A last blast of the trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Elephants

A sweary ranty guest post from IXION

With the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth the RN has finally, (well 5 ish years from now, will have) had its wicked way with the taxpayer, and the other forces, and weirdly itself.

The RN is irrevocably committed to maintaining a Carrier Battle Group at the core of its operations so much so that the entire surface fleet over about 2000 tons is/ will be designed purchased and crewed, for that role.

In fact when one looks at re fit and upgrade paths etc, it is doctrine that if we send Nellie off to war against a peer or near peer enemy then the rest of the available fleet goes with it.

Indeed if the RN hierarchy could make “We want 2 and we won’t wait” Rhyme then it would be shouting it from the rooftops and leaking it to its friends in the press; whilst secretly manoeuvring to get the other forces budgets cut, or demanding other non-defence budgets are cut to pay for Dumbo.

Oh hang on a minute……

[box style=”3″]

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”

[/box]

(Don Ixion breaks out the troll food, climbs upon Rocinanti, and tilts one last time against the windmills of the carrier junkies.)

OK why have aircraft carriers?

ONE

Sea power 1.1 ever since they court marshalled Billy Mitchell if you want to command the sea against a peer or near peer enemy; then you have to command the air over that sea.

TWO

When we are using sea power to project land based power ashore, either as part of an amphibious assault or a land based operations a long way from home, then the carrier is the thing.

THREE

There are proponents of land based air power for this job: – unfortunately history teaches that such thoughts are largely bollocks. Land based long range air power for maritime warfare, is inadequate, lacks on the spot endurance, turns up late, or frequently not at all.

FOUR

So if we want to remain a world power, capable of projecting significant armed force around the world against peer or near peer enemies we need carriers.  We need to have one available at pretty much all times and loaded for bear, 36 or so top rank combat Aircraft , inherent Airborne early warning and all the rest, the support and escort ships to protect them and their mission specific accompanying vessels plus amphibious warfare ships if needed.

FIVE

When I first heard about the carriers I was genuinely cheered.  I thought at last the cash strapped 70’s that gave us the ‘through deck cruiser’ was being replaced with some kick-ass common sense about projecting our reformed more mobile armed forces, more capable of doing Gulf 1, so powerful as to act as a standing  deterrent to all sorts of Nameless Isles /Gibraltarian foolishness.

The RN was ‘BACK BABY FUCK YEA!’

SO WTF!  (As our texting children would say)

Why has ‘A hairy man crying alone in the wilderness’ ; taken it into his tortured soul to cry ‘Repent! Ye worshipers of Elephant shaped idols’.

Why has Ixion joined the Darkside (apart from the free Cookies).

What’s wrong with the Elephants

OR:

“If you must do this damn foolish thing don’t do it in this damn foolish way”

(Sir Humphrey Appleby)

ONE

If we are serious about them as ‘strike carriers’ or whatever sexy title you want to give them, then they need to carry a big load of planes and support them over an intensive cycle of operations.  It is admittedly my weakest criticism of them that they are ‘ light’ in the number of planes carried IMHO short of about 10-15 Fighter bombers, they are built to a size and budget constraint not to a requirement.

TWO

The fuckwitery of the procurement process, (worth an article in itself), meant that armour, armament, and functions (like task force command), were stripped from the original design.

To the point that they are much less capable than originally planned.

This is to the point; and those who criticise, those of us that point to the 500 million or so spent on the Queen Mary 2 and ask: – “Why are Elephants 6 times the cost of queens”?  Could; rather than asserting that commercial ships are much cheaper to build. Ask themselves what a thousand cabins with aircon and showers, internet connections, theatres casinos, and a waterpark  cost?

THREE

The intensive cycle of operations which carriers should be able to keep to requires intensive support. MARS and the Fort class, go some way but they are not being procured in the numbers required, and themselves require escorting in combat areas.

FOUR

And it is the escort thing that really bites. It is the fact that in a real shooting war the RN has about enough T45 to protect the CBG, and about the same of T26 when they arrive.  If we are going up against a peer or near peer enemy.

FIVE

It is points 3 and 4 that really matter.  Whenever the carrier comes up for discussion the carrier junkies appear:-  and Homer Simpson Like, mutter ‘MMM carrier airpower’ and a little bubble appears above their heads with a full on NIMITZ Battle group in it, with the red ensign flying, as The RN re-enters the pacific in force. To show (one more time), WE ARE STILL A WORLD POWER YOU KNOW…..

SIX

The problem us anti carrier nutters have, is that some of the carrier junkies are Admirals, with gold braid and barges, and Car parks (north).

There was one on Newsnight on Friday.

He actually said that ‘if Britain is to maintain control of world shipping we need these carriers’.

I would ask you to consider that for a minute.

By and large these days Ships are built in the far-east and eastern Europe.

They are then owned by German Doctors, or European shipping lines and ship Asian manufactured goods to Europe and the USA. They are shipped via shipping lanes to which an RN combat force is a distant memory, and registered in ports in Africa and South America.

SO.

Just exactly how do we ‘control world shipping’?????

If we do, then if and when we lose control of it, it will be because the commercial advantages of operating in London have gone east.

Not because of Nellie or Dumbo.

SEVEN

Our Admiral of the fleet (Newsnight), then started droning on about how, we invest more abroad than anyone else in Europe.

You know the ‘we are globally engaged’ fallacy.

It’s a fallacy that we are more globally engaged than anyone else, the Germans sell far more manufactured goods abroad than we do, yet I missed the bit about their new carrier the Graf Zeppelin being commissioned…..

EIGHT

The other Admiral – the one who can write, really let the cat out of the bag, when he stated that we needed these carriers to ‘Remain at the forefront of smart power’.

In other words they are status symbols.

NINE

The point worth expanding on is that we have built carriers without the sufficient supporting ships and infrastructure, for high level operations.

But when challenged, Carrier Junkies often accuse me of ‘putting up straw men’.  That carriers will not be sent to fight the Chinese, or Russia etc in the pacific; they are for fighting non peer enemies. Nearer to home in the Atlantic and the Med.
In which case they are in effect only going to be used as enlarged Invincibles. In which case they are too big and too expensive for the role.

After all we could have fitted 12-18 f35’s on smaller cheaper hulls.

ELEVEN

And this is the really big point one thing me and the Admiral of the fleet who can write agree with is that 1 aint enough.

1 is just a showcase.

I once watched a TV talk show when a lefty commentator was talking about how she had admitted she had given up trying to stop her children using the term Gay as abuse.  Not you understand about sexuality, but meaning flashy, showy, half hearted, not really up to it.

The elephant(s) are for want of a better term ‘A bit Gay’.

2 aint enough, we need 3 to give us the ability to always have one ready and to upgrade individually over their 50 year life.

1 cannot be always available, even though that is all we can support.

TWELVE

In effect our Navy has decide that it will sacrifice everything it has on the surface, on the altar of having a Carrier Battle Group to put us at the ‘top table’.

So what damage does all this do?

ONE

Well one is that everything that floats is spec’d and designed to be part of the carrier force.  If it can’t fight as part of that its no good for the RN.  The same RN that boasts all of the time, about its anti-piracy, anti-terrorist, anti-drug smuggling, actions…..

TWO

The cost of all this has reduced the funding available for all the above tasks and others mine warfare submarines etc.  The whole RN doctrine is not about what do we do with our carrier?  It’s a bit like if the Army was reduced to 1 tank regiment and then ran its entire doctrine about deploying and protecting it.

THREE

It maintains a view of we are a serious world power you know.

The fact that we can afford a rabbit fur coat, and not, to trouble the underwear department of Marks and Spencers, remains obscured by the shadow of these things.

These things will always of course be of some use. I am sure they will, be sent on this or that task.

Many pictures will be taken, BBC journo’s will be wined and dined, and get to stand on the prow talking to camera about how fucking wonderful they are, and will doubtless appear on every bit of recruiting material the RN can produce.

They would be used in a Libya Situation, proving their necessity, doubtless they will be deployed off the cost of Southend to protect us from international terrorism. etc etc.

Stuff you can do with a carrier but can actually do without anyway.

They are too weak for the role they were designed for.

They are too big and powerful for the role they will carry out.

The RN will / has reshaped itself into a one trick pony.

They will encourage exactly the type of half assed willy waiving that got us into trouble in Iraq and Afghan.

They will not ‘protect our commerce’ or ‘Our global engagement’

Although to be sure we will be told they will and the Square jawed sons of Nelson will not cease to tell anyone who will listen how important they are to UK’s trade.

They will dominate RN strategy and thinking it will all be about deploying and protecting ‘the carrier’.

We will have one.  We lose it we lose the RN as a fighting force.

There you have it. The reason I will go to my grave cursing the Elephants an all their junky supporters and all their works.

[box style=”3″]

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied—
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

[/box]

 

 

292 Comments
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AJS
AJS
July 8, 2014 8:21 am

Magnificent

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 8, 2014 8:34 am

….err – so if we had three plus air wings you’d be much happier about the whole thing then? Better still if we revisited the whole for not with business? :-)

GNB

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 8:38 am

Hilarious :-)

I read it all. I even noticed a distinct lack of number 10.

However, I still don’t quite get what your issue actually is. Is it:

1. We should have no carriers.
2. We should have smaller, more numerous carriers.
3. We should do it properly and have three big carriers and all the necessary escorts and support ships.
4. We should not think they are the pillar of the Royal Navy.
5. We should not get ideas above out station.
6. We should (as a nation) fizzle away into obscurity and allow all and sundry to dominate our way of life.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 8:44 am

Must admit though that it’s pretty sobering to realise that IXION certainly has a point with…

We will have one. We lose it we lose the RN as a fighting force.

Although, fortunately, we will have two ;-)

Nick
Nick
July 8, 2014 8:52 am

IXION

I enjoyed reading that. I don’t know enough about the design, but I would have thought the task force C&C functions would be an easy fix as would adding Sea Ceptor or similar on the armament side (and no doubt that was Admiral Baldrick’s cunning plan ?). That laves just the armour point ? What do the US do in their designs we didn’t ? In any case, just how much money would we have saved by building a CdG sized carrier and fielding 20 instead of 35 F35 ?

On your wider point, aren’t you really describing the entire British Defence policy of all three services ? Isn’t our whole aim to maintain “relevance” in the eyes of the US to keep our seat at the table as number 1 ally and the special relationship (Blair as Bush’s poodle/lap dog to be more succinct).

I’m not saying I disagree with this part of HMG’s strategy (and arguably it is commensurate with the history of the UK and our current position as a top 5/6 world economy), but if you accept this as our strategic aim, then surely it follows that you want your military contribution as the number 1 US ally, to be consistent with the level of performance the Pentagon would require a similar sized US force to deliver.

If we chose not to fill that role, then surely UK forces would be modeled more along that which Germany delivers (but arguably more maritime focused than Germany as a continental power), where we know there is little out of area capability and a less demanding technical spec for much of its equipment.

Isn’t our real problem that we’re not (currently) prepared to spend sufficient cash (or perhaps spend wisely) to fund all of our day to day commitments as well as having the shiny toys for the near P2P engagement alongside our US Allies and that it seems (with Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria) that the majority British Public has accepted our second tier status as a major post-Imperial country and wants something closer to a German style national self defence force these days ?

Cheers

Nick

MSR
MSR
July 8, 2014 8:57 am

The French have a carrier but their entire fleet is not composed solely of carrier escorts, as you say the RN will be.

