Speech: UK/US naval partnership 2016


From the MoD…

In his first visit to the United States since becoming First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones spoke about the relationship between the Royal Navy and the United States Navy.

Secretary Cohen, Admiral Loy, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor to be invited to speak to the Cohen Group this morning.

As a representative of the nation that captured 2 of your 6 original frigates, set fire to the White House and built some really rather effective commerce raiders for the Confederate Navy, I am humbled, and a little relieved, by the unfailing warmth I have encountered on my first visit to the United States as First Sea Lord.

Special Relationship

You will know that, today, the term ‘special relationship’ is jealously guarded by commentators in the United Kingdom.

But what they sometimes miss is the fact that the United States has many special relationships, all across the world.

Your oldest ally, after all, is not Britain, but France. You have a growing relationship with Australia, forged through the Vietnam War and re-charged in the realities of 21st Century Asia-Pacific geopolitics; and important ties with Japan and Germany based on post-war history.

And these are just some examples of a network of alliances that are a perquisite for a global maritime power today.

And yet the relationship between the navies of the United Kingdom and the United States is in an altogether different league.

In the Persian Gulf, not only has a Royal Navy destroyer been protecting a US carrier battle group, but British pilots have been flying US F18s from the decks of US carriers. As your previous CNO put it, “no one else can get cleared even to sit in the cockpit”.

In the training world, future US Navy submarine commanders regularly pass through the Royal Navy’s qualifying course, the ‘Perisher’: a huge symbol of the mutual respect we have for one another’s professional ability under the water.

Meanwhile, considerable effort is being made to further interoperability between the US Marine Corps and our own Royal Marines, as they both re-focus on maritime operations once more, after so many years fighting alongside one another in Afghanistan.

And then there is the nuclear dimension.

What began with an unlikely relationship between Rickover and Mountbatten all those years ago, is just as strong today.

Naval architects from our 2 countries are designing a Common Missile Compartment that will serve the next generation of ballistic missile submarines in both our navies.

No other 2 nations today are prepared to cooperate over such sovereign and supreme strategic capabilities. No other 2 navies have the political will, the technical ability, or the professional trust to make it possible.

In breadth and depth, in scope and scale, our maritime partnership is different to any other, it really is ‘special’.

Royal Navy’s Future

I stand before you today at an incredibly exciting time for the Royal Navy.

For the first time since the Second World War we are set to grow. The increase in people and ships is, for the time being, modest, but the pendulum is at least moving in the right direction, and the leap forward in capability is huge as we become a big-deck, fast jet carrier navy once again.

There are challenges of course. Engineering and technical manpower continues to be a particular constraint.

I’d like to put on record how grateful I am to the superb men and women of the US Navy and US Coastguard currently serving with us on exchange and helping us to mitigate those constraints while we re-grow.

But I am enormously privileged to inherit a Royal Navy with such a bright future.

And I’d like to briefly outline 3 ways in which a resurgent Royal Navy can offer our partnership so much more in the years ahead.

Investment in strategic capabilities

The first area is investment in strategic capabilities.

The election of a new UK government in May last year confirmed that Parliamentary approval will be sought to replace our current generation of Trident submarines and that both of our new carriers will enter full operational service, providing continuous availability.

The number of nations that can deliver both Continuous at Sea Deterrent and a Continuous Carrier Presence is currently a club of one; and I am proud to be standing in the Club House with some of the club’s strongest supporters.

So this investment in the Royal Navy is significant because it means that even when measured against the rise of India and China, the resurgence of Russia and the enduring capability of France, the UK very much remains in the top flight of global maritime powers.

Over the next few years we will put in place the supporting components for these strategic capabilities. This includes the restoration of our MPA capability through the purchase of P8 Poseidon, the construction of a new generation of anti-submarine frigates and solid support ships, together with significant investment in Special Forces, cyber and Intelligence.

Crucially, last year’s Defence Review included a commitment to greater numbers of F35B jets earlier than originally planned, so that up to 24 will be available to embark on our carriers by 2023.

This is significant in itself.

It represents a greater number of F35Bs than will be embarked by the US Navy’s LHDs or will be carried by other European flattops in the future.

And although the US Nimitz and Ford classes carry more jets in total, their air groups will remain a mix of fourth and fifth generation fighters.

All of which means we are very proud that the Queen Elizabeth class will be able to operate the largest dedicated air group of fifth generation fighters in the world, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

We are hugely grateful for the support of the US Navy and US Marine Corps as we get to grips with this impressive aircraft, and to re-learn the skills associated with operating such large vessels.

And as we explore the potential of UK Carrier Strike in the years ahead, we’re going to discover new opportunities for bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperation.

We are aware of, and salute, the United States Navy, which has borne the brunt of back-to-back carrier operations in the Persian Gulf in recent decades.

We acknowledge the fact that when the French carrier Charles De Gaulle enters refit, as she does next year, it will leave Europe without a large aircraft carrier available for contingent operations.

It is not difficult to see how, in both cases, a UK led task group, centred on a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier, could help take the strain in the decades to come.

Global leadership

The second area I want to highlight is the Royal Navy’s own position of maritime leadership.

Within NATO, the Royal Navy already provides the permanent 3* maritime commander and currently holds 2* command of the maritime element of the NATO Response Force.

The Royal Navy’s bi-annual Joint Warrior exercise off the coast of Scotland regularly draws dozens of ships and scores of aircraft from NATO and beyond.

It also plays an important role in training and validating those US destroyers forward deployed to Europe for ballistic missile defence.

But Britain is also assuming a wider military leadership role in Europe more generally, in a way that is separate but complementary to NATO.

As the 2 most comparable European navies, Britain and France are pulling closer together.

The Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force brings together deployable forces from both countries under a properly integrated staff with common procedures, so that we may better contribute to and lead coalition operations together in future.

In the same vein, the UK Joint Expeditionary Force will provide the framework and critical military mass around which 6 Baltic and Nordic nations can contribute forces at short notice.

Beyond our own backyard, the UK holds permanent leadership of the European Union Naval Force Somalia and we provide the deputy commander for the US-led 31-nation Combined Maritime Forces in the Persian Gulf.

Further East, we are active members of the Five Powers Defence Agreement in South East Asia and recently joined the Western Pacific Naval Symposium as an observer.

Three years ago we deployed a destroyer and a helicopter carrier to the Philippines in response to Typhoon Haiyan, and a nuclear submarine and a survey vessel to the Southern Indian Ocean to search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.

So while our presence in Asia-Pacific is inevitably selective, the Royal Navy can, on occasion, still project credible forces into the region with greater speed and effect than some regional navies who are, on paper, better placed to respond.

Of course, with finite resources, the Royal Navy cannot be everywhere with the frequency we would wish.

Yet the UK has other maritime levers at our disposal.

The Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training and his staff have trained 105 of the world’s navies in the past 10 years, 58 of them in 2015.

Such is its success, that a number of European navies have now folded their own sea training programmes altogether.

Similarly, Britannia Royal Naval College has trained the current heads of 2 dozen navies.

And looking across Government more widely, the UK Hydrographic Office, a trading fund of the UK Ministry of Defence, is advising on maritime territorial disputes worldwide, including the South China Sea.

So by using all the instruments of maritime power, hard and soft, the UK retains influence and engagement on a global scale.

Notwithstanding the difference in size between our 2 navies, with the world as it is we both risk an ‘asset-poor, demand-rich’ future unless we exploit the opportunities that come through partnership.

And as I hope I’ve demonstrated, the Royal Navy already has a well established position of global maritime leadership which, like our capabilities, will strengthen in the years ahead.


The third and final area I want to raise is potentially the most significant, technological innovation.

