certainly never taken on a whim (a la 2010).

    I would love an all bells and whistles carrier, or 3 “super invincible”, but the time for that discussion was around 1998.

    Like climate, lol, there is a lag time – we’re feeling the effects of decisions taken a while back. Makes me wonder what impacts the decisions taken now will feel in a decade or less…

  94. ” The original concept was a bit half arsed- I thought that the day they said we were getting 2 not 3″ – At last something we can agree on! All the talk of helos on CVF is because we know there will be no Ocean replacement and we’ve already lost one LSD while the LPDs have no hangar – so where else are we going to put them? If you’re advocating a new class of amphibs then do carry on otherwise talk to your own strawman.

    @RT – Shame on you, man in your former position to be asking that. Carrier striker as part of our expeditionary warfare capability has been a central plank of the last two SDSRs (which were not written by elderly Admirals or carrier-junkies btw). Do try to keep up man! Must be the cumulative effect of all that bobbing up and down on horseback. Can’t be good for the brain.

  95. Wise Ape,

    you look to the past. I don’t much care for the conclusions of the last couple of SDSRs. I lived through going to an offensive war in the Gulf in 91 with a political imperative to be geared up for the Cold War, so the amoebas in Whitehall are demonstrably not able to get it right. I look to the future.

    You show me how such a significant spend on a single capability within the defence budget is appropriate for future threats, and maybe we can have a conversation.

  96. The replacement of the LPH is a fascinating conundrum. It really is required to offer balance to the amphib force. Operating the second CVF as an amphib is sub optimal for a variety of reasons.

    I honestly think we may see her being asked to soldier on at a reduced tempo (only used for major exercises, actual ops) for as long as possible. Some navies managed to operate some really old beasts :)

    Well aware of the problems in crew currency etc that this will present.

  97. I’m about to lose all my friends (if any), but here goes:

    1 Both the Dark Blue and Green factions here are re-fighting their last good war – in the first instance FI; in the second GW1, 2 and the Stan.

    2 The difference is that without a serious Navy we would have lost the first, and nobody would have helped us out…

    3…without our contribution the Cousins would still have won GW1 and GW2, made a mess of the post war period in Iraq and cleared Afghanistan of AQ and the Taleban, but then after years of expenditure of blood and treasure pulled out leaving the place to an uncertain future.

    4 Emphasising the Dark Blue allows us to undertake campaigns that we have to (like FI in my opinion) and some possibility of leading and building European Coalitions in the years ahead…

    5…emphasising the Green makes us better and more efficient auxiliaries for the Cousins – but leaves us unable to do much else – even if we really need to

    As far as I can see – and operating at the scale we now do – those are our choices; bar the minimal self-defence option generally championed @IXION.

    Don’t like it, but that is where we are…a level of independence in military terms…or the equivalent of States 51 through 60…

    Really, really Gloomy and now highly unpopular…

  98. My background is on the edge of mainstream national politics. My view of how we got where we are on carriers, goes something like this.
    The 80s view is that the RN needed 3 carriers so that they would always have two to send to a crisis(assuming one in refit). The early 90s thinking on an Invincible replacement was that it would be a repeat STOVL design, but larger as HMS Hermes had the same beam as Invincible, but 67 ft longer. Invincible struggled to operate 21 aircraft in the 1982 conflict, while Hermes managed over 30 at times. So the assumption of a “Super Invincible”, as replacement came about.

    The 1997 CDISS paper “British Naval Aviation in the 21st Century” by Rear Adm RTR Phillips RN, looked at 4 designs. A 26 aircraft CTOL , 39,000 DWT, 272 m long design + 3 ASTOVL designs . A 20 aircraft, 26000 DWT, 203 m, while the second was a 30 aircraft , 37000 DWT , 249 m long design & lastly a 40 aircraft , 46000 DWT, 304 m design.

    Had we gone for 3, then the smaller ASTOVL designs were more likely. However a prominent left wing think tank said the RN should cut from 3 to 2 carriers in the post cold war world. That meant only one carrier in a crisis. So the aircraft on one deck not two. So that one carrier had to be big enough to take the larger airgroup. The larger carrier led to the STOVL vs CTOL rows still going on now.
    Gordon went along as it meant a lot of jobs in Rosyth, but any useful bits not relating to jobs in Rosyth went overboard. A decent airgroup for example.
    With Cameron,Clegg, Osborne & Milliband, we have the blind leading the blind. I fear it will not end well.

  99. APATS

    You think wrong.

    Wiseape

    That’s the point! It is like saying we have this challenger tank. We have to open this can of Tuna, lets drive the tank over the Tuna, then we can announce we used the tank this year for something….

  100. @RT – You asked the question: “Has anyone (not on TD, but in the wider defence world) ever answered the question “Do we need the things, or would the vast cost of the system (boats, jets, Crowsnest) be better spent on something different…” – I merely pointed out that the answer is yes. Fair enough if you don’t agree with their conclusions. As to the cost, well it’s a fraction of Typhoon/Tankers.

    There’s an Italian bloke has a blog – I won’t provide a link out of respect to TD as the two don’t get along, but hopefully TD won’t mind me quoting him (saves me a lot of typing):

    “The carriers are key enablers for an expeditionary force. They are indispensable in a wide range of scenarios which require the projection of military power far away from the UK’s shores. They are perfect for interventions that chiefly require air power, such as operations in Libya in 2011. But they are also excellent to gain air superiority far away from home and protect the arrival of land forces, including land-based aviation, which is notoriously most vulnerable on the ground, and which would incur huge risks in trying to deploy to a menaced base in a war zone in absence of friendly forces providing cover.

    And they are of course essential to support a forcible entry operation, especially an amphibious assault.

    For the UK, the two new aircraft carriers in construction are even more important because they are also the only possible replacement for the current LPHs platforms (HMS Illustrious and HMS Ocean), since the notional LPH(Replacement) program has been dead in the water at least since 2006.”

    They also of course provide the outer layer of air defence for naval forces in the absence of the Cousins.

    The carriers cost a little south of £6billion – £1.2billion of that thanks to the one-eyed Scotsman – what could you spend that amount on that would deliver the same effect?

    ” I look to the future.” – How? And how are you able to do it any better than those who do SDSRs? O.K. they got it wrong, but who got it right?

    @Ixion – Sorry but that’s a bit obscure for me – and this is Mr Obscure speaking. Are you arguing we built the wrong ships for what we intend to use them for or against them in their originally intended role? Or both!

  101. ” All these changes & postponements, have just cut capability while adding cost. QE may look impressive, but now the Treasury has stripped out all the armour, bulkheads & subdivision, how survivable are they in a real fight? Logical replies would be better than insults.”

    I don’t believe I was being insulting – merely pointing out that uninformed speculation is not a substitute for fact. Speaking of which, would you care to elaborate on your evidence for “the Treasury” stripping out “armour, bulkheads and subdivision”, noting that bulkheads are of course part of the subdivision. You may also wish to look up Lloyds Rules for Naval Ships which form the basis of the oft-quoted “commercial standards”. Much of the content is actually based on and extracted from the old Naval Engineering standards.

    I’m certainly no fan of the way the procurement has been conducted (see umpteen posts to confirm it), but funnily enough that has very little to do with the design of the ship and everything to do with the endless series of delays forced upon the project by incompetence and inter-service bickering (see the myth re “Gordon Browns job creation scheme” which was actually started by a senior pongo). They have cost more than they should – no argument. Would three smaller ships have cost less? I suspect not, but might have had less opposition on the basis of their size, which is odd, considering it is capability we’re buying and collectively they would bring less at higher operating cost.

    On the subject of capability, the ship can and will operate up to forty fast jets. The fact that various numbers between 6 and 18 have been postulated as a planning assumption makes no difference. A ship designed for 18 aircraft can generally only operate 18 – which all the OA has shown to be of very limited value in many of the more demanding scenarios. The nice thing about having a big ship is that you can have forty cabs if you need them, which is a much better position than spending a slightly smaller amount of money on smaller ships and finding you haven’t got enough room. Guess what, you won’t get another ship any time soon…..

    And one last time. The reason the ships were not contracted as CTOL ships is simple. There was an organisational factor and a technical factor. The organisational factor was that to maintain a worked up CTOL airgroup was perceived (rightly or wrongly) as requiring more training time to achieve. That also meant that to maximise the benefit of that training, all the squadrons would need to have embarked for longer. Perfectly do-able, if all the squadrons were FAA, but that would require expansion of FAA at the expense of “something” – the something being logically RAF, but conceivably other elements of the RN. Also perfectly do-able if the RAF committed to embarking the full force as requested, but for the RAF that would mean losing OpCon of a significant chunk of their force structure. Funny old thing, no-one wanted to force through this course of action, so one factor pointed to STOVL which was perceived as requiring less embarked time. Nonsense IMO, but perceived nonetheless.

    On the technical risk front, there is one current (count them) manufacturer of steam catapults in the world in the US. They are about to lose their business to General Atomics who make EMALS. Yes, MacTaggart-Scott have catapults on their website, but have not manufactured one since 1966 – hardly comforting from a risk point of view. So – we have a very limited supplier base for steam and a significant below decks maintenance and manning issue. All of which equals risk and cost. Not good for a programme even back in the early noughties being castigated for being “too big” and therefore by implication “too expensive”. The alternative – EMALS – was at the time still entirely developmental and very high-risk and cost. It’s also fair to say that back then the performance difference between the B & C models was a little less pronounced than it subsequently became for a while and the programme issues with both were yet to emerge. So you have a choice between a system that requires little in way of equipment and perceived to need much less training versus a system that was on the cusp of changing technologies with both old and new bringing significant risk and cost.

    On that basis, it is easy to see why the decision to go with STOVL was confirmed. The ship was the size it was to accommodate the required number of aircraft on the roof and allow the sortie generation rate to meet the requirement. A “requirement” btw which was primarily based on sorties required for various joint and combined scenarios, rather than number of aircraft carried. If there was an omission during that time it was to apply less significance to FOAEW/MASC, which (other than the residual cancellation risk of F35B and the possibility of UCAV) is the real reason people tend to decry the STOVL configuration for QE. The fact is that there were usually enough joint or more often combined assets assumed in the scenarios to make our MASC contribution of low overall value. As with all assumptions based on “someone else will do it”, that may now be tested as the US refocus towards IO/PO and our E3 force is down to 6. However, back then, all was “fine” as far as the operational analysts were concerned (and to whom RT should address his question as to whether carriers are needed).

    I would personally love QE & PoW to be EMALS-fitted ships and I think if we started now we’d end up with such. However, we didn’t start now – we started then, when we needed to and we’ve ended up where we are because with regard to the ship configuration and design, people made rational choices on the information they had.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the people dealing with the realities back then made the choices they could on the information they had. The result will be a capability second only to the US and which will allow the UK a range of military options for some very uncertain times.

    Just noticed your post re Dick Phillips who was DOR(Sea) until about 98. Those designs you mention were not those used in the SDR deliberations. The SR(S) 7068 Dossier used the designs generated by DNA&FP for costing purposes. The later OA done before 2000 developing sortie rates led to the change from 40000 to 65000 te. None of it had anything to do with Brown. His only role was to delay the order right up until at the last minute he though it might save him.