I agree with Simon. Your position is not clear, and the piece lacks a conclusion. Even the worst rants have a point at the end!

As a carrier supporter, however, I share your concern that it will become the sole focus of RN thinking. If that happens the RN will simply have swapped its Cold War ASW specialism for an asymmetric era single battle group specialism and this, in its own way, will pervert the service’s function just as the ASW focus did.

The carriers should be a component, not the reason for being.

Nick
Nick
July 8, 2014 9:06 am

Simon

Isn’t your point 6 (fizzle away) at the heart of the UKIP/Tory exit the EU (and bye bye Scotland) mind set of our current little Englander Nigel Farage et al ?

We seem to have currently forgotten just what the UK actually is in global comparison terms in a bout of introspection ? We’re the 6th largest economy in the world (the recession having pushed France back to number 5) and we really can afford to a global player if we choose to. Let’s try to remember that realistically we’ll be a top 10 economy in size for quite a long time in absolute terms (and even when we do drop to top 15 it’ll be because the world economy as a whole has significantly increased in size not because we’ve shrunk) and it’ll be a very long time (if ever) before China/India/Brazil match the UK in the real national wealth measure – GDP/head).

Cheers

Nick

wirralpete
wirralpete
July 8, 2014 9:17 am

… question is do the next govt have the willpower to right the wrongs of sdsr2010 and reestablish HM armed forces back to a credible fighting force ?
1. RN are getting ssn’s t26’s rfa’s with crewing requirements of 2/3 of current fleet. Therefore not an incredible jump to conclude manpower can be found to crew a second carrier over next 10 years from the resource budget.
2. To have a credible number of aircraft then you have to fund 80 f35b, more merlin.
3. You also have to fund 1 more ssn, 3 more t26, and fully fund mars sss, and also to be credible 12 poseidon mpa.
4. You also have to fund a credible RM/16aab with 4 bn worth in each, extras perhaps from a ‘rifles bde’ .
Otherwise what are they for?
Answers on a postcard….

1. uk economy is growing apace at 3% per annum therefore defence budget as a % of gdp grows at 3% per annum
2. Please strip out public duties red arrows et al from defence budget and fund from duchy of lancaster revenues to enable a modest increase in army funding
3. The 3% increase in gdp growth funds mpa extra merlins and f35b’s and also funds t26 ssn and proper mars sss. And a 6th typhoon sqn.

Fantasy fleet rant over lol

Nick
Nick
July 8, 2014 9:18 am

MSR

aren’t you being a little unfair. When CdG was involved in Afghanistan and Libya campaigns, the French relied on the lack of naval opposition and the cover of the US/international fleet to deliver the protection needed. We would do exactly the same with QE/PoW in a similar situation down the line.

If France needed to do independent force protection using CdG, then the French navy would need all of its current modern escorts just as we would. Surely the real argument is that its hard to envisage either ourselves or France acting alone ? In any case, apart from the US, only Russia, India (and soon China) could – theoretically – actually do independent maritime force projection anyway ?

Nick

monkey
monkey
July 8, 2014 9:19 am

The carriers to my mind are a self fulfilling prophesy , we have some first rate SSN in the Astute’s but not quite enough to support the carriers and ……(fill in as required),we have some first rate Guided missile destroyers in the Daring’s but not quite enough to support the carriers and ……(fill in as required),we will have some first rate ASW Frigates in the T26’S but not quite enough to support the carriers and ……(fill in as required) “so please Sir can we have more” and the list goes on to include more OPV to full fill the anti-whatever roles , new Mine hunters to keep the sea ways for the Fleet clear , new RFA to support the ever growing demands for resupply, “they can’t be in two places at once you know?” .
The PLAN is I believe to get these Carriers into the Government’s mind set and grow the fleet out from there justifying the demands based on Government policy for wanting a Place on the World Stage.
P.S. I am with the Admirals on this one.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
July 8, 2014 9:22 am

I read it all but cannot be bothered to attempt to answer all your points. But just a few.

Might as well not have any Astutes either. After all, when might we need them?
When might we need LPD’s?
Why have a nice car in the drive?
Why have money? Lets all be swampy living in a ditch……

Agree with Nick, above. Really is the “Little Britain” mentality again, which is holding this country back.

The comment of Simon above is also telling “6. We should (as a nation) fizzle away into obscurity and allow all and sundry to dominate our way of life.” Could not agree more with his points.

We are a P5 member.
We are top 10 economy nation.
We are a G8 richest industrial nation.

All reasons enough to have Aircraft Carriers.

Or would you prefer we have the world clout of…?

I also do not see why the entire RN should be committed to 1 CBG.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 8, 2014 9:27 am

@ Thread – And if we are to discuss Elephants (in rooms) in public spending terms let us give some proper attention to the humongously vast herd represented by Health (now a national religion, uncritically fed with gold by all comers); Education (practically doubled, and yet still we tumble down the international league tables) and Social Security (successfully keeping millions of decent people in immiserated poverty since about 1970)…

And I speak as a retired Public Servant who has spent thirty years working for pay in areas where the failures of those systems intersect, and who still works more hours in a week running and developing community projects and working as a school governor in a very tough corner of Gloomyville than the average politician, academic or journalist who pontificates about them has spent in them throughout his or her entire gilded, self-important and utterly worthless life..!

Ranting Gloomy. :-)

mike
mike
July 8, 2014 9:28 am

Couldn’t really see the point other than several arguments with hindsight.

But I do agree that the RN has hollowed itself out for this, and when people say the second carrier could replace our last big amphib, Ocean, just sounds a tad desperate.
Maybe, like the unnecessary expansion of 849NAS, they on purpose wanted it huuuuge so it would really be “too big to fail”! *tin foil hat*

But well, whats done is done, hindsight is a wonderful thing… at least one will be coming into service… and the RN doesn’t have much more to cut off itself to pay for the second… so the Army and RAF will have to “pitch in”… you hear RN chiefs mention more and more the “use to the Army and RAF” they will provide… (and they’re right, these are more purple assets run by the RN) but it is a good thing the F35 will be shared, share the costs…on its own, the RN couldn’t budget for anything to fly off them!

Random
Random
July 8, 2014 9:37 am

Gloomey look at the NHS spending as a percentage of GDP vs france or gemany, or if you really want a laugh America. Please its really important if you care about defence not to let ruport murdoch land us with a imensivly exspensice private heath care system. The NHS is the only system where we can control costs, and we have been doing so just LOOK AT THE FIGURES! rising costs are due to an aging population and change in life styles, and the rising cost in treatment but we have managed so far to provide simliar level of care to other developed nations at reduced cost.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 8, 2014 9:40 am

‘We are a P5 member.
We are top 10 economy nation.
We are a G8 richest industrial nation.’

But why should it automaticaly follow that we have the QE class aircraft carriers? I don’t think the Invincible class were an embarrassment were they? In that case we need a 500 FJ’s in the RAF fleet and a 250,000 strong army.

There’s lots of arguments for equipment and capabilities but league tables and prestige should not be used for any of them.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 9:46 am

Massively flawed post.

By definition is the RN sails against a peer or near peer rival the entire navy will be going anyway. So we can strike that from the record.

Second, carrier battle group? Really? Its not even a real aircraft carrier, its a big STOVL aviation platform that will get to play the role of LHA, CVS, and CVA as required, most of its life it won’t face anything more threatening than fishing boat with RPGs.

The biggest problem with the anti-carrier brigade is that they think the British have built a USN style strike carrier, they haven’t, they have built a multi-role aviation ship. They also think they have spent a large amount of money on it, something else that is not the case.

wirralpete
wirralpete
July 8, 2014 9:54 am

@Davidniven….
My whole point you get a s**tload more bang for your buck if you invest in fj, and naval power projection, noone is goin to say lets do another iraq/afghan other than to kick in the door like in GW1 …. EVER
We’ve learned that COIN operations just bleed money so libya/GW2 type ops are all we’re going to do in future …end of.
So yes have a credible armoured division and RM/16AAB assault force but lets not kid ourselves we are ever goin to do COIN for 10 years ever again.

Toby G
Toby G
July 8, 2014 9:56 am

Well said Hohum

I was going to ask precisely WHAT out of the RN will be required to sail with HMS QE or train with HMS POW, as the aircraft alone dictates that it is not a strike carrier but a CVS/LHA etc.

Of course if things start to get heated, we could link up more support and enlarge the group as required, is this not feasible?

Methinks in time unmanned sea launched drones will take over the F35 and EMALS will be installed on POW.

wirralpete
wirralpete
July 8, 2014 10:02 am

@Toby G….
Exactly can think of a few USMC sqns that would be itching to get aboard if we needed to ‘surge’ in a hot enviroment.
However drones replacing f35’s maybe 25 years into the future :-)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 8, 2014 10:05 am

@Wirralpete

I think you’ve missunderstood my point. We choose the capabilities and equipment for what we want to achieve at the cost we can afford. Just because we are no5 in ‘x’ league, does not mean we have to have a certain type of capability. I’m not against the carriers, I just see them as an Invincible replacement but saying we need this and that because ‘we are who we are’ etc is a flawed approach to defence planning.

wirralpete
wirralpete
July 8, 2014 10:12 am

@davidniven….
However we are getting more capable ships at a manpower neutral cost perspective!
With the ability to carry at least double the aircraft at a much higher sortie rate than the previous cvs?
Oh and we’ve already spent the money or been nailed to a contract we cant get out of anyway ;-)
Again keep going back to my point that t26 ssn mars etc are 2/3 crewing requirements of current vessels so is purely an equipment cost?
GDP growing at 3 % p/a therefore increase defence by this amount to maintsain current 2% of GDP spent on defence?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 8, 2014 10:29 am

X

Agreed :-)

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
July 8, 2014 10:32 am

“I interviewed the last chief designer of CVA-01, Louis Rydill, just before he died, and he confirmed that he had said that the day the project was cancelled was the happiest of his life. However, that was not because he did not believe in the carrier case. It was because he felt that he had been forced to make so many compromises, and introduce so many risky design elements, because of size and budget restrictions, that the whole project had become a nightmare.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28128026

“Building the best and fielding only the best; it is arguable that Admiral Fisher started this habit when he was First Sea Lord and got rid of so many of Britain’s gunboats in order to provide manpower for his first rate Dreadnought Battleships of the Grand Fleet. Today it has led to navies, with Queens, with Rooks, with Bishops and Knights, but without Pawns; only First Rate ships are built and there are no cheap frigates or corvettes – that is the biggest problem. Without them there is no real chance for the presence that can alert, and even deter minor conflicts; allowing the First Rates to be saved for when they are really needed. The worst thing about all this, is that governments know there is the problem; the Black Swan concept was envisaged by the British Ministry of Defence/RN as the solution to the problem in 2012, but two years later the closest Britain has got to a small/affordable escort is the order for three new River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).”

http://www.europeangeostrategy.org/2014/07/centrepiecebut-rest-board/

wirralpete
wirralpete
July 8, 2014 10:39 am

@ x and davidniven….
Lol ;-) like it
However what people fail to comprehend is that sdsr2010 was all about stripping out manpower and pension costs for the next 30 years to increase equipment budget ….
20000 less army 3000 less navy 3000 less raf and 40000 less mod civil servants to pay for and their pensions into the future ….
Makes you think spreadsheet phil ainr as stupid as he looks?