Both our navies can cite examples of the spiralling cost of conventional equipment and how it can limit surface ship numbers.

Meanwhile anti-access/area denial technology, and the associated expertise, continues to proliferate.

In future, the UK may no longer be able to compete with certain other rapidly proliferating navies when it comes to platform numbers and manpower. But it is no longer just about counting Dreadnoughts, and we can retain our advantage by pushing technological boundaries.

We have great interest in the US Third Offset Strategy which sits well with our own Innovation Initiative.

As technology advances on both sides of the Atlantic, there will undoubtedly be new, mutually beneficial, opportunities for rapid development, deployment and cost sharing.

So for instance, hot-on-the heels of US progress on energy weapons and rail guns, the UK not only plans to test its own directed energy weapon at sea within the next 2 years but we’re also looking at the role of electric flywheel technology to generate and store the power required for these novel weapons.

Last year, we hosted navies from the Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Forum for an at-sea demonstration that culminated in the tracking and destruction of a live ballistic missile, and our Type 45 destroyers have shown that they have huge potential in this area.

Later this year, technology companies from around the world will demonstrate their unmanned and autonomous systems through Exercise Unmanned Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

And it’s just the start, Exercise Information Warrior is now in planning for the following year, which will introduce information management, cyber and artificial intelligence into the exercise scenario.

So our ambition is to help lead, not just to follow, in technological innovation.


In drawing to a close, I have covered quite a lot of ground over the past 15 minutes, which has hopefully given us plenty to chew on in the Q&A.

Clearly, as you would expect, I’ve been banging the drum for the Royal Navy, but my point is this,

For years the United States has rightly been looking to its European allies to take on a greater share of responsibility for defence and security and to play a stronger role in NATO.

You laid down the challenge and now, through your investment in the Royal Navy, and through our continuing maritime ambition, the UK has grabbed the baton.

So I encourage you to take a fresh look at your old ally, because our maritime partnership has huge potential to become even closer and stronger in the years ahead.

from Ministry of Defence – Activity on GOV.UK http://ift.tt/24WFCAg


  1. HMArmedForcesReview says

    Any of the last few First Sea Lords could have written this. Lots of praise, let’s see some stuff bear fruit like the BMD capability for example.

  2. MSR says

    “Any of the last few First Sea Lords could have written this.”

    Zambellas, probably. Stanhope and Band may have said something similar but their time in post was mostly spent trying to raise awareness of the parlous state of funding, and the declining influence of the RN’s voice in the halls of power. They weren’t able to look to the future – they were too busy fighting to stay afloat in the present.

    But West wouldn’t have written this. He was too busy saying ‘yes’ to everyone. It was under his leadership that some of the most ruinous cuts took place – that many planned decommissionings and cost savings were implemented years ahead of schedule before replacements, or alternative capabilities, were online, and this was done to serve a political goal of appearing to save money while, in fact, spending more in the long run. Classic example: the constant deferment of the carriers until their ultimate development and purchase costs spiralled to three or four times the original estimates. Current, topical example: the constant deferment of the Type 26 development and build contracts which has seen almost all the cost-saving and de-risking advantages of the original procurement plan squandered: Type 26 is now as expensive as it would have been if were a clean sheet design with zero technology pull-through from the Type 23.

    Okay, enough West bashing. Back on topic: This speech is actually more subtle and intelligent than it first appears, and makes some good points in addition to highlighting facts around the RN’s global significance and integration with the global community that tend to get forgotten in the day-to-day. Jones understands his audience and knows how to talk to them.

  3. scribbler says

    >> And although the US Nimitz and Ford classes carry more jets in total, their air groups will remain a mix of fourth and fifth generation fighters. All of which means we are very proud that the Queen Elizabeth class will be able to operate the largest dedicated air group of fifth generation fighters in the world, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. <<

    Has the Admiral not been briefed on the combat radius limitations of the F-35B and the consequences thereof? Has no one explained to him that "fifth generation" is but a marketing term used to describe a political aspiration unrelated to operational reality? And has no pilot presented to him the embarrassing performance data that reveal the F-35B, despite its designation, to be not a fighter, only a short-range bombtruck?

  4. stephen duckworth says

    “…the fact the United States has many special relationships , all across the world.”
    Nice line. Although the US spends vast amounts on it military it has alliances it is committed to in every corner of the earth with NATO just being one of them. Maintaining a close working relationship with an ally that hasn’t pissed them off for well over a hundred years is an important message to get to the new incoming POTUS and the rest of congress sitting on Capitol hill that we cannot just lend some boots on the ground or hulls in the water but add something extra to the US armed forces abilities. If the US struggled in Iraq and Afghanistan ,and they did, it wouldn’t take more than a couple of extra active theatres of operations to open up and even the US would be strained.

  5. Peter Elliott says

    Scribbler – I’m not sure we can evaluate the utility of F35B until (a) the software reaches a greater level of maturity and (b) effective tactics have been devised to use the capabiities that it does have and (c) both planes and tactics have been tested against real world adversaries. And if the mature capability looks anything like good don’t expect the deployable force to stop at the two squadrons mentioned either.

    Despite all of the difficulties it remains well ahead of Harrier – an aircraft which in 1982 made up for its paper limitations with battle tactics that succeded in playing to its strengths.

    Yes if we end up in WW3 against China and Russia then we may get exposed. But for just about any other task I suspect we will be able to field a more kick-ass capability than we have had at any time since the 1970s. And remeber even in a “world war scenario” you still arent fighting the enemy’s top assets all the time, becuase they are just as stretched as you are: back filling the gaps with legacy assets too.

  6. The Other Chris says

    Superior to having Harrier and certainly superior to having no Harrier, ergo a vast improvement in capability.

  7. Peter Elliott says

    The other point to highlight is that we shouldn’t be comparing our capability to a Nimitz or a Ford Class. We aren’t going to be fighting the USN any time soon or ever. But it is notable that a QEC will be a significantly better sortie generator than an Wasp or America Class: bigger deck, deeper magazines, ski jump, rolling vertical landing, organic AEWC. There will indeed be plenty of scenarios where are allies are very very happy to see a QEC Task Group hove into view.

  8. shark bait says

    RE F35; Well said PE, it will certainly be a great asset for the UK

    I get the impression a lot people and media done differentiate between the product and the programme. The program has been a shit storm, but it should still deliver a valuable product to the UK.

  9. shark bait says

    RE The speech; his language seems very positive, lots of talk about regenerating present and lost capabilities, and maintaining the RN as an influential force.

    The following was the most meaningful for me; using our top tier capabilities maintain our influence amongst our allies

    “It is not difficult to see how, in both cases, a UK led task group, centred on a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier, could help take the strain in the decades to come.”

  10. Brian Black says

    What I find particularly interesting there is the bit about testing a directed energy weapon at sea within the next two years.

    There have been quite recent statements -last year or two- that have talked about an aim to test a weapon at sea within a decade. This quote seems to really narrow things down – at least from what I’ve been aware of.

    Just hope they squeeze enough triple-A into the destroyers to keep the juice flowing this time.

    Apparently the UK also has an RF weapon prototype similar to the US CHAMP high-power microwave weapon. The UK doesn’t seem quite so forthcoming, or boastful, about these projects though.

  11. Brian Black says

    If anyone has the Top Trump aircraft carrier pack, do 24 fifth generation Lightning beat 35 fourth (and a bit) generation Raphael?

  12. Peter Elliott says

    BB – hopefully we won’t be fighting the French either. But I would observe that any carrier at sea will beat one tied up alongside with its main power equipement offline. Having two vessels both with conventional propulsion is definitely a plus in that regard.