  102. Hi APATS, yes, it will probably turn into our very own Arapaho project
    “we may see her being asked to soldier on at a reduced tempo (only used for major exercises, actual ops) for as long as possible”
    – a handy, self-deploying way to get 12 Merlins and 6 Apaches to where they are required, and the maintenance facilities travel with them (the trucking experience for Libya, even on European motorways, was redious, and we all know about availability of heavy airlift)
    – Ocean is not far off in size from what was trialled “ARAPAHO at-sea testing was completed 07 October 1982 at the Norfolk International Terminal, Norfolk, Va., when the 18,000-ton container ship Export Leader – configured with a portable modular aviation facility – returned to port after having logged 178 day and 45 night helicopter landings”
    – if you just keep the navigation crew and essential onboard maintenance permanently manned, remove the support for the land contingent, rely on RN Reserve for the rest and on-board the helo wing when, as you say they are going on Ops or to a major exercise… should be cost efficient for a unique, added capability

  103. RT said “we will design our defence policy around the fact that we have a maritime capability and too small an intervention capability on the land, and not look at the actual needs that our defence policy should be addressing, which might be hundreds of miles inland, and not conducive of bombing the crap out of the natives, but rather supporting a complex peace enforcement with land presence.”

    We have just spent £18 billion pounds on Afghanistan. Even money suggests that within the decade after withdrawal it will reverted back to what it was before “we” went in. Remember why the Soviets went in was to prop quite a progressive modern state where women worked and went to school from barbarians who wanted to model society on what their good book told them it should be. Consider number from heroin ODs are falling in the UK, they now average about 600 per year; that is just deaths and doesn’t take into all the suffering from wrecked lives of parents and loved ones of addicts, those who are suffering because of addiction, and those who suffer from crime generated by those looking to pay for addiction. Deaths per terrorism in the UK per year starting from 1997, 5. That is 7/7 deaths spread out over a decade. Are British soldiers burning poppy fields to prevent this threat to domestic security? No. Poppy fields are something to be patrolled through and guarded because for some complex political reason burning the fields is apparently wrong. And to placate the government in Kabul, or should that be more accurately the “Government of Kabul” seeing as their influence doesn’t actually extend much further than the city limits, the CIA hands over bags of cash to them. Not worth 444 British lives, not worth 1.

    http://publicintelligence.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/opium-fields-4.jpg

    So I ask does nation building work or neutralising states work? Probably not. That £18 billion could have been spent on shoring up our energy production, storage, and infrastructure capabilities. No that is a real security concern. If figures are to be believed 37,000 pensioners died because of reasons related to the cold. Better odds that then of 1 in 12 million per year of some Islamist blowing himself up on the number 32.

    One would humbly suggest the threat from Islam extremism, the “folk devil” it may or may not be, is best combated here in the UK. The trouble with threats is they don’t have to be real to be threatening. Somewhere between fringe anti-Jihadists and the extremes of pro-multiculturalism activists and academics lies the true concerns of the indigenous British and whether what they are concerned is about is imaginary, real, or a Kafkaesque chimera of the former two options it is HMG’s prime duty to address that fear. An 18 year old bleeding out being held by another weeping 18 year old propped up against a mud brick wall in the dust and heat yards from an open stinking sewer ditch in a far away country which we don’t know doesn’t achieve anything in addressing the British public’s wider concerns. Soldiers aren’t diplomats, they are for the time when diplomacy has failed, and the rules of civilisation have to be put to one side. Soldiers aren’t policemen either. We need to minimise the risk to them.

    Rules are the problem, rules of engagement that is. HMG currently has to borrow money to keep the country running. And yet each year HMG gives out £10 billion per year to the Third World because it is the good Christian thing that those with plenty help the poor. Of course there are wider considerations that giving help to poorer states keeps them on an even keel and hopefully they won’t become the next hot bed of extremism. That we borrow money from markets kept liquid by Chinese money and that Chinese are investing billions in Third World. More much more than we in the West. The Chinese method is different from our own. We because of post-1968 socialist post-colonial outlook want to reform and change societies. The Chinese let others be. This has some unsavoury aspects to it as we see the prepencity for violence in some quarters for violence and cruelty that is shocking to us civilised Westerners. Well shocking to the political elites and those of us who pretend we are informed. Violence against innocencts is wrong, but can the same said of violence against bandits and pirates whatever drove them to that life? If some here were truly honest and open I vouch that they would confess in seeing nothing wrong with summary execution of the odd pirate band. Chinese money greasing the right palms and turning a blind to, or should be more accepting of, the methods used to keep their projects safe mean we all can have iPads. That isn’t to say we should draw our ROE from the Wafen SS playbook. But that we should be more accepting of letting military men doing their job and that for the many to prosper sometimes some a few will die. In a way we make a mockery of how precious life is by trying to save every life. It can’t be done. Death is a part of nature. But there is a difference between sacrifice and waste. Going ashore quickly, realistic expectations of causalities (our and theirs), reducing political inference once the military option is taken (expect violence of action), and getting out quickly is the way to reduce our deaths and maimings.

    Again if some of us here, especially us older ones, will admit if they are honest that Africa has gone to hell in hand basket since the Europeans left. Back in the times of Empire we had troops in all the colonies, large colonial field forces of natives, a large fleet both naval and merchant to move troops about, political guile, a large industrial base and commercial confidence, and more realistic rules of engagement. The Army though compared to our Continental neighbour’s armies with land borders was small. But it was everywhere and due to Pax Britannica could be moved at will. Much like today’s modern forces. The Army was the point of a very long spear that, I am sorry to say, depended on a very large navy. We don’t have all those overseas bases now, the political will, commercial depth, and so are dependent on the forces of Pax Americana to get us where we need to be to show support for our masters in Washington latest venture. And a large element of Pax Americana is sea power. Let’s not kid ourselves that we could mount an Afghanistan style operation of own. We struggled to maintain a brigade plus support troops in theatre for 10 years.

    British Empire in 1921………

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/British_Empire_1921.png

    My readings here and elsewhere and over at the august organ of uniformed thought ARRSE lead me to believe that one of our main problems now in defence thinking is that too many think this,

    http://resourcesforhistoryteachers.wikispaces.com/file/view/cold_war_mp.jpg/30572399/480×349/cold_war_mp.jpg

    is still our strategic reality. No need for a navy as long as we have a big army and a big airforce. As I have said here countless times before and I will say again as much for the truth of the matter as to irritate the simpler thinkers here armies of island nations don’t have strategic worth. How many months did it take to deploy a division from Germany to Saudi in Gulf War 1? How did they get there? Did they drive? No they were transported by sea, a sea secured by Pax Americana. And the supplies that went by air got there through skies again secured by Pax Americana. Air forces are ok if you have that ever convenient runway in theatre. But as we shift to multi-polar world where cash talks can we assured of that runway? Isn’t that what the RAF convinced HMG when CVA01 was scrapped? Black Buck may or may not be a wasted effort but it did demonstrate that modern FJ is really short legged. How many tankers again? How many bombs were carried irrespective of whether they hit or not? How many tankers are we getting through Voyager AirTanker PFI deal? Same could be said of Op Ellamy. Odd that the first raid was to launch cruise missiles and yet any talk of substituting missiles for planes here is often met here with incredulity. Better we have £600 million worth of FJ than £600 million of frigate or destroyer. Let’s talk about the Falklands War for I know it sticks in the craw of many here who see it as the exception to their settled model of Cold War NATO Western Europe. Yes it was a fluke for the period. But seen as one campaign in the sweep of modern British history was exceptional? No. As we move to a multi-polar world of shifting alliances the chances are we will need to drop formed formations anywhere on the globe. Coming wars won’t be about depth they will be about speed. Planting your flag first anywhere on the globe. And that’s why we need a large aviation platform like CVF.

    The sea is the ultimate avenue of commerce and military adventurism. Investing in CVF we give concrete support to our main guarantor of safety, the US. The British public won’t stand for another Afghanistan. Two thirds of the world’s population live within 100 miles of the sea. As the other third are dependent on the those other two thirds I would suggest control of the sea is somewhat important. Two thirds of the planet’s surface is covered in sea and that is where the majority of the world’s untapped resources are to be found. Not for nothing are China and their neighbours squaring up over those islands. It doesn’t matter how many armoured brigades are sitting around Salisbury Plain because by the time we have moved the war will be over. Better a battlegroup of NATO quality soldiers over the beach today than war tomorrow. Better a flight of helicopters across sea in to failing state today than hand wringing by the F&CO and dead hostages tomorrow. Better we get there first, dig in, and then wait for them to rustle up 4 times as many troops to dislodge us.

    We can’t do everything. We have finite resources. We need to a pick a direction. We need to play our part. We need to look to our history. And in a world that looks like this,

    http://thetruthnews.info/world_map.gif

    one would humbly suggest that buying big capable ships is the way to go.

  104. We will not be going down the ARAPAHO route. Look up MV Astronomer/RFA Reliant for details – one reason we eventually got approval for the ASS (which became LPH).

    Ocean may well get a SLEP to get her out to the mid-20s. There’s little wrong with the ship structure, it’s the marine & electrical systems that are causing the issues.

  105. APATS

    When we were going to have two with 36 aircraft on each, 12 T45 and associated t26, AND all the RFA. Then we could perhaps deploy such a group for a useful period.

    But we are only getting one, and the number of aircraft we are getting is unlikely to produce 36 deployable aircraft. That can be sent against an enemy that’s not too hard and not too far away. for a short period of time…

    I echo RT’s point what’s that all for apart from willie waiving.

    As for whoever it was who said ‘Straw man’ to me. In effect I was pointing out what we are going to get, was not what we paid for, what we wanted then, and our reach has exceeded our grasp.

    The point is we keep doing this.

  106. Hi NaB,

    I am sure this is right ” it’s the marine & electrical systems that are causing the issue”… but

    As it is not an option (some serious inter-service re-prioritisation might make it into one) to operate both of the QEs simultaneously, I would invite this crewing calculation (which I can’t do):
    A) the remaining mini-carrier + Ocean in the capability (readiness for it) that she was designed for
    vs.
    B) a full QE crew [one only], including the peace-time airwing + the skeleton manning for Ocean that I was suggesting, to maintain a fast ferrying capacity for helos to be available to the task force in sufficient numbers, and maintainable over a period of, say what it took for Op Corporate from the day of sailing

    I understand that manning is the real bottle neck when you analyse which capabilities cost what over, say 40 years, and this is just the best way of us getting to (as you say) 2025, when we might be in a position that is not so overstretched that making the major capital investment decision is “an option” again?

  107. X,

    reading on an iThing, that’s a huge amount of text, that also makes the brain hurt a bit.

    I will try to be shorter. Modern wars and situations shorter than wars are ultimately sorted out by boots on the ground, not necessarily by fighting, but in some cases by softer skills.

    The CVS (or is it CVF? who cares) system is mono-capable, in that all it does is provide a mobile airfield that for most operations is not needed at all, war planes with the ability to bomb the crap out of people (if they are reachable with the war planes’ short legs), a laughably poor ISTAR capability, and a whole self-licking self-defence sub-optimal even-shorter legged air surveillance capability based on a sodding helicopter. And for big £Cost. Have you thought of the function of a T45? It is to protect the big asset. Nothing else. And if you have no big asset because you do not need it, why have a T45?

    And that mono-capability is probably not very useful month by month and year by year, and yet chews up an enormous proportion of the defence budget.

    “Bang for buck” ,CVS/F is about 1% efficient, even if we had one continuously at sea with a full air wing doing several dozen missions per day per airframe (which we won’t).

  108. We can just hope that the next SDSR is underpinned by a thorough threats analysis, RE
    “And that mono-capability is probably not very useful month by month and year by year, and yet chews up an enormous proportion of the defence budget”
    while not agreeing or disagreeing with the statement.

  109. “Have you thought of the function of a T45? It is to protect the big asset. Nothing else” – No, it’s to protect ALL of your assets, it’s one layer of air defence. We had 12 T42s with no CVFs remember?

