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?”
(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“If you must do this damn foolish thing don’t do it in this damn foolish way”
(Sir Humphrey Appleby)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…..
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.
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!”