back to article US Navy runs into snags with aircraft carrier's electric plane-slingshot

The US Navy is having difficulties with its latest aircraft carrier's Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) – the same system which the UK mooted fitting to its new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. The US Department of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE) revealed yesterday, in its end-of-year report [PDF] for …

  1. SkippyBing Silver badge

    The UK had a parallel programme called EMCAT (from memory) which stopped in around 02 after the final - ish STOVL decision was made. It used a slightly different technology not being tied to rail gun development, this meant it didn't have the same problems the US project did. Although to be fair it had different ones that were unsolved when the project was closed down.

    1. Faux Science Slayer

      Gerald "Fumble" Ford....another Warren Commission Whitewasher....

      "Did Geo H W Bush Coordinate a JFK Hit Team" at Veterans Today....

      Maybe the Ford is haunted by evil history....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    civil servants

    "naïve MoD civil servants who didn't get a price put into the contract for the conversion work"

    I take it that these civil servants have been suitably punished - by receiving promotions, knighthoods, gongs and other honours.

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: civil servants

      There is a notion in the industry that there are two types of civil servants who deal with defence procurement. There are the incompetent ones who let suppliers get away with anything, er, through being incompetent.

      And there are the competent ones who let suppliers get away with anything in the hope of landing well-paying jobs in the private sector.

  3. W4YBO

    We all need less stress...

    "...EMALS fitted to the new nuclear-powered carrier USS Gerald R. Ford put "excessive airframe stress" on aircraft being launched.

    Irony, from the Wikipedia entry on EMALS... "The main advantage is that this system allows for a more graded acceleration, inducing less stress on the aircraft's airframe."

    I'm curious why there is apparently less control for a linear motor than a steam piston.

    1. getHandle

      Re: We all need less stress...

      Sounds like it's turned up to 11 and all they need to do is turn it down a notch or two...

      1. maffski

        Re: We all need less stress...

        'Sounds like it's turned up to 11 and all they need to do is turn it down a notch or two...'

        Kind of. It uses a 'digital profile' of each launch configuration - but these haven't been created for all airframe/store configurations. Once these are all available EMALS should generate lower stresses than current steam catapults.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We all need less stress...

          As report says

          "....discovered for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G, which will limit maximum launch speed. These discoveries, until corrected,will preclude the Navy from conducting normal operations of the F/A‑18A-F and EA-18G from CVN 78. The Navy plans to correct these problems prior to the end of CVN 78 Post‑Shakedown Availability (PSA)."

          and

          "The program has developed fixes, but testing to verify the fixes on manned aircraft has been delayed until 2017 on F/A-18E/F and EA-18G and until 2018 for F/A-18A/B/C/D."

          My emphasis in bold.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We all need less stress...

          planepro~1.ini

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: We all need less stress...

          "Once these are all available EMALS should generate lower stresses than current steam catapults."

          But best to make sure they get the plane up to take-off speed.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: We all need less stress...

      Maybe because the system came from rail gun technology, they never thought about being able to launch a projectile with less force so never fully developed that side of the control system.

      Was Gerald Ford the clumsy president? I think he had a reputation for falling down plane steps and bumping into things, a bad augur for a ship best to avoid iceberg alley.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: We all need less stress...

        He was famously described as having "played too much football without a helmet"

        1. Gobhicks

          Re: We all need less stress...

          "He was famously described as having "played too much football without a helmet""

          That was Lyndon B Johnson that was...

          Something QI I just learned:

          "Lyndon B Johnson is often [also] reported to have said of Ford that “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” What he did say was “He can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” The US media deliberately misrepresented the remark in the interests of decency."

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/presidents/gerald-r-ford-1451818.html

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: We all need less stress...

            Thank you - it's so difficult to keep track of the mental deficiencies of US presidents

          2. David Beck

            Re: We all need less stress...

            LBJ also said of why he didn't fire J Edgar Hoover -

            “It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

            An often appropriate assessment in the political (and corporate) world.

      2. LDS Silver badge
        Joke

        because the system came from rail gun technology

        They can still use them to throw unmanned fully armed F-18s at the enemy. I never like that plane....

      3. Orv Silver badge

        Re: We all need less stress...

        "Was Gerald Ford the clumsy president? I think he had a reputation for falling down plane steps and bumping into things..."

        He was tagged that way in popular culture, although somewhat unfairly. His tumble down an airstair was due to him having a bad knee from his (rather successful) football career with the University of Michigan.

        Chevy Chase portrayed him as a clumsy, bumbling figure on SNL, doing some memorable pratfalls. Since he wasn't a very popular President to begin with, that kind of established his popular image.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: We all need less stress...

      I was going to ask the same thing.

      FWIW "excess stress" was a major problem on early steam catapaults until they got it right. Pulling the nosewheel off doesn't help launches much.

      The clue might be in the other part: EMALS could not "readily" be electrically isolated for maintenance,

      Meaning that someone's skimped in the deployed design.

      1. F111F
        Boffin

        Re: We all need less stress...

        IIRC, the first USN attempts at catapults were with hydraulic systems, until the RN came up with the steam version. Apparently, steam can be "ramped up" to prevent instantaneous load on the aircraft (though it's still pretty damn quick), unlike hydraulics. EMALS probably has the same issue in programming the load on the catapult, ramping it up quickly enough to launch a fully loaded aircraft while keeping stress on the airframe below ratings.

        1. annodomini2
          WTF?

          Re: We all need less stress...

          The only difference between a Steam system and a Hydraulic system would be the compressibility of the medium.

          Hydraulics is just as controllable as Steam, if anything, probably more so.

          However the Steam would have a damping effect and subsequent lag, which may offer a benefit in this situation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: We all need less stress...

            They need to go back to grade school and take physics over.... hydraulics utilize incompressible fluids (Oils usually) and are viscous and slow to flow, while steam or air is compressible and will absorb some of the instantaneous load at launch then recover to deliver the same force at the end of the catapult. The all electric systems are less affected by changes in temperature and have fewer moving parts. Once they can limit the current at launch, they should be good to go.

          2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: We all need less stress...

            "Hydraulics is just as controllable as Steam, if anything, probably more so"

            The problem being that you need to develop a lot of power very quickly. Steam has the advantage that an adequate reservoir can be created fairly easily, and work has been done on steam flow profiles and valve gear since the 19th century, when a lot of work was done on getting even turning moment on large ship engines. How do you create the equivalent reservoir for an incompressible fluid? Compressed air? Really big electrically powered pumps? In either case you have to rely on a method which leads you to wonder "well, why add the complexity of the hydraulics then?"

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: We all need less stress...

              "Hydraulics is just as controllable as Steam, if anything, probably more so"

              You will have several tons of hydraulic fluid traveling at 200km/h when the catapult fires. Care to explain how to dampen that. It is like a battering ram.

              Steam does not have that problem - you just release it and cycle the piston back.