  110. @ WiseApe,

    Even from a Patriots fan I expected better. Quoting Gabrielle?

    The problem with Gabby’s position on carriers is the same problem that the PTT seems to have; that while a good carrier with a comprehensive air wing can be very valuable and has a degree of flexibility built into it, it is not nor ever will be a Death Star around which the rest of the military revolves.

    Take the second sentence of that bit you quoted from him, where he says Carriers are indispensable in a wide range of scenarios etc. GW1, mostly land based air, carriers not indispensable. Serbia/Kosovo, mostly land based air, carriers not etc. GW2, mostly land based air, carriers not etc. Libya, mostly land blah. Afghanistan, a lot of the work was done by B-2, B-1 and B-52, including fixed strikes and CAS, though carriers were quite handy. But not indispensable.

    In fact, the number of scenarios in which carriers have proved “indispensable” in the last 50 years or so has been vanishingly thin.

    And this is one of the real sad things about these conversations. It’s like X’s comment above about people living by the sea etc. That kind of stuff always sounds great in theory and is used mainly because it would hint towards his chosen solution, until you start totting up the number of theatres that we’ve actually been in that were effectively land locked. Iraqs coastline is laughable. Afghanistan, Kosovo/Serbia, all land locked. Libya alright. We’re now helping the French in where? Mali. Land locked.

    Considering so many people live by the sea we seem to spend an awful lot of time fighting well away from it.

    There’s no debating with Gabby, and frankly, I think with X as well. They’ve already decided their solution; CVF, bigger navy, boo RAF, boo army, etc. They’re just looking for the questions which their chosen force provides the answer for.

    Never mind the reality of what we’ve been up to mostly for the last twenty years. Never mind that someone like Australia finds land based MPA to be one of the key enabling features of its maritime security. Or that someone like Australia, surrounded by huge tracks of water (like a certain nation I know), understands the future and current potential value of its army in keeping certain problems at arms length, before they get too close to home shores.

    We hear all about the Navy being the key player in the Empire and sure enough it’s come up again. I believe we discussed this not long ago, during which I made the point that the army and navy were symbiotic in their relationship at the time. Neither could have worked without the other. The army would be stuck on land and cut off without the navy, but the navy without the army would have been reduced to sitting out to sea and watching the locals brewing tea through their telescopes.

  111. “Have you thought of the function of a T45? It is to protect the big asset. Nothing else. And if you have no big asset because you do not need it, why have a T45?”

    Incorrect I’m afraid. If you want to “put boots on the ground”, in general you have to transport them there and in the main some of the troops, most of the equipment and most of the log support ends up going by sea. Now on Herrick, we’ve been quite fortunate, in that Terry Taliban doesn’t really have a conventional warfighting capability, so our ships have been unmolested before the Pakistanis decided that they’d stop letting us tranship through the country, forcing us to supply largely by air at exorbitant cost. There’s a reason the Points sail to Cyprus and then offload their 1200LIMS of cargo to be air freighted from Akrotiri and it most certainly is not efficiency or value for money.

    However, TELIC, PALISER, GRAPPLE and GRANBY all involved transport by sea. Although the West Side Boys weren’t exactly a threat to those ships, the Serbs and Iraqis most definitely were. Ever give any thought to why those ships were able to unload safely without being attacked? Largely because the capability of US and RN escorts and coalition airpower was such that the effort was judged not worth the pain.

    In the future, if as you suggest we have to put boots ashore, you can bet it’ll be ships doing most of the lifting again. That means LPH, Albion, Bays, Point Ro-Ros and others which will need protecting from missile and air threats. That function will be provided by QEC and T45.

    Unless of course you’re either in favour of “someone else” providing that protection, or you are of the E Blackadder school of warfare where “the prerequisite of a British campaign was that the enemy should under no circumstances carry guns — even spears made us think twice. The kind of people we liked to fight were two feet tall and armed with dry grass”.

  112. If used properly the CVFs will be Purple assets to be utilized by all 3 branches of the armed forces. I could easily see the TAG containing FAA F35Bs, RAF Chinooks and AAC Apaches.

    Having CVFs is part of delivering a balanced force in my view.

    We’ve been focusing on counter insergency ops for the past 10 years, to the detrement of maritime capability. Nothing balanced in that.

  113. “GW1, mostly land based air, carriers not indispensable. Serbia/Kosovo, mostly land based air, carriers not etc. GW2, mostly land based air, carriers not etc. Libya, mostly land blah. Afghanistan, a lot of the work was done by B-2, B-1 and B-52, including fixed strikes and CAS, though carriers were quite handy. But not indispensable.”

    Somewhat understating things Chris. Indispensable in the sense that all would be lost without them? Agreed, no. Indispensable In the sense that the carrier contribution provided niche capabilities including most of the SEAD (post GW1 and retirement of EF111), a lot of the tactical reconnaissance (SHAR, F14+Tarps) and probably most importantly provided a significant contribution of Tacair and ISTAR without demanding shore-based ramp space and logs, which believe it or not is far from infinite. I would argue yes.

    That contribution is I think what you and others miss. There were 6 CVW, plus a load of TLAM in the various battle groups in GW1 and similar for GW2. Would those operations have failed without carrier air? Probably not, but might have taken longer and incurred more casualties. Were they made easier by the presence of carrier air? Indisputably.

  114. Hi Repulse,

    When the Joint Command was in the making, I was expecting it to be a more of a budget and capability management exercise, exactly for the kinds of things that you mention.
    – instead, it turned out to be an operational command for well-defined niches
    – nothing wrong with that; they do need a “home”
    – but “jointness” may (?) still have some way to travel

  115. Still think that we should have gone for a Harrier 3 and 4x 30-40,000 ton multi-purpose assault ships to replace the Invincible’s/Fearless/Intrepid and eventually Ocean back in the 1990’s!

    Having said that the likely outcome (although very pricey) of 1 CVF active (with the other in reserve) carrying 12 jets, a mixed bag of over a dozen helicopter’s and maybe some Royal Marine’s now and again isn’t a bad end result. 1-2 T45 available will be all the outer cover a task-group will normally need, but we also need to make sure that enough T26 end up being procured to get a couple thrown in, as well as enough modern auxiliaries to maintain an effective logistical chain.

  116. @ NaB,

    I actually realised I missed out Sierra Leone, so there’s one back for the coastline.

    Now, I would dispute some of the points you raised.

    The US, some of our European allies, and indeed ourselves have provided a lot of the SEAD. The USAF has its Wild Weasels for example, though granted a lot of the electronic jamming was lost after GW1. But that also kind of skips around the point that it was the type of aircraft (or lack of) in question that affected the electronic SEAD. If the Prowler was launched from a land base, you have the same effect again without needing the carrier. I think it’s disingenuous to confuse the two principles there.

    The USAF, us, and many of our European allies have also possessed airborne recce pods of various flavours for a long time now.

    And yes, aircraft need bases. As indeed Sir Humphrey pointed out a while back, deployed naval forces require the same, for various kinds of logistical support when deployed away from home. It’s one of the big myths that somehow ships are unaffected by the need to use land based infrastructure.

    And while you joke about not having the basing support available, again I would move you back to the reality of what we’ve experienced on operations, which has been support available for almost all theatres since WW2. Not always there, and nobody can guarantee it, but our network of allies and other partners has come up trumps time after time after time.

    The way people talk about host nation support and over flight rights annoys me because a) the tone and usage of this argument is normally designed to influence susceptable readers into thinking that these things are denied on a routine basis when needed, when in fact history would point to the opposite happening, and b) the assumption that these things do not effect the Navy, or naval aviation. We always hear the phrase about aircraft carriers “… without being constrained by over flight rights…” etc, or words to that effect, when indeed carrier aviation often requires precisely such permission.

    A classic example given is always GW2. We’re always told that if Kuwait and other nations had not provided support, what would the allies have done then without aircraft carriers? To which I would suggest people go and look at the size of the gap between Kuwait and Iran, and understand that without permission to use Saudi or Kuwaiti air space (and clearly not Iranian), then that would have been the corridor through which the Navy would have had to squeeze its air force. By my rough measurements that’s a corridor of about 10 miles.

    The armed forces need balance, at least to meet todays challenges. Aircraft carriers are a significant part of that, and will be in the future for us. But that goose gets far too over cooked by some, to the point of being cremated.

  117. NAB,

    you make a coherent and impassioned case for CV / AD by T45, but it is not supported by history. Just when has any form of British power projection (of a land force) been threatened by attack from the air, other than the Falklands, an example which I noted in my original comments?

    (And having done staff jobs involving mounting of a land force for both Bosnia and GW2, the concept of thinking about an air threat to the commercial shipping was completely absent from thinking through the mounting options)

    I do not doubt that sea-launched air power and missiles are sometimes useful, my point is more with the balance of probabilities that for Britain, it is ultimately to do with boots on the ground, and so probably our spending should reflect that fact.

    As it is, we are getting one CV and a non-usable spare, a few jets of really limited capacity, a couple of years later an expensive and seriously limited helicopter-based air surveillance capability, and the chances of all 3 being available in the same time-frame being less than 66%. Meanwhile, all potential enemies seem to be concentrating on getting new generation SSKs, cunning IEDs, and suborning some sections of British society to believe in their cause and to carry the attacks to our home cities.

    Waste of bloody money, the whole CV “system”.

  118. Et al on my phone so more later.

    The only time since WW2 a uk territory has had to be fought over Carriers were essential.

  119. @ nab, genuine question, what anti shipping capacity did the Serbs have? @x I think it’s a bit odd to claim others are locked in some sort of cold war mentality, whilst referencing many things quite often through a late Victorianto 20a time frame. Each to their own and all that, but you do seem to do exactly what you perceive as weakness in others thoughts. This isn’t me having a pop, just something a bit curious

  120. RT

    For someone who is always telling us about his job experiences etc you do sometimes fail to back up your points. Probably to get a bite and yes I have bitten.

    And having done staff jobs involving mounting of a land force for both Bosnia and GW2, the concept of thinking about an air threat to the commercial shipping was completely absent from thinking through the mounting options) You got away with doing a shit job then.

    For air defence of troop transport failure look no further than Sir Galahad, by the time Gw2 cam round thankfully planning was being done properly and both ourselves and the USN were escorting convoys of troops and supplies into theater and especially through risk zones and choke points.

    I do not doubt that sea-launched air power and missiles are sometimes useful, my point is more with the balance of probabilities that for Britain, it is ultimately to do with boots on the ground, and so probably our spending should reflect that fact.

    A statement without any facts to back it up. The ability to project power and sustain operations at a level required by the Defence Planning Assumptions is being retained. The wars that you allude to have been electives where the Uk army has performed superbly in the conventional phase but have struggled to maintain a footprint during the “occupation”. Thus proving that they are correctly scaled for what we should be doing. The “occupation” phases have also proven extremely unpopular with the public and any future Government who commits ground forces without an exit timetable will simply be ensuring there own quick exit.

    There is simply no credible threat to the actual Uk that can be defeated by “boots on the ground” alone. Any future conflicts we get dragged into are likely to be small in scale but at a reasonable distance or on a massive scale at a massive distance (god forbid) where our input will be most useful in high tech capabilities.

    As it is, we are getting one CV and a non-usable spare, a few jets of really limited capacity, a couple of years later an expensive and seriously limited helicopter-based air surveillance capability, and the chances of all 3 being available in the same time-frame being less than 66%. Meanwhile, all potential enemies seem to be concentrating on getting new generation SSKs, cunning IEDs, and suborning some sections of British society to believe in their cause and to carry the attacks to our home cities.

