back to article Cameron 'to change his mind' on the one thing he got right in Defence

The Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 was, overall, a total cockup: but there was one major decision in it which made good sense for British servicemen and taxpayers. It now seems more and more likely that Prime Minister David Cameron, prompted by arms mammoth BAE Systems and by the RAF, intends to reverse that move …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. Mike Richards Silver badge


    You'd have thought BAE's highly trained commando accountants would have been able to work out how to offset any losses on the jump-jet fighter contract by ridiculously overcharging on their contract for constructing the carriers themselves.

    1. IronTed

      Re: BAE

      Dude, this article really cracked me up when I read this:

      "All naval catapults then in service required supplies of high-power steam to operate: in today's French and US carriers this steam is produced by the ships' nuclear propulsion, but Britain decided it could not afford a nuclear carrier. Thus the British ships are to have gas-turbine engines, which cannot produce steam. Therefore they could not have catapults. "

      ... LMFAO!

      1. MondoMan

        Re: IronTed

        Strange but true. Apparently, no one has yet installed a combined-cycle gas/steam turbine setup on a naval vessel. Traditional gas turbines do not produce significant steam.

      2. Ray Foulkes

        Re: BAE

        IronTed - no steam produced by gas turbines? Do no naval types read this? Try looking up county class destroyers and their propulsion. Had V short sea time on HMS Devonshire many years ago. Propulsion type is COSAG. Checked only with Wikipedia to ensure it is not senility leading me astray.

        NOT, a may add, that I am proposing returning to the 70's - hot and steamy were those machinery spaces....

    2. Levente Szileszky

      Re: BAE

      "highly trained commando accountants"

      For the sake of everyone coming into contact with them I genuinely hope that these highly trained accountants who are going commando are all 25-40 females...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Army Air Corps hasn't transported any large numbers of troops since the last Big One, and even then they were pulled along by the RAF.

    The aircraft they did operate were small ones for battlefield operations.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has to be a first

    I. I.... I can't believe it.

    For once I actually agree with Lewis on some points.

    I'm not so sure about the eurofighter bashing, but in terms of getting a carrier which could deal with loaned aircraft, so we can get a real Navy back in before 2020, seems like a sensible idea.

    Ditching the catapults and going for VTOL only carriers would be bonkers.

    FWIW, I thought the reason we didn't go nuclear, is that GB signed up to something that said we wouldn't have nuclear powered surface fleet. Something to do with hippies or the like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This has to be a first

      I think we didn't go nuclear because we still haven't ever decommissioned a nuclear reactor. So it would be stupid to keep building reactors we are unable to manage.

      Despite the protests of the Nuclear lobby the plan for dealing with old nuclear material still involves digging a hole and filling it with concrete.

      It would also seem slightly hypocritical to plough ahead with nuclear powered vessels while at the same accusing anyone who evens looks at nuclear power of being terrorists.

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: This has to be a first

        > "I think we didn't go nuclear because we still haven't ever decommissioned a nuclear reactor."

        I presume you mean because part of decommissioning nuclear reactors

        involves leaving them empty for a few decades....

        > "So it would be stupid to keep building reactors we are unable to manage."

        We're perfectly able to manage them, the ones that are being decommissioned are

        empty of fuel and simply waiting for radioactive decay to do its thing.

        In that state they are no threat, countless tsunamis could wash over them harmlessly.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: This has to be a first

        Er, the RN has already decommissioned a few nuclear powered subs by simply chopping out the section of the sub containing the reactor, towing it out to sea, and sinking it somewhere deep.

        If you pick the right spot to sink them* it's actually quite a sensible way of dealing with the problem.

        Although now I read up, I find that they're not allowed to do that any more, honestly, who could possibly have a problem with littering the sea bed with old reactors? (/sarcasm)

        *ideally next to a subduction zone so all the material is taken back into the earth's crust.

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    "...fired British employees continually for the last 20 years..."

    Ain't it the truth!

    Worked there for 10 years, must have endured at least 5 rounds of redundancies in that time before finally taking the money and running. It's very difficult to live with that amount of uncertainty for any length of time - many didn't wait for the next round of redundancies before jumping ship.

  5. AbortRetryFail

    Putting the boot in

    On the whole a good article, only let down by the fact that Lewis just couldn't resist grinding his axe about the Eurofighter again and getting in a few customary digs against the RAF.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Putting the boot in

      Lewis is as bad as any other biased member of the service, to him, anything in the RAF is 'crappy'. (Personaly I think the Royal Navy is a an obsolete waste of space, best replaced by airpower).