Toby G
Toby G
July 8, 2014 10:41 am

An article by Dr ‘Phoenix Tank’ Clarke is not really the way to argue the point of escort/group needs for CVF given track record

Nick
Nick
July 8, 2014 10:42 am

wirralpete

I have to disagree with you here:

” noone is goin to say lets do another iraq/afghan other than to kick in the door like in GW1 …. EVER
We’ve learned that COIN operations just bleed money so libya/GW2 type ops are all we’re going to do in future …end of.
So yes have a credible armoured division and RM/16AAB assault force but lets not kid ourselves we are ever goin to do COIN for 10 years ever again”

The one thing history teaches us, is that we forget the lessons of the past and believe that it’s going to be different next time. Look at the US. In 1980 it wouldn’t have been conceivable that the US would commit to Afghanistan/Iraq after the trauma of Viet-Nam. yet they did, 25 years later. In fact they did do it differently (55,000 dead verse 5,000), but it was still unsuccessful.

Do you really think that post Obama, a more neo-con focused post 2016 US government might not want to commit forces to Ukraine if (for example) the democratically elected government had suffered another 3 or 4 years of Russian supported and supplied insurgency ?

The only way for the UK to avoid supporting the US in its next foreign policy adventure is by fundamentally changing our approach to “Defence” from being an internationalist focused player to a national self-defence force with limited overseas commitment capability (eg Japan, Germany). This might happen based on current public opinion, but this debate is coloured by austerity, pay freezes, standard of living decline and the fiasco of Iraq/Afghanistan. Things are likely to look quite different in 5 years time.

Nick

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 10:46 am

Queen = CVF (long range coverage)
King = LPD (slow, without it there is little threat)
Bishops = 2 x Bay (flexible but do not cover everything)
Rooks = 2 x T45 (large, fast and hard-hitting)
Knights = 2 x SSN (relatively slow and can slip past)
Pawns = 4 x T26 and 4 x MCMV (clear the way)

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 10:46 am

If you do not design, build, man and operate enough First Rates to inform designers and planners on the next generation, you will lose the ability to retain First Rate capability.

Once you reach a minimum level, you have to make a choice:

1) Cannibalise your First Rate capability in favour of Second Rates;
2) Forgo Second Rates in order to preserve your First Rate capability.

What is the minimum level required to sustain a productive First Rate life cycle?

Think Defence has already asked this question:

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/07/ever-decreasing-circles/

Related discussion:

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/10/the-mods-spending/

What wonderful archives!

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 10:47 am

Just read the Alexander Clarke piece, its hilarious. I am sure he is reasonably expert in British naval aviation in the 1920s and 30s but his grasp of modern international diplomacy and naval procurement is effectively zero.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 11:00 am

How much does it cost to operate Illustrious?

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 11:00 am

The second rate/third rate/gun boat/sloop/corvette/blah blah blah is a favourite with certain naval historians enamoured with history before truly functional worldwide communications. Prior to that time Royal Navy officers would often have more power in regional diplomatic affairs than foreign secretaries for the simple reason they were on the scene and could get round on their ships which at the same time carried contingents of marines in addition to their own guns. The disparity of arms also meant that this usually provided some degree of local over-match. It is where this nonsense about alerting and deterring using small combatants comes from.

It is all very quaint and makes for wonderfully romantic period stories but it is a world that is dead. The AK-47, IED and RPG have ended the over-match, global communications (our dear leaders now have video conferences) means that RN officers are no longer diplomats and that warning/insight into local affairs can be achieved by monitoring twitter. Influence is now a product of the possession of power and the willingness to use it, this requires the first rate platforms, and not much else.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 11:07 am

Hohum is spot on.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 11:08 am

IXION,

One of the key design objectives of CVF, and one that by all accounts has more or less been achieved, was that they cost no more to run than an Invincible, so no cash to find.

They were certainly not light to be Strike carriers, by displacement they are the second largest class of carriers in the world (after Nimitz/Gerald R. Ford) and you probably wouldn’t have saved much by buying smaller ships, additional smaller ships would have required more manpower (duplication of roles) and would have increased running costs.

Whats wrong with an enlarged Invincible?

And again, they really haven’t cost much when you consider how long they will be in service.

Repulse
July 8, 2014 11:12 am

The reason why the RN has been hollowed out is not because of the carriers, but because of the defence cuts and ground wars. I think that the RN preserving carrier strike capability is essential and will be proved so in the longer term, yes it means that the high end navy will be focused around a carrier group (2 at a stretch), but it still means you can fight when needed.

The seas will be the conflict zones where peer nations play in the future, without a credible force we can do nothing. As I’ve said elsewhere however something has to give and in my view the current RM / amphibious assault model needs a review.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 8, 2014 11:20 am

‘As I’ve said elsewhere however something has to give and in my view the current RM / amphibious assault model needs a review.’

Could’nt agree more. we could re role 3Cdo to be our coastal/littoral raiders with brown water capabilty and fleet protection.
The amphibious role could go to an army bde with 16 port and maritime and transferring the bulk of the CS/CSS units from 3 Cdo.

The same for 16AAB, and use the paras more like the US Rangers.

Think Defence
Admin
July 8, 2014 11:22 am
Reply to  Repulse

I think the point IXION is making is that as evisaged, the carriers were at the tip of this

http://www.wantaghschools.org/cms/lib05/NY01001016/Centricity/Domain/814/equalitateral.gif

Now, they are at the tip of this

http://www.wantaghschools.org/cms/lib05/NY01001016/Centricity/Domain/814/isosceles.gif

x
x
July 8, 2014 11:30 am

@ wirralpete

I did read it. I have turned over a new leaf with my posting here, light and short, and infrequent. Too many here now sucking the life out of a site that was interesting and fun.

If I could wave a magic wand would I replace CVF with something else? Just lately I have tended to think I would. For me the whole of idea of the UK “doing” carrier strike is and was bonkers. We could have built T45 to take TLAM (and SCALP-N too) in numbers and Astute with a dozen VLS tubes and contributed to the West collective strike more cost effectively. Odd that the UK throw TLAM in penny packets because of cost and capacity, and then spend £6 billion without the aeroplanes to do strike. CVF should have been built around E2 and then somebody should have gone to buy a jet, be it a Boeing or Dassault or Lockheed Martin. JFH was utter rhubarb. Crowsnest may be making progress but still smacks of cheap and cheerful and make do; oh that we could have come up with something that was innovative as Sampson. (Before somebody jumps on that I don’t mean Sampson in the air. I mean a solution for Crowsnest that was a big a jump as SeaVipe over SeaDart.) The lesson from that war was AEW is a necessity not a nice to have. We are about to enter a missile age similar to what Sandys thought we were about to enter in that white paper. Odd that the theme here is constantly that we only do stuff with the Americans, if you argue anything different you are a nut job, and yet the capability the RN decided to duplicate is the most expensive one the USN has. Oh! Gordon Brown is a kumquat. The expensive bits may mean a Cavour style carrier wouldn’t have been a third as cheap going on displacement but it would have been cheaper. 12 Astutes, more Darings as intended Atlas sonar (a la De Zeven) etc, more Merlins, 2087 for every T23, all operating under a comprehensive AEW umbrella from a command ship would probably have served us better. It might have secured a funding path to replace the amphibs with ships that fitted in with their USN counterparts in an area where we have maintain competency. (Never mind purchasing an aviation platform like Cavour where as much thought was given to amphibious ops as sea control not just a second string capability as CVF) I think the funding of QEC crewx, the trajectory of F35b, the trajectory of missile and UCAVs technology, the “need” to replace Torndado, recruitment of FJ pilots, may mean that give a decade or two they just won’t be viable. I see parallels with HMS Vanguard (1945).

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
July 8, 2014 11:38 am

@ Hohum – your point about second/third-raters. Have you read TD’s piece on forward deployed Presence/Utility ships and either way do you see any value in having such vessels bearing in mind the Army 2020 idea of Adaptable Brigades/Battalions deployed in pre-conflict capacity-building efforts in, for example, Africa? Looking at the second-rate ship from the point of view of high-intensity conflict they are not much good (although it is not impossible to imagine the return of the armed trawler/merchantman if SGR) but is there not a real role to play in terms of strengthening local institutions at a practical level in areas where chronic instability and extremism are either flourishing or threatening to do so? Lower cost utility ships ( to be procured and manned as well as not instead of high-end warships) seem to be the only affordable way to maintain semi-permanent deployments around the globe (potentially handling some standing tasks too) while moving to a more fleet and flotilla focused RN and supporting the Army in their mooted role in capacity building.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 11:40 am

Just for a bit of fun…

Why an Aircraft Carrier?

By aircraft carrier we mean a vessel capable of launching and recovering fixed-wing, jet aircraft.

There are likely to be plenty of other ships in the fleet capable of supporting rotary-wing aircraft and some of these aircraft make formidable attack assets. Furthermore, we also see a multitude of guided-missile, air-warfare destroyers capable of tracking hundreds of aircraft with extremely powerful radars and directing Mach 4 missiles to intercept incoming threats out to 100km. Additionally the destroyers and sub-surface nuclear attack submarines (SSN) can also launch scores of cruise missiles which can hit targets over one thousand miles away. We therefore need to ratify the need for extremely expensive carrier borne aircraft and their home amidst the waves.

The traditional roles of jet aircraft are for air defence and strike (attack) missions. As noted above the same roles can now be provided by the guided-missile destroyer and a plethora of helicopters… or can they?

With the advent of long-range Surface to Air Missile (SAM) technology also comes the advent of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles. In all cases however we generally need to know where the target is before launching our missiles. Due to the curvature of the Earth a surveillance aircraft at 12,500m can see only 400km. A fast jet at almost double the altitude (20,000m) can only see an additional 100km. This means that our fleet of huge warships can be targeted and the enemy can launch standoff weapons at us until the cows come home. It is very unlikely that our destroyers will be able to guide a missile accurately enough to intercept a relatively small aircraft at such a long range.

We need fast jets to intercept enemy aircraft launching standoff missiles at us from 400-500km.

We also find that although the likes of the AH-64 Apache Gunship are awesome machines; they can carry only relatively light weapons and are highly vulnerable to man-portable, air-defence missile systems (MANPADS). We would therefore have to rely on cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM), for heavy strikes from our guided-missile destroyers.

At the time of writing these destroyers cost around £1b (one-billon pounds) and carry around one hundred missiles each costing around £500,000. This is a total cost per warhead of about £10.5m.

If we compare this with even the small carrier being proposed here we can see that the cost per warhead is significantly less. We can estimate the cost of the carrier to be no more than £2b plus eight jets each costing around £100m. The cost per bomb is relatively insignificant at £20,000 each for a 1000lb JDAM. Each jet will carry two of these and each jet would be expected to undertake about 45 sorties over the course of a month long operation (720 bombs delivered). The total cost is £2814m, which works out at £3.9m per warhead. If we look at the £3b Queen Elizabeth class carrier with 30 jets and 2700 bombs delivered the total cost comes in at around £6054 and less than £2.3m per warhead.

Carrier borne jets are a more cost effective way of delivering ordnance to target.

Obviously using the destroyer’s cruise missiles is significantly safer so we would hope to have both with the opening stages of a conflict seeing cruise-missile strikes and the carrier borne jets delivering the sustained bombing campaign.

jonesy
jonesy
July 8, 2014 11:41 am

Ixion

Do you think the QE’s are not strike carriers because they use the STOVL principle?. Plainly a nonsense…if delivered as advertised the F-35B will have similar or better reach to the original Hornet and far a superior sensor/weapons suite. That aircraft being a staple of USN carrier air wings for a couple of decades.