    We are indeed getting one CV. the use or not of the second carrier will continue to be debated until it is launched. We will in all probability have another 2 SDSR type events and 3 General Elections before then. We have ordered 48 jets with more to follow and by what comparison do you call a 5th generation stealth VSTOL jet “limited capability”.

    Have you priced airborne AEW capabilities throughout the world, have you seen how much crows nest will cost? Define limited in terms of AEW? A Merlin based sytem would have a range against 0 feet target of 153NM against a raid at a few thousand feet it would be over 200Nm. yes not as good as an E2 but way cheaper, and a good capability.

    The chances of all 3 being available in same time frame less than 66%? Workings please, are you trying to tell me that we only have a 66% chance of being able to put F35 and AEW on a Carrier and sail it ever? On a specific date? by a specific date?

    Potential enemies getting new SSKs. Well India, Malaysia and Chile are ordering Scorpene SSKs from France. Vietnam has ordered Kilos from Russia as has Algeria. Israel Dolphins from Germany and Turkey and Portugal 214s also from Germany. So who and why are our potential enemies in there? Of course luckily we are replacing T23 with T26 and also deploy Merlin in an ASW role. MPA would be nice but need host nation support and as SSKs are defensive submarines and lack the realistic capability to poke around the Uk unless our European neighbors decide to then it is less of an issue against SSKs.

    Cunning IEDs have less targets with boots on the ground and if you think invading their countries helps dissuade them from suborning our population well?

  121. NAB
    Frankly, I agree with the straw man comment. Unless something changes we will have one operable 65,000 ton STOVL carrier + one in reserve. Only 12 short range fighters aboard + helicopters, many of them not designed for naval operations. No AEW, tanker, SEAD or long range strike capability. Carrier likely to go straight to the bottom from rough seas/battle damage. Carrier junkie that I am, I cannot get excited by this hollowed out capability. I am even more gloomy than our Northern friend.
    Of course the pols could stop wasting our money on the EU/foreign aid/overpaid non-jobs for their pals & then spend the money on a decent airgroup & escorts, but that is very unlikely.
    So two large impressive ships that will look great in a fleet review off Portsmouth, but precious little use in a shooting war. I doubt we will be second behind the US when the Chinese & Indian programmes get going.

  122. @JH

    For gods sake now you are at it.

    Sinking from rough seas? Really? Only 12 jets? Has anyone seen the SOP? As I pointed out yesterday the TAG will depend upon the threat and will be generated by the Pros not the Politicians or bloggers!

  123. NAB
    If every decision has been made by a fantastic top of his game professional, why is the current position so far from prime?

  124. Ultimately, the effectiveness of CVF boils down to three factors:

    1. The extent to which the size and configuration of the vessel facilitates and supports air sorties
    2. The ability of the aircraft to actually perform those sorties
    3. Our ability to protect it

    If I’ve learned anything from the manifold TD articles on these topics it is that the size of the two carriers will enable us to perform at a level totally beyond that of the Invincible Class of ‘Through-deck Cruisers’. And, as many people have pointed out, there were never any real barriers to converting the QE to ‘Cats and Traps’, it was just a question of time and cost. So, what I really think matters is the aircraft we select to fly from CVF decks.

    Criticism of the F-35 programme has been very vocal. My judgement of it, having read widely on this topic, is that the desire to make a Harrier replacement one of three JSF versions has significantly handicapped the capabilities of the other two.. Many USAF commentators are doubtful whether the F-35A will be a better aircraft than the F-16. Sure, the F-35A will have much improved avionics and weapons, but the basic flight envelope may well prove to be on a par with the F-16 rather than significantly better as you might hope with an aircraft designed 30 years later.

    All that said, there is no doubt that the F-35B is a better aircraft than the Harrier: longer range, faster, greater internal fuel load, greater weapons payload, stealth capability, easier to fly, easier to service, plus all of the existing benefits. So if you’re going to buy any JSF version, then the F-35B seems to make the most sense.

    There’s still much development work to be done on all JSF versions (particularly the F-35C), but maybe the F-35A will perform better than the naysayers predict. Perhaps it is fair to say that the F-35B will probably be the least risk version, even though it was at most risk of cancellation 2 years ago.

    For these reasons alone, even before the UK cuts its cloth according to its available material finances, the F-35B seems like a sensible decision. At the very earliest planning stages of CVF, we decided we wanted a STOVL aircraft for our particular needs and budget. We were foolish to ever reconsider that decision. (By the same token I’d love to drive a McLaren MP4-12C, sadly my budget only runs to an Audi S3 – even so the latter car does 80-90% of what I need and want!!!) in summary, then, we’re getting exactly what we wanted and it will be better than what we had before.

    Maybe the F-35A will come good and be capable of serving as a Tornado replacement. But I note that the US is now gearing up to replace the F-22 and F-15 with a new fighter / strike aircraft, the FA-XX. That could well suit the UK for both Tornado and Typhoon replacements.

  125. Chris – the fact that carrier-based air had niche capabilities based on the specific aircraft is precisely the sort of thing that is often trotted out in reverse (you don’t need a carrier-fighter, typhoon does that or you don’t need strike we’ve got Tonka), so you’ll have to live with it I’m afraid. In fact, “joint” EW squadrons were set up with EA6B and flew out of Italy during GRAPPLE and subsequent. My contention is that all tacair ought to be carrier-capable (not based) to allow just that flexibility.

    The USAF and Europe may well have lots of recce, but that didn’t stop the Naval recce systems being both the ones available and in demand.

    The point regarding basing was not to suggest that carriers have a non-existent logs chain. I’m intimately familiar with what is required for that, which incidentally means I’ve got a clue about what you need for a land-based force as well. The point was not that the carrier wings didn’t need support – of course they did – the point was that their support did not encroach on crowded bases in theatre, which whether you chose to believe it or not were close to capacity. There are reasons lots of things were flying from Fairford, DG and Thumrait and a lot of it was to do with ramp space.

    On your GW2 example, I don’t know of anyone who would sensibly claim you could attack Iraq without access to Kuwaiti and Saudi airspace. However, there is a difference between using airspace and using bases (see Turkey in GW2). The classic example of overflight denial is Op El Dorado Canyon in 1986. The effort expended to get the Lakenheath wing over Tripoli was out of all proportion to effect and something the A6E was perfectly capable of doing. I seem to recall some of the Gulf states limiting what could be done prior to GW2 as well, not important in the long run, but indicative that all has not been as sweet and harmonious as some might suggest.

    RT – assuming you weren’t G2 or J2 in your staff jobs, who provided the threat estimate? Do you think that perhaps they had already done the analysis of likely air and missile threats? And concluded that the assembled naval force would be able to take care of them?

    The guys I’ve spoken to who deployed on Granby and Telic (invasion phase) were most certainly worried about the air / missile threat to their transport shipping. The chaps from 17P&M who had ships stacked up waiting to unload over a single jerry-built linkspan in Kuwait because the yanks had every other one were certainly aware of and concerned about the threat.

    Other examples? Norway 1940, Eighth Army 1941-2, Crete 1941, Dieppe 1942, Italy 1943, Overlord 1944, Musketeer 1956. We also had an empire to stage from back then. Not much after that as we had the lovely cold war balance of terror to keep a lid on most things. Point being threat – as you are well aware – is both intention and balance of capability. A perceived imbalance in capability can embolden intent.

    I tend to believe that we will continue to need boots on the ground in the future – although hopefully not of the duration of Telic/Herrick. I think the difference between us is that I think we may come up against some opposition to this that is slightly more capable than the peace loving people of Umboto Gorge……

  126. Topman if memory serves Fulcrum and Fishbed with bombs and rockets, plus shore and ship based Styx. Both require more than harsh words to defeat / deter.

    John – I notice you’re still not presenting your evidence regarding the constructive quality and survivability of the ships. Until you do, you’re going to be grouped with Lewis Page.

    As for the decision making – as far as the programme (coherence and funding) is concerned it has rarely been made by top notch people. It has been made by a bunch of people in Whitehall with little or no real knowledge of the ins and outs, advised by a staff of competing interests and characterised by lack of money. And conducted against a background of counter-briefing based on hot air and speculation (see Gordon Brown’s jobs programme, your assertions regarding the construction of the ship and the suggestion that it can only operate 12 “short-range” jets for further details). Frankly, I’m astonished it’s managed to survive. That it has tells you something else. Those that understand what it will (eventually) bring are desperate to keep it and that includes CDS and CJO.

    On the operational and technical front of the ship and aircraft design, as posted earlier, you’ve got a bunch of people making choices based on the best technical information at the time. Some of those choices have turned out to be wrong in hindsight (risk factor for EMALS, low priority for MASC) some have turned out to be right (size and design of ship, build strategy). That’s life I’m afraid.

  127. NAB,

    definitely on the G3 side of life, and Ops not O&D at that. Of course, we took the threat assessment from G2, who’d spoken with J2, who no doubt had cleared their lines with JIC. It may have been heavily summarised to me, but the message was “no air threat”, and certainly for Grapple, there really was none, and so no destroyers needed in the Adriatic.

    Case in point – we brought in an extra battalion of French Foreign Legion to Ploce (the Deuxieme REP, ignominiously arriving in their n-teenth war by chartered ferry, not by parachute), and the main problem was in sorting out traffic control to get them from the port to the ring road and then onwards to Sarajevo. Not the might of the Serb Air Force attacking their ship while still offshore.

    The main problems with carrier aviation in Bosnia were (1) they had a completely unresponsive chain of command, with about 9 steps between UN ground commander and pilot operating in a NATO force and (2) the British Harriers did not have adequate resolution on their sensors to allow me to clear authority to drop bombs. After a couple of months, I sent a signal back to MoD on the national net saying “let’s not bother anymore”, and a week or so later, Lusty pushed off somewhere else, and we certainly did not miss the rather useless Harriers.

    I did once see a Harrier over Bosnia, but it was at about 5,000 feet, not in comms with me, and probably just cruising about.

  128. @ Topman

    I know you are not having a pop. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it etc. etc. We have to look for parallels between our current age and times past so we can discern for ourselves a path to the future. There was an Empire long before Victoria. If anything we are in a period similar to the first Elizabethan age where we sit on the edge of a powerful Europe. A Europe with who we don’t have the best relations; cordial and business like for the best. If we look at Elizabethan times we see that Britain gained revenue by looking outwards from Europe. Just because the lesson is from 410 plus years ago doesn’t, with a little modification for modern circumstances, make it less relevant. Just as lessons from other periods are no longer valid. If you think a heavy armoured division and short legged FJ tactical air force are going to keep the Straits of Hormuz open or the Straits of Malacca open, keep pirates at bay in the Gulf of Aden, help the Canadians in the Arctic, keep a watch in the South Atlantic, interdict Chinese warships in the India Ocean etc. etc. then good for you. (Not you you a nominal you. :) ) Personally I think the UK’s armed forces are about protecting national interests. I saw somebody mention Serbia above. Were the Balkan Wars in the UK national interest? Did they threaten LNG imports or grain imports or the import of iThingies? No. Should we invest then in basing our entire defence thinking on pissing about in little states then? Sell the Royal Navy for scrap and buy MRAPs by the bushel? No? Why? Balance you say. Yes because we already have enough MRAPs and a population sick of seeing our brightest and best die for ill defined ever shifting political aims with snappy sound bite names. And this isn’t me having a pop. But what really grinds my gears about this place is when somebody like myself says we should really invest in maritime capability and I get heaped with criticism back there is never ever a cogent thought out repost. No alternative presented. It is blatantly obvious that we can’t do without a land element. But to see it as the be all and end all when our history points to the exact opposite is an insult. As I said above how does it get in theatre, how is it resupplied, and who exactly allows in a politic sense to deploy? I can’t be bothered to even discuss air power. If the RAF couldn’t cover the Fleet in 82 as they had promised they were able to do when CVA was cancelled they sure as heck aren’t going to be able to do it now. It is all about balance and realistic expectation. Perfectly valid in the Cold War to have a large continental style army sitting across the border from the foe backed up by a largish airforce and to let seapower wither. But please lets not kid ourselves that is a suitable model for now.