      I am still in two minds about the best choice to make between the F-35 C or B. The B model has a a lot of advantages when it comes to flexibility for land and sea usage, it may come to pass that the C is an obsolete concept and it looks that the B model will be come the preferred option for MANY countries air-forces. The B has advantage of being able to be used in any seas state and having the ability to land on any deck, including one blocked for conventional use by accident or war damage and it can use short land based strip (maybe useful in a Falklands war). The UK could also use both carriers, big advantage

      The disadvantages AWACS and range


      The latest version of the Helicopter AWAC, assuming its in Merlin helicopter can fly high enough and long enough to provide a comparable sevice to the Hawkeye, maybe it will only have a range to horizon of 150miles v 200miles of the Hawkeye and an endurance of 5hours versus 6 for the E2.


      The F35B range is limited, the solution is air tankers. If the UK is going to operate near Europe, the new Voyageur tanker fleet will eradicate this problem. And V-22 carrier born tankers could help for further afield, possibly flown from the refueling ships just ordered from Korea.

      1. Wibble

        B or C, that is the question

        If one's allowed to think logically, if we fit the ships out with a catapult then they can take both types of planes; the cheaper Carrier version and the more expensive VTOL B version. Not to mention all the other types of carrier landing planes and helicopters.

        If they don't fit a catapult then they're condemned to forever using the more complex and under-performing VTOL B version. And helicopters.

        A no brainer. We don't need no steenkiin katapult. Can I have my nice job at BaE now?

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: Putting the boot in

        That sounds a little bit too much like something one might make work in a game of "Harpoon", and possibly requiring loaded dice.

        If you can execute the mission with support from land-based tankers, you don't really need carriers.

      3. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Putting the boot in

        you mean land on any HARDENED deck. It wont be landing on just any deck. Even the venerable harrier had to be careful where it VTOL'd

      4. LPF
        Thumb Down

        Re: Putting the boot in

        I'm sorry is this a wind up ??? The B Model IS NOT The preferred option of most countries and will never by, especially at $155Million a piece are you on crack or something ? Its a white4 elephant even before it enters service!

        The Merlin AWACS is in no way comparable to a Hawkeye in either range, speed or endurance, I suggest you actually :

        Merlin Performance :

        Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (167 knots, 192 mph)

        Cruise speed: 278 km/h (150 knots, 278 km/h)

        Range: 1,389 km (750 nmi,[136] 863 mi)

        Endurance: 5 hours

        Service ceiling: 4,575 m (15,000 ft)

        E-2 Hawkeye Performance :

        Maximum speed: 350 knots (648 km/h)

        Cruise speed: 256 knots (474 km/h)

        Ferry range: 1,462 nmi (2,708 km)

        Endurance: 6 hr

        Service ceiling: 34,700 ft (10,576 m)

        And as for relying on land base tankers to support your sea borne aircraft, Jesus words fail me, I suppose your expecting an airbase to always be near for them to operate from??

        I suggest you refrain from commentating on a subject you obviously know nothing about!.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          The UK's Merlins have extended range tanks installed, so they probably out-endure the Hawkeye. The speed irrelevant. Maximum altitude is an issue, but the range difference is not as bad - you can still see out to 150miles or so at max altitude. Probably good enough. The V22 AWACs is an option, better than a 50 year old design in some ways.

          "And as for relying on land base tankers to support your sea borne aircraft, Jesus words fail me, I suppose your expecting an airbase to always be near for them to operate from??"

          Near, as in the 14000km range of the Voyagers.

          I'd prefer the F-35C, but if that not possible, there are acceptable options.

          1. LPF

            Re: Putting the boot in

            Are you still going ?? The Hawyeyes can be refuelled normally, have a larger crew and can carry a more powerful radar.

            Endurance again are you kidding, seriously look at the figures! DO you work for BAE or something?

            as for the Voyagers, yeah 14,000 KM but they have to be where the fighters can reach them, to refuel, which means that they will also be near the targets, which is why the US navy has its own tankers and fighters carry buddy stores.

            Altiude means you can look over the horizon, which means you have more time to see your attackers, spped means that you have greater chance of getting away to safety if attackers get to close!

            Apart from the RAF heard of any other country using AWACS choppers, and the Osprey has enough trouble as it is without trying to put radar next to to massive titling damn proppellers!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Putting the boot in

              "Are you still going ??"

              Looks like the decision has been made.

              Of course its not ideal, but there is major advantages for the B model. Always being able to recover your aircraft, not matter what, the C model needs to retain more emergency fuel in case the deck is closed.

              UK has bases all over the place and 14K km is a hell of a long way.