          3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: We all need less stress...

            don't forget that the USN runs Nuclear powered carriers. They have more steam than they know what to do with which surprises me in that they are wanting to replace their steam cats. They are pretty reliable and work. Oh wait, they don't provide the juicy DOD contacts so they {Cough,cough} get a new method approed by congress. Ker-ching, Ker-ching.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: We all need less stress...

              "They are pretty reliable and work."

              As someone up above noted, they're also bulky and maintenance-intensive. Plus the USN carriers pump mainly electricity, not steam. EMALS carriers would be a triple blessing: smaller, more room for jets and ordnance, and it fits naturally with the electrics of their reactors.

            2. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: We all need less stress...

              'They have more steam than they know what to do with which surprises me in that they are wanting to replace their steam cats.'

              Not strictly true, to make the steam they have to distil water and keep it somewhere ready to use. You need something like 3/4 of a tonne of water per launch which means you can't make it on the fly. If you get rid of that requirement you can free up a lot of space that was previously devoted to distilling and storing water and still have more of the stuff for the crew to drink and wash with. Plus you've less of a manpower requirement to maintain all the distilling plant etc.

              What they do have quite a bit of is electricity.

          4. Jim Fox

            Re: We all need less stress...

            Steam, as any gas is compressible; hydraulic oil, as any liquid, is NOT.

            Your claim is invalid. The only variables in hydraulic power delivery are

            pressure & flow rate; so 'easing on' the power is not necessarily easy.

        2. Jaybus

          Re: We all need less stress...

          The hydraulic system was the first used on carriers. These worked well for the aircraft they used. It was really the advent of jet fighter aircraft with much higher take off speed requirements that brought on the need for steam catapults.

          I'm sure EMALS just needs to work out the current level as a function of mass, and etc. for various aircraft. Surely steam catapults had the same issues at first. It seems like it will almost certainly be the catapult of the future, given the electricity generating capability of nuclear powered ships.

      2. kmac499

        Re: We all need less stress...

        "Pulling the nosewheel off doesn't help launches much."

        Nah... the launch is spectacular, it's the landing back on ship that's buggered...

        1. Dave 15

          Re: We all need less stress...

          If you do a search for harrier landing no nose wheel on your favourite search engine you can see that even if you pulled a harriers front wheel off its landing is perfectly ok :)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We all need less stress...

        Meaning that someone's skimped in the deployed design.

        Nope. Working as designed. Only the contractors probably knew of the problems and are waiting for the COST+ part of their contract to kick in before liting a finger to fix the problem which will probably cost at least $1B even if the fix is to put some extra insulation on 6in of wire.

        Yes, I have worked on military projects.

      4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: We all need less stress...

        So basically they built something in front of the plug sockets and nobody likes taking ikea furniture apart again (that stuff never goes back together right again...)

    4. VanguardG

      Re: We all need less stress...

      A steam piston would rely on dump valves to release the steam into the driver channel, and that would allow a few fractions of a second for the aircraft to begin to roll forward before the full force hits. A linear accelerator would go to full power instantly. Seems to me the solution would be to dual-circuit the thing...have lower power to the first few paces of the launch run, literally getting the ball rolling, then a transfer to the full power run for the actual launch phase. Relative to the ship (ergo, the catapult) the aircraft is at rest, and overcoming that inertia-at-rest creates the stressing element. Or use some outside method to overcome the starting inertia...perhaps auxiliary rails to pull the main gear in addition to the nose gear for the first bit, then they release for the traditional nose-gear-only launch system to do the rest.

      As for the maintenance problem, steam catapults took up a lot of room - realistically, it should be possible to place two catapult systems where there used to be one, so there would be four at the waist position, #2 just slightly inboard of #1, and #4 just inboard of #3. Set them up as pairs...1 and 3 are active, 2 and 4 can be worked on. In a big push, alternate pairs, no need to wait for systems to reset or be checked...launch 1, then 3, load aircraft onto 2 and 4,and launch them while 1 and 3 are reset and systems checks run. Could also be a form of future-proofing - 1 and 2 could be joined to launch extra-heavy aircraft. Costly? Yes, but this is an aircraft carrier. Its going to be expensive anyway. If you cheap out today, the Navy will want new toys in 10 years. Give them a little extra now, maybe they'll be happy with these for 11 years. Meanwhile, the Air Force will be demanding shiny new stuff too.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: We all need less stress...

        "As for the maintenance problem, steam catapults took up a lot of room"

        They also require a LOT of maintenance. I stumbled across a YT documentary covering this. The steam piston requires constant greasing and that grease goes "places", meaning that every so often the entire catapault system needs to be pulled out of the deck and "stuff" chipped out of the mounting channel to keep things from gumming up.

        This takes a couple of weeks and requires 200 or so sailors. Not a problem if you're docked for a refit (which the ship was at the time) but you don't want to have to return to dock just to do heavy work on the catapault and although the ship has 2 launchers, you can't use one whilst the other is being worked on.

        Assuming EMALS works properly it will be a lot cleaner and require a fraction of the heavy maintenance.

        1. ThreadGuy

          Re: We all need less stress...

          Please could you share a link to the YT documentary. It sounds fascinating. (A brief Google search was unproductive).

          thanks

          - John

        2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: We all need less stress...

          They also require a LOT of maintenance. I stumbled across a YT documentary covering this. The steam piston requires constant greasing and that grease goes "places", meaning that every so often the entire catapault system needs to be pulled out of the deck and "stuff" chipped out of the mounting channel to keep things from gumming up.

          With all of these things it would be interesting to know whether development has kept pace with available technology, i.e. did steam catapults come up against unresolvable technical limitations, or was the Navy sold the new whizz-bang technology that would require R&D worth billions of pork barrel but seemed to offer major technical advantages? I don't know, obviously, but my own experience suggests that sometimes the sexiness of development of the new outweighs the development of the old even where there is plenty of scope to improve the old.

          Steam cylinder lube is pretty heavy stuff - around 2000 seconds I think - but it is oil not grease. Presumably there is a reason why steam catapults use grease with the accompanying problems of solid build up. But has anyone tried to design a "modern" steam catapult taking advantage of improved materials and lubricants? It would be interesting to know.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: We all need less stress...

            that would require R&D worth billions of pork barrel but seemed to offer major technical advantages?

            The reason why USA is looking at electric catapults and Russia is still sticking with STOBAR launch is Arctic (and as a result, probably, while not officially mentioned, Antarctic).

            Operating a steam catapult in -20 is pretty much in the territory of Sci-Fi. You are guaranteed that at least one or more of the release valves with freeze over regardless of what you do leading to a jam and in wost case scenario lost or damaged aircraft. Electric catapults are supposed to be significantly less affected by these problems.

            Not that USA Navy will get anywhere near the Arctic without having proper icebreakers - they are (as usual) putting the cart before the donkey here.

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: We all need less stress...

        'A steam piston would rely on dump valves to release the steam into the driver channel, and that would allow a few fractions of a second for the aircraft to begin to roll forward before the full force hits.'