  129. @nab the first set is a possibility against shipping but a serious threat? I want there so wouldn’t really wasn’t to second guess, I ask more for sake of Clarity. As to Styx threat I assume they accessed the sea through Montenegro?

  130. @x no I don’t see I rerun of the cold war as useful. But neither do other periods of the past teach us every thing. I’m not sure I’d agree with us having poor relation with Europe. In fact using the past as a lesson we will integrate closer with Europe. Good our bad idea. I’m not sure we well be securing the straights of Malacca either. But I do agree balance is key.

  131. @Topman

    Indeed balance and an understanding of what we should/ can do ourselves and the best way to make a contribution to a coalition on a larger more complex op.

  132. @ Topman

    I said we take lessons from the past and modify them. I think a return to a Britain integrated into Europe as it was in Medieval times has gone. We have moved on culturally. The Western World no longer ends at the Pillars of Hercules. Without sounding too Churchillian there are English speaking peoples across the seas with whom we have more in common. Surely the lesson of the 20th century is that for the UK Continental affairs are toxic?

    As for the “Cold War” I was being extreme to prove a point. Where is the alternative to a maritime strategy? That is what I was driving at. I never see one. More salami slicing? And why isn’t a maritime strategy an answer to that oft floated statement here “that we can’t do everything”?

    One final thought. Do you know why Voyager AirTanker cock-up really annoys me? Because it really it doesn’t do enough to help us cover the distances when there is that oh so convenient air field in theatre. We have vast distances to cover. And we get 9 tankers. You watch when we get an MPA they will procure it with the wrong AAR system……

  133. Follow the PDF link in the Guardian article and apparently we could store them in Lakenheath. Seems the yanks also seem to have 320 TLAM/N still also… sure they would give them to their best friends :)

  134. @x I suppose we’ll agree to disagree about the relationship with Europe. A balance is a one strategy, I might be a bit simply minded but I like to look at it as a three legged stool. As to the airfield in theatre, well it’s been done to death. But history does tell us more often than not they are there. At vast distances it’s unlikely we well be on our own if they are onboard with our op, it’s nit the realms of fantasy to think of friendly airbases.

  135. Topman – if there are no defences, then anything that can carry a decent sized set of bombs and rockets is a threat, that’s the point.

  136. @ NaB,

    “… the fact that carrier-based air had niche capabilities based on the specific aircraft is precisely the sort of thing that is often trotted out in reverse (you don’t need a carrier-fighter, typhoon does that or you don’t need strike we’ve got Tonka), so you’ll have to live with it I’m afraid.”
    — Not really, no. Your entire argument hinged on the principle of ‘carriers do/did this, which land can’t’. Which was false, as you then went on to point out yourself.

    “The USAF and Europe may well have lots of recce, but that didn’t stop the Naval recce systems being both the ones available and in demand.”
    — I suspect the others were as well. And if there is spare capacity for recce, why would it not be used? Out of spite? Again, I go back to point one. Your argument hinged on that being a Carrier unique capability, which it’s not.

    “The point regarding basing was not to suggest that carriers have a non-existent logs chain.”
    — You’d be surprised the number of people who do try and make this argument.

    “I don’t know of anyone who would sensibly claim you could attack Iraq without access to Kuwaiti and Saudi airspace.”
    — I know plenty of people who would, like the Italian that WiseApe referenced earlier. It’s practically a cornerstone of carrier debates for people to evoke images of absolute freedom of operation for carriers, making comments about bases and over flight rights without realising (or realising, but not acknowledging) that these same conditions often apply to the Carriers to.

    This goes back to the general bug I have with carrier debates. Carriers can be incredibly useful, as you point out with the El Dorado Canyon scenario. But the way some talk about them, and some of the ridiculous arguments that are used, you’d be forgiven for walking away with the impression that Carriers are Death Stars, minus the vulnerable exhaust port.

    @ X,
    “Just because the lesson is from 410 plus years ago doesn’t, with a little modification for modern circumstances, make it less relevant.”
    — So why do you get in such a huff when people talk about a modification of lessons learned much, much closer to the present, when the power structures of Europe were much closer to what they are now?

    “If you think a heavy armoured division and short legged FJ tactical air force are going to keep the Straits of Hormuz open or the Straits of Malacca open, keep pirates at bay in the Gulf of Aden, help the Canadians in the Arctic, keep a watch in the South Atlantic, interdict Chinese warships in the India Ocean etc. etc. then good for you”
    — And one CVF, with a few escorts is going to deter the entire Iranian military? Is it going to sweep the hypothetical Chinese hoardes from the Malaccan strait? The answer to that would be “no”. Although the combined air forces of the middle eastern nations would have a role to play in holding off Iran until the US rocks up in force.

    “Were the Balkan Wars in the UK national interest?”
    — If supporting NATO is not in our military interest, then what it is? Europe is right on our doorstep. It’s absolutely in our interest to show the rest of Europe we will pitch in to help them out when they need us. And absolutely in our interest to remind the rest of Europe that certain things will not be tolerated. This also helps to explain why the proven use of chemical weapons in Syria by Assad should be considered in the UK national interest if it occurs, because we do not want the use of chemical weapons by nation states to become normalised around the world.

    ” But what really grinds my gears about this place is when somebody like myself says we should really invest in maritime capability and I get heaped with criticism back there is never ever a cogent thought out repost”
    — You get plenty of them, usually from multiple quarters. When delivered, your normal response to them is to tell the person that posted it “don’t talk to me. Don’t respond to me. Don’t address me” etc.

    “No alternative presented.”
    — Multiple alternatives have been presented over time. Again, you simply choose to ignore them and tell the posters not to bother talking to you anymore etc.

    That you dislike their theories, disagree with them etc is fine, your perogative. But don’t pretend that people never bother to try. They have, multiple times. But you just complain and then ignore people. That’s your problem, not theirs.

  137. Sir H has done a good article related to this, and one thing he touches on which has been only squeaked about on this grand thread – support by RFA’s… seem,s we’re content (like with crowsnest) to defer the decision to support our nice shiney new tubbs with new support vessels and instead have geriatric RFA’s instead… not really the modern shiney image we’re shown regarding CVF.

  138. @ Topman re airfield in theatre

    My point was that the lack of Voyager aeroplanes when we have access to fields in distant lands and even over distance seas.

    Whether in a multi-polar world they will always be available we shall see. The fact the USN and USMC operates air arms bigger than the RAF and we depend on US diplomatic and economic muscle to open doors for us I wonder why the USAF just doesn’t do it all….. ;) ( I know it is a tad more complex than that! :) ) Lastly as I have said there is more to CVF than FJ.

  139. Mike,

    The decision about fort class replacement has been deferred until 2015 MARS goes ahead. Agree on crows nest

  140. x

    The number of voyagers we have prob gives a gd indication on the number of fj we intend to deploy to future operations. And luckily we have are very own airfields in the north/south Atlantic, med and Indian Ocean.

    The interesting thing about crowsnest is what’s if for, and how any awac asset let alone a carrier based awac will be integrated with large scale LO aircraft operations particularly for offensive strike. This will be as new to the US as to us and may very well change AWACS from how we see it today.

    In the 90s when carrier were looked at did anyone then look at orientating our entire fast jet fleet to carrier capable airframes? Did anyone within the armed services think such a sea change pardon the pun could/would be possible. Given the force structures envisioned they must of known this may have had to happen considering the numbers of aircraft that could in theory have been operated by these ships.

  141. @ Mark

    I think all our defence planning is based on tricky trigonometry trying to pick a point somewhere between political expediency, the US will always be there, tri-service tribal warfare, kicking the can down the road for the next lot, and a hope that the next “one” won’t happen on my watch.

  142. @ nab my point wasn’t to get rid of the threat just to quantify it. How likely was it they would attack and what was their chances and their intent, that was the thrust of my point. Re styx like I said what was their capability? @ x fair enough e haven’t got enough, how many should we have?

  143. @x: sorry to burst your bubble my friend, but pets in boxes is not due to be fitted to the F35 until 2030. I obviously blame the short sightedness of the penny pinching government.

  144. @ repulse

    What a waist on money $ 10 billion that the us military can’t afford to turn a 50kt bomb into a precision munition.

    nd I thought our military had the wrong ideas on spending its money. Just goes to show th more money the defence department has the more likley it is to waste it. Given the capability of the US trident fleet with 72 Trident D5 s at sea all the time anything else spent on nuclear weapons is a joke. It’s all just inter service rivalry.

  145. @ RT – You frequently make the point about how useless harrier was of CVS in Bosnia. This real world insight is fascinating and very useful. I do however wonder if you draw the wrong conclusions in that harrier was piss poor for supporting land ops on any scale ( I don’t think anyone here could disagree with that especially FA2) and that there were insufficient numbers and ordination was all but non existent with ground forces.

    However surely CVF and F35B is a way to address that. I.e bigger platform better jet more aircraft.

  146. @ All – Before we descend more into the the usual three service slagging much on a white elephant hunting expedition I just want to through my 2 cents into the ring.

    As has been pointed out we are never going to conduct nor should conduct a large scale op on our own. The types of security issues we deal with today for the most part like Libya and Syria and of too little consequence to our security to merit a solo response.

    If any major op is to be fought it will only be done as part of a coalition. However there are likely to be many future instance where that coalition will not directly include US forces. As one of only tow and increasingly one of one European nations which has any kind of defence budget the UK really needs to be able to field many of those capabilities that only the USA can. The CVF program will literally represent 50% of Europe’s naval air capability. As RT points out carrier air has only been essential in one op post world war II. If we are being honest this was probably the most important op since world war II for the UK. However there are at least half a dozen other instance from Korea to Suez to Belize were it’s been useful to have. I would say that makes a limited investment (and it is a limited investment) in carrier aviation worth while for the UK.

    I think we should concentrate the rest of what we might call our discretionary budget on providing the C4 ISTAR, Strategic lift and AAR capabilities our European allies lack as well as retaining limited heavy forces capable of an opposed entry into hostile territory which proved so vital in Kosovo and GW1 and GW2.

    I would also like to see our ability to conduct Electronic Warfare and SEAD increased which unfortunately we currently seem to be completely reliant on the USA for.

    I think most of that is doable in the current budget but only if we retain a very purple outlook. Lest not forget we spend some £34 billion a year just on the core budget and that’s not an insignificant amount of money. Just look at what countries like Italy achieve with a third of that.

    The Joint Expeditionary Force is a major step towards this and one that should be built upon. The UK should continue to build apon this approach and attempt to become the backbone of the European arm of NATO. Able to form a coalition for a medium sized op with our without direct US support.

    This will bring us a massive economic boost in the years to come as we are likely to have to renegotiate our position with Europe and despite what UK pretends we have very little to offer for unfettered access not just to the European single market but the wider free trade agreements that Europe is and will establish with the USA and Asia. Its no coincidence that every German politician that has commented on the UK leaving Europe sights defence capability above anything else as what Europe would loose if the UK leaves.

