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back to article Royal Navy to get two carriers - but only one air group?

The British press is full of reports today that the Royal Navy has agreed to "give up" one of its planned two aircraft carriers - or, more accurately, to give up one of the planned air-groups of F-35 stealth fighters which are intended to fly from them. The revelations stem from a story in the Times, which claims that a firm …

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Headmaster

That's what they want you to think

The missing fighters are extra-stealthy.

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Gold badge
Alert

Commitment.

"...The Secretary of State remains one hundred percent committed to the aircraft carriers."

Forgive me for sounding cynical, but that sounds exactly like a well known announcement from the world of football. I.e. when a manager is given the "100% backing of the board" somewhere around two weeks before the inevitable sacking, which turns up after such as surely as night follows day.

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Ermmmm what about Devonport?

Hmmmm sounds like a typical fudge to me that will end in a cock up! The thing is the MOD plan to shut Devonport (and turn it in to a nuclear dustbin of old subs) by moving all subs and frigates to Portsmouth and to Jocko land. A part from the nuclear sub dismantling job that they have planned for Devonport, the other role is for all the amphibious capability to be based in at the base (it already is, as there is a very large Marines base in Plymouth). Now both of the carriers were meant to be based in Portsmouth, so how does this fit with plan to have Devonport as home to the amphibious capability?

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Silver badge
Paris Hilton

VIFFing

Lewis - I'd presume that getting a carrier kitted out with cats and arrestors would be the favourable option from cost. Just wondered if the F35B can VIFF, and whether that'd be advantageous over the F35C which presumably can't?

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't it true that..

Should someone actually attack us, they probably wouldn't care how much it cost them, even less how much it costs us, and most of our adversaries aren't t worried about the lives of their foot soldiers. Bit like Earl Haig in WW1.

So if someone sinks your 1 carrier, you're well a bit stuck, considering how long it actually takes to build one. Ditto and F35 A-Z or a Typhoon, we can't just replace them.

Better hope the Royal Navy has some damn good carrier defences, or you could land up loosing a carrier and an air group in one go to an enterprising terrorist and a cabin cruiser.

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Grenade

Typhoon bashing

You never pass up an opportunity to give the Typhoon a right good kick in the nuts, do you Lewis ;)

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FAIL

Quit with the dodgy Falklands references

"The Welsh Guards were effectively gutted by the Argentine strike on the troopship Sir Galahad at Bluff Cove - a strike a proper air group would easily have stopped."

Lets be fair. The Welsh Guards were gutted because their commander decided they weren't fit enough to yomp across the islands since they had just come off ceremonial duties. Instead of dropping them in San Carlos Water where we already had a favourable air situation thanks to the (largely) RAF Regiment manned Rapier batteries.

Also to be fair, there were 34 Harriers taken down to the Falkland Islands on board ship - almost as many as the 50 we would have in a carrier air group. Argentina had 220 jet fighters. In the same situation, I suspect Woodward would have still kept his main force stood off to the east of the Falklands in order to ensure it couldn't be hit by an overwhelming strike. If you asked the Americans to plan a naval assault on Argentina I suspect they would calculate for a 2 or 3 carrier force (and that is with carriers that carry 100 fighters each).

I'll accept RAF blame for us losing the Ark Royal by claiming that it could project power anywhere in the world - which was obviously false. But I won't accept made up stories about how carriers would have won the war which we won anyway, largely thanks to the talents of the Royal Marines and Paras.

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IT Angle

Is this now a military forum?

WTF?

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N2
Bronze badge

Typical

"Fitted for, but not with"

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saved lives in the faulklands?

so it is true about genrals allways fighting the last war?

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Anonymous Coward

How about this.

When the torys eventually get in they don't give tax cuts to their rich mates and we have both the euro fighters and the carries.

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Still got it wrong

Lewis is a naval flyboy lover; who'd have guessed.

Scrap JSF, put lots of UAVs on the carriers (not cast off from the yanks, and not watchkeeper, proper CUAVs, built in the UK and not by BAE or Thales). Those carriers are dead if they ever see service anyway. Supplement with cheapo chargo carriers converted to UAV/cruise missile hauling role.

Oh and get the squaddies back into the benign peacekeeping role that's the only thing they are capable of. They just make good targets. Replace with a push to land/air based robot rotocraft for pacification.

Stop living in the past - this hasn't been a grunt game for decades now.