        I believe this is resolved by the holdback. This connects the aircraft to the carrier with a sacrificial weak point designed to break at a specific tension, consequently it shouldn't move until the full force of the steam hits. It also stops the plane trundling down the deck due to its engines being at full power...

    5. Captain DaFt

      Re: We all need less stress...

      "I'm curious why there is apparently less control for a linear motor than a steam piston."

      Curiously, the steam valve that was fitted to the electric catapult (as per military regulations regarding carrier catapults) had no effect controlling the motor's performance. ☺

    6. andy67

      Re: We all need less stress...

      Agreed, maybe the problem is actually in the design of the F35s airframe in that it can't take the stress of a catapult when fully loaded?

    7. FIRECAT

      Re: We all need less stress...

      Could go on for days about all that is wrong about EMALS. Answer to your question is that a typical F18 launch requires 3 megawatts of power delivered over a three second time span. This power is stored in 3 ea 80,000 pound (Lb) motor generators per catapult as rotational kinetic energy.

      As the launch progresses, the available power drops off rapidly and the acceleration of the aircraft drops drops rapidly. Thus a fairly high initial rate of aceleration ( + 5G??)is required and the launched aircraft experiences a high accelerational stress. Launching the above F18 with wing tanks causes damage to the wing structure. By the way, the 3 80,000 pound motor generators require an additional 20,000 pounds each of structure, plus control electronics and very heavy cabling in three large compartments. This does not count the large steam driven turbogenerators and the heat exchangers to convert the reactor thermal energy to steam. Efficiency EMALS = 9%, steam cats = 40%.

  4. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Weapons ready?

    Britain's new aircraft carriers have no catapult system at all.

    The way things are going, a handful of sailors armed with them will be the ships only armament and defensive capabilities at this rate...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Weapons ready?

      I now have an image of Her Majesty's finest matelots stood along the carrier with a load of catapults firing ball bearings into the sea

      1. Esme

        Re: Weapons ready?

        -or better yet, with a corvus hastily fitted to the front of the carrier deck, and ballistae and trebuchets along the sides of the decks. But I bet they'd charge another 2 billion just to fit those!

      2. Dave 15

        Re: Weapons ready? NO NO NO

        We couldn't possibly supply catapults, far too expensive, and as for using expensive ball bearing a total and utter no no (not to mention the environmental impact of covering the sea floor and carting that extra weight around).

        No, in proper tradition they stand at the edge of the flight deck and shout TWANG!

        (similar to when they used to have to shout bang when practicing firing the gun...http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/757788.stm)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Weapons ready?

      Rumor has it that they considered stripping HMS Victory of her 32-pdrs and mounting them. A bit more advanced weaponry than catapults, etc.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Weapons ready?

        Rumor has it that they considered stripping HMS Victory of her 32-pdrs and mounting them. A bit more advanced weaponry than catapults, etc

        With chain shot or grape they'd probably be quite effective against those Iranian RIBs.

    3. Adrian Tawse

      Re: Weapons ready?

      I believe the whole affair is somewhat more Machiavellian than that, and a lot more tragic. What if the UK had gone for EMALS? Rolls Royce make the lift fan for the B variant. This would have been a big loss for them. Without the need for a STOVOL plane the purchase options open up. We would have the absurd state where we had one make of fighter deployed on carriers and a completely different one on land, but where there was a perfectly suitable non-carrier variant. The Typhoon, which is already looking something of a sick joke, would look totally absurd. Slow death Typhoon.

      But wait, things get worse. The justification for buying only two carriers rather than the three required to be able to always have at least one available is the ability to "inter operate" with the French. That is now lost. The F35 B cannot take off vertically with any meaningful weapons or fuel load.

      Hang on, It gets worse still. A carrier group is very vulnerable as we found out in the South Atlantic. AWACS coverage is absolutely essential. There is no ski jump AWACS, so no safe operation away from ground based AWACS.

      As to the cost of redesign I simply do not believe a word of it. This whole thing is a BAE Systems stitch up.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Weapons ready?

        'Rolls Royce make the lift fan for the B variant. This would have been a big loss for them.'

        Not a total loss though, the USMC are ordering ~twice as many F-35B as the UK not to mention Italian and Spanish requirements, and R-R make all the lift fans.

        'The justification for buying only two carriers rather than the three required to be able to always have at least one available is the ability to "inter operate" with the French.'

        Never heard that before, it was purely down to the number of sea days required. Bear in mind although we had 3 CVS one was almost always in extended refit, i.e. laid up with minimal crewing, rather than being in the usual operational cycle.

        'The F35 B cannot take off vertically with any meaningful weapons or fuel load.'

        No one ever said it could, neither could the Harrier, that's why there's a ski jump on the front end.

        'There is no ski jump AWACS, so no safe operation away from ground based AWACS.'

        That'll be why the RN have had rotary wing AWACS (technically ASAcS) since 1982 and which will be based on the Merlin airframe from around 2018.

        1. Adrian Tawse

          Re: Weapons ready?

          Three carriers are required because the time for a major refit is greater than the interval between minor refits. Therefore there would be times when both are laid up.

          Yes a rotary wing AWACS is better than none, but the marlin does not have the endurance to maintain coverage for an extended deployment. To keep at least one in the air at all times would mean all your stock would be in maintenance in very short order.

          I mentioned that the F35B cannot take of vertically meaning it cannot meaningfully operate from a French carrier. The F35 B cannot be catapult launched, and French carriers have no ski jump. Why bring up the subject of the Harrier, that remark is totally irrelevant.

          Thus the meaning of "inter operate" is basically the French taking over while we steam home for repairs.

          And I still maintain that this is a BAE Systems stitch up..

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Weapons ready?

            'Three carriers are required because the time for a major refit is greater than the interval between minor refits.'

            On previous naval vessels this was true however using modern merchant naval design and operating concepts this has changed. Hence Echo and Enterprise managing more sea days than the 4 survey ships they replaced.

            'Yes a rotary wing AWACS is better than none, but the marlin does not have the endurance to maintain coverage for an extended deployment. To keep at least one in the air at all times would mean all your stock would be in maintenance in very short order.'

            Well the Sea King's managed it and their endurance is less than the MErlin's so I'm guessing you're just making that up. From memory the Merlin has 5 hours endurance which is longer than the deck cycle the US carriers work to.

            'I mentioned that the F35B cannot take of vertically meaning it cannot meaningfully operate from a French carrier. The F35 B cannot be catapult launched, and French carriers have no ski jump.'

            The F-35B doesn't need a ski jump to operate from a carrier. In fact if you look at any of the videos of it doing sea trials on YouTube you'll see them operating from a US LPH without a ramp. So it can operate meaningfully from a ship without a ski jump as that's how the USMC intends to operate it.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Weapons ready?

          That'll be why the RN have had rotary wing AWACS (technically ASAcS) since 1982 and which will be based on the Merlin airframe from around 2018.