  147. @ Sir H

    Its a very worrying picture you paint of the RN and RAF in the early 2020’s with only 100 or so aircraft and clapped out 40 year old RFA assets supporting carriers. It goes to show that we really have not yet felt the worst of the effects from SDSR 2010 yet. Even if we had the money today I doubt there is little we could do about it as we will not be able to procure more F35’s than we are already planning to do until 2017 at the earliest and purchasing more Typhoons really does not seem like much of an answer either. I doubt we can keep Tornado much past 2018 with out some major investment and number would be limited by then anyway. Does you figure of 100 jest assume that the Tranche 1 Typhoons will be removed around 2016?

  148. @ X on FSTA

    I agree that this contract is a joke. Given that we already own RBS I am sure we could get out of it. I would like to see us purchase 9 of the aircraft installing the defence system and reinstalling the in-flight refuelling system. I would also like to see these aircraft have the booms installed so we could re-fuel our C17, A330’s and RC 135’s as well as USAF aircraft.

    We could then purchase additional A400M’s to make up for the lack of cargo capacity and install the refuelling pods on them to give us an auxiliary AAR capability for fighting Libya style air operations where the transport capacity is not needed to move ground troops. Given that EADS sells A330’s like hot cakes and is desperate to sell more A400M’s I can’t imagine its a difficult decision for them to let us out of the PFI at favourable terms especially if we have the money guys at RBS by the balls. Total investment in the project was estimtaed to be around £2 billion to buy the aircraft and build the hangers etc so that’s likely to be the ball park figure to get out. The question of course would come down to shot term funding which we currently don’t have. Although £2 billion upfront to save £400 million a year (£ 300 million of which is suppose to be financing related costs) seems like a good deal ever for a cash strapped MOD.

    Using PFI’s as with the point class RORO’s to provide extra capacity in time of war can be a great idea but trying to fob of AAR aircraft into the passenger market is just unworkable. Offering up the spare capacity to EU nations is also pretty stupid as its specifically when we are fighting with EU nations that we need the spare capacity. This way we just let them off the hook getting their own and end up just as reliant on US support in future.

  149. @Martin tornado could go on longer than 2018 there are no reason from an airframe hours perspective. It’s having an upgrade now as well as a lep.

  150. @Martin

    ‘purchasing more Typhoons really does not seem like much of an answer either’

    ‘Does you figure of 100 jest assume that the Tranche 1 Typhoons will be removed around 2016?’

    I can’t speak for Sir H (sure he will be along eventually) but I believe the official OSD for the tranche 1 Typhoon’s is 2019, although their have of course been rumours that they will be retained a fair bit longer.

    I can’t see that many problems with the idea of buying a few more to top up the fleet. By the time we get to around 2017/2018 the production line will be slowing down, but hopefully still active through further orders from the UAE and others. Costs would be stable and weapon integration should have at last made some progress.

    I think the first step is to really define what our fast jet needs are and how many airframes it takes to get the job done. The next step would be to see how many F35 we want to buy or can actually afford. If for instance we could identify a need for 200 fast jets but only decide to buy say 70 F35 because they are ruinously expensive then perhaps 23 new Typhoon’s to bring the fleet back up-to 130 and the wider force to the required number would be a good way to go.

    Although it of course comes down to money (or more precisely the severe lack of it). Any-more Typhoon would only be realistic as a replacement purchase for part of the second F35 buy a few years down the line, and by then who know’s what the economic and political realities may be.

    At the very least I want to see the trance 1’s kept around until the mid 2020’s to cover the gap between the removal of Tornado and any additional F35 orders and keep the fast jet fleet at around the 200 airframe mark.

  151. Keeping this short, so as not to bore fellow posters.
    NAB
    Be as rude as you want, I still think the QE/PoW/F-35B position we are at now, is less than ideal. France will be the prime European carrier power as the CDG will have a decent number of Rafale (with buddy refuelling) & E3D AEW + tactical nuke capability.
    As to the strength of the QE hull, well lets hope we never have to find out. My rant is that all future RN combat surface ships should have hulls rated for light ice, as we may have to fight resource wars in the polar regions in the coming decades.
    I do think the QE class could come right given the right resources/backing. I know no one else agrees, but I would still investigate the STOBAR option. OK, you do not get the sortie rate of a Nimitz, but does the UK really need that? Would it really be the end of the world if QE operated a Sqn of F-35B for short range/rough weather missions, plus a Sqn of STOBAR adapted F-35C for long range/heavy strike? A few STOBAR adapted Goshawk for training would be handy.
    Oops this is getting long.
    I will finish by saying I have no problem with PFI if it gives a good deal to the taxpayer, but the Voyager PFI seems very expensive for half equipped aircraft.

  152. Martin,

    there were 2 problems with Harrier in Bosnia:

    1. Completely unintegrated into UN command. In order to drop a bomb you had to go up multiple steps of a UN command chain, then sideways to NATO, then down the NATO side to the pilot. That’s not a fault of the aircraft of course, but rather the UK choosing to place it under NATO command (for political reasons, I later heard. I had a significant rant about that at FM Sir Peter Inge who was CDS at the time and came to visit my boss the French Commander UNPROFOR).

    2. The UN ROE required a spectacular level of confidence in target identification, and the Harriers had inadequate sensors. Therefore, when we did drop bombs (not often) we tended to use USAF F16s which did have good sensors. Someone on TD will know which sort of sensors they were, but it is not material to this discussion.

    Two little points of possible interest, dragged from the memory banks:

    a. The Harriers operating off CVS apparently had to drop unused ordnance before landing, so the financial cost of each mission was pretty high.

    b. The whole tragedy of Srebrenica could have been possibly avoided if either the NATO / UN “dual key” approach worked better, or the Dutch Air Force had fitted guidance on their dumb bombs. What happened was we had “eyes on” HUMINT and SIGINT tracking the advancing Serbs, and several pairs of USAF F16s ready to bomb the crap out of them, but a big political argument ongoing between my boss Janvier, Akashi, and Admiral Smith who was CINCSOUTH in Naples. Took about 6 hours for me, Akashi’s main assistant (a crown prince of Jordan) and a brilliant Canadian 2 star to get them all to agree to bomb. Even UN New York got involved at one point for a legal opinion. By then the USAF F16s were out of juice, and replaced by Dutch F16s. The dumb bombs of the Dutch F16s fell about 2-300 yards away from the first Serb tank, and the Serbs thought we were bluffing, and sped up their advance. If we’d killed the Serb tank, as we wanted, it might have given them pause for thought.

  153. @ Martin

    I just don’t see how we can do “expeditionary air” with just 9 tankers without resorting to that get out of jail free card oft waved here of “coalition efforts” (read the Americans). I think I am right in saying we need tanker support for QRA and training here in the UK, a tanker down south, and the rest will be available to fly from CAIT. Does 9 real cover that? If land based air is to be the other pincer in the UK expeditionary tool kit 9 seems thin.

    I think FSTA payments for a year equal roughly the cost of buying one RFA tanker and operating for it over a decade sans fuel for repleshiment. Somebody mentioned the lack of supporting RFA for CVF above. I suppose after building say an additional 4 fast tankers, 4 Fort replacements, and say a pair of fleet support tankers, you use the next 17 years FSTA payments to run CVF.

    It has been pointed out here that many we have faced with our awesome Western war machine enemies don’t have a navy. Well many of them in reality didn’t have a functioning airforce either. And if chasing AK47 wielding tribesmen around hills in dusty corners of Third World is the future of warfare for Britain perhaps more drones, more PGM, more AH, and some fixed wing gunships a la AC130 may be a better solution for “us”? Of course suggesting giving up FJ for lesser platforms is less palatable here than say, suggesting say, the RN gives up AAW destroyers for OPVs. I see a recurring theme here. The first four of those alternative CAS capabilities can be operated by the Army and doesn’t need a RAF CAS FJ (aka Tornado / Harrier/ even Jaguar replacement.) I feel this general discussion really is nothing to do with carriers and their FJ capability or who flies them or their configuration, but what replaces RAF Tornado and manoeuvrings by the Junior Service to protect their parish.

    I read somewhere a few weeks back that somebody in the US had proposed scrapping A. Don’t think it will happen. But it would be funny if we ended up with F35b and F35c…

    RT said “b. The whole tragedy of Srebrenica could have been possibly avoided if either the NATO ”

    Loved to know what came next but stopped reading after 20 lines. As you didn’t get your point across does that mean you are as bonkers as me? :) ;)

  154. X,

    I don’t think that it was me with the 20 line limit; I’m pretty sure that I said 700 lines was what I found un-dealable with.

    However, I was a couple of bottles of mid-grade Chilean red down range at the time. I might have been saying anything! I’d better go back to check.

  155. Rt

    I would guess that was why the gr harriers were upgraded to sniper targeting pod and the mk107 engine.

    John how many naval rafales will the French have how often will the cdg be at sea, f35 is tactical nuclear capable. By the way what is the deep strike ordance you think the uk can fit to f35c that it can’t fit f35b?

    x if there was a big expeditionary operation we would have use of 14 aircraft. As for 9 being enough well we deployed I think 6 tankers to gw2 my interest is to see what happens in the Falklands post 2014. Your tanker ships have a prob can’t refuel planes in the air nor is the cost comparison you make consistant, before you say carriers make that go away on coalition ops the main customer is the us navy which was why uk aar was requested for initial afghan ops.

  156. @Mark,

    Are we going to see a Voyager permanently based at MPA? Maybe we could rotate them more regularly as they could then form part of the air bridge?

  157. @ GNB – ”
    4 Emphasising the Dark Blue allows us to undertake campaigns that we have to (like FI in my opinion) and some possibility of leading and building European Coalitions in the years ahead…
    5…emphasising the Green makes us better and more efficient auxiliaries for the Cousins – but leaves us unable to do much else – even if we really need to”

    Yes, I have said the same myself in times past.

  158. Apas

    That’s the question I’ve not seen an answer too. They need something down there but voyager is a lot of aircraft for the qra task only.

  159. @ Mark re tankers

    My point, hypothetical, is if the “airfield” is closer to the point of need then we wouldn’t need as much as AAR to support expedition air. And if we used turboprop gunships to deliver CAS we wouldn’t need as much AAR. There are as you rightly pointed above out lots of things missiles, drones, and guns can’t do, but those technologies are advancing and eating into GRA. And the bits we don’t do, well surely somebody else can be bring to that party? This discussion isn’t about pointing the finger and laughing at the RN and politicians, but what follows Tornado and ultimately what follows Typhoon.

    @ APATS

    I can’t see Voyager at MPA which leads me back to is 9 enough for day to day operations.

  160. Mark, APATS,

    knowing nothing of in-air refuelling, is it something a C-130 can do to a FJ (I assume they can match speeds). That would be cheaper, if possible, than sending one of the Voyagers down there.

    OTOH, I dimply recall some discussion on TD about the Voyager contract being completely insane and stopping the MoD from doing its’ own AAR. Is that the issue?

  161. Mark,

    I agree we do need something down there and it is an awful lot of aircraft for the QRA birds. Imagine we had an aircraft that could do the AAR, provide a long range heavy transport capability and operate from austere strips :)

  162. X,

    in my opinion, CAS is far better done by AH operated by the land force, than by FJ operated by a sister service. Closer and much more reactive, also the same doctrine, TTPs and often comms. Also the sheer kinetic difference of FJ and a land battle means that it is extremely hard to talk and FJ onto a target.

    I might be out on a limb, but from my perspective I don’t want to see any Kevins trying to interfere in the close battle***. Let them sort out the enemy’s air force at a considerable distance away.

    *** I spent 15 years seeing very unsatisfactory results from Harriers trying to do CAS. As soon as the Army got AH, it was just so much better and more efficient.