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Page is living in the past

The reality is that F18'es are a complete waste of money as they're simply targets for most of the newer Russian kit. The testing they did wrt the teen series in general (15,16,18) vs late model Flankers & triple digit sams was not pretty.

In fact (in keeping with the IT bent of this place) the really nasty threats are that dear old linux etc is giving the really old SAM's a whole new lease of life. Pop out the old controller, pop in a new one built from a smartphone et voila bit's of fighter come down like leaves in Autumn.

& that's before the fact that passive radar works now that processors are cheap & powerful & we're all bathed in radiation from phone masts, FM transmitters, satellite TV etc.etc. Heck flying over a populated area with widespread wifi routers is a a stealth nightmare

Basically it's down to drones and airliners. Pilots don't like it because the airliners simply do racetracks a nice safe way back & provide refuelling for the drones, a nice comfy room with a view, and a signal repeating function for the drones.

The same is happening on the ground with the whole MLI (Modern Light Infantry) process i.e. man portable weaponry + a laptop & if you need transport use a 4x4 truck which can be cheaply sourced locally and is expendable vs damn great tanks & heavy kit in general. Even artillery can be sourced by rockets (including vertical launch containerized pods) or via drones.

At least the Taliban, Hezbollah et al have woken to this but then they have less budget for toys.

The F35 is the last hurrah of the fighter jock but at least the flat tops are by their nature....flat tops so will still find a use as an airbase.

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FAIL

Missed a trick

Lewis you forget the big problem. With the current design for our super carriers we are going to have to build super oilers to keep them supplied with fuel.

Now if we'd been sensible we'd have powered them with nuclear.

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Sounds sensible to me...

Surely this makes sense? With the Invincible class carriers, from memory, out of three ships, one was always in refit. Presumably with two carriers, there is still a good chance that one is being refitted and thus a single air group is all that is needed.

Not to mention that 50 F-35s plus helicopters would still make up two fairly significant air groups if both carriers were available, rather than putting all eggs in one basket on one ship. The two current in-service carriers couldn't deploy 50 harriers between them, let alone each.

I would like to see the F35 order binned (have we committed to it yet?), and spend some of that money fitting the carriers with arrester gear, and developing a navalised version of the Eurofighter...according to all the stories on here, we have way more EFs on order than the RAF could ever want...

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Terminator

@ac 16:14

Reminds me of all the armchair experts in the sixties who thought manned aircratf and air to air dogfights were dead. It meant the US went to war in Vietnam with overweight, cumbersome aircraft relying on missiles, losing guns - Early model Phantoms had to be fitted with gun pods for example.

The UK scrapped bomber and strike aircraft development for the same reason - weended up with Canberras for over 30 years.

So now everything should be replaced by robots. Hmmm. Even forgetting The Terminator, I tend to think your robots would be kind of pricey to maintain in deserts or swamps during drawn out wars, like Iraq.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm... I thought the point of two carriers

Was that only one would ever be out at sea doing "carrier stuff" while the other would be undergoing maintenance. What would be the point of two fighter groups for both????

In any event, I think the programme will be cancelled and the opportunity to project power to those who actually need it 90% of the time (i.e.people who've just been fucked over by a natural disaster) will be missed. That's the thing with carriers; they tend to be as useful in peace time as they are in a fight......

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Silver badge
Stop

RN must take the blame for the Sir Gallahad disaster.

".....The Welsh Guards were effectively gutted by the Argentine strike on the troopship Sir Galahad at Bluff Cove - a strike a proper air group would easily have stopped....." IIRC, the RN (in the shape of Commodore Clapp) was in charge and sent the Welshies to Fitzroy Settlement (not Bluff Cove) unescorted, where they were sitting ducks. Unfortunately, the Welshies must take some blame, and not only as the whole jaunt was necessary because they couldn't tab across the islands like the Paras or the Royal Marines. The Guards' senior officer aboard insisted on arguing with the Navy as to where the troops should be landed, and that delayed matters so long the Argies had time to launch their strike. Whilst you could say a massive carrier force of proper fighters might have meant more local air defence, it doesn't remove the fact the RN made the mistake of putting the Welshies in the wrong spot, in daylight and outside air cover, and then kept them there for a suicidal length of time whilst they faffed about.

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IT Angle

"Is this a military forum?"

Hell, yeah...