          Everyone who has gone down that route regrets it. The reason we do not hear it specifically about the Sea King AWACS is that it was not sold for export so there is no real customers to bitch about its failings.

          Search on people who have bought Ka-31 which is its closest equivalent. Every single one of its customers and even the Russians themselves are trying to develop or buy a fixed wing replacement. This is despite it having both endurance and service ceiling (with radar and fuel) better than the Sea Kings.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Weapons ready?

            'The reason we do not hear it specifically about the Sea King AWACS is that it was not sold for export so there is no real customers to bitch about its failings.'

            Although not specifically sold for export, the Spanish Armada use something that looks almost exactly the same. The Mk7 version is really a 21st Century mission system in a 19th Century airframe.

            If people don't want to use the Ka-31 I suspect it's more to do with the quality of the system rather than the overall concept. Russian kit is notoriously poorly made, the Indian Navy are particulary unhappy with the reliability on their MiG-29s for example.

  5. Peter2 Silver badge

    EMALS

    Wasn't the deal with EMALS that the USA Navy would sell it to us for a fixed fee of something like $200 million, and do any required remedial work on the installation at their expense, recognising that we'd basically be operating a bleeding edge system shared with their new supercarrier that hadn't had all of the bugs eliminated?

    This made sense for the US navy as they'd then be able to:-

    1) Get free testing for their EMALS system their new carrier has.

    2) Gain an extra couple of fleet carriers for a closely allied nation that they'd be able to cross deck on.

    3) kill off the F35B variant, screwing the US Marine Corps ability to operate their America class ships as mini carriers.

    IIRC the extra £1.9 billion bill came from BAE having said "yeah, we could stick an EMCAT in this spare space I guess?" without doing any design work for the additional cabling, deck reinforcement etc. They got away with this up until the point that Cameron said "We'd like take that offered EMCAT fitment option please", at which point it was discovered that it required so much redesigning and refitting it'd have been cheaper to build a new carrier from scratch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EMALS

      From memory, it was so expensive because the same people who would fit it are selling us the F35s. They don't want to lose that deal by allowing us to fly cheap F18s by the bucket load.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: EMALS

        That was certainly Lewis's view.

        I feel "never attribute to malice what may be attributed to incompetence" explains the situation just as well.

        1. A. Coatsworth

          Re: EMALS

          There are times when Hanlon's razor just doesn't cut it [1] and I think anything that has to do with pork barrel apply. There is just so much money to be made (or lost) selling F35s that it is impossible to believe nobody noticed the contract didn't cover fitting catapults.

          Any project where BAE is involved should be considered preemptively as fraudulent

          [1]Cut it! the razor cuts it! geddit? ... I'm... I'm sorry for that.

    2. thames

      Re: EMALS

      The EMALS project was still very preliminary and nebulous when construction of the UK's aircraft carriers started, so how much it would cost and how to actually design it into the ship couldn't be nailed down at that point.

      The UK therefore went forward with using STOVL aircraft (i.e. F-35B) as the low risk option.

      After the Conservatives came to power, they looked at using EMALS as a cost savings. The idea was to save money by using cheaper aircraft. However, someone ran the numbers and found that EMALS with conventional aircraft was more expensive, not less, so the plan switched back to the F-35B.

      The cost difference has more to do with the much higher training and qualification costs for catapult launched aircraft, rather than the initial capital costs. STOVL aircraft are much easier to land and take off, and you can do most of the training (and maintaining the qualifications) on land rather than tying up a ship. Furthermore, the UK plans to only have one of the two ships in service at a time, which means that tying up a ship on training and maintaining qualifications would take away from time on active service. It's much easier and cheaper to train a STOVL pilot than a CATOBAR (catapult and arrestor hook) pilot.

      What is more the UK plans to have the RAF and RN operate with a common pool of pilots, instead of having a dedicated set of naval pilots. This means the ships can normally operate with a dozen or so planes, but "surge" to an air wing several times the size when the mission requires it.

      Canada did some cost estimates for air force fighters which are illuminating. While these were not naval planes, the numbers shouldn't be too far off. They found that something like 80 - 85% of the cost of a fighter jet over its life time was due to fuel, wages, maintenance, etc., while only 15 - 20% was the initial purchase price. Cost analyses based solely on the sticker price are often way off the mark.

      Overall, the UK probably dodge a bullet on this by avoiding EMALS. I have heard the Americans are looking at the UK's new carriers and comparing them to their own in terms of purchase price, operating cost, and capability, and concluding that the UK is getting a lot more value for money.

      1. fishman

        Re: EMALS

        "I have heard the Americans are looking at the UK's new carriers and comparing them to their own in terms of purchase price, operating cost, and capability, and concluding that the UK is getting a lot more value for money."

        Nope. The Navy went through this sort of ANAL-ysis back during the Carter administration, with the CVV program. While the carrier is cheaper, your other costs aren't reduced, but the capabilities are far reduced. Can all your planes take off with a full load? Can you carry as many planes? Can you fly the same planes? But you have just as many escort ships and subs in the carrier squadron. So you save 10-20%, and have 50% capability.

        1. thames

          Re: EMALS

          @fishman - The US CVV wasn't anything at all like the QE class. For starters, it was to have steam catapults!

          The QE by the way is not suffer any operational limitations by operating VSTOL aircraft instead of CATOBAR.

          The things that the US navy are looking at with respect to the QE class are things like the number of crew to operate it. The QE will have a crew of 679 (aside from the air wing) as compared to 3,200 for a US Nimitz class (again, aside from the air wing). Crew costs are a major part of the cost of operating a navy, and the US naval budget is under increasing pressure. As I said in a previous post, operating costs are hugely important, and this is something the UK spent a lot of time and effort on when designing the QE.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: EMALS

        " STOVL aircraft are much easier to land and take off, and you can do most of the training (and maintaining the qualifications) on land rather than tying up a ship. "

        I've been to at least one airfield fitted with CATOBAR facilities for training. Doubtless the USA has many more. The training argument doesn't hold water because the most critical part (putting it all into practice) need a ship no matter what technology is used and you don't want to be doing that with your active-deployment boat.

        WRT the cost of carriers, you're comparing applies with orange juice - nuclear powered ships have a lot more space aboard for facilities, fuel and accomodation, plus they don't need to refuel in potentially hostile areas or that space can be used to carry supplies for your support group.

        Neither of those matter though: Carriers are obselete. Long-range Anti-shipping ballistic missiles are in the field and that makes them as vulnerable to attack as battleships turned out to be when aircraft carriers came along. No matter how many missiles an Aegis-class support boat can fire off against incoming, it loses its usefulness when it runs out of missiles and the land-based enemy pops off a few more waves.

        The military has a bad habit of preparing to fight the next war with the last war's technology and tactics without bothering to pay attention to technology in play today. As with 1941, in all liklihood it will take a few sinkings before they admit it.