  163. @ X
    “I just don’t see how we can do “expeditionary air” with just 9 tankers without resorting to that get out of jail free card oft waved here of “coalition efforts” (read the Americans)”
    Agreed that’s why I would like to see a fleet of 30 or so A400M’s in RAF hands all equipped as Aerial Tankers. I think that gives us the maximum flexibility and more of possibly the most useful platform.

    @ RT – very interesting point about the Dutch F16. Might it have been useful to have a fully loaded CVF with F35B’s near buy that could have got to the target very quickly with the right kind of weapons? I am not trying to be flippant here just trying to see what the real issues were. Obviously poor performance of harrier, bad communications and an even worse political situation all combined to these events.

    @ Mark
    “my interest is to see what happens in the Falklands post 2014”

    An AAR capability on A400M makes the FI much easier as we would only need to station one A400M instead of the present VC10 and C130.

    @ RT
    “knowing nothing of in-air refuelling, is it something a C-130 can do to a FJ (I assume they can match speeds). That would be cheaper, if possible, than sending one of the Voyagers down there.”
    There is a KC 130. This was used by the Argentines to refuel the Super Etandard’s to attack the taskforce resulting in the loss of Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor. Luckily they only had 2.

  164. Martin,

    my point was more to do with the organisational construct, not the performance of the Harrier as a platform. If you have the same organisational construct with F35B, you’ll get the same result. The fact that the planes came off a CVS and not a proper airfield is not really here or there (at least from the end user’s perspective).

    “Getting to the target” is a more interesting question. I think that in the next 10 years we’ll see a quantum leap in performance (endurance, really) of loitering munitions&&&&. THAT is going to be an interesting dynamic for selection of the next generation of FJ, if there is one. Once you’ve got 24 hour loitering endurance, a pair up there doing lazy 8s, another pair on the ramp ready to go, do you really need fast jets at all? (For battlefield work, that is. Other uses for Kevins still exist)

    &&&& Actually, what’s the difference between a loitering munition and a long endurance weaponised UAV? Interesting crossover.

  165. @ GNB and Jedi

    “4 Emphasising the Dark Blue allows us to undertake campaigns that we have to (like FI in my opinion) and some possibility of leading and building European Coalitions in the years ahead…
    5…emphasising the Green makes us better and more efficient auxiliaries for the Cousins – but leaves us unable to do much else – even if we really need to”

    Yes, I have said the same myself in times past.”

    One might argue that most of the missing capabilities we rely on the cousins for are in-fact light blue. Can’t think of many green or dark blue capabilities they have that we need short of number’s.

  166. @ RT

    “Once you’ve got 24 hour loitering endurance, a pair up there doing lazy 8s, another pair on the ramp ready to go, do you really need fast jets at all?”

    Its a good point but we would probably have to assume that FJ’s swept the airspace clean for the loitering munitions to hang around. They might not be manned FJ’s but they are going to be some form of aircraft.

  167. RE ” Actually, what’s the difference between a loitering munition and a long endurance weaponised UAV? Interesting crossover.”
    – one is recoverable and the other is not

    Recoverable for “targets of opportunity” and unrecoverable when you know the target(s) is/are there, and just need to pin them down?
    – crossover is always needed, but really we are talking about a mix of both (with arty/ rocketry/ AHs and eventually FJs in it, too)
    – back to one of RT’s favourites, battle field ISTAR. The saying is that we have more feeds available than capacity to synthetise them for action… wonder where we are with that now?

  168. RT said “my point was more to do with the organisational construct, not the performance of the Harrier as a platform. If you have the same organisational construct with F35B, you’ll get the same result. The fact that the planes came off a CVS and not a proper airfield is not really here or there (at least from the end user’s perspective).”

    The point I am driving towards via all points is that we have three overlapping areas of interest. And I think by pushing the discussion towards what FJ flies off CVF it hides the true discussion. Or the question that should be addressed.

    1) Is CVF just about FJ? No it is about helicopters for a whole slew of purposes and UAVs too.
    1a) The CVF FJ discussion seems to revolve land ops yet there are other reasons why we need it such as air defence and even anti-ship etc. etc.

    2) Are new technologies available to deliver support fires to the Army? Yes. Everything from modern AH to GMLRS to mortar PGM to gun PGM too. Heck why not a drone carrying a SDB?
    2a) And that is without looking at the R part of GRA which is mostly about supporting the Army in the field.

    3) This is Storm Shadow too…

    SS will be one of whatever-follows-Tornado major weapons. We are about to build a new escort. And if I suggest that it would be better spending the cost of 2 jets to extend the hull of that new escort to take an extra VLS, and then the cost of another jet to fill it with SS (or similar) so we have one platform that can do many tasks manned by one group I am met with heaps of derision but nothing coherent in response just the normal “the RAF fly things; aeroplanes are special” rhubarb.

    Future Army doesn’t need a GRA replacement in huge numbers if at all if somebody else can supply the capability that is missing. The RN has needs for FJ beyond mud moving; I still maintain nobody joins the RAF to go to sea; pilots yes different matter, but maintainers no. And the fly in the ointment seems to be what follows Tornado and who flies it. Too many flies in that last sentence. No follow on to Tornado means no follow on to Typhoon. And finally seeing as QRA accounts for what 36 airframes or so and I keep getting told here that there is no threat to the home islands well will need QRA post 2030 if we can have lots of drones and missiles. A few land based Sea Viper units anybody? Perhaps even Sea Viper out at sea on a platform? I wouldn’t be without QRA but some here really need to make their mind up about threats and assets to meet them because there is a lack of joined up thinking.

  169. x

    Gunships and indeed apache type helicopters are great if you somewhere like afghan or post invasion Iraq were there is next to no air threat to them. Indeed that’s why 2 sqns of tornado have been converted to reaper. And for reference a sceptre guns costs about the price of 3 typhoon a/c and are built as gunships only. Horses for course certainly I don’t think I’ve mentioned pointing and laughing at the rn. As you mention airbase been closer and the vast majority of uk jet operating in gw2 operated closer to Iraq that a carrier would have allowed so I fail to see your point justifying one over the other.

    Very true apas. Rt c130 could do it a400m certainly can we have decided to procure neither option. I’ve thought for some time a330 should be seen as a Tristar replacement with a400m as a vc10 replacement sort of 8 of each in the aar role. This of course ignores the fact the vc-10 needs replacing first which may lead us back to the offer made a decade ago to take a310 as our aar tanker.

    RT I’m sure you know about rover and the very latest tv style litening 3 targeting pods which have changed cas interaction out of all portions to what it was even 10 years ago let alone in the Balkans. Your desire to remove pilots and jet ect is rather predicable but you would have thought the army has learned after the shambles they made of not only apache pilot training but sadly repeated with watchkeeper.

  170. X,

    …nobody joins the RAF to go to sea..”

    Probably correct, but I think that it’s their problem if they think that way.

    I had 20 odd fantastic years in green, and would repeat that without a murmur if I had my time again. But I’d have been equally happy in the Andrew I suspect.

    I now find myself advising and guiding an 8 year old***. I don’t want to constrain his ambitions, but if anything expand them. If he wants to join the Andrew, well good for him. Even if he wants to be a Kevin. Or a racing driver, or big time banker. What I won’t settle for is him doing something ordinary. If he does, I’m going to send him a bill for the outrageous school fees that are being termly bled from me precisely so that he can do something extraordinary.

    *** and indeed a 13 year old young lady, but she’s already miles ahead of me. She’s going to be a vet, or a great artist like her aunt. She also has more self-confidence than anyone else I’ve ever met, and the brains and talent as well. And she looks like her mother, so she’s got a great future in about 10 fields. Up to her.

  171. @ RT

    There is a difference between an exchange as part of a long career, like you time in the Bristol, and a career spent at sea. Look at it another way. Some choose not to join the Army because they don’t want extreme camping on a two way range. Are you really saying that you can’t expect to factor in working environment into career choice? Are you saying an 18-y-o doesn’t weigh living in a messdeck with little room (even with modern accommodation standards) no window constant noise in steel box that is moving in 3 axis against a barrack room being away from home 6 months away from home with a window in a building on dry land that doesn’t move and shore leave (or whatever the RAF have) every weekend?

  172. Mark said ” I don’t think I’ve mentioned pointing and laughing at the rn.”

    Never said you did. It is the general mood I get from some quarters in the defence debate sphere.

  173. X,

    none of the local environment ever bothered me, nor did I ever think much about terms of service. People who did worry about whether they were hot, cold, wet or whatever, and then drip on about it are rather boring, and clearly not very committed.

    I have in the past spent close to a year in a desert, several weeks in a muddy ditch in South Armagh, a couple of days behind the bins behind a grotty fast food restaurant in west Belfast, a few months on a ship, 6 months sharing a metal box called a Corimec with a socialist Sapper. Who really cares about those things? It is an environment, you get on with it.

  174. @ RT

    Well good for you. But we are not all the same. And environment is a big factor.

  175. X,

    …But we are not all the same. And environment is a big factor.

    Yes we are, and no it is not.

    Your video looks like some quite good nautical fun. Anyone in the Queen’s pay should not be worried about that sort of thing. If they are worried, well they are probably not reliable when the chips are down. “Frit”, as they wisely say in the East Midlands, and nobody wants “frit” people around them.

    I sacked a Trooper from my Troop a couple of weeks after officially taking over (and myself only a few months after leaving Sandhurst). He just had no physical courage at all. He was a blancmange. This caused some consternation in the Squadron, but I stood my ground, and I was proven correct when 7 years later, he was roundly suspected of being a coward in the face of the enemy. He was not working for me then, but employed as the SSM’s driver, and absented himself and his vehicle from a checkpoint when there was a bit of shooting. He should have been drummed out of the Army entirely, but I had not the power as a newly-minted 2Lt to do so. But I was correct.

  176. Well if I have read the French white paper right, CDG is spared from cuts. The Aeronavale will have 58 Rafales. 32 had been delivered by April 2011. All F3 swing role standard. No sharing with the airforce nonsense. Flottille 12F carried out a validation firing of an ASMP-A in Nov 2010 from a Rafale. The French have Super Nounou buddy refuelling, giving an external fuel load of 6,500 litres.
    F-35B has smaller weapons bays than the conventional A & C. So larger 2000lb bombs /NSM missiles can be carried internally by the C , but not by the B. Thoughts on QRA by missile. A missile cannot go up & have a look, while a manned fighter can. Do you really want to blow an airliner apart with a missile, which turns out to have not been hijacked , but just had a dodgy transponder/radio?

  177. Well John hate to break it to you but if we had the f35c we still couldn’t use the uk 2000lb internally . Both the f35b and c requires external carriage and the use of this weapon by the uk can be counted on the fingers of 1 hand since 2000 if you go by release data which or may not be accurate.

    So the numbers of carrier capable aircraft are roughly consistent between the two countries it should also be noted that unfortunatly 5 off the naval rafales so far delivered have crash in accidents. As for buddy buddy refueling who cares its exclusively for recovering aircraft to a ctol carrier. 6500lbs off load wouldn’t even fill half the tanks of any carrier capable jet in western air arms.

  178. Mark
    Public data on the F-35 (for example Air International, May 2011) says that the F-35B cannot carry internally the 2000 lb GBU-31 JDAM nor the AGM -154 JSOW, while the A & C can. While the UK may not use these exact weapons, it does show that the smaller weapons bays of the B , will limit what can be carried.
    Given the limited range of the B, I would not be so dismissive of “Super Nounou”. It means Rafale M can reach targets beyond the range of the F-35B.

  179. X,

    if physical courage is not a part of your perspective, then I don’t know what takes its’ place.

    Perhaps there is another, however. A colleague of mine commanded a T23. He said during a table top exercise that his ship went where he wanted it to, and it was not a democratic decision. Quite right, but it was a bit Captain Bligh. You need to keep the boys onside, and inspire them a bit so that you are on the same team.