              Altitude matters, but the difference once you get over a certain height is a diminishing return.


              You aren't going to escape anywhere, you have to respond to the attack, 5minutes or 7minutes warning at 3000mph, still enough time to fire the missiles.

              Loads of countries have helicopter AWACS and are looking at it. Still, the V-22 isn't a helicopter but the UK radar will roll in a Merlin or Osprey once its setup, its on wheels. The radar hangs down below the props, btw and doesn't have the aircraft body blocking it like the E2


              1. LPF

                Re: Putting the boot in

                Are you still going ?

                The E3 sentry has a radome on top of the plane, Thats the best airborne early warning platform in service, It gets blocked by the body ??? seriously thats was an argument!

                Name one other country that uses helicopter AEW , there are not lots, there are 4 in total, and the only think they have in common is that their carriers are too small to launch proper Haqwyeye type aircraft.

                The choppers can fly as fast, as high, handle as many targets as the aircraft , due to their small size , its FACT

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          "The B Model IS NOT The preferred option of most countries and will never by, especially at $155Million a piece are you on crack or something ? Its a white4 elephant even before it enters service!"

          The B model is being looked at for a lot of countries, whereas the C is likely to be operated only by the USA,

          For the UK, the ability to tanker the B model would overcome it limitations. So I can see a lot of flexibility with V-22's that can switch between refueling/AWAC's/other modes flying from both carriers in combination with F-35B's. Then the only limitation is the smaller internal bomb load for stealth, but thats bolxs anyway.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          I seriously doubt a Merlin could sustain 15,000ft for its reported 5 hours Endurance.

          The unfortunate thing about rotary wing aircraft is that the higher you go the more juice it needs flapping those blades around in thinner air. a fixed wing aircraft only needs to maintain forward momentum to keep height which is a lot easier to do in a plane.

          I don't have the numbers but as I said, I seriously doubt it could stay up high for long.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Putting the boot in

            Well here's hoping for a V22 alternative.

            The F35B choice is official, the F-35c could never use the CdG anyway -its far too heavy - so the whole idea was a nonstarter for the most basic of reasons.

            UK ministers are idiots.

      5. xperroni

        Re: Putting the boot in

        > Lewis is as bad as any other biased member of the service, to him, anything in the RAF is

        > 'crappy'. (Personaly I think the Royal Navy is a an obsolete waste of space, best replaced by

        > airpower).

        I've been reading Lewis' posts for a while, and for me his vision of effective armed forces seems to be something like this:

        - Sod battleships, carriers is the way to go;

        - Sod expensive "next-generation" aircraft, F18's and the like can perfectly do for the foreseeable future;

        - Sod tanks, between helicopters and ground-attack planes they're pretty much redundant;

        - Trident is king – nothing beats the prospect of submarine-launched nuclear death raining down on an aggressor.

        I believe there's plenty in there to piss off everyone, regardless of service. In fact at times I wonder if he served at all – his ruthlessly objective, task-oriented view of the armed forces makes him sound more like an engineer than a serviceman.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

          "... makes him sound more like an engineer than a serviceman."

          Hmm. As opposed to all the armchair warriors here who know better? Oh, it is to laugh ...

          1. The First Dave

            Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

            Pretty sure I'm not the only one here who has a service background.

            To be honest, I couldn't really follow Lewis' arguments - the British-built Tornado is crap because it is old, so buy an F18 Tomcat instead?

            Don't buy British kit because it is crap, but do buy from British manufacturers to save the economy...

            1. xperroni

              Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

              > To be honest, I couldn't really follow Lewis' arguments - the British-built

              > Tornado is crap because it is old, so buy an F18 Tomcat instead?

              From Lewis' comment on the defense review:

              (...) Nor are they [the Tornado] appropriate for Afghanistan - an 8-figure Tornado is no more use than a Reaper unmanned roboplane which costs an order of magnitude less. (...) The Tornado was built for the Cold War mission of punching into heavy Soviet air defences in a (probably doomed) bid to knock out air bases or critical supply routes far behind enemy lines: it is insanely over-spec'd for what it is doing now in Afghanistan.

              So his problem with the Tornado is not that it's old, or British, but rather that it's needlessly expensive for the kind of missions there are to fly today. There are alternatives (he argues) that could accomplish them just as well, and for a fraction of the cost.

        2. cphi

          Re: Putting the boot in

          Funny that -

          "Cambridge University (Engineering degree 1988-91, St John's College)"

  6. PlacidCasual

    What a disaster?