        1. thames

          Re: EMALS

          @Alan Brown - "I've been to at least one airfield fitted with CATOBAR facilities for training. Doubtless the USA has many more."

          The UK has none. Building those wouldn't be cheap.

          "The training argument doesn't hold water because the most critical part (putting it all into practice) need a ship no matter what technology is used and you don't want to be doing that with your active-deployment boat."

          It takes a lot less at sea training time for VSTOL than for CATOBAR because it takes less training. And yes, you don't want to be doing that with your active deployment ship. That's the point, the UK will have only one ship in service at a time, the other will be in refit. There won't be enough crews to operate both carriers at the same time, so time spent on at-sea CATOBAR training comes straight out of active deployment time. The US has multiple aircraft carriers while the UK only has two, and there are still times when the US has no carriers on deployment because they're all either in refit, working up, or broken down and being repaired.

          "nuclear powered ships have a lot more space aboard for facilities, fuel and accomodation,"

          Er - that's a factor of how big you build the ship. If you want something bigger than the QE, then build it bigger. The UK built something big enough to hold all the planes they planned on buying for them.

          "plus they don't need to refuel in potentially hostile areas or that space can be used to carry supplies for your support group."

          The planes still need fuel and bombs, and it's those which get used up quickly on active deployment, not the fuel for the ship itself. Plus, the escort destroyers are all use gas turbines anyway so the fleet still has to be refuelled at sea (it's not like the UK has loads of spare ships).

          The main reason the US carriers still use nuclear reactors is they need to generate the steam for the catapults and fossil fuel boilers are obsolete technology so far as naval vessels go. EMALS may solve that aspect when they get it to work, but the backup plan for the newest US carrier to to retrofit steam catapults if EMALS doesn't work out.

          Oh, by the way, that's also why old fashioned steam catapults weren't an option for the QE class - no steam boilers to get steam from.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: EMALS

          A nuclear attack in a carrier group was feasible in the '60s. But if someone would be throwing BMs at you, you were also probably throwing your at them too. Still, ballistic missiles (ballistic...) are not good at hitting moving targets (although you could use re-entry heads with maneuvering capabilities, still the re-entry speed may limit it).

          The main non-threats for carriers would be high-speed cruise missiles and torpedoes. Besides the fact than not every possible enemy has this kind of advanced weaponry, launchers would be obviously the main target of other advanced weapons of yours - you wouldn't attempt a "surprise attack" with carriers against such enemy. And who said they have more missiles than yours?

          Of course, appropriate counter-weapons needs to be developed. EM and direct energy guns may be a direction.

          While carrier are still able to project force afar, and maintain a pressure that would be difficult to keep with planes from distant bases and lots of air refueling. USAF today wants to be the "ultimate force", but it can't see it may find itself in a situation when airbases are too far, and some "floating ones" are still needed. Until your airbases fly too, of course.

          Also remember USAF is the one that believed airplane guns were outdated, and put all of its eggs in stealth technology. It's believing to really know what war you're going to combat that will kill you. A flexible force capable of adapting is far more useful.

          UK had to fly Vulcans from the mainland to drop a few bombs - a US carrier would have had more bombing power with its A-6 and A-7. While CAPs of F-14s (aided by E2-C) would have kept Exocet launchers away, and long range ASW would have been available too.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Has surge recxently been redefined & I missed it?

    160 sorties in a 12 hour day.

    so I'm confused by the "surge" of 270 sorties in a 24 hour period as surge means sudden increase / move forward in my dictionary.

    The "day rate" would equate to 320 in half an hour if rate maintained.

    Or do they not use a shift system that allows for 24/7 offensive capabilities?

    1. thames

      Re: Has surge recxently been redefined & I missed it?

      I suspect it comes down to some daily maintenance is required at some point, so 24/7 operation isn't achievable in practice.

    2. F111F
      Boffin

      Re: Has surge recxently been redefined & I missed it?

      The combat rating is 160 sorties/day, normally conducted in a 12 hour window. The remaining 12 hours are used for repairing said aircraft, performing inspections, and readying for the next flying "day" (which could be at night of course). This also allows for inspection and repairs of the launch and recovery systems, and other shipboard systems used to support flight operations.

      The surge of 270 sorties/day is for short periods only, usually a few days. After that, aircraft and ship discrepancies and inspections build up enough to pull out of combat ops to repair/refit/inspect.

  7. Nolveys Silver badge
    Gimp

    Beeeeeelions

    putting catapults into the ships was not going to cost £900m – as the 2010 [Strategic Defence and Security Review] had estimated – but actually £2bn for [HMS] Prince of Wales and maybe £3bn for Queen Elizabeth.

    Average £2.5 billion per ship for a single system.

    Two - point - five - beeeeeeeeelion - per - ship. That's one system, one ship, two - point - five - billion - pounds.

    The mind boggles. If I were a taxpayer in the UK I imagine my pocket book would be doing some boggling too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What?

    "EMALS could not "readily" be electrically isolated for maintenance"

    That seems an odd design choice.

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: What?

      I will take a guess that this is due to the amount of Energy stored within the system.

      Due to the power and voltage levels involved it is not as simple as just flipping the off switch. Somehow the stored energy needs to be safely discharged and this could take sometime.

      We are talking about more than 240V and a few electrical capacitors here...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What?

        "Somehow the stored energy needs to be safely discharged"

        So the method of finding and touching the right wire to discharge probably isn't a good idea in this case?

    2. Dabooka Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: What?

      I was just about to post this myself.

      I mean I can isolate my shed from the mains feed, so it shouldn't be that difficult

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What?

        Except you have access to the earth. A carrier is both moving and at sea, and sea water is salty, making it electrically conductive. Furthermore, the ship runs a mix of AC and DC current (the reactor I believe is AC but the EMALS runs on DC).

    3. Dave 15

      Re: What?

      pull the 13amp plug out of the wall

      1. theblackhand

        Re: What?

        Assuming this is accurate (http://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/25084/what-is-the-force-exerted-by-the-catapult-on-aircraft-carriers):

        Steam/power settings are adjusted for each a/c type and T/O weight.

        The EMALS stores 484 MJ in four 121 MJ alternators spinning at 6400 rpm. It delivers up to 122 MJ over 91 m. That averages out to 300,000 lbf. EMALS more finely controls launch forces (Max Peak-to-Mean Tow Force Ratio = 1.05), allowing it to launch smaller a/c (eg, smaller UAVs) and delivering a smoother ride that reduces airframe fatigue.

        Current steam catapults deliver up to 95 MJ over 94 m. Each shot consumes up to 614 kg of steam piped from the reactor (NB: not the primary coolant loop). That averages out to 230,000 lbf.

        Accelerations average around 3 g's, peak around 4 g's.

  9. RyszrdG

    Schadenfreude?

    How about the Trump-era scenario whereby the F35B is cancelled or put indefinite hold. Given that that the UKs carriers cannot be retrofitted with catapults they will have no fast jet capability leaving us with the most expensive helicopter carriers in the world.