    And while 24 FE@R seems to be the current plot don’t rule out seeing 36 or more on there either through allies of through future procurment as the air platform matures. Remember the industrial commitment is to buy 138 and Osbourne repeated that number not so long ago.

  13. Necessary Evil says

    The Charles De Gaulle only operates about 24 Rafale. This actually makes the British and French carriers fairly interchangeable – the F35bs having the advantage of stealth and the Rafales having the advantage of stand-off weapons (SCALP) and better AEW (E-2C). This is presumably the basis for the co-operation between the two navies – with three carriers in total they should be able to keep one deployed at all times. Of course, it might make sense militarily, but it all relies both nations having the same political will, which seems unlikely outside of ISIS-type situations. I guess this is why we eventually decided we needed two carriers, because we couldn´t rely on the French to join in with us on US-led operations, never mind a Falklands-esque scenario.

  14. TAS says

    “If anyone has the Top Trump aircraft carrier pack, do 24 fifth generation Lightning beat 35 fourth (and a bit) generation Raphael?”

    In my view, absolutely. Mainly because F35 will have ten or a hundred times the situational awareness of the Rafale, and capabilities in the EW space Rafale could never employ.

  15. shark bait says

    “Mainly because F35 will have ten or a hundred times the situational awareness of the Rafale”

    Agreed, that is the big deal! Data superiority well beyond any fighter available today, or in planning.

    If we are comparing entire systems, the Brits win because they can always guarantee carrier strike availability.

  16. Think Defence says

    But at least our French cousins will be able to deploy a weapon with a warhead bigger than 200kg and a range greater than not very far :)

    Swing, meet roundabout

  17. TAS says

    What’s the use of a warhead bigger than 200kg if you don’t know where to point it?

  18. Think Defence says

    Are you saying a Rafale doesn’t know where to point it :)

    Where is Frenchie !!

  19. TAS says

    Bigger isn’t necessarily better – I should tell my wife that.

  20. The Other Chris says

    Wouldn’t worry about competing with allies, provided what we’ve got suits our own sovereign needs first and foremost, then complementary forces with allies is the way to go.

  21. Peter Elliott says

    To be honest I’m happy we’re taking a long view towards developing SPEAR 5. Better to nurture MBDA by a strucutred series of planned procurements than rush out and blow the budget on sweeties, then find we have no indigenous complex weapons capability left.

    Plus the mitigations are good: TLAM from below, Storm Shadow from the land, and JSM integrated to F35 and sitting “on the shelf” in case a UOR arises. Seems like an example of actually doing it right tbh

  22. UK Tim says

    Yet more spin. The Navy and RAF and are totally vulnerable to a Soviet Blitzrieg via cruise missiles and cyber attack.

    The RN and RAF need to focus on protecting and defending the UK, eight typhoons on QRA and one outdated frigate is hardly much of a real time 24/7 defence.

    Critical mass and the concept of distributed lethality seems to have escaped their pathetic little minds.

  23. HMArmedForcesReview says

    Jones said by 2023, there would be more F-35s on a QEC than there would be on an America-Class assault ship.

    But we know it is a TAG-tailored air group. The USMC/USN usually have a set number for their air wings. So is Jones telling the truth?

  24. HMArmedForcesReview says


    Yes Zambellas could have written this; he did make a speech of similar content to another US think tank a year or so ago.

    Thanks for the histories of the last 1SL. Yes under West, lots of equipment was cut and then he didnt object. Now, he’s blaming everyone for the state of the Royal Navy.

  25. Frenchie says

    About “the Rafale don’t know where to point it”
    The guiding bombs is effected by a laser designation pod Damocles that can be carried by another aircraft or, since January 2011, by the Rafale in total autonomy.

    I don’t want to say more about the F-35 because this will be not nice :)

  26. El Sid says

    The America class are also using a TAG type approach – typical loadout will be six F-35B’s with Ospreys and Sea Stallions, but they can go up to 20 F-35B’s if they have to.

    The point about continuous carrier+ASD is somewhat weakened by the fact that both China and India will be in that club by the time PoW is operational…

    But the point about the number of countries who go through FOST/Dartmouth is a good one, it’s one of those classic soft power things that doesn’t get much talked about.

  27. The Other Chris says

    Don’t be jealous of the F-35B Frenchie, we’re only teasing you because your Army picked the Sagem Patroller over Watchkeeper ;)

    At least it means TD will be relieved that there’s less chance of a VBCI+ selection over this side of the Channel!

  28. Brian Black says

    “But at least our French cousins will be able to deploy a weapon with a warhead bigger than 200kg”

    300kt. Who’s in your sights, TD?

    Necessary Evil, the maximum non-standard airwing for the CdeG is 35 Rafale, two Hawkeye, and three helicopters; and they do actually own enough Rafale to do it.

  29. El Sid says

    Talking of bombing Europe, yesterday was the anniversary of the Dambusters raid, so the new 617 have recreated some old photos :

    Incidentally, has anyone heard any more about Peter Jackson doing a remake of the film? Supposedly they got as far as getting Stephen Fry to do a script, and having a debate about what to call Guy Gibson’s dog, but then Jackson got distracted by the Hobbit. He’s a bit of a heritage plane junkie, so it would definitely be a labour of love for him.

  30. Observer says

    TOC, so the chances fell from “when hell freezes over” to “when God and Satan kiss and make up”?


  31. Frenchie says

    More precisely the Rafale is equipped with 14 external hard points (13 for the navy version) and is capable of carrying a variety of weapons. Its maximum payload capacity of 9500 kg, making it the only fighter in the world capable to conduct missions carrying 1.5 times its own empty weight.

  32. Rocket Banana says

    “…carrying 1.5 times its own empty weight…”

    The power of rounding… and then rounding again.

    138% for the “M” :-)

  33. Cky7 says

    Jumping in to defend frenchie here…

    I’m no f35 basher and am firmly in the lets wait and see camp on it overall and even then am pretty sure there are a lot of areas where its detractors seem to miss that it’s gonna be bringing in whole new ways of doing things and some really revolutionary capabilities.

    That said I’d be careful underestimating the rafale. She’s a VERY capable bird and aerodynamics wise is light years ahead of the f35. It’s got advantages even in BVR and some really big ones WVR. Spectra is damn impressive, so much so it makes the lack of the f35’s not f22 level stealth not quite such a massive advantage many might assume. Her range and combat load are a fair bit better than jsf too and I do wonder if a Russian or Chinese SU27, 35 or whatever pilot would really be happier facing one than an f35. I bet even against. Tiffy it would mostly come down to pilot skills against a rafale.

    Thankfully however were all on the same side and come any sort of big fight we’ll be working out how to compliment each other’s advantages :)

    Also to whoever brought up Falklands the French did back us pretty bloody well with helping out on Exocets and I was sure they even offered direct support at one point? Just thought the knocking was a little unfair on that one point, no one was saying the same about the us who did have a few influential voices wanting to back the argies but obviously being our great mates backed us with everything we asked for when it came to it :)

    On the speech my only point would be I wonder how many us citizens feel Hearing all this when we’re still spending about half the percentage of our gdp that they do. Were I a US taxpayer I’d get pretty pissed off with my military minnow allies throughout most of nato – and despite Cameron’s bullshit bookkeeping we’re one of the better ones!

  34. HMArmedForcesReview says


    Yes but how often do the USMC assault groups change their air wing? And looking at it so far, I doubt 24 f-35Bs on a QEC will be common place but more a occasional event (NATO exercise or something big).

  35. Steve says

    I don’t think in 2016, the US really care what the European powers bring to the game. We have gone from a essential ally, to someone that it is useful to keep on side, but they can live without.