  180. John

    So your complaining about f35b because it can’t carry internally weapons we don’t have and will not in an likehood ever buy. As for being dismissive of buddy buddy tanking yep I am pointless for anything other than ctol deck landing operations.

    F35b is decried as lacking range well in comparison to f35c maybe in comparison to other aircraft not really. I am ambivalent to ctol carrier operation not convinced we desperately need them see how they can be useful. But to go that route would have required a sea change in thinking and should have seen a buy in by all services and an enormous change in major procurement and industrial decisions in the 90s. A change prob requiring the FAA to give up control of fixed wing aircraft and the airforce selecting something other than typhoon and industry accepting we would not be involved with f35. The training fleets would also have had to change. We would need more than 2 carriers imo and to pay for it the decision of should we go SSK or SSN would have to have been reconsidered.

  181. Mark
    A small weapons bay + limited range, will reduce the number & type of missions the FAA can perform, if it is stuck with just the F-35B.

  182. Ok John I can see there’s no chance of getting thru as you’ve made your mind up.

  183. Lots of different views on this thread. I really don’t get those that criticise the carrier capability. Here is the third opinion on the matter.

    Let’s start with the carriers

    A worthwhile capability that could be disbanded but not without disbanding defence of our territories. Any suggestions that smaller carriers could work is true but ignores the studies for the best option.
    The CVF has been built by British industry and, for once is not over budget behind build, rudderless and off specification. The money wasted and the delay is entirely political – unlike say the astute which has had various factors in play. The biggest being lack of relevant experience.

    It may not be armoured but I understand it is more so than speculated and compartment/bulkhead design is extensive when you consider the blocks are nearly all self sealed. Having been on the QE I can tell you it is impressive and I believe represents good value for money.

    The planes are very different to our usual purchases, we are used to buying fighters with lumps of concrete where the radar fits, and storing our kit in climatic hangers while we decide whether we should train some pilots or sign off its airworthiness. The F35 should work out of the bag. The industrial and technological benefits are top draw.

    The catobar fighter debate in my opinion was the right decision made at the time, it leaves a problem for future unmanned craft but building a third carrier would probably be cheaper.

    Hopefully I have covered the why, what and the U turn. Now to my view on the planning and philosophy.

    Is there a tendency for us to forget The marines when we compare our capabilities and needs to the US? Cap/cas is so amply provided by the Service we seem to have an utterly muddled approach in comparison.

    Whilst reading the thread I also felt we sometimes feel we can do too much with one piece of kit. The T45 is an ADD the QE is a sea control/ floating air field, I would worry if it was used in San Carlos bay as some sort of amphibious cas enabler.

    Finally the tanker pfi contract should be cancelled, it shows I complete disregard for the military’s need, is too expensive and a mess for political reasons on industrial.

    I am great fan of the mod working closer with industry like they have done with both the missile programs and the ship building contract, the fsta contract is the odd one out and should feel the pain.

    We rely too much on the Americans, they are reliable but they quite rightly wish us to do more, the Europeans are just too unstable to depend on in my view.

    Think Spain, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus were all very different not that long ago. Italy is a fairly corrupt place, it is not hard to imagine a very different Europe in ten years time. The French are our closet European allies together with the Dutch, but I feel we and the French Work together because we dare not keep up with our neighbours ‘ the Jones’s ‘

  184. To me the French cutbacks are big wake-up call. As much for the fact that they are still ducking the big issues rather than taking a realistic view of what they can afford and what we (jointly) need to achieve.

    We knew about the Pacific Pivot. And after Libya we all hoped that the Europeans might be able to get our act together to field credible joint capabilites in the ‘back yard’ of the North Atlantic and Med. But we now seem further away from that than ever.

    Some of the minor allies are willing but Germany and France just do not seem to be at the races. And the ongoing trend of Euro integration is likely to leave us outside whatever tent those two end up living in.

    If we want to be setting the security agenda for the region (and rather us than Russia or Turkey) it becomes clear that it will need to be a UK led endevour. Which means two servicable carriers, which means 3 deployable squadrons of F35B, which means Typhoon with all missiles integrated, conformals and AESA, which means Crowsnest, which means ASW-MPA, possibly combined with a Sentinel replacement, and more Atlas, Voyager and C17.

    In some ways the situation we have got into gives us opportunities. We can do a hell of a lot to repair the capability of our forces before we have to think aboubt expanding the footprint of the teeth arms.

    We’d love to see 30 ships, 12 subs, 300 Fast jets and a dvision+ at readiness to deploy.

    But actually most of us would settle for 19 ships, 7 subs, 200 FJ and a Brigade+ at readiness _provided_ they are all at Full Capability and properly suppoted by robust, modern and effective Logs and ISTAR.

    The whole question of spending and tax does need to be looked at again. UKIP are an interesting crew and probably will not be around in their current guise in a few years time. But their impact on the political landscape could last a lot longer. Consider the Canadian example and some sort of alliance or reverse takeover with the Conservatives could be possible before during or after the 2015/17 election/referrendum cycle.

    As for diplomacy and allicances we must clearly remain on good terms with our near neighbours. Even the Spanish. And everything we are doing with Oman, UAE, Somalia and Sierra Leone looks promising. But the most interesting relationship going forward could be with Brazil, who have the wealth, ambition and critical mass to become a key ally, as well as the geography to dominate the South Atlantic in the same way we sit in the North.

  185. @Red Trousers
    “In short, every time we do a Falklands, we will need the things, but that is only about once a century. Every time we do something else, we won’t, and that is about annually.”

    For someone obviously being involved in acquisition and the required strategic planning assumptions, this is remarkably naïve.

    Yes, annular fighting in inner-Asian crap-holes stood high on the 2000s national agenda. Apart from the fact, that we retire in 2014. All conflicts of luxury, where we CHOOSE to muddle within Pashtun etc affairs, with blurry goals to achieve, in an country being as far from being crucial to national interest as the dark side of the moon, on the road creating a highly radicalized fifth column within the UK. A decade full of strategic debacles.

    Falklands and the Gulf War were conflicts we were FORCED to fight, but with obvious, clear defined goals. We were prepared at least to achieve our goals. Five years later in both cases we wouldn’t, because of all that “rubbish” in our inventory had gone.

    That’s the reason why we do the one thing all year, and the rest only every 20 years or so.

    What’s worse: the same people criticizing HMG for poor defence equipment planning, while in the same stroke underwriting to the failed 2000s strategic concepts. Rather than the principles which served us so well straight from 1650. And it’s not, as if the primary theoretician behind those principles, J.S. Corbett, hadn’t described how precious and important a mobile and well-equipped “green” backbone is.

    As long as we retain overseas territories, we have to be accustomed to protect them. We continue to have close defence ties east of Suez (and if we had anything like the strategic guts of our ancestors, we would be courting Sri Lanka, Burma and indeed Indonesia to come aboard). The whole Caribbean is an extension of Canary Wharf. The Arctic (and in fact the Antarctic) will be a political minefield for the next decades to come.

    In any of these cases there is a central thing lacking: strategic depth (“no territory to exchange for time”). This depth has to come from the only places where we can expect to find ourselves to be firmly in superior numbers and / or capability: sea and air space.

    There is nothing about carrier junkies. It’s all about force composition and being able to make a comeback, if the first line of defence fails. Nothing is secure, when it comes to security.

  186. Once a century? Well carriers got used a lot 1939-45, then Suez 1956 was a political failure, not a carrier one. Wilson scrapped the new carriers in 1966, just as HMS Eagle was providing instant air cover for Zambia, following UDI in Rhodesia. Then the 1982 conflict. Then Sierra Leone. RTs rant over former Yugoslavia, but that was a political fault to not provide precision weapons for the Harriers & prompt/clear engagement rules.

  187. MCz

    But what do the carriers do to help any of this?

    How do they ‘protect the Caribbean’ It is Uncle Sam’s back yard.

    Or the arctic? we have no business in the artic it ‘ belongs to:-

    Russia, the Spams, the Canucks, Greenlanders and Pos a bit to the Norgies.

    They have all the valid claims under international Law:- and only a total nautical Fuckwit would try and operate carriers in the north west/ east passage! Unless of course the Elephants are at least ice strengthened???

    This is the ‘we are globally engaged’* fallacy again. Because we are ‘globally engaged’ we have to stand ready to armed to the teeth to police it all…

    * What is everyone else?

    The Germans and the Japs are apparently not globally engaged in that they do not need elephants despite their much larger and more export lead economies.

  188. McZ,

    try thinking about any single year – with the possible exception of 1982, although that is debatable – when we would not have been materially better off with a greater amphibious capability at the expense of carriers. You may go back to the birth of carrier aviation. I do not believe you will find any such year.

    @ IXION

    “Total nautical fuckwit”. I nominate the last 4 Chiefs of the Naval Staff as joint winners, which is a bit of a shame for the Andrew that their professional Heads of Service were so stupid. Their collective output is that we are going to have a largely useless carrier with F35BCCB in large medium small numbers, and only one of the ruddy boats which no one really wants, nor no one actually needs, and without an airborne radar for several years.

    What the hell are we going to do with PoW? Sell it to a Hong Kong consortium to turn into a gambling hotel?

  189. @Ixion

    The Japanese have treaty limits that do not allow them to build a Carrier. they would build one in a minute if they could.

    They do their best to get around the issue by building things like this.
    http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/hyuga-class/

    Which are to be followed by an even bigger “Destroyer”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19000t_class_destroyer

    The Germans are a “continental” power and have never operated a carrier.

    Of course we ignore the fact that Brazil, India, Russia and China are all planning on expanding their Carrier capability.

    Or the arctic? we have no business in the artic it ‘ belongs to:-

    Russia, the Spams, the Canucks, Greenlanders and Pos a bit to the Norgies.

    NATO article 5?

    This transited the NW passage last year and it is only going to become more open as the ice melts.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_The_World

    Of course operating a carrier means that you do not have to actually operate as close to the area over which you want to exert influence.

    It is a long way from any usable land mass to Antarctica.

  190. My last post came up as ” awaiting moderation” weird.

    Is it because I included links??

  191. @RT

    I will have a go at your game. Bearing in mind there are lots of years where nothing happened for either Carrier or amphibs but.

    1940- Taranto- dealt a blow to the Italian BB force which allowed convoy ops in the Med to proceed mush more safely in support of the North African campaign.

    1950-1952- In support of the Korean war.

    1972 – The detterence of the Guatemalan invasion of “British Honduras”.

    1982- the only conflict since WW2 where British territory was invaded and we had to act in defence of the realm. would not have happened without Carrier air.

    2011- Libya, a QE sized carrier with F35B and CSAR assets would have mad planning the ATO far easier.

    In terms of large amphib ops post WW2.

    We have Musketeer and Corporate where carrier air played a large part and Al Faw.

    I guess what we really disagree about is which ops would have benefitted most from Carrier air or amphib capability.

    In 1945 the RN had 6 Fleet carriers, 4 light carriers and 9 escort carriers in the Pacific. :)

  192. IXION said “The Germans and the Japs are apparently not globally engaged in that they do not need elephants despite their much larger and more export lead economies.”

    Um. Do you know nothing of how the Post-World War 2 was shaped and why Germany and Japan are as they are now?

    Further to APATS comment about carriers, the same could be said of nuclear weapons too.

  193. Re: Op Musketeer

    5 Carriers (3 of which acting in the LPH role), 24 LST, and 9 troop ships

  194. @TD

    Have seen it wargamed several times, the fact that the US did not believe we could achieve it with carriers is borne out in spades trying it without them,

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