STOVL makes sense for us for a very, very simple reason. No one, certainly not the Admiralty, wants to pay for the upgrade of the fleet air arm to match the fast jet capability of the Aeronavale. No one wants to have to fork out to upgrade basing to support, likely, three frontline sqdns and an OCU….not when theres half a chance we could be seeing frigate numbers dropping and we arent getting all the fleet subs we might like.

So, seeing as we want to use RAF bases and would rather like RAF pilots to be able to operate from our decks, the CATOBAR route was never really viable. Arrested landing skills are perishable and its highly unfair to expect sqdn leader Farquar-Smith to come straight off a 3 month tour bombing Toyotas in the back of beyond, expect him to keep up his deck rating and then send him straight to the ship as it clears the Mandeb strait. STOVL deck rating is quite a bit less onerous a task…even the notoriously twitchy Harrier GR3 was able to deploy to very much smaller decks under the guidance of drivers who’d never attempted landing on one previously.

STOVL then is an enabler that allows the ship to be Strike Carrier one day and humanitarian assistance node the next. It lets us run Carrier Strike without many of the associated costs of running naval air…or rather it allows those costs to be shared with the Light Blue….which amounts to the same thing. The size of the ship allows for the sustained sortie generation rate that a smaller hull with smaller airgroup couldnt. Its not a USN style carrier…its not meant to be one. It does fit our specifc needs very well though.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 11:41 am

Possible CVF internal hangar arrangement for 6 Merlins, 16 F-35C and 4 Hawkeye:

http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cvfimages/cvf-bae-ctol-hanger-med.jpg

Source: Navy Matters, Part 24:

http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cvf1-01.htm

Recommended reading if you haven;t already, it’s been around a while and updated over the years.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 11:57 am

Corin Vestey,

The RN should absolutely be performing that role, but it doesn’t need specialist ships to do it. It can be achieved by the deployment of personnel to the target country and bringing the target country’s personnel to the UK. The service that should have such third rate ships is the country with the security problem, say Nigeria or Kenya as examples.

monkey
monkey
July 8, 2014 12:07 pm

Next we need to deploy CSW as Kings to escort properly our Queen and Prince.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v290/cg001/CSW21/Concept-CSW-21–Rev-00-15April2012–8×11.gif
I propose King George VI as a class name , that should please dear old Liz.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 12:11 pm

Re STOVL/CTOL,

This has been done so many times its ridiculous, and at this point irrelevant. In 2010 everyone wanted C because it flies further with more ordnance, it had the added bonus of looking less risky at that moment in time, the former becoming more important now the inevitable had been accepted that these two F-35 squadrons were also going to be Tornado GR.4 replacements. There was only going to be two squadrons, one badged FAA and one badged RAF, both would in reality RAF controlled. Going CTOL over STOVL would not have resulted in any significant change in the land based capital investment, the only change was on the carriers. By alluding to three squadrons and an OCU etc Jonesey is being disingenuous, there was a (supposedly) joint F-35 force of two squadrons with associated bits (OCU etc) the only question was what F-35 variant it would be.

As an aside, the need to qualify F-35 pilots for CTOL and keep them qualified was considered entirely viable. The problem was the carrier conversion costs (and one suspects the risks these posed to keeping both ships).

Nick
Nick
July 8, 2014 12:12 pm

jonesy

The F35B will actually (probably) make mostly computer controlled/assisted low speed rolling landings to maximize carry back capacity. BAe is actively investigating this right now. This should enhance capability significantly

jonesy
jonesy
July 8, 2014 12:31 pm

Hohum,

“Jonesey is being disingenuous, there was a (supposedly) joint F-35 force of two squadrons with associated bits (OCU etc)”

Not so. Just doubtful that two frontline squadrons and even a significant OCU would’ve guaranteed even one full carrier airwing under normal crewing conditions. If you work on the principle of one squadron deploying as routine peacetime airwing and rotating personnel out through the course of a deployment you will end up with some pretty beaten airframes by the end of the deployment. Should the second carrier need to constitute a full carrier strike capability shortly into its next deployment those planes couldnt be guaranteed to be available. Emptying the OCU might work short term, but, short term only. The third squadron, as I believe the Aeronavale will be operating (11F, 12F and 17F) would be the logical answer.

Nick,

Indeed SRL may well be employed…save for circumstance of high bringback weight though vertical landing remains a valid option for deck recovery….and SRL is still a far cry removed from the need to CATOBAR deck qualify before a pilot could operate from the ship.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 12:44 pm

Jonesey,

Depends what you call “a full carrier air wing”, there are only going to be two UK F-35B squadrons giving a maximum front-line UE of 24, I remember when CVF was going to have the capacity for 50 aircraft including up to 40 JSF’s and the UK was going to order 150 of them. I even recall being told how a surge could see a CVF in CVA configuration with 48 JSFs. In reality, QE is unlikely to ever carry many more than 12, especially now she has to make space for many more helicopters.

Jonesy
Jonesy
July 8, 2014 1:04 pm

Hohum,

Required ‘Carrier Strike’ sortie rates, as they wuz, were contingent on a minimum of 3 sorties per cab per day. If I recall correctly first-day Key User Requirement was pegged around the 108 mark….indicating a surge airwing of 36. Also my recollection was that 617 and 809 were only initial squadron establishments on type?.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 1:07 pm

@Hohum/Jonesy

We should not talk about Carrier Air Wings but rather tailored air groups. Rear Admiral Harding outlined some of the possible packages last year. At the end of the day though, the mission, the threat and the availability of assets both air and maritime will drive the make up of the TAG. People flinging numbers about are just guessing.

Peter Elliott
July 8, 2014 1:15 pm

A figure of 14 Merlin (9 ASW, 5 AEWC) has been talked of as a baseine for force protection.
Add the ‘resident’ single squadron of F35B gets you 26 airframes (9+5+12)

If the maximum normal loadout for an efficient deck is set at 40 then that leaves space for around 14 ‘other’ airframes flexible to task:
Apache, Chinook or CHF Merlin.
Or a visiting squadron of Fast Air from either RAF or an allied power.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 8, 2014 1:21 pm

Oooh, don’t challenge me to make the camels/elephants a bit gay. Those F-35B would look lovely in desert pink, like those RAF Jaguars circa 1991. Then for the ships, a sauna, steam room & a skinny dip pool. Get Jasper Conran to design some tight fitting uniforms. Only sail to Ibiza, Sitges, Mykonos, Provincetown, Key West & Sydney.
Getting back on subject, I partly agree with Ixion. We have neither fish, nor fowl, as these carriers were designed by clueless politicians. Blair wanted a big Nimitz type carrier , so he could pretend he was as powerful as the US President. Brown wanted to pay for a rowing boat. So we ended up with a hollow giant. Something that looks good at a fleet review, but will be a paper tiger in battle.
All is not yet lost. If, & its a big if, the QE/PoW both stay in service & get decent air groups, with all the spares & weapons, plus enough escorts, then the UK will have a mighty big stick. If the politicians skimp, sell/scrap one carrier, then put the other in harms way with a tiny air group & escort, then we will have another WW2 style disaster (think Hood, Prince of Wales).

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 1:22 pm

I must say “Great IXION, now that you have got that out of your system can the incessant and dull whining stop from various usually green leaning quarters”!

Seriously the die is cast and wish people would just move on. I don’t wish to travel over old ground but as Jonesy would attest from my presance on Key Publishing forums I was very much in the CATOBAR camp. Once the switch back decision was made in 2012 and I started to see the details I realised the STOVL was the only realistic choice.

To pick up a few points:

“Why are Elephants 6 times the cost of queens”?

Because they are not combat ships with all the associated systems and fire control measures. Add all that and your ship with a thousand cabins with aircon and showers, internet connections, theatres casinos, and a waterpark will cost far more. It is a simplistic overview of ship building.

“In which case they are in effect only going to be used as enlarged Invincibles. In which case they are too big and too expensive for the role.

After all we could have fitted 12-18 f35’s on smaller cheaper hulls.”

That statement just shows you haven’t looked into the decision making around the size and design of the ships. I have lost count of the times I have read a comment by someone calling for three or so Cavour or Juan Carlos sized vessel and just how wonderful that would be without acknowledgement of the process that let to the current QE class size. 65 thousand tons+ is a carefully chosen size based upon political decisions made in the 1990’s.

In the 1990’s the Royal Navy wanted three carriers to replace the Invincible class, they also wanted them to be a similar size to the Cavour or Juan Carlos designs. It would of offered a capability improvement over what they currently had. Problem was the politicians made it VERY CLEAR that the Navy could only have two regardless of size.

Up to that point the Navy had based its plans on the sortie generation rate of two Invincible class carriers as a base line for an operation based on the presumption that the third would be in maintenance. With the politicians saying two carriers only the plans had to acknowledge that there might only be one available for an all out operation. A Cavour or Juan Class vessel is approximately 30 thousand tons, with one available and a cluttered deck your sortie generation rate is much less then two Invincible class carriers.

That is what forced the size up to the current 65’000 ton mark, with one available we will get a sortie generation rate a bit better then two Invincible class.

If the politicians in 98 had said “Yes lets buy three carriers” then more then likely three Cavour/Juan Carlos vessels would of been the order of the day.

With only two ships on the cards the size was forced up to meet the operational requirements set upon them and gave the added benefit of giving a CATOBAR back up (ignoring the 2010 mess up on that issue).

Now as for the Command and Control issue, that presumes the QE class have none. Which isn’t true, also lets see what happens when Illustrious and Ocean are paid off freeing up equipment to be installed on the QE class dead mans shoes style as has recent;y been done with the T45 and Bay class.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 1:24 pm

APATS,

Yes, we all know that, that was the point of my last post.

Jonesey,

Christ, this is going back 15 years or more now. The 48 number was the max surge number I ever heard/saw though I suspect it was achieved by someone seeing the 50 number going “aha”! 36 was the usual throw around and it usually got rounded up to 40.

The 809/617 initial establishment thing is a red herring. Current plan is to buy 48 F-35Bs to stand up two squadrons and associated bits (OCU etc). There remains an intention to procure more F-35s beyond that, HOWEVER, that is now under FCAS (which is a 2030 and beyond Typhoon replacement) and they may very well not be of the B variant. SDSR10 has taken the UK down to just 7 fast-jet squadrons, 5 are to be Typhoon and 2 are to be F-35B until FCAS (or whatever it morphs into) starts to appear.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 1:31 pm

An awful lot of assumptions and statements being made here. “They will operate just like an Invincible” ? “We should have bought 3 35k ton carriers” “So we ended up with a hollow giant. Something that looks good at a fleet review, but will be a paper tiger in battle”

@Fed and NAB have explained that the size issue was not random and as for escorts well we will have world class ASW and AAW escorts, as for air groups, it is 2014, lets see where we stand in 2020 when we actually start putting them to sea. What we have in spades is flexibility to tailor the make up to the mission.

@hohum

Nope your last post flung the usual guess work numbers around.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 1:31 pm

Further from earlier comment, the current design is based upon decisions and planning concepts laid down in the 1990’s in relation to what the Navy regarded as needed in relation to sortie generation for an all out type conflict. Any debate about that now can be best described as pointless grandstanding, I think this video makes the point!

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 1:41 pm

IXION,

The UK has not had 3 Invincibles since 2005 when Invincible herself was put into extended readiness and left to rot before being struck-off in 2010.

Furthermore, QE class will operate as an Invincible and an Ocean combined, not just as an Invincible.