    The US focus is progressively getting less towards Russia and more and more towards China. As such the US is more interested in what their Asian allies bring to the game.

    We need to focus on our European allies now, since they are the ones that we need to rely on should there be a threat to the UK.

  36. The Other Chris says

    Good job the principle Rafale and F-35 operators are good friends, eh?

    Question on Allies supporting the UK:

    How many would definitely assist us in protecting a British Overseas Territory? The early 80’s felt quite lonely given who we were supposedly friends with.

    Holland maybe? Venezuela still want Curacao and Aruba. France? They maybe wouldn’t want precedent set. New Zealand have expressed openness to assisting policing in the new Pitcairn zone.

    Are there any Allies we’re neglecting ourselves? Canada? New Zealand? A larger fleet of SSN’s would not only mean more capability for our interests but would mean more to assist in Australia’s Area of Interest for example.

  37. Necessary Evil says

    Brian Black,

    The maximum possible air wing may be 35, but they are no more likely than us that they would deploy that many aircraft as they will have approximately the same amount of Rafale M as we will have of F-35s (60 vs 48) and those numbers could well be revised in our favor (particularly if a second batch of f-35Bs is ordered). If you look at their actual combat deployments, you will see they regularly deploy with approximately 24 combat aircraft.

  38. Necessary Evil says

    This article contains some interesting details about the Rafale, including the fact (which I was not aware of) that it does not have a Helmet Mounted Display. The Rafale might be aerodynamically superior to the F-35b, but without this piece of equipment it seems quite unlikely that it would have an advantage in WVR combat. The author also seems rather unimpressed by either Damocles or its replacement.

    As I said earlier, I think the Rafales main advantages will be the fact that it doesn´t need to rely on stealth for strike missions if it uses SCALP, and the fact that it will have better AEW (much better if the French ever get the E2D – with this and a larger combat load of missiles, it may even have an advantage in BVR combat).

  39. Necessary Evil says

    Ah, I just realised that the F-35b will only have that advantage in WVR combat if it carries ASRAAMs, which would increase is RCS.

    All in all, I think the British and French air wings will be fairly evenly matched.

  40. Necessary Evil says

    Oops, forgot to post the link to the article: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/frances-rafale-05991/

  41. Frenchie says

    We have 38 Rafale M, but the number of aircraft on the Charles de Gaulle depends on their availability rate which is never 100%, that is why we can not carry more than 26 Rafale M on our aircraft carrier.

  42. Pacman27 says

    The QE Class are scheduled to go to sea with 24 F35b and a number of Helo’s. The standard loading is 40 aircraft with a surge capability of 50 aircraft if required. I believe it can easily take 40 F35B if required – but clearly we need enough aircraft to do that.

    The Rafael is a very good aircraft and the volume of sorties that the CDG can generate should be more than the QE class due to it being CATS and Flaps.

    As for the speech I think it was very very good and really forward facing. It is clear the RN is looking to take the strain off the USN in the Middle East and Med and it will be interesting as I see a retrofit to EMALS at some point based upon an interoperability argument, based on us and the French taking on this tasking in the future.

  43. Peter Elliott says

    Short BBC piece on the new carriers


    Suggests (without explanation) that QE sea trials will now be in 2017.

  44. Not a Boffin says

    QEC is designed to take 40 or so cabs and can take a few more in overload. However, the standard airwing (at least in the early 20s) is likely to be significantly smaller – I’d bet sub-30 of which about half being fast jet.

    It’s Rafale, not Rafael.

    What on earth are cats and flaps? Why are they going to give a higher sortie generation rate than STOVL? Do elaborate….

    While the ships can be retrofitted with EMALS, no interoperability argument on earth will justify that cost. Interoperability is far more than the ability of an allied aircraft to recover or launch off the deck. The real elements of interoperability are logistics support which have little to do with the mode of take-off and landing and everything to do with the ability of the ship to accommodate the people, spares, tools, weapons and support procedures of the nation supplying the aircraft.

  45. Think Defence says

    I would like it better it was Donatello though :)


  46. All Politicians are the Same says


    I bet first op deployment 2021 Gulf. 20 F35B 12 of ours 8 USMC 8 Merlin HM2. 4 Wildcat and 4 Crowsnest.

  47. The Other Chris says


    Four Crowsnest kits for the eight HM2’s listed or do you mean four additional Merlin’s with Crowsnest over the eight?

  48. All Politicians are the Same says


    I mean 12 in total.

  49. Julian says

    “What on earth are cats and flaps? Why are they going to give a higher sortie generation rate than STOVL? Do elaborate….”

    I assume he meant cat & trap but, on that assumption, I thought that one of the benefits of STOVL was that it could generate a higher sortie generation rate than CATOBAR due to less time for attachment of catapult, resetting of said catapult, resetting arrestor wires on landing etc.

    I’m asking a question re the relative sortie rates by the way, not making any claims. I’m only regurgitating stuff I read elsewhere. It’s all part of my efforts to gain at least a very basic understanding of some of this defence stuff.

  50. Brian Black says

    I don’t think it’s particularly likely that we’d see significant binational F35 operations from British carriers.

    Trying to support two separate F35 fleets on the same ship would be a major headache. That they’d be the same type of aircraft doesn’t mean that anything would be shared at first line level. Both forces would also be contributing the same or very similar capabilities.

    I’m sure there will be cross-decking of naval aircraft -British Harriers have been on US carriers and assault ships- but I think operationally, a more likely scenario might see a UK F35 flight plus US marine ground troops for a joint amphibious tasking. Or US COD aircraft aboard a RN ship, or RN Crowsnest aboard a USN vessel – those kind of complementary partnerships, rather than replicating an already present capability.

  51. Brian Black says

    Rafael is an archangel; Rafale is a gust of wind… like a rippling fart after too much onion soup.

  52. wirralpete says

    Planned number of F35 frontline sqns confirmed as 4 plus an OCU based at Marham


    Begs the question will the Typhoon force remain at 7 sqns or will the 2 further f35 sqns replace tranche 1, with tranche 2 taking up QRA?

  53. Peter Elliott says

    Last time we discussed this we thought Tranche 1 Typhoons will hit the wall in terms of obsolescence around 2025. So for me it looks like 9 manned Fast Air squadrons (5 + 4). Which is a pretty good result tbh.

    The next question is where the unmanned combat aircraft fit in: will the Future-Taranis flying wing replace the two squadrons of Protector? Or be in addition? Or replace some of the manned squadrons? Would we ever be happy to let F35B take on the manned QRA role? Its all far in the future but makes interesting food for thought.

  54. Challenger says

    Seems the future of the fast-jet force is being properly secured and mapped out in a way that was seriously lacking up until Novembers SDSR. The quantity provided by a decent minimum force of 9 squadrons and the quality provided by 2 of the most advanced platforms on the market.

    Looks very likely that the plan is to retire the Tranche 1 Typhoon’s in the late 2020’s as enough F35 (all B or maybe a mix of A & B?) arrive. With the latter being unsuitable for QRA i’d imagine the remaining 5 Typhoon squadrons will all be swing-role, but with 2 allocated to the task and the other 3 providing the same level of expeditionary capability as the current Tornado force.

    That’ll then leave 4 F35 squadrons which is plenty to keep 12ish air-frames on the active carrier and enough force elements drawn from the remaining units to either bump this up-to 20-24 or commit them elsewhere.

  55. Mark says

    We seem to have a habit of telling others how much more capable are x,y,z is going to be in a particular area when we get it in a few years time when there’s is already in service. If I were the French I would simply retort Rafale/CdeG has and will continue to be extremely effective I hope in 10 years time your carrier can contribute if it and the f35 deliver all the capabilities promise. That remains an untried and big IF.

