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This thread is intended to be a focal point for discussing issues relating to the RN's future aircraft carriers and the aircraft that they will carry (JCA/JSF/F35, Merlin, MASC and others). It is also intended to be a successor to the Sea Jet thread and other Shar ones as well as various CVF threads including this one.
Edit (November 2012): Post the 2010 SDSR, when the politicians caused a lot of problems, it is also worth looking at the various topics (including problems and potential solutions) discussed on the Decision to axe Harrier is "bonkers" thread.
Since the decision in May 2012 that we would purchase F35B as originally planned, and that future CVF operations would be STOVL ones, the issues of retaining STOVL skillsets amongst both aircrew and ships' personnel are more relevant than ever. The issue of whether of not the UK needs a fixed wing carrier capability in the next few years is brought into focus by talk of possible conflicts which may involve UK forces, for example possible hostilities in the Gulf or international action over Syria.
Potentially all of these things could be sorted out. We have STOVL capable ships, STOVL trained pilots and carrier crews, have a STOVL future to prepare for, and STOVL aircraft do exist. The politicians could make this into a success.
I first became aware that planning was starting for the new carriers from the media back in 1995. Eleven years later the first steel has not been cut, is this a record? The same year I became aware of what is to the JSF/F35 project — including the STOVL version for the USMC and RN (the RAF came onboard later). Before the 1997 general election the Conservative Government committed themselves to building two new carriers, when the current Government was elected they said they would hold a wide ranging review of defence. This review, the SDR, committed the Government to building two new carriers, for entry into service in 2012 and 2015.
Since the SDR (which contained cuts for the RN in return for a promise of new carriers) many of the SDR commitments have been dropped. The 2004 cuts involved the RN losing roughly 20% of its front line strength, thousands of personnel and having virtually every major project cut, cancelled or delayed. At the time of writing CVF has not passed the main gate milestone.
On of the major frustration of this sort of debate is the fact that carriers are frequently labelled as a legacy of the Cold War, often by those who either are ignorant or those that have an agenda. This idea is untrue. In 1966 the Cold War was in full swing, yet Dennis Healy decided to scrap the carriers. In 1981 the Cold War was still going, yet John Nott still saw it as a legitimate area for cuts. Indeed the Cold War role of the RN was primarily focussed on ASW in the North Atlantic. However, the end of the Cold War has seen British forces involved in a number of conflicts around the World, and this has included carrier deployments.
Perhaps the best open source of information on CVF etc is Richard Beedall's Navy Matters, and in particular the following sections.
Well, the link to "Sea King Asac. Mk7" shows an AEW Mk2, which I suppose is related to the lengthy timescales you mention WEBF! At least they now admit the existence of something called a "Sea King AEW/Asac", which they inexplicably denied the last time I spoke to the IPT.
What is needed to make it happen? Simple - crack on and order the bloody things!! I've been involved on the fringes with this thing off and on since 1994 and have seen the thing progress from ST(S) via smart procurement to the current iteration of the design. There are an awful lot of things one could improve in the design (putting cats & arrester gear in for a kick off) as it stands, but frankly as long as its a big deck, with plenty of F44 and mag capacity, it can be incrementally improved once in service.
The problem appears to be that no-one is in charge! Some people in town are nominally i/c the requirement, whereas there's another gentleman in ABW who is i/c the technical and build issues. A senior gentleman is alo nominally i/c of delivery, but appears to have no staff, budget or power to make things happen.
The biggest risk to the project is inertia. It ain't going to get any cheaper (and frankly isn't that expensive compared with a number of other projects - Typhoon, FRES, DII, FSTA), so the old smaller is cheaper arguments should be shelved once and for all. Thankfully, the industry team and the IPT seem to have come to the sensible conclusion that small is pointless. The CVS do a great job of banging off a ten-ship mission twice a day, but struggle to do much more than that due to their lack of deck area and servicing points.