    On second thoughts it really does not matter as we have no carrier support group either so they will be too exposed to sail anyway. Why not admit that it was just a job creation scheme after all. We could have saved a packet by making them out of cardboard.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: Schadenfreude?

      Could always restart Sea Harrier production. Or failing that specialist groups probably have the tooling available to put together an airgroup of Seafires...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Schadenfreude?

        BAE have probably destroyed all the jigs etc. So HMG would have to go to the Yanks to get an AV8B. Boeing would just love to build us a few squadrons oh at say $200M each airframe.

        The USMC would be happy as well.

        So Donald, when are you gonna cancel the F-35 programme? How about Jan 21?

        I actually like the Harrier and worked at Dunsfold on the Sea Harrier.

        1. Dave 15

          Re: Schadenfreude?

          Jigs were made in the first place, we can make some more. You can even buy the odd harrier still so you have a template available.

          Pity same cant be done with tsr2 which was so far ahead of its time it would still be a world beater today.

          Of course with carriers as big as these two just go and make a few buccaneers as well, for heavens sake how difficult can it be to cut a slot in a deck and fit a catapult to it... trivial, I would do it for a few thousand.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Schadenfreude?

            As time showed we didn't need it and sadly the reality was that had we built more it would have barely left the repair shop. The cumulative meantime between failures for the components of avionics system was a handful of minutes, the engines had a few tenths of an inch of clearance between the engine, and the fuselage structure and fuel tanks. The factory itself needed a week to carry out an engine change. The computing system was completely inadequate for the task. Had the initial specification been for a Mach 1.5 aircraft using concrete runways then the project would have delivered a functioning military aircraft that on a mid life full electronics upgrade might have delivered the low level attack aircraft that was wanted, but the specification was a ridiculous and disastrous fantasy, demanding sustained Mach 2.2 at altitude which hugely complicated the engines and required lots of heat dumping into fuel tanks as well as short grass field takeoffs, as if such an incredibly complex aircraft could ever be successfully serviceable in such conditions.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Schadenfreude?

      The Type 45 is the most advanced air defence destroyer in the world, and the type 23 frigate is arguably the best thing afloat for tracking subs. The Astute class sub being the best thing for tracking subs that doesn't always float.

      The problem is that we only have 6 of the type 45 and double that of type 23's, about half of which are going to be available allowing for scheduled refits and working up from refits (crew training etc). This however is plenty enough for a carrier battle group, even if it doesn't leave enough for much else. The Royal Fleet Auxiliaries provide plenty of Replenishment At Sea capacity for such a carrier battle group.

      It's very arguable however that people may be more inclined to shoot at our carriers than America's, on the basis that sinking one of America's super carriers simply ensures that 11 others, plus a dozen or so fleet carrier sized helicopter carriers (with harriers onboard) are going to be paying them a visit, and sinking 50% of our navy is likely to leave politicians wondering if it's worth losing the other half. We certainly have the ability to field a carrier battlegroup though.

    3. Robevan

      Re: Schadenfreude?

      Put arrester wires on them and they could fly Mig29Ks and the marine version of the Su 57 if ever the Russians can get it right.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    EMALS could not "readily" be electrically isolated for maintenance

    Have you tried tur...Oh, you can't?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aircraft Carriers are obsolete technology anyway. We learned the hard way in the Falklands that they are just a big slow easy expensive target for relatively cheap missiles.

    The future is drones, not manned aircraft, and they can be launched in greater numbers from much smaller ships.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      drones, not manned aircraft

      > they can be launched in greater numbers from much smaller ships.

      Provided you can keep those above the water, and the even harder lesson from the Falklands was that without AEW you can't. Which does beg a question re proposed airgroups...

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: drones, not manned aircraft

        Well you can launch drone fighters to provide air cover.

        But to some extent, even drones would suffer the same issues that your manned aircraft would face.

        On the launch, you should be able to adjust the initial rate of acceleration to reduce stress.

        It could be that they didn't implement that yet. Even still, all of the catapult launches and arresting wire catches puts a lot of strain on the air frame. Its not just the landing gear, which does take the brunt of it.

        As to not being able to separate it... I think its more than draining the system, but in the power management too. Maybe a PE with a background in power will be able to give a better answer.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      There were aircraft carriers at the Falklands? British ships were Harrier Carrier, something very, very different and far less powerful than a true carrier. But it also true that having F-18 and F-35 instead of aircrafts with a much longer range able to destroy the missile launcher well before the ship is in range doesn't help either...

      1. JimC Silver badge

        Hermes was built as a Light Fleet carrier and was a considerable larger ship than the Invincible class.

        Just as well too, two Invincibles would have been very sketchy indeed.

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Um, uh. There's a bit of a difference between a 20k ton carrier which was designed as a cruiser (and so carried it's own Sea Wolf missiles etc in place of more aircraft) and a 70k ton carrier which is designed only as a carrier.

      A few other points worth mentioning.

      1) In the Falklands the taskforce didn't have Airborne Early Warning equipment (flying things scanning for the opposition with RADAR) which wasn't expected to be needed in their designed role of flying lots of anti sub helicopters against the Russians. This was rectified immediately after the falkland's.

      2) The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier, and the operation wouldn't have been possible without the carriers.

      3) Larger numbers of drones from smaller ships mean smaller drones, with less range and payload.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "2) The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier, and the operation wouldn't have been possible without the carriers."

        I wasn't alive when the Falklands kicked off, but from what I can gather from watching the TV and stuff, wasn't it Thatcher riding a tank that delivered the guys walking along the field? Wasn't that wot wun it?

        1. Dave 15

          Thatcher was dumb, but not that dumb

          (red rag to a lot of Conservatives I suspect)

          However I don't recollect Thatcher going down to the Falklands to ride a tank or anything else (could b wrong)

          As I recollect also we sent two carriers and hurried up the commission of Lusty 'just in case'. One of the carriers Hermes was started during ww2, had flown normal fast jets before and is currently still with India although they are in process of decommissioning her.

          But Thatcher did make a massive contribution... she decided we would fight as against the then favoured sit in the corner and sulk approach. Pity that most of the other 'leaders' since then have reverted to sitting in the corner and sulking... if any had balls we would have sorted the EU, middle east and probably the yanks as well by now

      2. JimC Silver badge

        > The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier,

        Atlantic Conveyor was acting in a Ferry & Stores Carrier role: see http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121026065214/http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/EC14467A-DFAF-4030-BDFB-9E1AAF00205E/0/boi_atlanticconveyorpt1.pdf

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: > The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier,

          Atlantic Conveyor was ferrying RAF harriers down to the taskforce, yes. Those harriers had to take off vertically with just enough fuel to hop across to Hermes. It wasn't a carrier and it didn't have a single Harrier on it when it was lost.