    As for fast jet numbers 9 sqns will remain a wafer thin margin if all tasks currently asked of the force remain constant. 4 f35b units would be the main deployed strike capability IF/when realised late next decade. Where the’re based will solely be dependent on need, aircraft are by there nature the most rapid and flexible asset we own after all 100% of the earth is covered by air.

  56. Frenchie says

    About the cooperation with the US Navy, since that is the subject.

    The technical arrest of the CDG is a brief stop for a few weeks to restore the aircraft carrier available for operations in September.

    It is only after this potential new mission as the Charles de Gaulle will be immobilized for periodic downtime for maintenance and repairs, ie a maintenance operation which is to last 18 months.

    During a hearing in the National Assembly, the Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has been hypothesized to deploy Rafale M on a land base, as this had been the case in 2008 with the sending of Super Etendard in Kandahar.

    But as it is essential that the pilots of the Naval Aviation retain their ability to deck landing on an aircraft carrier, 18 months is a long time and they need their regular training. That’s why it is envisaged that the Rafale M can take off from US aircraft carriers.

    Rafale M on an aircraft carrier of the US Navy would not be a first. Since 2005, the Rafale M began by making series of touch and go on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS John C. Stennis. Then in 2007 they deck landed before being catapulted from the USS Enterprise.

    The search for better interoperability between French and American ways have been constant in recent years. In 2010, for the first time, a technical team of the Flotilla 12F changed an engine of a Rafale M F3 aboard the USS Harry S. Trumman, while the F-18 pilots were conducting touch and go on the deck of the Charles de Gaulle.

    Finally, in December 2013, an F-18 air refueling an Rafale M and Super Etendard during an exercise in the Persian Gulf.

    But it is unclear if it is to train pilots of the French Navy or it is question to embark Rafale M aboard a US aircraft carrier to allow them to take part in air operations against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

    The results of the last four months of operations of the French Battle Group indicates that 18 Rafale and 8 Super Etendard, have made a significant contribution to the reconquest of Ramadi by Iraqi forces and they have provided up to 25% coalition strikes by performing up to 18 operational sorties per day.

    Sorry for my bad english, and thank you to those who have supported me, especially Brian Black who knows more than me the French army.

  57. All Politicians are the Same says


    I am extremely :) confident that we will definitely see binational Ops on at least the first op deployment. We will only be talking 20 F35B so easily operated as 2 squadrons with overlap in common areas.
    It makes a significant statement from the UK and the US get to gap a CVN in the JOA for the cost of 8 USMC f35b and possibly an Arleigh Burke

    Makes massive sense all round.

  58. El Sid says

    On crossdecking, this (slightly out of date) graphic is always a good reminder that the average NATO carrier does not have cats and traps :

    My understanding was that sortie generation on de Gaulle declines sharply above about 24 planes on board – that’s why her recent missions have only had 20 aircraft, even when she’s going to war. It just gets too crowded otherwise.

    @BB You only have to look at public statements from the USMC and RN to have been 80-90% confident that the USMC would deploy on QNLZ – they’ve as near as dammit said so in public, they’ve been making out like teenagers. But I’d take APatS’ confidence as the last word on the matter…. It just makes a lot of sense – we will have a really nice F-35 platform and not enough aircraft, the USMC will have lots of aircraft but very few F-35 enabled ships. Combining the two solves problems for both sides. ALIS will make combined logistics much easier, as and when it works…

  59. Brian Black says

    There’s been plenty of opportunity for joint carrier operations over the years, whether between Harrier users or the French and Americans; however, probably the most significant deployments have centered on training and deck qualification. Frenchie describes the kind of tentative deployments that have occurred between the US and French navies.

    I’m sure we will see USMC aircraft on the new RN carriers. AV-8 and V-22 have both been aboard CVS; the US Marines will have been flying their Lightnings from flat-tops for a while, and they will also be able to bring the valuable carrier experience of their former F18 crews.

    It won’t just benefit the initial setup of the RN aircraft carriers, we’d likely see continuing joint activities over the years. It’s the operational bit I’m not convinced of.

    I would bet a shiny shilling that if there are ever USMC F35 combat operations from a British carrier, there’d be no more than a couple of aircraft, and there’d be an American LHA/LHD and supporting group not that far away – and that’s only if it’s politically expedient to display such tokenism.

    Genuine sustained joint operational deployments with significant numbers of F35 seem highly unlikely.

  60. Peter Elliott says

    Sid makes an excellent point about the ALIS. A modern parts management or engineering system _ought_ to make light of splitting costing between two entities drawing on a single logistic supply line.

    But I guess it depends on just how “identicial” the different nations’ aircraft turn out to be. Once any national mods or changes start to creep in it will make it all 10 times more difficult. I’m sure a big effort will be made to keep things standard. But under pressure to “make it happen” I’m sure the guys on the ground will start to evolve their own individual “fixes” for things.

  61. All Politicians are the Same says


    I am willing to bet a bit more than a shiny shilling.
    You ignore the unique circumstances of the case.
    The US have a drum tight carrier roster and want a 6 month Gulf gap around that time.
    We want to deploy QE in 2021 with as full a TAG as possible but will only have 12 operationaly deployable F35B.

    The rest as they say just falls into place.

  62. Topman says

    In 5 years all manner of things can happen, might very well happen of course. But still lots of water to go under the bridge before 2021.

  63. Think Defence says

    eyup stranger :)

  64. Topman says

    Just thought I’d pop back in.

    Been busy, those 5* hotels need someone to stay in them ;)

  65. Repulse says

    Rumours have it in some sections of the press that HMS QE will have USMC F35Bs on board when it arrives in Pompey next year. Can’t see it myself, much more likely to have the static model from the commissioning.

    What I do think makes sense is to keep the carrier States side longer in 2018/2019 as I can’t see much opportunity for extensive trials with 617 sqd moving to their new home. Perhaps with early elements of 809 sqd.

    It also feels that PoW could be made ready earlier (in 2019) to pick the baton straight up from HMS Ocean for trials in the Amphibious Lift role.

  66. El Sid says

    There’s little synergy in operating “foreign” types from your carrier, unless the de Gaulle was prepared to carry AMRAAMs and Hornet spares, as well as people qualified to work on them. Even aircraft labelled as “Harriers” were as similar as they were different. F-35 is very different and the US brass is thinking differently as a result – see eg the head of Air Combat Command :
    “the advantage of the F-35 is the nature of the global fleet. Allied and American F-35s, whether USAF, USN, or USMC, can talk with one another and set up the distributed operational system”

    Also you have to understand the problems facing the USMC, a combination of sequestration and paying for Afghan has left them desperately short of ships. They have a target of 38 ships to move two MEBs, at the moment they have 30. Given that their average ship displaces as much as two Bays, they are short of around 250,000t of shipping. So forget fast jets, they’ve been putting much more effort into putting troops on allied shipping – see eg

    Historically they’ve only ever trained with allies, but I think you will see the USMC making operational deployments on allied (non-aviation) ships in the next few years. Deploying their F-35’s on QNLZ would be a logical next step.

  67. Necessary Evil says

    I wonder if the USMC/RAF/RN F-35 QE air wing will actually be operationally – the logistics seem a bit of a nightmare, since the the two nations´ f-35s will use different short and medium-range AAMs. and different attack munitions. In fact, I can´t think of a single weapon that they will both use, apart from the gun pod.