CDP just needs to take a deep breath and get Reid to approve the Manufacture contract. I know the current uncertainty about JCA doesn't help, but at the end of the day "if you build it, they will come". Ideally, "they" would be a combination of F35C, E2D and (what would be really nice) some low-time S3B from the boneyard for COD, tanking, ASuW / ASW and anything else you could think of. If we decide that we can't live without the access to F35 software etc, then at least there is a fallback (Rafale), rather than GR9 for the STOVL variant. I know the support arguments will rage on and on, but ultimately that is do-able, its jsut another embuggerance to deal with.
Personally I reckon all this tech-transfer argument over JSF is a blind to cover the fact that the MoD budget simply cannot afford all the current programmes. Something has to give, we apparently can't get out of Typhoon T3, JSF/CVF are the likely candidates. We can bin them and blame the Yanks.
Not meaning to troll, but what capability will CVF/JSF Really give us? As I understand it, we are only ordering 2. Now, the Yanks can afford to have a carrier battle group on station permanently covering pretty much every likely trouble spot, but with only one to position we will either have to be prescient or we will be projecting our air power at fast walking pace. Having worked in a large US HQ in Iraq, I have some understanding of what NCW really is, and I don't see how that reduces the 'sensor to shooter' link. The old arguments about host nation support were, I hope, put to bed after Afghanistan, when permission for Ocean to dock at Karachi was refused and the RMs on board had to sail to a friendly island to be inserted by AT. I know the ships involved did some very good work, and I'm not decrying that, but could we have done Afghanistan without them? YES. What I'm wondering is whether anyone has really done an investment appraisal of spending money on big ships unlikely to see action (let's face it, we're not likely to go up against a credible maritime air threat nowadays, are we?) against investing in AT lift, AAR and stand-off weaponry - all aof which allows us to project air power RAPIDLY. Yes, I am familiar with the study that we could mount a more sustained bombing campaign against somewhere like Poland from a ship in the Baltic that we could from Germany, but a) the scenario was chosen to show the desired result and b) having seen how modern wars are fought, I don't rate weight of effort and permanence of air power as that great a concern except in the initial phases when you need to get there FAST - days not weeks. Just a thought...
No one likes seeing cut backs. However, if we have to be careful what we spend then more C17s and the FSTA are a must.
We will never have the money or resources to operate carriers effectively. With only 2 how are we going to make sure they are in the right place at the right time? No matter where the next battle is we need our AT/AR Fleets to have suitable numbers to do the job. Unless we put mini-tankers on the Carrier we will need AR cover regardless!
Yep - more airlift and more tankers (that are reliable). These assets are big force multipliers that can get airpower where it needs to be and quickly (20 knots aint really gonna hack it). Our current fleets are an embarrassment (the aircraft - not crews/engineers!!)
Recce - not really a priority and not difficult, should be a side mission that anyone can pick up if "other assets" arent available.
Your point is.... pointless! Typhoon and the frigates will work out to be cheaper over their lifetimes, because you have only considered the capital (outlay) cost without considering associated fixed and variable costs such as fuel, resuppply, provision of battle groups, manning, maintenence, upgrades and refits, etc.
However, I'm sure you're arguing the case for CVF, so I'll let you off
They're to be named QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND and THE PRINCE OF WALES because no flagship has yet been named after HM and this bucks tradition somewhat, especially given her (to date) 54-year reign. THE PRINCE OF WALES is a concession to the fact that if we don't name a capital ship after Prince Charles now, he might never get the chance!
But 20 knots = 480 nautical miles per day. 25 knots = 600 nautical miles per day. And that's carrying all your engineering, logistics and other support facilities with you.
This isn't the way the Government do there sums but....
Estimated cost of CVF = £15 000 million Predicated lifespan of CVF = 50 years Therefore cost for two ships per year = £300 million. Cost for ship per year = £150 million.
Which is cheaper than a frigate, and less than three Typhoons.
Something to think about.
There is a way off setting these costs. As most warfare is BVR there is no need to paint the CVFs a dull grey. Instead they can carry advertisments for various companies. When in port a 100 ft advert for Pepsi, Vodaphone etc will work wonders for the companies in question. The revenue can pay for fuel, body armour, boots and other basics so often in short supply.