Making it smaller would not have reduced the crew size, crew size is determined by the number of people required to make the ship function and not by the size of the ship. You can only reduce the size of the ship by reducing the number of functions required to operate it.

Calling the QE class “Elephants” does not make you sound clever, it just comes across as churlish.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 1:42 pm

APATS,

No it didn’t.

x
x
July 8, 2014 1:47 pm

Invicible availability has been all smoke and mirrors from not long after Ark Royal commissioned. They have never really followed the 3-for-1 pattern. The RN never had the budget, kit, or bodies to do such.

FWIW Blair is a kumquat too.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 1:53 pm

Historical view on sortie rate requirements:

In March 2005, the latest figures for JCA sortie generation from CVF were set at 108 launches in the first 24 hours, reducing to 72 per day for ten days and 36 for a further 20 days. A standard strike tailored air group was defined as including 30 JCAs (with up to 36 for short periods), with up to six anti-submarine Merlins and four maritime air surveillance and control (ASaC) aircraft.

Source: http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cvf1-24.htm

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 1:53 pm

@X

That is all very nice but it doesn’t change the FACT that was what the QE class planning decisions were based upon.

Again Grandstanding and Hindsight!

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 1:58 pm

Fedaykin,

In the 1990′s the Royal Navy wanted three carriers to replace the Invincible class, they also wanted them to be a similar size to the Cavour or Juan Carlos designs. It would of offered a capability improvement over what they currently had. Problem was the politicians made it VERY CLEAR that the Navy could only have two regardless of size.

Can you prove that please.

It’s not a challenge, I really, really want a link demonstrating that very fact. I especially want to know which politician (and associated advisor) had no clue.

Thanks.

PS: My personal feeling is that CVF came about because of the lack of confidence and lack of existence of a STOVL jet. It is the smallest practical size for a CATOBAR… sorry NaB… CTOL carrier. ;-)

x
x
July 8, 2014 2:11 pm

@ Fedaykin

Um. It isn’t hindsight. I stated what information the RN based its decision upon re CVF hull numbers and availability. As I was relating the circumstance before the decision it can’t be hindsight now. Or grandstanding. Or World of Sport……..

EDIT: I will swap RN for MoD(RN)/HMG.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 2:13 pm

A number of things in no particular order :

1. The ships were designed against a requirement (which was tri-service endorsed btw), which was for a number of sorties over a five day period, with a particular value on the first day or two. That requirement was and remains well in excess of anything a CVS or CVS+ could be expected to deliver.

2. The ships remain perfectly capable of meeting that requirement, provided that they can access a particular CAG/TAG when that requirement needs to be met. The final numbers of F35B are tbd at present and will remain so for a year or two.

3. The ships are big not only because of the CAG/TAG but because of the need to minimise manpower, particularly for aviation moves. That leads to a large flight deck size which in turn affects the rest of the design.

4. Stories regarding the removal of armour and protective measures need to be treated with a pinch of salt. The ships may not be as heavily protected as originally envisaged, but that does not mean there are only token amounts – far from it.

5. The cost of the ships is more than we should be paying for them. However, that cost has largely been driven by two factors – the prolonged delays incurred prior to order, courtesy of people querying the size of the ship (not the endorsed requirement btw) as if they were somehow divorced and secondly because they are being built by a particular corporate entity against which the MoD is unable to credibly query price. Of course arbitrarily stretching the build period to meet a couple of in-year budget constraints in the overall Mod programme spreads didn’t help either. Nor did the abortive STOVL-CV-STOVL flip, but that last was frankly not a big contributor in the great scheme of things.

6. Comparisons with Cunard liners are all very well, but those Cunard liners are only complying with Class Rules and SOLAS. They are also able to lay out their spaces to maximise outfit efficiency, whereas the QEC has to satisfy military and aviation efficiency, while accommodating several hundred tonnes of explosives, several thousand cubic metres of aviation fuel and diesel oil in close proximity to a couple of thousand people and in the expectation of both surviving and recovering from damage.

7. The fact is that the ships are big enough to meet the actual requirement if we ever need it, through the relatively simple expedient of “adding more aircraft to the force” which is a much simpler and cheaper proposition than “adding more aircraft and hacking the ships to bits to get them to fit”. Protestations that they’ve eaten the budget are best countered by pointing out that over the (say) eleven years of build, they’ve averaged £550m pa, which is something like 1/15th of the E&SP. For a fifty year asset that isn’t too bad. Particularly if you consider smaller ships would be unlikely to come in under a programme cost of £4Bn, saving of the order of £100M pa in procurement, or less than two Typhoon pa, a squadron and a half in total.

8. The strategic effect that they provide is that for the first time in some decades, European countries can – if push comes to shove – provide something approximating to the deterrent effect of a US CVN, which means the ever more stretched US CVN force can concentrate more on where its perceived threat is, which gets us some credibility all round. That doesn’t mean we can do it 24/7/365, but it does mean that we can provide that effect for some time, even with our limitations in RFA support. Something which the CVS (or even a CVS+) would be very hard-pressed to do.

That isn’t being a carrier junkie – its recognising that small STOVL carriers don’t really do anything beyond local sea control and that we haven’t bought a full up strike CVN, but rather a ship that will be able to deliver a credible range of capability over the next 50 years.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 2:22 pm

What’s commonality like with US replenishment vessels? Could they theoretically help us sustaining a group if agreeable?

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 8, 2014 2:28 pm

I think the idea of cutting the RN carriers from 3 to 2, came from a left wing think tank, circa 1989-91, that produced a paper on how to cut HM Armed Forces after the Cold War. It was amazing how many politicians read & believed that paper. Not just Labour, but LibDem & even many Conservatives fell for it. I may still have a copy in the house, but God knows where it is. By the way, the lefties wanted the Army cut from 160,000 to 100,000, so it is interesting that a Conservative led coalition has cut the Army to a smaller size than 1980s hard left peaceniks wanted.
I say again, QE/PoW are neutral as they stand. Both in service, suited & booted are a big stick. Just one, with a tiny air group/escort is a limp wrist. We shall wait & see what our political elite, decides to invest in.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 2:30 pm

@Simon

Your starting point is probably the old Beedall Navy Matters site (at one time the best place for RN fleet information).

He has an overview and pictures of the mid 1990’s studies based upon three 20,000 ton like for like Invincible class replacements:

http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cvf1-03.htm

Interestingly enough there was a mid 1990’s BAe-SEMA study to see if a thirty year SLEP was practical for the Invincible class. It was decided the risk was too great. It was the 1998 SDR that pegged the nascent program at two carriers thus forcing the size out to meet operational projections.

This rather odd 1990’s documentary whilst not explicit on the matter is rather useful in understanding Royal Navy thinking about carrier operations at that time and how any future plans would work out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp4O4lAaog4

I do vaguely remember some old articles and news reports, no doubt a dig around the Jane’s back archive would help.

The point is any current debate has to take account of what the thinking was in the 1990’s.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 2:38 pm

@TOC

We can receive from US and indeed from other NATO vessels. So Dieso and AVCAT would not be an issue, food likewise though that would be interesting. The issue would be in Ammo and specific stores.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 2:39 pm

Fedaykin,

None of those links support the claim you initially made. The 1998 SDR and policy documents accompanying it were clear that the new carriers would be substantially larger than the Invincibles, hardly a political trick.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 2:41 pm

@The Other Chris

USN resupply vessels have to meet NATO standards so they would conform to ATP-16D:

http://www.navy.mi.th/navedu/stg/databasestory/data/laukniyom/ship-active/big-country-ship/United-States/ATP/atp16dmtp16dc1.pdf

An old version for the curious:

http://www.hnsa.org/doc/pdf/unrep-atp-16.pdf

A Rolls Royce sales brochure:

http://www.rolls-royce.com/Images/RAS_BROCH_MMS54081_tcm92-15382.pdf

So yes they can support our ships, actually USN RAS/UNREP support was vital in the build up to the Falklands war with them sending several tankers to Ascension where the fleet was gathering.

Here is HMS Bulwark taking on fuel from the USNS John Lenthall:

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 2:43 pm

@Hohum

Use your eyes, they are official pictures and the writer has a reputation for accuracy on such matters.

The RN was planning on three but the 1998 SDR gave them two. Prior to that the RN had other plans, what is hard to understand?

1998 SDR said they can have two bigger carriers (you are not disputing that are you?) The RN then had to make that fit to their planning assumptions hence the drift up in size.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 2:48 pm

Fedaykin,

Pictures, really, that’s all you have got? A few artists impressions from a very early concept study does not in any way justify this statement:

“In the 1990′s the Royal Navy wanted three carriers to replace the Invincible class, they also wanted them to be a similar size to the Cavour or Juan Carlos designs. It would of offered a capability improvement over what they currently had. Problem was the politicians made it VERY CLEAR that the Navy could only have two regardless of size.”

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 8, 2014 2:56 pm

Food parcels would be interesting… APATS, you obviously attended this party?http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/18/eat-of-battle-worlds-armies-fed

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 2:57 pm

@Hohum

Yes, followed by the 1998 SDR that makes my point. If you chose to see things differently fine, we will just have to not agree.

Now do you have anything else to add Hohum?

It also doesn’t change my main point that being all “Captain Hindsight” about decisions made in the 90’s is as someone else said Churlish. QE class is what we have can the whining please stop!

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 3:05 pm

Fedaykin,

It certainly does not prove your point. The 1998 SDR could quite easily have suggested two larger ships because that was the solution the military/civil service found most appropriate after an analysis of alternatives. You have provided no evidence that it was a decision forced by a politician. You should be more careful about making things up as people will call you out on it and as you are now finding out it will leave you looking rather silly.

Paleo
Paleo
July 8, 2014 3:08 pm

Was I to die this moment, ‘Want of Frigates’ would be found stamped on my heart.

Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 3:11 pm

On 3 vs 2

IIRC the options presented against ST(S) 7068 were for a three-ship class of CVS-like ships, to be operated as they were in the mid-90s, vs two larger ships, initially 40000 te based on the same level of concept design as the CVS-like ones. The choice was made for the two larger ships on the basis that they were less likely to be outgrown by their aircraft, were able to deliver substantially more effect compared to two CVS and were broadly cost-neutral, even a saving when you considering crewing. To the best of my knowledge that choice was recommended by whatever the Defence Management Board was called back then and presented to SoS (George Robertson at the time). Reasonably sure neither the Smiling Menace nor the Great Financial Genius were involved in the assessment, other than to endorse the recommendation.

Growth to their current size occurred when realistic flying programmes in the tri-service OA scenarios were developed and it became clear that more deck space was required (as would also have occurred with the CVS-size ships). The bigger ships also offered a risk mitigation against the STOVL aircraft failing – something the CVS ships could never do.

The CVS SLEP study was a mandated requirement of submissions to the MoD at Initial Gate, to show the cost and capability of the “do minimum” option. From memory, CVS needed a strip down to hangar deck and rebuild above and even then could only have half a dozen F35 (or SSF/FCBA as they were then) on the flightdeck. CVS also had a pitiful F76, F44 and air weapons capacity, making it a relatively cheap but ultimately useless capabiliity. Ali Baghaei hated having to pay for those projects because he couldn’t see the point – it was obvious a CVS refit could only provide a fraction of what was being asked for, but the procurement system insisted on examining the option. Both BMT and Devonport ML (as it was) were involved ISTR.