    Keep the catapults and forget the F-35C's. Lewis is often accused of Brit bashing but on the fundemental point surely buying VTOL fighters is a massive mistake. We would be much better off with cheap fighters and catapults than useless F-35B's and ramps.

    I don't understand the politics of all this but at every turn in the procurement of these carriers short term political considerations have stumped what seem to be good hard nosed technical ones. First the decision to forgo nuclear propulsion despite the fact we have a company that specialises in it for our own subs. Then the decision to go VTOL and limit ourselves to planes with crippled range and load capacities. Added to which we now can't use conventional AWACs or delivery planes for our carriers but must come up with ridiculous alternatives.

    British politicains have lost the plot and their back bones. This is a tragic misallocation of funds to buy crappy products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a disaster?

      BAE/vickers merely makes the reactors in license from GE. I guess they would want their cut if they were used in carriers.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Burgers Are So Tasty

    Yeah, scrap your own industry, buy F18s and focus on Finance. It worked out well in Iceland and Ireland.

    The Eurofighter is selling nicely and it sports one of the best thrust-vectored missiles for close-range, the IRIS-T. Can be bought from Bodensee-Gerätetechnik of Friedrichshafen and will soon also menace helos who try to fsck with submarines, ermm U-boots.

    Also, the youtube videos of Eurofighter aerobatics are truely impressive and I fail to find similar F16 videos. It doesn't need thrust-vectoring because the current capabilitiea are already excellent. A lack of pilot training doesn't invalidate that. It is also claimed than Indian pilots brought down the latest F15s, which are American, Mr Lewis.

    But yes, scrapping the vertical lift F-35 would be highly rational for both America and Britain. Here is a oil-powered carrier which works nicely with catapults:

    It can even lob stuff in the air heavier than F14s !

    1. IglooDude

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      Seriously, 'Eurofighters can menace antisubmarine helicopters'? Congratulations to you sir, for coming up with a selling point that no one else has thought of, or at any rate can put forward with a straight face.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

        No, IRIS-T will be launched from Type212 Uboots.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      You're not really selling it here. I don't disagree with not focussing on Finance alone and scrapping our industry, but Eurogither.....are you serious?

      It isn't selling nicely. It has the original members and a couple of export orders....not exactly a lot. Production numbers won't be high (compared to other aircraft being mentioned) and the Saudi export order has to do with history not ability.

      The IRIS-T fitting a Eurofighter is irrelevant as according to the literature, any aircraft that can fire a AIM-9L (Sidewinder) can also fire an IRIS-T. So, that's just about any aircraft in the western world with even a bare air-to-air ability.

      I don't disagree that it handles better than a F-16, but then you are comparing it to a 1970s designed aircraft and one designed to be cheaper (massively so) and produced in far larger numbers. They weren't designed to fulfill the same requirement. Do you really mean Indian (??) pilots? Or, have you spelt that wrong? Also, it managed to bring down a F-15? So what. That's another 1970s aircraft. Now, if it managed to bring down a Raptor....that would be impressive. Bearing in mind (if you include development etc. which we've paid for), the unit price for a Eurofighter is about the same as a Raptor (which we don't have to pay development for).

      Yes, an oil fired carrier can work with catapults, but it is highly limited. It needs massive boilers to provide the steam and reliability can be an issue. Also, the speed at which launches can take place (as in how many per hour) is normally less as the boilers are a lot less efficient that producing steam through a nuclear reactor. The Kitty Hawk is an aircraft carrier from a whole different era and the logisitics are completely different. Look at the propulsion mechanism and you'll see the difference.

    3. Johan Bastiaansen

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      "Yeah, scrap your own industry, buy F18s and focus on Finance. It worked out well in Iceland and Ireland."

      Yes, I'm sure if Iceland and Ireland had subsidised their military industrial complex, everything would be honky dory.

      "Also, the youtube videos of Eurofighter aerobatics are truely impressive."

      Good argument. Really. I like it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

    Lewis - you are kind'a right if the new carrier is designed to address the current hotspots which are Gulf and South West Asia. There a catapult carrier reigns supreme.

    By the time the carriers will be deployed these will not be the hotspots of interest. The hotspots will be _ICE_ _COLD_. Waddayathink? Mrs Kirchner will stop with the nationalization of Repsol property? Do not think so. It is only a matter of time before another scrap this time OIL DRIVEN and even further south of the Falklands. The question of the scrap for the arctic resources is also open though there it will probably end up in a "new cold war" without any shots being fired.

    The problem with putting air power into these "cold spots" is that:

    1. The "cannot land with full ammo" problem does not stand - it is cold enough for engines to produce lift sufficient for full load landing.