          1. JimC Silver badge

            Re: > The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier,

            If you read the paper given you'll see the Navy was describing Atlantic Conveyor as converted to a maintenance/stores carrier. Agreed that's a different role to a fleet carrier, and it would have been next to impossible to launch strikes from her (although I do note from that paper that on the way down to the Falklands they kept a Sidewinder armed Harrier on deck at readiness in case of shadowers), but nevertheless the loss of that deck, its supplies and the helicopters on board was significant.

            1. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: > The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier,

              'maintenance/stores carrier'

              You get how maintenance and stores aren't aircraft right?

        2. Dave 15

          Re: > The Falkland's task force didn't lose a carrier,

          Atlantic Conveyor was just carrying stores. However the loss does remind people that the current fad for relying on oil powered ship is dangerous. Each oil powered ship (like all our surface ships) require frequent top ups from a tanker. Most of the tankers have no real protection. They are the soft underbelly and sinking them renders the entire task force pointless as it has to head to the nearest land to get some oil ... without which it has no freshwater, no cooling for the frozen food etc.

          Frankly the QE class never mind catapults or otherwise should have had a nuclear power plant... after all we know how to build them as we put (home grown and home built ones) in our submarines.

  12. Dave 15

    Its all cobblers

    We should have catapults (probably steam!) on the new ships... they are bigger than the aircraft carriers we had in the '70s which successfully launched jets from steam catapults... so these must be able to do the same. We could then start making some more Buccaneers and similar superior BRITISH planes for our BRITISH aircraft carriers using BRITISH tax payers in BRITISH factories... hey ho

    In the interim ... i.e. while the idiot civil servants allow the navy to fix the ridiculous stupidity of their no catapult blunder... we should put a factory together and make some more nice shiny new Harriers... a vertical take off plane that doesn't rely on using a massive chunk of flabby body to hold a stupid fan... we at least managed to design a sensible plane (so sensible the Americans still use it in preference to the pile of crap they foisted on us)

    But hey ho... how would we use British tax payers money to support foreign competitors to our own industries if we didn't squander buckets of money on foreign crap instead of making it ourselves. (TSR2 anyone?)

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Its all cobblers

      We've got 2 carriers. Assuming 2 air-groups of 48 planes (a large assumption given that one of the carriers will be out of service about 50% of the time), that means you need either 48 fighters and 48 bombers, or 96 fighter-bombers. Re-starting production of the Bucaneer, assuming the required information still existed, would also mean re-starting production of some other British carrier based fighter. Erm, the Phantom wasn't, so you're talking the 1950s designed Sea Vixen I think. The Typhoon is quite a bit UK designed, but I'm not sure if you can make that work off a carrier.

      Anyway, the point is, you're talking a small run of a one-off plane that almost nobody else is going to buy, as few people operate carriers, and they've already got planes. So very, very expensive, and risky if it doesn't work. Admittedly we could build say 200 of something, with a naval and RAF version - which makes the production costs realistic, and gives us something to sell as well.

      Hence the decision was to get in on the F35 early, and insert BAE in there so we'd get a chunk of the work.

      We could go it alone, like the French do, though the they manage it partly by being a lot less choosy about what countries they sell to than UK/US arms companies are allowed to be.

      There are no simple answers here. All procurement decisions that governments make are done at least a decade before they get the new kit. Often more like 2 decades. So it's very hard to know what they need. There's also a just-in-case element, of doing work in order keep an industry going, as you might need it in 30 years - and it takes 20 years to build up again. Hence even if everyone was completely competent and decisive, you'd still get mid-project re-designs and decisions turning out to be wrong, or at least sub-optimal when the kit came to be used.

      1. Dave 15

        Re: Its all cobblers

        They are designed to take up to 40 planes each. However the government is buying 24 planes between them.

        Lusty could handle 22 planes - as could the Ark and Invincible. which meant we used to have 66 planes between 3.

        We could for the cost of either of the new boats built another two of the Invincible class and kitted them with a full complement of harriers. Alternatively we could even have gone back in the plans and dusted off the centaur plans and built some more like Hermes - which originally did handle 'fast jets' before they took her catapults and arrestor wires away and put the ski jump on.

      2. Dave 15

        Re: Its all cobblers

        As to the 'its expensive to build your own'

        Actually it is NOT

        Each million or so we send to the yanks for one of their planes is a million from our treasury for something we then have to buy spares for, contains only a portion of input from us and the yanks can sell and profit from

        If we build a new aircraft factory, kit it with British machine tools and use build some British planes we can then take a good few people off the unemployed list and stop paying benefits etc. (a huge bill per person when you include the housing, council tax rebates etc etc etc). Those people would then pay tax on their earnings... so some of the 'cost' recycles to the treasure anyway. We can then sell those planes to those people who are our friends (the yanks are not, never have been and never will be... history tells us that). Selling to others would mean we take a profit. Further the research and dev we could then afford at the factory would allow us to produce a next gen plane. Its not just the French that sees the benefit of keeping an arms industry.

        1. JimC Silver badge

          Re: a million from our treasury for something we then have to buy spares for

          Plus if you're buying from abroad you can only have wars with people your suppliers don't like. Arguably the Falklands war was partially won because the Brits succeeded in obtaining extra missiles from the US (Sidewinders), but the Argentinians failed to obtain extra missiles from France (Exocets).

          1. Robevan

            Re: a million from our treasury for something we then have to buy spares for

            I believe the RN used British stocks of sidewinders in the South Atlantic, but that meant none left for use in Britain or the North Atlantic for NATO posturing, The USA provided the replacements for those, we paid for them of course.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Its all cobblers

      We should have catapults (probably steam!) on the new ships... they are bigger than the aircraft carriers we had in the '70s which successfully launched jets from steam catapults... so these must be able to do the same.

      The fallacy is in your first statement. These carriers are gas turbine powered, not steam (nuke) powered. No steam, no steam catapults. EMALS would work as it's electric powered however, not allowing the proper space to install it kills that idea. I'm not sure what it would take to rip apart one of your carriers and retrofit EMALS but I'd wager it would be more expensive than just redesigning the carrier and building a new one with EMALS.

  13. Pseudonymous Clown Art

    If its too fast...

    Have they considered giving Microsoft a call? Just add Cortana and telemetry.

  14. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Other solutions

    We could always adopt the old method of fitting a disposable solid-fuel rocket (overgrown firework) to the belly of the aircraft to launch it. No carrier modifications needed, pretty fast to implement, and you could buy a lot of simple rockets for the cost of a catapult.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Other solutions

      RATO/JATO bottles have their own set of headaches. Might work, but there's the instant impulse thing when the rocket fires which might be a lot more than the airframe could handle. Aircraft like the C130 (and others) were built for this system and as such the airframe is properly reinforced for those stresses.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...heavily dominated by BAE Systems..."

    BAE = Billions Above Estimate

  16. mwcer

    Could the Royal Navy win the Falklands war if it happened today?

    Seems like the RN is less capable today than it was in 1982, or do I have this wrong?