You also have to remember that by the early 90s, the CVS were being operated in a two commissioned, one in reserve mode, basically because in the late 80s, HMG declined to buy the third airwing. The one in reserve mode was literally that – tied up in 3 Basin in Portsmouth – sealed with cathodics and dehumidifiers on and most sensors removed. That is NOT the same as being in refit – the ships were typically spending 18 months in reserve before being taken up to Rosyth (Guzz did the first couple) for a major refit usually lasting about 15 months, before entering the work-up cycle. So we’ve spent the last twenty years plus essentially running two carriers, albeit with a little more flex. Point is a carrier casualty with CVS still meant you had however long it took to repair the casualty, or fifteen months (whichever was worst) with just one available ship.

People have looked very hard at how to maintain availability with two hulls – in fact it’s one of the KURs. It’s also a fact that sitting in 3 basin did not do the ships much good either. The ones that spent the longest there typically were in the worst material state, which is one reason why Lusty is the survivor, rather than Ark.

mike
mike
July 8, 2014 3:15 pm

@ Fedaykin

Good to see Capt. Hindsight returning!
I rmemeber linking to that very vid… and it was on a CVF thread! lol

The MoD is in desperate need of him!

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 3:21 pm

NaB,

I have no knowledge of that early period in terms of this project but based on how things usually work that sounds pretty much spot-on. Despite what some wannabe know-it alls like to claim politicians, usually only sign-off on suggestions developed by the military staff.

Re the Invincibles, IIRC the 3 carriers/2 air groups thing was not unexpected or unusual. All the way back in the late 50s the plan was for 4 active fleet carriers but only 3 air groups. There might have been some brief discussion of 3 air groups in the late 70s but I have never seen anything to suggest it was considered after that.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 3:32 pm

@Hohum

“I have no knowledge of that early period in terms of this project…”

Well now you know ;-)

“Despite what some wannabe know-it alls like to claim politicians, usually only sign-off on suggestions developed by the military staff.”

What was that about being churlish? Look I think based upon my interpretation of what happened that it was very much a political driven decision. I said by all means disagree, but please don’t throw around childish underhand insults it is unbecoming and boring.

As NaB said the size was driven by actual requirements not an RN need to have a me too fleet of big US style carriers.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 3:34 pm

@mike

Ah Captain Hindsight as always here to not be any use whatsoever!

Observer
Observer
July 8, 2014 3:35 pm

Can we just admire the effort, ingenuity and dedication put into these instead of chest beating and gnashing our teeth? I believe that some of you know my preference for land based air coverage, so carriers are not exactly the apple of my eye, yet even I can appreciate them and their potential usefulness.

Grats on the carriers, may they have a long and interesting life.

Interesting naming convention though. If the first is “Queen Elizabeth”, shouldn’t the 2nd be either “Prince Charles” (though technically it is actually referring to Elizabeth the First) or “King James”? One is a specific person, the other (Prince of Wales) is a post.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 3:36 pm

@NaB

I remember as a teenager looking at Ark Royal sitting in Portsmouth with all the air conditioning ducting going into her.

Wasn’t there a very big refit fairly late into her life?

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 3:37 pm

@Observer

I wanted HMS Cromwell ;-)

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 3:42 pm

Fedaykin,

You made a claim and are unable to provide a single piece of evidence to support it. NaB has given his narrative and it seems far more informed and probable than your unsupported suggestion. Look, I get that you wanted to sound informed but you have been called out so its time to just let it go.

Re Ark Royal, yes there was a refit that was completed (inc trials) in 2007. Invincible however was far more egregious, she received a refit less than two years before being mothballed never to return again.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 3:43 pm

I don’t think I’d describe Fed as a wannabe, personally.

Expectation post Corporate and retention of the third CVS was for a third CAG in the mid80s. Fifty-odd frames is a bit much for two squadrons of eight cabs and 899NAS.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2014 3:52 pm

@Hohum

I did and explained myself, you just didn’t like it then decided to take a rather insulting swipe.

I asked to just agree to disagree, you seem to think adding further insults will be more constructive.

Thanks for that.

Look this is an independent defence blog, I come here for a fun debate. Considering we all hide behind a veil of anonymity how informed we ALL are is open to interpretation. So if I am well informed or just want to imagine to be is rather immaterial. I have a position that I feel is perfectly defensible. I have said please differ.

Sorry if you feel different, I am happy to move on but please stop being churlish.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 3:55 pm

NaB,

You have me going back over my notes on this now. The original plan was for three Sea Harrier Squadrons with a UE of five aircraft each, however 802 was cancelled under the 1981 review. 809 was raised for the Falklands but was disbanded again at the end of 1982. I don’t know of any plans after that for a third front-line squadron.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 4:21 pm

Carrying on with the 3-vs-2 debate…

NaB said,

The ships were designed against a requirement (which was tri-service endorsed btw), which was for a number of sorties over a five day period, with a particular value on the first day or two. That requirement was and remains well in excess of anything a CVS or CVS+ could be expected to deliver.

But not well in excess of what two CVS can deliver.

The same is true in a mixed TAG. Two hulls are more efficient operating 18 copters and 18 jets (or so).

Same is true for copter only ops. There’s way more space on two CVS than on CVF. There’s enough room to launch 12 copters in a single wave from two Invincible sized decks, never mind about Cavour or America sized decks (8-10 each).

So, although I’m not nit-picking. I find it amazing that it keeps getting touted.

There are plenty of reasons why this nation should have gone for 3-4 CVS. Plenty of reasons why they offer a greater “surge” capacity and plenty of reasons why they would sustain an on task presence almost indefinitely therefore contributing to the scarce hulls needed for RN standing deployments.

The only reason CVF gets the nod is that it mitigated the STOVL risk. Why is it that this seems to be slow in being admitted. It’s not a particularly difficult situation. I doubt many would think that we should scrap £6b of CVF because £6-8b of Wasp would be better now? Much better to live with reasonable decision-making and accept the consequences of hedging against future possibilities.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 4:30 pm

@Simon

You are a brave man selectively quoting NAB to try and make a point :)

I note that you do not quote this part “The choice was made for the two larger ships on the basis that they were less likely to be outgrown by their aircraft, were able to deliver substantially more effect compared to two CVS and were broadly cost-neutral, even a saving when you considering crewing”

Or indeed this part “CVS also had a pitiful F76, F44 and air weapons capacity, making it a relatively cheap but ultimately useless capabiliity”

Phil
July 8, 2014 4:46 pm

They may be needed in the future as carrier strike. In the meantime put a Commando on them and use them as an LHA.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 4:56 pm

“They may be needed in the future as carrier strike. In the meantime put a Commando on them and use them as an LHA”

When was the last time we conducted an amphibous invasion? Where as in comparison we quite regularly drop bombs and lob TLAM.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 4:58 pm

Simon

I rather think you’ll find QEC is in excess of what a couple of CVS can deliver. By some margin and with less manpower.

CVS flighdeck area even post GWS30 removal was about 5000 sq.m with big chunks of that constrained by skijump, lifts etc. QE has a vastly more accessible and useful flightdeck well in excess of 12000sq.m.

There is a reason that every single examination of carrier efficiency BAR NONE has shown that you get significant economies of scale.

Haven’t even gone into relative fuel efficiency of one long hull vs two shorter ones – or their generating efficiency etc etc.

Frankly, had we told everyone we were building two 30000 tonne conventionally powered ships for £6Bn – no one would have batted an eyelid. I watched this

http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=1904312

leave Southampton this morning and she dwarfs QE.

QE is bigger than a CVS – get over it people.

Phil
July 8, 2014 5:04 pm

When was the last time we conducted an amphibous invasion? Where as in comparison we quite regularly drop bombs and lob TLAM.

Nobody said invasion. An amphibious force of Commando size has many uses. I believe the USMC have identified 26 or so such uses for a similarly sized force.

When was the last time we HAD to drop bombs from a carrier?

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 5:15 pm

Phil,

I don’t mean to be pedantic but I think its the plane that drops the bombs, it just takes off and lands on the carrier….joking!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 5:16 pm

“Nobody said invasion. An amphibious force of Commando size has many uses. I believe the USMC have identified 26 or so such uses for a similarly sized force.”
We could use it for that if required, it is flexible.

“When was the last time we HAD to drop bombs from a carrier?”
I can tell you for a fact that the planners involved in Libya would have had your babies to have had QE and a decent air group but that is not my point.

As I summed my position up yesterday what this gives us is the ability to do certain operations better and the capability to do some we previously could not do. So we might not have HAD to drop bombs from a carrier but we may well have chosen to do so if we had the sort of capability offered by the QE.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 5:17 pm

Op Desert Fox might be a good example and certainly some of the Southern Watch missions that Lusty flew. Desert Fox was able to use Tornados because they were in Kuwait at the time. Had they been in Saudi or UAE, they’d have been unable to do so.

Had we been able to offer a QE-like capability, Op Veritas would have been the next, unless people fancied operating out of UAE and AARing all the way around Iran.

Op Ellamy would definitely have been one too had we retained GR9.

x
x
July 8, 2014 5:19 pm

We lob TLAM’s in ones and twos. If firing TLAMs was a major consideration for the RN as I have said lots of times Astute would have VLS and T45, being the first large modern escort of the post Cold War post GW1 era, would have had strike length VLS from the get go. Good grief how many TLAM could we buy for one F35b? If cruise missiles were a major concern for the RN then they would have invested in SCALP-N too.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 5:23 pm

@X
“We lob TLAM’s in ones and twos.” Precisely because that is the capability we have and the contribution we can make. QE changes that equation totally.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 8, 2014 5:26 pm

Phil. As we have not had long range carrier strike since the old Ark Royal retired in 1978, its not the actual dropping of bombs, but rather when we would have, had we had the capability. The link someone posted said that with air refuelling, the F-35B might, just about, have a strike radius of 1000 miles. So we could have joined US carrier aircraft in bombing the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001, had we had the capability then. Also, the Libyan campaign. While I hope we can keep out of Iraq, if we did have to help out with a few airstrikes, then using a carrier avoids putting boots on the ground.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 5:46 pm

NaB,

When I say CVS I mean the 30,000 tonne CVS we would have built, which would have exactly the same kind of efficiencies as CVF because she would be new and would also take advantage of all the work Amazon has done in warehouse automation ;-)

Can you link a pic of how the deck of CVF can spin up 14/18 Merlin, ‘cos 2 x Cavour/America Class can?

As for fuel efficiency well for the size she’s more fuel efficient. But if we had 3-4 America Class we’d only be pootling one around at a time, sustaining a task, which would consume about 80% of the fuel that CVF will burn. Yes, when I have to “surge” two (for the few months every 30 years) into theatre they will be less efficient, but not most of the time. So not only are these smaller carriers cheaper to fuel, they also deliver a standing task meaning they save the cost of three frigates. Meaning that if you want to examine the relative efficiencies of manpower you also have to bear in mind this opportunity cost too.

A link to these “examination of carrier efficiency” docs would be brilliant – because my examination, every way I cut it, puts 4 x America class (with well deck) way better use of money than 2 x CVF and 2 x LPD for this country. The only angle that puts CVF at the top of the list is if you have to hedge the STOVL risk or if you’re intending to supplement the fleet with a LHD and can leave CVF to undertake serious strike duties.

Phil
July 8, 2014 5:52 pm

We could use it for that if required, it is flexible.

I support CVF for two reasons.

1. It might be needed in its original guise as a strike carrier in the future. The future is uncertain and carrier strike from scratch takes longer than 5 years to generate.