This is where us boys who haven't a frickin' clue like to soapbox about how they will solve the Britain's military might!

Hmm.. I've said it before. The sun has set etc... Live with it.

Why Britain needs carriers is beyond me... Now yous can't even afford to equip 2... God, put the money somewhere else.

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Paris Hilton

Commando..

This gives new meaning to going commando, doesn't it?

Paris, 'cos she knows how to go commando..

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Coat

Look at it this way

If you have a carrier at point A and another at point B, aircraft can get from one to the other, refuel, and be on their way to the objective at point C faster than your only carrier can get to A from B or B from A.

Mine's the one with the unread copy of Jane's in the pocket.

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Black Helicopters

RAF Goes Commando....!

another typical (or other grabbing) headline!

so what happens if one of these Commando flyboys were to eject....

would it be sudden sticky mess on the dials to clean up with the handy Kleenex or a hasty lunge for the parachute after the slow decent to reduce embarrassment all round for yet another cock-up that all can see......

nosediving chopper.. cos..... well not everyone is TomCruise!

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ELAMS

Yup cat & trap is certainly the way to go. Just buy EMALS off the shelf from the Septics who are installing it on the new USS Gerald R. Ford. It will almost certainly be far far cheaper ....

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Anonymous Coward

Title

If I understand the article correctly, the "HMS Queen Elizabeth" will do the job intended whereas the "HMS Prince of Wales" will not do the job intended but is in reserve and may serve in some lesser role.

The Sir Galahad and other ships lost in the Falklands may have faired better if they had any kind of viable defence against air attack but CIWS might have been cheaper than more aircraft and carriers.

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Jobs Horns

Ah but. Ah but. Ah!

Two aircraft carriers but due to manpower availability and maintenance requirements only one is available for service at a time. Aircraft group goes onto the carrier in service.

Simples Eh!

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Grenade

On the slippery soap box

Getting pretty slippery on that soap box Lewis, why not give it up for a few years until something really concrete happens? (And I don't mean like the lumps that replaced the Harrier radars)

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Bronze badge

Don't they ever...

...crash aircraft?

It's one of those quirks of statistical theory that a smaller force, 50 planes rather than 100, has less resilience to the unexpected. The planners make an allowance for wastage. They buy the spares they expect they will need for the planned life. It doesn't have to be a crash scattering debris over rural Britain to put a plane out of action for a few weeks, and with a small force, the effective randomness of mishaps could put several planes out of action for different reasons.

With 50 planes, some mothballed to replace losses layer, "several" gets to be an awkward number.

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Black Helicopters

A solution?

Why not move all the older Harriers to the empty carrier instead. Yeah, so you get a lengthy period of ROI on them, but if you re-used them then we would have two carriers?

I might be completely missing the point, but with an IT head on, it called: "Re-utilising of old assets to save money".

(I probably am missing the point, but it's an honest suggested solution)

Black Helicopters, because i like 'em ;o)

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Flame

Same old same old...

How many times has Page trotted out the old "Typhoon was designed as a pure air-to-air fighter" nonsense now?! Maybe he thinks if he says it often enough, it'll become true... I suggest he reads up on MoD Staff Requirement (Air) 414 for the truth.

Also, stealth isn't the be-all and end-all - after all RAF Vulcans paid several visits to the Port Stanley area in 1982, and managed to avoid being shot down by the pretty sophisticated Argie air defence systems in place at the time. And a Typhoon is going to have a tiny RCS compared to a Vulcan!

And if "we put the whole Nimrod force on the scrapheap".... what are we supposed to replace them with?

Yes, F-35Cs would be cheaper, but the RAF would have no interest in them, so the Navy would have to fund them entirely - I think that may be a stumbling block there.

And as for "vastly more cost-effective turboprop strike planes" - err, where's the evidence that these would be vastly more cost-effective? In fact, what turboprop strike planes are these exactly, and where have they been deployed recently to great effect? This idea pops up from time to time, but frankly, it's going to be a lot easier for the bad guys to take down a light turboprop than it is a fast jet.

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Bronze badge

@ Alex 32

The Harriers are due to be retired because they're worn out, hovering uses up a lot of fatigue life, as does general day to day flying. By the time the carriers come into service they won't have many flying hours left. For an example of an aircraft that went beyond its fatigue life look at the early Comet, or indeed the Buccaneer in the early '80s.

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