    In light of this, it would probably make more sense to work with the Italian f-35b force, and a possible future Spanish f-35b force, at least if they both get Meteor. We should really try to sell them SPEAR 3 as well, and perhaps Italy will buy Paveway 4 since it is partly made there. That just leaves the short-range AAMs, which may not normally be carried anyway.

  68. Necessary Evil says

    be used operationally, that is.

  69. Peter Elliott says

    What’s the greater logistic burden: weapons or aircraft parts?

    It strikes me that the deep magazines of a carrier designed for 40 cabs ought to be able to accomodate duplicate weapons sets for a mixed group of 20. Similarly if we have to ship a extra dozen USMC weapons techies to prep their unique ordnance it’s hardly going to put the ship into overload.

  70. Necessary Evil says

    Perhaps, but whoever runs out of weapons (or a particular weapon) first is going to be rather annoyed.

  71. All Politicians are the Same says


    “Perhaps, but whoever runs out of weapons (or a particular weapon) first is going to be rather annoyed”

    I think you fail to appreciate just how large the magazines on the QE class actually are. Of course there is also the ability to RAS and top up stores and in my “example” I am only talking 20 F35B in total. A logistical step rather than even a hurdle. Not too mention that in the initial operational years there will be far more symmetry in weapons.

  72. Necessary Evil says

    How big are they then? Do you have any figures, or is it just your imagination telling you that they are big? From what I´ve read, a US carrier operating at ´surge´ will run out of weapons in 3 or 4 days. They would then need RAS, like you said, but if both nations F-35s are embarked you would either need both nations to supply replenishment vessels or you would need your single replenishment vessel to have loaded a supply of both nations´ weapons, most likely from different ports.

  73. El Sid says

    One can also imagine the USMC choosing in time to align its “heavy” weapons with RN/Italy/Spain – there’s been a lot of talk about how the -B can only have 1000lb weapons internally compared to 2000lb in the -A/C. There’s no good reason other than arbitrary tradition for weapons to come in those sizes – if the RN/USMC want a bigger bang or longer range, then they could end up with a custom 1631lb weapon – or whatever size it is that they can fit into a -B internal bay.

  74. Peter Elliott says

    NE – we’re not talking about the far side of the Pacific here. Both navies operate out of Bahrain – how hard can it be to truck the supplies round to the most conevnient quayside? In any case the ship can easily come within a Chinook flight of allied air bases if something special needs to be flown out in a hurry. That’s how the troops will be getting their mail I expect.

    The reason the comabt forces are at sea rather than on land is largely political. It overcomes the public prejudice about having ‘christian’ forces based in muslim countries and shows the western powers to be present and engaged in securing the region at large. By contrast combat sqaudrons at an allied airbase would can look like proppoing up one particular nation or (worse) regime. It also demonstrates freedom of navigation through the Gulf which is an important consideration in itself.

  75. All Politicians are the Same says


    “How big are they then? Do you have any figures, or is it just your imagination telling you that they are big? From what I´ve read, a US carrier operating at ´surge´ will run out of weapons in 3 or 4 days.”

    Define surge ops and how it is relevant to the Op deployment i have talked about. The QE class have magazines large enough to at “least” cover those sort of surge ops you talk about for that amount of time with a fill fixed wing group.
    I am talking about 20 F35B only and a standard Gulf deployment. Current CBG ops in the JOA are not requiring RAS for ammo purposes every 3 to 4 at all. the interval is far far greater. Also loading different missiles and bomb types onto an RFA or even having an extra USNS vessel available (there are many in theatre pre positioned with war stock) is hardly the outrageously difficult evolution you seem to think it is.

  76. Necessary Evil says

    APATS, I don´t really feel I am learning much from this debate, since you do not give any figures and unless you are ex-military there doesn´t seem to be any reason to trust your opinion, so let´s just leave it there.

  77. Necessary Evil says

    Oh, and because I can anticípate what your retort will be, here are the figures I got my 3 to 4 day claim from: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1998-09/surge-97-demonstrating-carriers-firepower-potent

    I had misremembered it a little, the article actually says that they would have run out of ordnance and fuel at around the 5-day mark, but that was at a sortie rate that some people think was unrealistically high. So if we half the sortie rate a Nimtiz class carrier´s magazines should last about 10 days.

  78. The Other Chris says


    APATS is most definitely not ex-military* and that is why he will never give you figures.

    * Hope the italics show up well…

  79. Necessary Evil says

    PE, that´s a good point about Bahrain, but if we are both basing out of there, why don´t we just put the f-35s (and some tankers) there too? I guess there could be a scenario where they allow us to refuel the ships but not to base aircraft there, but this is already quite a specific scenario. I guess it might happen in the first few years that the QE is in service, but I do not really see it happening beyong that point, as we should have 24 of our own f-35s available around 2023 (when 809 stands up) and we should also be introducing Meteor and SPEAR 3 around that time.

  80. Peter Elliott says

    From what’s been said over the past few years APATS is a serving RN warfare officer. What he says on the practicalities of operations and logistics at sea is as good as gospel.

  81. Brian Black says

    APATS, I’m not ignoring anything. One of the reasons the RN will have two operational aircraft carriers will be the pressure applied by NATO (read US) lobbying intended to ensure that, with three large British and French carriers, the European wing of NATO will be capable of sustained carrier taskings.

    I’m not saying that a RN carrier won’t find itself in the Gulf; but if there are not enough British Lightning in the early days, what you are much more likely to see is a joint naval group including for example, HMS Queen Elizabeth, USS America, and/or one of the smaller Latin carriers. On such a deployment, as has happened in the past, you could expect to see significant cross-deck activity and joint training; but I would not expect to see foreign Lightning deploying for months on end from RN ships. If we had the capability today, we would not be seeing USMC Lightning conducting combat sorties over Syria from QE in the Med.

  82. Necessary Evil says

    Fair enough, but since it seems that he won´t therefore be able to provide any figures, and since I don´t know his exact position (future warfare officer for the QE?), there doesn´t seem much point in discussing this further.

  83. All Politicians are the Same says


    In your example the CVN generated 770 strike softies and dropped 1300 air to ground munitions. That is 190 plus softies and 325 weapon releases per day.
    That is a full CVN air wing in full on day 1 onwards conventional war mode.

    How many sorties per day and weapon releases do you think the CBG in the Gulf is generating on average?

    To give you a clue, halfing it as you did gets you nowhere close. Even if we use your figures of halfing it then we RAS every 3 or 4 days (you always RAS early). That is for a full airgroup of fixed wing. So using my figures of only 20 F35B and realistic sortie rates the requirement drops again but a RAS every 4 or so days is normal jogging and in no way difficult.

    As for using Bahrain. They allow the transport DOB at Muharraq but will no way allow combat missions. In fact they are quite strict on what we are allowed to do inside their TTW.

  84. Necessary Evil says

    PE, sorry I didn´t notice that you had already dealt with basing the f35s out of Bahrain itself. All I can say is I hope we don´t use aircraft carriers to support another poorly supported war in the Gulf, and I really hope we don´t do it at the behest of a Trump cabinet.

  85. All Politicians are the Same says


    The last thing we are likely to see is a joint deployment. The USN Amphibious Fleet in the JOA is set up to support the MEU.
    The in theatre LHD has an airgroup designed for OTH STOM and they do not have enough to spare a second to act as a Carrier.
    The CDG deploys in its own right and will be in the rotation Cavour will not have any F35B.
    QE can with the addition of 8-10 USMC F35B fill the CTF50 requirement. Win win for everyone.

  86. Brian Black says

    Repulse, wasn’t the plan at one point to have a US F35 fly past at the commissioning?

    The rumour of the Americans making an appearance doesn’t seem too outlandish. It would be a great marketing opportunity for the F35 if nothing else.