2. It is a flexible ship, able to do everything from disaster relief to war fighting against a peer. I think that’s good value for money and ties in with the strengths of the Navy (it is as useful in peacetime as wartime, possibly more so).

BUT

In the short term I see little imperative for carrier strike capability. There’s occasions when it would be nice perhaps, but there’s been one scenario in 100 years where we, as a country, have HAD to use carrier air. I think this should temper the enthusiasm for strike.

Hohum
Hohum
July 8, 2014 5:55 pm

Making the QE class smaller would not have made it “more efficient” as I pointed out above a ships crew is defined by the number of people required to make it work, not by how big the ship is. If anything having additional ships would likely have substantially increased the manpower requirement due to the need for extra personnel for everything from maintaining the now multiplied propulsion lines to manning the multiplied ops rooms etc. Ships have gotten bigger because bigger is more efficient, this is especially true of aircraft carriers.

Phil
July 8, 2014 5:56 pm

So we could have joined US carrier aircraft in bombing the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001, had we had the capability then.

(a) Why would we have?

(b) You’d need overflight rights anyway so why not ask for basing rights?

I am not saying carrier strike is totally sans utility at the moment. I am saying CVF will in practice turn out to be a useful vessel for a range of other air based capabilities and will spend most of its time doing those with a token F35 flight embarked.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 6:08 pm

Simon

“Your examination” works every way you cut it, because you’re making it up in fantasy scenario land, possibly with the use of a spreadsheet. A good example would be the need to have 14-18 Merlin turning and burning. What are they doing? Lord alone knows what your hypothetical standing tasks that these ships are undertaking entails, but the ships won’t be alongside, which means they’ll be burning fuel and because they’re bigger than a DD/FF they’ll be using more power. Quite how they replace a DD/FF in a standing task is again unclear.

The QEC efficiencies are very little to do with warehousing technology and much more to do with eliminating un-necessary activities through the use of space. Much more difficult on a smaller ship.

x
x
July 8, 2014 6:11 pm

@ APATS

There is some merit in stepping up to try to plug falling USN CBG numbers. Especially if we were buying CTOL carriers, had 60 FA18s on order, and a brace or three of E2. But at the moment we appear to be buying a problematic platform in F35b in tiny numbers and far from cheap that will probably mean that the F35 squadrons will mimic JFH in deployment cycles. How much is F35b these days? What are the projected costs? And there is chance that technology will pass the venture by once we. Aren’t we already cut off from the USN UCAV programme? Yes we could fill QE’s hangars with USMC airframes but even in these straightened times the USN isn’t exactly short of flat tops if it wants to concentrate USMC airframes. The only other argument is that by buying manned aircraft the UK is putting skin in the game; if launching Storm Shadow from 250nm out is putting pilots at extreme risk. And that is if in a decades or three times there is wetware in the cockpit. How much to train a pilot these days? £5 million or so. Running a squadron per year? Isn’t it somewhere in the region of £20 million and up?

The capability the UK is missing isn’t a carrier for strike because we have missile carrying platforms. What we are missing when it comes to strike and what would have been a more pragmatic buy and garnered back a bit of independence from or should that make us a bit less dependent upon the US is a constellation of these…….

http://cdn.satellitetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/TDX-Formation.jpg

You do know that the RN was the pioneer satellite user in HMAF? Beyond comms a service that operates at global distances needs the ability to look at distance places.

One more thing. Last amphibious operation……….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Al_Faw_(2003)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 6:13 pm

“So we could have joined US carrier aircraft in bombing the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001, had we had the capability then.

(a) Why would we have?

(b) You’d need overflight rights anyway so why not ask for basing rights?”

The same reason the US did and the French for that matter. Your basing rights options were initially limited to Iran and Pakistan, with some of the ex-Soviet Stans later. Not exactly viable, so lots of missions launched from DG and CVNs with overflight through Pakistani airspace. Overflight is a lot easier to get than basing for combat ops. See the example of Desert Fox/Southern Watch mentioned earlier. It also avoids the FP issues.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 6:22 pm

@X

Remember when we talk about carrier strike and aircraft in general, they are inherently flexible platforms, something a missile can never be. A missile does not ride of the snooping MPA, vis id the closing target or conduct strike ops from a Carrier in April and CAS for Percy from an airfield in October.

I ignored your first 2 paragraphs as I refuse to be drawn into people guessing costs, numbers, deployment profiles etc. we have a GE and an SDSR to go through, with no doubt some unforeseen strategic shock in the next 5 years which will make a mockery of official planning let alone our assumptions.

What QE brings to the party is that it is large enough to allow us the flexibility to adjust how we use it.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 6:34 pm

T45 Strike Length VLS: The money saved by going with A50 rather than A70 (or Mk.41) is relatively small. Strike Length VLS paired with SAMPSON clearly provided BMD capability. At the time of design/fitting that was a particularly sensitive diplomatic issue.

By comparison A70/Mk.41 on a T26 with Artisan is clearly intended for conventional strike. Not that much of a hot potato.

Aster 30 Block 2 developments are a different kettle of fish, as is our current stance. cf HMS Daring role in BMD trials.

Still hoping for Mk.41 on T45 btw.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 6:36 pm

NaB,

…making it up in fantasy scenario land, possibly with the use of a spreadsheet…

Oh, that old chestnut again ;-)

How about six Merlin company assault with two Apache escorts whilst maintaining a fleet-defence CAP pair and loitering CAS over the landing site? Can CVF do that?

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 6:37 pm

Yes.

The 10 landing spot planning clearly stated Company level first wave lift with full support.

El Sid
El Sid
July 8, 2014 7:22 pm

@Simon
So what are you actually proposing – LHA-6’s without a well deck or LHA-8’s (or LHD-8’s as a ship that actually exists) with a well deck? And are you proposing a licence of the US design or starting with a clean sheet?

Under current budgets the cousins are spending over $10bn – so almost exactly £6bn – to buy two LHA-6 and one LHA-8. Given that they are building them not in six yards but in just the one, which has long experience of building similar ships and didn’t need major capex to do so. And of course they didn’t have the one-eyed genius making big changes to the contract within six months of signing it.

It all gets a bit alternate reality, but it’s plausible that three LHA-6/8 would have cost £7-8bn if built in the UK at the same time as CVF – or perhaps more likely we would have ended up with two for £5bn. So you’re already spending any cash you’ve gained from the LPD capex budget, and that’s before you get onto the operational budget. Hence the question – are you getting LHA-8 to replace the Albions, or sticking with LHA-6 for air operations? Because welldecks come at the expense of a lot of stuff that keeps you flying – it’s less about day 1 as day 2 and day 5. Think about it, every time a F-35B takes off, that’s 6 tonnes of JP-5 – without external tanks. 72 sorties in a day is 432 tonnes. How many days can your small carriers sustain that kind of drain on stores?

Another advantage of a big stores capacity is that it gives you more flexibility to carry different weapons “just in case” – particularly useful for something like the F-35 which will have a lot of different weapons cleared for it.

x
x
July 8, 2014 7:37 pm

@ APATS

Nobody is saying that the RN doesn’t need a large aviation ship. You can choose to ignore my guestimates but you can’t deny that the costs of procuring and sustaining F35b would buy more cruise missiles each year than we ever fired by a factor or more.

We are talking about strike not CAS. Are the former conducted at (relatively) fixed targets such as infrastructure and command control centres etc? If a frigate fires a missile at target from say 250nm out how is that different from an aircraft doing the same? It isn’t. There has to be a time when the button is pressed and what ever happens. As for CAS really you want to go there? What is going the price for F35b again how many helicopters, drones, PGM and supporting would that buy? There are plenty of options for future Army to handle their own CAS.

And don’t call them Percy it is rude. ;)

It seems we flip flop here between things being “flexible” and “we can’t do everything” (ie leave to the Yanks) as it suits.

I note the USMC want to keep AV8x in service until 2030. I wonder if the Puma refit money would have been spent on our own Harriers?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 7:48 pm

@X
“Nobody is saying that the RN doesn’t need a large aviation ship. You can choose to ignore my guestimates but you can’t deny that the costs of procuring and sustaining F35b would buy more cruise missiles each year than we ever fired by a factor or more”

Concur on cruise missiles but you know my views on the extra flexibility offered by manned fixed wing aviation.

“We are talking about strike not CAS. Are the former conducted at (relatively) fixed targets such as infrastructure and command control centres etc? If a frigate fires a missile at target from say 250nm out how is that different from an aircraft doing the same? It isn’t. There has to be a time when the button is pressed and what ever happens. As for CAS really you want to go there? What is going the price for F35b again how many helicopters, drones, PGM and supporting would that buy? There are plenty of options for future Army to handle their own CAS.”

An aircraft ensures man in the loop up until launch, allows the aircraft to be used to extend the missiles range and can after firing conduct other missions. So an F35 could ripple 2 storm shadow, tank and then take up a CAP station with internal AIM 120-D, in the face of a possible response, or conduct its own DAMASS on certain missions. yes their are plenty of options for the army to conduct CAS but none of them can also do Strike, CAP and SEAD. That is the flex you get.

“And don’t call them Percy it is rude” Better than Pongo :)

We cannot do everything but by procuring platforms that can do several things we maximise what we can achieve.

El Sid
El Sid
July 8, 2014 7:49 pm

@Observer
If the first is “Queen Elizabeth”, shouldn’t the 2nd be either “Prince Charles” (though technically it is actually referring to Elizabeth the First) or “King James”?

Nooo – both just don’t seem quite right, partly because they’ve not been used for warship names before (and realistically the RN has so many unused names with history that new ones are unlikely), and also neither are really notable enough, it’s really quite rare for an RN ship to be named after a monarch (although Queen Charlotte has had four, bizarrely). I’ll contradict that first point right away and say that I would have preferred the second CVF to be HMS Queen Victoria – not least because sticking with queens means that we can call them simply the Queen class rather than the current jumble of alphabet soup. Although by the time she commissions we could be onto Queen Kate… and there’s a good chance she’ll end up being called Ark Royal in any case. Then we could have built a third to be called Eleanor of Aquitaine pending a sale to France….

And capital ships tend to be named inconsistently – think of the Colossus class carriers, with adjectives, concepts and mythology all jumbled up together, or the original QE class battleships – QE, Warspite, Barham, Valiant, Malaya. The worst in recent times has to be the Seawolf class which for a three-boat class is a right dog’s dinner – one “proper” fishy name, one state and one politician.

Repulse
July 8, 2014 8:05 pm

If we expecting the majority of future UK operations to be done with partners then there are many more of them with DDs / FFs (or LPDs / LHDs for that matter) than strike carriers. As such, being a little light on escorts is an easier problem to solve if needed.

I’d mitigate this by scrapping the LPDs without replacement and finally ending up with 8 ASW T26s plus 8 T27s (T26 with extended rear mission bay without TAS) by the end of the 2030s. The T27s would be dual purpose – escorts for the CBG or the AAG (Army Amphibious Group based on RFA ships), And mother ships for the remodelled RMs I mentioned earlier.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 8:55 pm

@ Ixion

“When we drew up the spec for them, we also drew up a spec for the support fleet- how’s the 8 t45′s going? etc etc, the necessary Astutes?”