    2. The catapults royally suck. Steam is outright unusable and it is unclear how usable will be electric if water splashing onto the deck freezes instantaneously the moment it hits steel at -10C.

    This is the one (and only) environment where VTOL reigns supreme.

    In any case, you are also right that the carriers will be mostly useless. However, the reason will not be the aircraft or the carrier design. The reason will be that while Britain is building a carrier force usable north(respectively south) of the Polar circle it is not building any icenreakers. Dumb - dumber.

    1. IglooDude

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      You'd think that the NATO carrier-equipped navies would have thought about launching aircraft from catapults in seriously sub-zero temperatures and rough seas, what with all that potential North Atlantic "steam north of the Kola into the Barents Sea and beat on the Soviet Northern Fleet" NATO strategy in the 1980s.

    2. proto-robbie

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      Pycrete, 2000 metres deck length. Almost indestructible, and circumvents all your issues (although it will need nuclear propulsion, very big sails or genetically modified uber-penguins).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pykrete.

        Why Pykrete (it is Pykrete, not pycrete).

        You might as well find a suitable iceberg, cut a slot in one end and freeze a nuclear tug unit (basically a tail of an existing nuclear submarine) into the slot. Here is your unsinkable aircraft carrier - 10-15km in length, airstrip capable of taking on strategic bombers and facilities for a whole airfleet (OK, it can be sunk but it will require a nuclear warhead to achieve that).

        You can augment it with cooling units and/or build a couple of "ice-shape/ice-deposit" maintenance bots. If you start with a suitable berg it will take a couple of years to shape and form it completely. The cost will probably be less (and the time) than building two legacy carriers. It can pay back as a "base" for drilling operations (while protecting them at the same time) and be "officially" civilian until requisitioned. The waters around South Georgia are cold enough in winter to sustain it and in summer it can go south to the ice edge :)

        By the way, why do you think russians invested so much in subsequent SP stations :)

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

        You'd probably want a Marine Commando on board for deck security, maybe with a squadron of tanks in support. Give a few cavalry-types green-beret nragging rights.

      3. Dave the Cat
        Thumb Up

        Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

        Liking the uber-penguins idea, as an alternative they could consider a fleet of harnesed GMd sharks with frikkin laser cannons on their heads for propulsion and area air-defence.....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      "is unclear how usable will be electric if water splashing onto the deck freezes instantaneously"

      Hmmm, some sort of electrical heating system perhaps. MInd you, where would take that electrical power from?

  9. Bob Vistakin

    Its the classic Jack Straw dilemma

    When labour were in power he'd stand up in the House of Corruption saying he was all for defence cuts, since that was the party line at the time. Yet he'd go back to his constituency in Blackburn and tell those at the ROF plant (Royal Ordnance - making bombs etc) that they had no need to worry since he's fighting hard to keep their factory open and jobs safe. In the end, as we all found out, he and his party shat on everyone but in this case, as in this article, its kinda no-win - do you put national workers interests first, or fuck 'em and buy foreign to save money?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Its the classic Jack Straw dilemma

      TBH with the savings you be better off paying the workers to sit on the dole - for the amount of british workers that are left. 1bn saved is a healthy 10000 each for 100000 workers and I doubt there are 100000 workers left.

  10. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Skimming usual eurofighter dig, this is spot on.

    The choice is between an untested plane design and an untested catapault design, but with the latter providing vastly more flexibility. So we're not choosing it.

    It staggers me just how fucked defence spending is in the UK - the vacillation, pork-barrelling and incompetence would be almost comic if it wasn't billions of pounds at stake, let alone UKs ability to project force.

  11. MrXavia

    What I don't get is why we don't make our own fighters? surely if the French can do it, and the Americans can do it, we can do it??

    This whole F35 project has taken what 20 years to get finished? really it takes THAT long to design and build them?

    I say lets go for catapults, rent a few aircraft for now, and build our own combat planes in future!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try Buying This One

      I am sure it is rusting somewhere in America.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What I don't get is why we don't make our own fighters? "

      We do.

      Large parts of the Eurofighter and F-35 are made in the UK. UK is gaining big on f-35 workshare, far more the cost of buying it.

    3. HP Cynic

      20 years

      That's about right yes.

      I remember flying the EAP Simulator at BAE Warton when I was teenager, the EAP took a long time to reach production as the Eurofighter/Typhoon.

      Incidentally I "crashed" it in that I managed to taxi my EAP under the runway and start driving about underneath the landscape. The staff were very concerned as "that's never happened before".

      Perhaps they should just take my "idea" and develop tunnelling, sumbersible fighters and be done with it.


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019