    El Sid, it wasn’t me making the claim about foreign types piggybacking their jets on the RN carriers. I did say it would be much more likely to find ground forces aboard operationally.

    Peter, eight USMC F35B would likely be accompanied by about 150 marines.

  87. Peter Elliott says

    BB – eight aircraft from any force or service will bring their own maintainers with them. The point I was making is that you might only need a couple of dozen extra over and above that to cope with preparing unique national ordnance.

    The strategic purpose of western forces in the Gulf is to deter a wider regional war between the GCC and Iran. Of course none of us knows what either the local or global political situation will be 5 years hence. But the scenario that it might be quite similar to today seems a reasonable starting point to me.

  88. Necessary Evil says

    APATS, you seem to know a lot about the specific scenario you are talking about, so I won´t question your claims. I guess we will see whether it actually happens or not. It is depressing to think that we may still be conducting low/medium intensity operations against ISIS or other terrorist operations in 2020, as you seem to be suggesting.

  89. Necessary Evil says

    Oops, organisations rather than operations.

  90. All Politicians are the Same says


    I never suggested we would still be conducting Ops against ISIS in 5 years time.
    Whether we are or not does not affect the requirement of 5th Fleet to have a CBG in the JOA.

  91. Necessary Evil says

    Yes, but you seem to be basing the future requirement on current operations, which are against ISIS. I would expect us to conduct high intensity operations against Iran, for example (and it may not be a great idea to send our new carriers anywhere near the Gulf anyway).

  92. Necessary Evil says

    Anywhere near the Gulf in the latter scenario, I meant.

  93. All Politicians are the Same says

    I originally did not base my “suggestion” on any scenario. Simply pointing out that it is extremely likely that the QE first operational deployment will be to the Gulf in 2021 and to facilitate a 20 F35B airgroup the USMC will supplement numbers.
    The requirement of the CBG in the Gulf JOA is dictated by 5th Fleet. That allows for high intensity or low intensity operations as required.
    I only started answering theoretical scenario questions in response to other posters.

  94. Necessary Evil says

    So is 5th fleet already expecting the QE to fill that slot at some point? I didn´t realise that the ´pivot to Asia´ may mean that there is no American carrier in the Gulf region at certain times. I wonder how it will work if say, Corbyn and Trump get in next time (people laughed at the idea of Trump getting in a year ago).

  95. El Sid says

    “may mean that there is no American carrier in the Gulf region at certain times. ”

    That’s already happened – sequestration and a few breakdowns screwed up the carefully planned schedule for carrier maintenance which meant that they gapped for a couple of months last autumn. It sounds like they can already see another gap appearing in 2021, and are already planning for ways round it.

  96. Necessary Evil says

    El Sid, thanks, I guess that makes the USMC/FAA/RAF scenario more likely.

  97. El Sid says

    Honestly, I don’t think it makes much difference. It just gives a bit of focus to that first deployment. If that wasn’t an issue, one can imagine that the first deployment of QNLZ would be similar to recent COUGAR deployments by the RFTG. So ambling round the Med and maybe into the Gulf of Oman, exercising with anyone who was available, from the French and other Europeans, to USMC task forces, to maybe dropping a few bombs in anger on whatever bit of the Med shoreline was in chaos that week.

    As I keep saying, the USMC F-35 community are keen to get onto QNLZ in their own right. Look at it from their point of view – even on USN ships they are typically a “bolt-on”, normally there will only be 6 on a LHA/LHD. Even the “F-35 specific” LHA’s will only have two spots where F-35’s can land. Can you imagine the difference between being a bit-part on a helicopter carrier and being on a dedicated fast-jet carrier (with all due respect to the Merlin guys….) which has room for 40 cabs rather than a normal load of 6 cabs? It’s not just the ego thing of being on a dedicated carrier, having many more cabs mean many more opportunities for training both aircrew and groundcrew.

    There’s also the imbalance between ships and USMC planes. Right now they only have one F-35-capable LHD and a LHA that’s just about there – but the next new LHA isn’t due until 2019 and it takes over 14 months to convert each LHD. So by 2021 they might have 6 ships which typically will carry 6 F-35B’s? Yet by 2021 the USMC will have at least 64 F-35B’s (and a squadron of -C’s) and are looking to ramp up even more quickly than that as their Harriers are knackered. They will be desperate for ships to put their new toys on.

    Meanwhile we’ll have a flipping great ship and just one frontline squadron to put on it.

    Forget the US carrier crisis. Just from a training point of view, it makes a huge amounts of sense to stick a squadron of USMC aircraft on QNLZ in 2021.

  98. stephen duckworth says

    VFMA-121 will move 10 F35B to Japan from Yuma,Az in the spring of next year with the 6 remainder joining in the summer.The carrier will arrive that autum to begin exercises.LtCol James T Bardo , the squadrons commander has publicly stated to the press he has been tasked with working up the carrier to carry as many F35B as is possible , with a target of all 16 .This will obviously be at the expense of carrying other rotor craft types but he believe it is possible.

  99. Brian Black says

    El Sid, the US Marines have always been keen to validate STOVL, they certainly will get them on QE as soon as they possibly can.

    I think the RN will also be keen to train and prepare for control and movement of a fully loaded carrier long before they (inc. RAF) have enough aircraft to do it.

    If the Marines will have so many F35B by the early 2020s I wouldn’t be surprised to see more USMC aircraft than RN/RAF aboard QE at some point, with eight US Lightning being something of an underestimate. They have had up to 14 Harrier on CVS previously; I don’t see 20 or more F35B as unlikely along with MV-22 and/or helicopters, and a large predominantly Osprey deployment at some point too.

    What will be interesting is what the Americans themselves make of large US aircraft deployments to the British carriers. The enormous cost of USN super-carriers has long provoked rumbling dissent against the active carrier strategy; large successful demonstration deployments to British STOVL carriers will only fuel the debate about the correct US carrier plan.

  100. Don says

    BB interesting comments on the US Carrier plans. Could we see the US building Cat and trap versions of the QE in a few years time if the QE class carriers prove themselves. They should save on manpower and operating costs while allowing carrier numbers to be maintained or even increased.

  101. Peter Elliott says

    Not sure if the fierce congressional poltics would allow it happen that way. Congress love their CVNs. And frankly in the Pacific Theatre there’s a lot to be said for the long legs and sheer size of the nuclear design.

    The better comparator is not the Ford Class but the America Class. Both America and QE are swing role STOVL / LHA but HMS QE looks as it it might just do both roles better than USS America. Basically that’s becuase she is a clean sheet design optimised for the task and not a bastardised LHD.

    If the QEC do prove more conducive to USMC concept of operations then the America Class then maybe expect an americanised version of the STOVL ship some time in the future. That would seem to pose less of a political ‘threat’ to the CVN fleet than a putative CATOBAR version.

  102. El Sid says

    “Smaller carriers” is one of those enduring topics of debate in US naval circles. There was a study in the 70s that came down pretty decisively in favour of big ones, but it’s an idea that won’t go away. It’s come back again in particular with the F-35 and the example of the QECs, but from the demand side you’ve had CVN’s being in such short supply that they’ve gapped the Gulf (and Sixth Fleet is on pretty much “permanent gap”). Greater numbers of a Midway/QEC-sized carrier is an obvious answer if the numbers work out.

    To that end, Rand have been conducting an Alternative Carrier Study, which will report by early autumn, along with a separate Fleet Architecture review which will both feed in to the next round of strategic planning. As far as the politics goes, the carrier study was requested by John McCain. As the chairman of the Senate ASC, he carries a lot of influence, and he’s had a bit of a campaign against the new CVNs on cost grounds, so it’s only natural that he would be looking at alternatives. So I don’t think the politics are as unfavourable as you make out, but a lot will depend on what Rand come up with.