The escort package required for QE will depend completely upon where it is operating and the threat. A US CBG transiting the Med splits after the STROG and the CV will only have 1 escort until they rejoin for the Suez transit. In any normal peacetime deployment 2 T23/t26 and a T45 will more than suffice , supplemented by assets already in the AOR. If we get in a shooting war that would increase to at least 4 and 2 but in the vast majority of shooting wars we have Allies. Much has been made of the US pivot and in terms of CVN etc they have but they have also made a decsion to give 6th Fleet and extra 4 Burkes. Now add a Burke and maybe a De Zeven Provinciën or a Saschen to 4 T26 and 2 T45 with an astute in associated support and you have a very very serious escort package.

“We are putting 18 f35 on them (if we are lucky) for normal operations. so all that sorte rate and weapons loads etc does not really count for much does it?”

The sortie rate is designed for first day of conflict operations where a suitable TAG to achieve it would be deployed, not a peace time cruise or an intervention. Take Sierra Leone as an example, zero air threat, zero ASW threat but CAS would be useful so we maybe take 12-18 F35 for CAS and intimidation but would want Green Merlin, maybe Chinook and probably Apache, add on some AEW cabs and 2 or 3 ASW merlin just in case and you have your TAG. TAG is mission and threat dependent.

“IF we had started out cutting our cloth to our pockets and had started with a ship for 18, is anyone seriously suggesting it would weigh 65 000 tons? Go on I dare you!”

Nobody even used 18 as a planning figure, the reason we arrived where we are has been explained several times.

“It’s an LPH Ocean replacement’ etc, is just ex poste facto justification. Because we have them they will be used for everything from ‘Flag waiving’ to being use to prop the door open of the gents bog in Devenport. It is not what they were designed for – or at lest what RN published what they were designed for. Naturally all these features have been designed in with quarters for a battle group, storage for their weapons passageway widths, heads etc??? Or is it just “They have a big space where the jets should be, so we can stuff some troops in there”? ‘Hey look we’re joint’.

No it is a statement of its inherent flexibility as a maritime aviation platform. Not its primary purpose but then we tend to adapt and get on with it in the forces :)

x
x
July 8, 2014 8:59 pm

@ IXION

heads not bog

The Fleet is too lopsided now and I am not too convinced by cleverness and maintaining capability and regenerating if needed etc. etc. and so on. As I said above if you speculate war within anybody soon then you are a nut job. And so we keep all this ghost capability just in case which only goes so far. If you were to push for a basic fleet of,

12 x AAW destroyer (Daring meets De Zeven Provinciën-class)
12 x ASW frigates (T23 leading to T26 after Italian FREMM)
12 x SSN

you would be accused of being profligate. Yet not to far back that was our base line plus extra frigates. Speculate a step further to add,

3 x CVS (even though in practice only 2 operable)
3 x amphibi’s (which we have even though they poor, slow, small)
6 x patrol frigates

and it really is fantasy fleet time.

I don’t know. If F35b doesn’t fly then we are looking sick.

x
x
July 8, 2014 9:39 pm
All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 9:42 pm

Do you make a point at all there? We rarely if ever had 2 CVS available to us as remember each CVS required the same amount of manpower as as a QE and had a very low ability to carry Avcat and Ammo.
You again make an assumption to support your case in this instance 2. You infer we had 2 CVs when we rarely did and assume we will only ever have 1 QE.
Apart from that I do not believe you actually address any of my points.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 10:17 pm

“However we had and used the ‘light carrier’ capability because we could afford to use it.”

same amount of manpower required, greater automation, much greater capability and flexibility. As well as far greater endurance. Simple facts.

“WE have in QE, 1 ship which will not be available 365.”
Until we get POW in service at least. As talked about by the Defence Sec, worst case we will rotate them like the LPDS.

Lats paragraph is a tad bitter and as explained several times in here, not even correct.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 10:25 pm

“How about six Merlin company assault with two Apache escorts whilst maintaining a fleet-defence CAP pair and loitering CAS over the landing site? Can CVF do that?”

Yes. So where’s your 14-18 come from?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 10:37 pm

These are not big LPHs and as i said that is a secondary role but here is a good question for you, what are the requirements for an LPH and which does QE not meet?

“Please provide me with a reasonable citation for here when these things were ordered, or when their continued existence was threatened, that it was said they would deploy generally with a reduced complement of roughly half the aircraft they were designed for?”

You make yet another assumption, these vessels have always been designed around a Tailored Air Group. Show me an example where it ever said they would always deploy with all the aircraft they could fit on. The QE have always been designed to operate with a TAG, I even offered you an example yet you continue to jump up and down seizing on the rapidly diminishing assertions you made that have not already been disproven.

Overseas
Overseas
July 9, 2014 12:43 am

What’s new about this?

The CVF’s are all about making sure non-peer rivals or potential aggressors don’t get smart, sailing around the Med, popping over to Norfolk, and every three to five years wandering down EoS for a mooch. Defence diplomacy.

Against a peer rival we A) wouldn’t be alone, and B) in not being alone would form one piece of a larger (US) carrier fleet.

Mark my words when the natives see HMS QE dropping anchor it’ll make a big difference to ‘bilateral discussions on mutual understanding and shared goals’.

That said, I often mull over the idea that the UKRN should have 25 Astutes, as many MPA’s as you can carry, and bugger everything inbetween.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 9, 2014 1:05 am

It’s often said that the carriers will remain in service for fifty years, as the whopping cost of getting hold of the ships doesn’t look quite so eye-watering when you divide it by fifty.

But what was the last Royal Navy warship to actually remain in Royal Navy service for fifty years?

Extended periods as museum ships, or training ships, and so on (Victory, Caroline, and the like) is just cheating. As is time served in reserve after leaving active service, or time in reserve between construction and commissioning (common practice in ye olden days).

The Other Chris
July 9, 2014 6:10 am

@BB

We’ve tended to sell off vessels to other Navy’s where they’ve served out the rest of their life. Some of them have served for decades.

wf
wf
July 9, 2014 6:49 am

@Brian Black: that’s how the US operate their carriers, although they have a major refit half way along

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 9, 2014 8:05 am

Well the Great War battleships that also served through WW2, had a service life of around 35 years. HMS Hermes was laid down at the end of WW2, did not launch til the late 1950s, served til the mid 1980s & is still in service with the Indians.
As for QE/PoW, they are large, austere ferries. It is not them, but what you put on them that counts. There is room for a good amount of F-35B, spares , weapons, Merlins (& if I had my way, a few V-22 tankers, Firescout UAV, CH-53K King Stallion heavylift). While I am playing fantasy fleet, 17 not 13 T26.

Rocket Banana
July 9, 2014 8:31 am

Yes…

How?

…So where’s your 14-18 come from?

Probably the same place CVF’s 36 x F35Bs come from – A distinct lack of need and an awful lot of want. Two company assaults plus AH escorts? Mass evacuation/extraction? Support for the entire UK/Dutch EU battlegroup? Simply the operation as two LPH/LHD under US carrier (or land based) airpower at 150% the capability of CVF… in two separate locations… with redundancy.

Rocket Banana
July 9, 2014 8:34 am

PS: Great game last night. Nice to see speed and agility slicing through a poor defence.

Rocket Banana
July 9, 2014 9:40 am

El Sid,

JC, Cavour, Wasp, America. I think the point is that we could have built 3-4 of the same hull. The hull would specifically NOT be fitted by the same company that builds the hull. I may even suggest the hull be built outside of the UK as we seem either incapable of building them on budget, or incapable of contracting companies that do not shaft the nation.

The hull would be designed to have a well deck, garage and a hangar. It would be diesel-electric powered with the option to use GT (so that means a generator but not the turbine fitted). The GT would be mounted high to avoid wastes of space in terms of up/downtakes.

When operating as a carrier the well deck would not really get used. The vehicle deck would be used to carry spares and weapons. These would be moved using the same kinds of overhead gantries used on Wasp, but automated. A lift would take the parts or ordinance to either the hangar or flight deck. Access to this lift would be through an airlock. The dock down tanks would be used to accommodate extra fuel, as per America. Etc, etc, etc…

What it gets to is a swing-role ship. Something that can be re-roled anywhere between LHA-6 and LHD-8.

Total cost estimate is around £6b for three ships.

Total manpower requirement would probably be around 600 per ship (1800 total).

If we had gone this way we would have replaced Invincible and Ark Royal with the first ship (which would now be operational), Lusty and Ocean with a second (which would just have been launched) and Albion and Bulwark with a third. Admittedly if would have been difficult to get a fourth.

It wouldn’t actually matter if F35B were a turkey. The ships would still be of value as LHDs rather than the world’s most embarrassing LPH… not that I think this will be the case with CVF.

The three ship would then contribute to the highest threat standing task and would be fitted with frigate type self-defences (predominantly Artisan and CAMM). This would allow us to budget to build only 10 x T26, all of which would have tails. We would then be able to operate two task forces when necessary – one with a ship roled as a carrier, the other with a ship roled as an amphibious assault ship.

All I’ve done is taken 3 x Invincible and 3 x Albion/Ocean and bolted one on top of the other to get some economies. I’ve also acknowledged that “carrier strike” is not a priority and that fleet air defence, amphibious support and potential commonality with the USMC is.

My main point in previous posts is that I can only do this if I accept that I lose naval jet air if F35B fails. If I definitely want to keep naval jet air I have to build CVF. It’s the only driving reason to design a 65,000 tonner STOVL/CTOL adaptable carrier.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 9, 2014 9:43 am

@JH, indeed, Hermes only recently came out of refit. May have as much to do with not enough of serviceable Harriers as with the ships condition, until they can withdraw it with the new ones coming in. If we have had our carrier controversies, it has been quite amusing to watch the steel getting rusty while the design support contract for the indigenous carrier has been ping-ponged between Italy and France.

Hohum
Hohum
July 9, 2014 9:49 am

There really is not point in arguing with CVF haters, their arguments are derived from an irrational desire to be contrarian rather than any rational analysis of the facts. That is why we get endless repetitive claims, already shown to be false, that a larger numbers or smaller ships would be cheaper and more effective. Neither is true as has been demonstrated.

The Other Chris
July 9, 2014 10:26 am

How:

You’re thinking purely in terms of hot aircraft on landing spots taking off, with cold aircraft then being brought up from beneath decks, as that’s the limitation imposed on your CVS model by deck and hangar size (applies to USMC LHA/LPD’s).

The CVF deck is more than large enough to maintain aircraft away from the landing spots and has had thought applied as to how you hold passengers in standby positions ready for fast and safe boarding of aircraft on the spots.

The first ten hot aircraft on spots lift off, warm (hot?) aircraft are then handled into position, rapidly boarded from the appropriate passenger arrangements, takes off and then can join the existing wave as comparatively little time has elapsed compared to your alternative view.

As APATS/NaB have said, the room available on CVF allows for procedures that are simply not possible or vastly more difficult/dangerous for smaller vessels which cost a similar amount (or sometimes more) to operate.

This doesn’t just apply to handling below decks.

The size also allows you sustain higher sortie rates for longer. Not just in terms of physically storing supplies and spares but in terms of maintenance space for full repairs and the reduced impact of tying up spots for planned/unplanned VERTREP, passenger transfer, rescues, emergencies, turnaround and CAS/CAP ski-jump take-offs.

EDIT: If you want to play extreme top trumps I’m counting ten aircraft on spots, ten more on the deck with the lifts able to convey four at a time to support a “wave”.

Dunservin
Dunservin
July 9, 2014 10:53 am

@Simon

When I say CVS I mean the 30,000 tonne CVS we would have built, which would have exactly the same kind of efficiencies as CVF because she would be new