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: Could the Royal Navy win the Falklands war if it happened today?

      No. No aircraft carriers, no air groups.

      AIUI the hope is that the land based forces on the Islands could hold off an invasion force long enough for attack submarines to arrive and sink it.Back in 1982 there were only a handful of lightly armed troops on the islands who couldn't hope to hold off an invasion.

    2. Dave 15

      Re: Could the Royal Navy win the Falklands war if it happened today?

      No aircraft, no carrier, and frankly even if the aircraft we dont have arrived then too few. We cant field the size of battle group we had, we have nothing to land troops from, nothing to protect supply ships or anything. We can't even ask the RAF for support now, no Vulcan and not enough refueling tankers to get any of their current puny range of planes to within shouting distance of the south atlantic never mind the Falklands.

      The yanks wouldnt help last time (worked hard to get us to let the argies keep what they invaded), the French (who apparently would let us use their carrier) wanted to keep selling the argies the exocet and it was only when we bought them all that no more were supplied.

      Frankly we would stand bugger all chance

  17. SteveastroUk

    Its very sad to note electric catapault systems were mooted and developed by the late Professor Eric Lathwaite at Manchester University, then Imperial College from the mid 1960's. I've even seen pictures of the designs in action, possibly in "An Engineer in Wonderland"

  18. Potemkine Silver badge

    The Gerald R. Ford is supposed to be able to launch 160 sorties in a 12-hour day

    With such a name I doubt she will be able to make two things at the same time

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Just wait for the "Donald Trump"...

      .. which will have a golf course on the flight deck, a casino in the hangar deck, and will be fully staffed by scantily clad blonde women (some from the new Russian allies)... her motto will be "Make America great again" - but will never leave the harbour because her captain will be chosen among those who believe Earth is flat and thereby too worried to fall past the border. But her coal engines would have have been an issue anyway... especially since there won't be immigrants to work as a stoker.

      The main armament will be "tweets", of which she will be able to launch 160 in 12 minutes.

  19. Uberseehandel
    FAIL

    Excessive anti-nuclear sensitivity

    As I understand it, the UK originally wanted the new cat system for its new carriers. Then for political reasons it crippled the carriers by mandating that they would not be nuclear powered, which meant the alternative power systems could not generate sufficient electricity to operate the new cats, and the engine rooms did not have sufficient space required to generate sufficient steam to power traditional design cats . . .

    So Britain is left with carriers that it cannot afford to equip with sufficient aircraft, carriers that cannot operate with the tanker and AWACs aircraft required by a carrier battle group. A battle group that has a longer RFA tail than is ideal, as a great deal more fuel has to be dragged around the ocean by the auxiliaries, than is the case with nuclear carriers, and there are not sufficient or properly equipped warships to provide the protection a carrier in a hostile situation requires. To make matters worse, shore based reconnaissance is going to be problematic as the newly bought/leased Poseidon aircraft require air tankers with refuelling booms, rather than the drogues, which British aircraft are configured to use.

    I'm reasonably confident that the new tech cats will have their gremlins solved, and most likely before either of the British carriers become operational.

    I is another "for the want of a nail . . ." saga, but worse, if that's possible.

  20. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    The QE class are hamstrung and built on a budget, the FCV project (original Navy Spec for QE) had a much better capability and specified the ability to launch both Short take-off and Cat launched aircraft. along with double the displacement of the Invincible class and two with an option of a third.

    The SDR and its successors trimmed and trimmed at the specs costs and capabilities so the ships are now a shadow of the original spec with half the air wing and slower than the old ones.

    The QE class don't need Nuclear power as they Have RFA support to refuel nigh on station.

    if they had the CODLAG propulsion system equivalent to the type 23 and not the CODLOG system, they would have a much better performance and flexibility.

    I don't see why RR and BAE Systems haven't propose an updated Pegasus based on the Trent core built into a new airframe to direct replace the Harrier and a carrier version of the decidedly mediocre Typhoon.

    1. Dave 15

      RFA

      Yeah, you can have tankers plodding around to refuel these useless pieces of over priced junk but if the carrier has a carrier group (speak in what is left of the royal navy for a couple of marine park rowing boats as the stupid politicians have left it with nothing else) the refueling tanker on which it depends for its limited usefulness is unprotected and will be sunk.

      Nuclear was the only option and whatever idiot got in the way of that should be hung as a traitor

      But yes, would have been simple and the best thing to have created a new Harrier with an update of the pegasus idea, far better than a yankee hairdryer with wings

  21. A_Melbourne

    The whole idea behind aircraft carriers is quite redundant. Rockets are so much cheaper and don't need pilots. The aircraft carriers can't get close enough to their target so the aircraft cannot make the return trip. A total waste of resources.

    The U.S. Navy’s Big Mistake — Building Tons of Supercarriers

    Also submarines are getting so much more stealthy - not to mention smart mines. I certainly would not recommend anyone to get a job on board any of these dinasaurs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do know carriers don't go out alone but as part of a task force complete with anti-submarine destroyers, and these destroyers can employ active sonar which no sub can easily defeat due to physics (destroyers assume they're seen anyway unlike subs so don't have to rely totally on passive sonar).

      Plus carriers have lots of power since most use reactors. What's to stop creating a point defense using powerful lasers that can shot at an instant, can be powerful enough to defeat nearly any coating known to man, and would be damn hard to evade because of such a low time of flight? We DO know the Navy is looking into this as an alternative to projectile defenses which require ammo. Finally, you would think the moment those things are launched, counterattacks would be imminent, including from our own submarine forces. And because they're air-independent, too, subs like the Virginia class are pretty stealthy, too. Unless opponents see MAD as an acceptable scenario, attacking a US fleet, especially its flagships the carriers, is ill-advised. Besides, in economic terms China would not want to antagonize its current biggest customers, especially as the other big market, Europe, is still leery about engaging China economically.

    2. Dave 15

      A rocket can't

      A rocket - even something like a cruise missile can't threaten in the same way as 50 or so aircraft flying over a battle field does.

      One of the reasons getting rid of the v bomber fleet was such a bad idea.

      A Vulcan showed itself more than capable of getting through the yankee air defence undetected and is such a beast that it would put the fear of God under anyone sitting in a shell hole.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: A rocket can't

        I think that was before multistatic radar became en vogue. Multistatic radar is practically stealth-proof. The only way to beat that would be to develop an actual omni-directional transmissive electromagnetic cloak, and scientists right now don't have the foggiest idea where to begin on such a thing (or we'd have holographic video already, it can work on similar principles).

  22. briesmith

    Take a running jump...

    Why can't these very sophisticated aircraft taxi slowly on to the electrical thingy which then, and while they are still moving, throws them off the ship? I mean, it's not as though they can change their minds, the pilots that is, is it? They're going.

    Alternatively, use some kind of variable clutch hooked into a system that weighs the plane as it lumbers up? My VW Passat had an electric clutch and an electric steering system. And it didn't crash that often.

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