    Yes, LHA-6 and QEC are both swing-role, but the “centres of gravity” of that swinging are very different – the LHA’s are closer to Ocean in role, they’re primarily for V-22/CH-53 operations to move Marines to shore. Yes, they can carry all-F-35’s, and they doubtless will do it just to prove it can be done, but they desperately need the capacity to do vertical lift. So while they only have 30 amphibious ships it’s unlikely the LHA’s will be used for sea control, it could happen more as they approach the 38 ships they need to lift 2x MEBs.

    Whilst we’re vaguely on the topic, it looks like they are close to giving up on AAG in its present form – it’s probably too late for Ford, but Kennedy & Enterprise could be getting the “old” arresting gear.

  103. Don says

    El Sid It will be interesting to see what the US will do for future carriers. Time will tell and the autumn report will perhaps give us an indication.

  104. Brian Black says

    The American super-carrier lobby will never silence the alternative arguments. Any defence program with such a clear outflow of so many billions of dollars will always be someone’s whipping boy when budget cuts come around.

    Peter, you’re probably right that the USS America class are a better comparison. The QE class are shaping up to be more super-LHA than the ‘traditional’ aircraft carriers of the ’70s Royal Navy.

    I can’t remember how many of the Americas were originally intended, but the plan was curtailed at just two. Rather than the extreme scenario of a QE style vessel usurping USN super-carriers, if the USN and Marines take a shine to the RN ships, maybe they’d consider revisiting the America class and knock out another couple of the aviation assault ships.

    The USMC have will have enough F35B to manage a couple more Americas, as their Lightning numbers are tied to FOB concepts rather than just deployment on ships.

  105. JohnHartley says

    After the Falklands, the US looked at ski ramps. They came up with a concept 53,000 ton carrier with 2x bow catapults in a straight, shallow 2 degree ramp. I think the idea was to fill it up with F/A-18s. I am going from memory, but many in the US wanted a 15 carrier fleet & the only way to do that, was with a mix of hi/lo i.e. Nimitz & 53K concept. I think the Nimitz lobby killed it off.

  106. Don says

    Could the QE carrier pass through the Panama Canal ?

  107. Peter Elliott says

    Certainly not at the moment: 39m width at the waterline is too wide for the existing locks.

    The “New Panamax” dimensions of the locks currently under constuction will allow 55m at the waterline but it is not clear from Wiki whether QEC’s 70m width at deck height will clear the structures associated with these new locks.

  108. All Politicians are the Same says


    The USN planned for and still plan for 12 America class. The first 2 without well decks will be known as flight 0. Contract for LHA-8 now out to tender. Will be redesigned to include a well deck. Though this will affect overall aviation facilities.

  109. shark bait says

    Re marines on QE;
    It seems like a no brainier to me, positive points for both sides, I would be thoroughly surprised if it doesn’t happen.

    Re American carriers;
    I do wonder if a mix approach would work well for them, perhaps 6 x massive nuke carrier’s + 10 x big conventional carrier’s could be a workable mix. There are advantages of scale, but there are also advantages to numbers and distributing force.

    The America design seems like a confused design to me, compromised aviation and well deck capabilities. It will be interesting to see how they perform compared to a QE, by the look of them on paper they may be thoroughly underwhelming.

  110. Don says

    I agree with Shark Bait a mix of big nuke carriers and convential carriers makes sense .
    Before you had to carry dedicated fighter/interceptor f-14 , then separate ground attack eg A-6 so space for lots of airframes was needed. With multi role aircraft the same airframe does many jobs so a few QE size carriers along side the larger Ford class would help keep carrier numbers up.
    The US is struggling to have continuos carrier deployment with the number of carriers they currently have and as reported have had to gap deployments.

    The America Class is planned for 12. However I think it will go the way of the Tarawa Class and will have the run cut short perhaps around 6 . As with the Tarawa it proved to small for the osprey and av-8b . The f35b is bigger again and will need an osprey for refuelling and they are already compromising the design, some for aviation and some with well decks and reduced avaiation facilities .
    The America Class is too small .

    They should consider a QE size amphibious ship with well deck. With the f35b capabilities a ship this size could double job as stop gap aircraft carrier and help prevent gaping .

    It could prove a cost effective way of addressing their carrier number shortage .

    Possible barriers to this besides fiscal and political is a specification for US amphibious ships to be able to transit the Panama Canal.

  111. shark bait says

    Why would they comprise the design by adding the well deck? The Americans have the resources to support dedicated assets, the compromise isn’t necessary for them.

    If the plan is to have a high performance aviation capability, which they presumably do since there sinking billions into stealth jets, then a dedicated carrier is required.

    If I was in charge of the marines I would want a dedicated aviation platform (QE), a dedicated amphibious platform (San Antonio class), supported by a utility platform (Expeditionary Mobile Base).

    As others have noted in this thread, I expect the marines experience working with the UK to inform a future plan for the marines aviation after they have some time on what should be some much higher performing platforms.

  112. stephen duckworth says

    The USN believe the Nimitz and Gerald Ford class will be able to transit the new enlarged Panama canal which opens next month , holiday anyone?

  113. Don says

    The US marines Wasp class gives them the flexibility to deploy approximately 1900 marines by landing craft or helicopter with Harrier support all from one ship.
    With the America class it is either air for the first two of the class or landing craft with reduced aviation for later units in the class . This obviously restricts their flexibility
    for deployment . I think if they go for a bigger vessel say QE size although a good aviation design , the marines will be looking for a well deck for landing craft so they have the same flexibility of deployment – landing craft or helicopter with F35 support all from one ship.

  114. Don says

    Towing the Big E
    But after a Navy evaluation of the canal’s new lock designs, the ship will likely have to go the long route: around South America and the hard-to-navigate Cape Horn.

    “The Panama Canal was evaluated, however the current design and build plans for the locks present obstructions to the carrier flight deck during passage through the canal,” the Navy said in an official response to questions from the Daily Press.

    A shipping agent with Gateway Transit Limited agreed that the carrier’s flat top, which flares out to 257 feet wide, would be problematic.

    The agent, John Bamber, who’s based in Panama, said that the new locks, scheduled to be complete by late 2014, will allow for passage of ships as long as 1,200 feet long and 160 feet wide, which would seemingly accommodate the 1,123-foot-long ship that’s 132 feet wide at the water line.

    “I was approached by a couple of people not long ago about trying to get some of these smaller aircraft carriers through the canal that are 130 feet wide at the water line,” Bamber said, in an interview via Skype.

    But he said the current lock configuration, which is likely to be replicated with the canal widening, presents a problem.

    There are two locks — an east lane and a west lane — with a control house in between and lamp posts flanking the length of the locks.

    “So something very, very wide like that would just break off those lamp posts,” he said.

  115. andyreeves9 says

    i’dhave xpected some kind of reference tothe t31 programme and theimplications for fleet size enhancement.

  116. andyreeves9 says

    i’ve read all of theinformed and well written posts below and i keep thinking will the OCEAN retirement rear its head again?chatting to my local m.p theotherday, he’s ex R.N. i ventured an idea used in ww2 to produce carriers stripping superstructures from big mercheant navy shipsstrapping on a full length deck, and send it to sea as as a maller amphib or carrier, i mentioned a bay class conversion might be a good short term solution to the ocean ‘gap’ issue, he says the idea had been discussed but the need to upgrade/ install systems such as combat management, and weaponry would make thei dea unworkable.

  117. andyreeves9 says


  118. andyreeves9 says


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