back to article National Audit Office: Brit aircraft carrier project is fine and dandy... for now

The National Audit Office has confirmed that F-35 fighter jets should be flying from new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth by the year 2020, if all goes to plan. The Delivering Carrier Strike report from the UK watchdog said: “The current target of accepting the carrier from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance by the end …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Surely since we're going to use the US Marines planes, we can borrow some of their staff as well? You know, to maintain the ship, steer it, defend it etc.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'You know, to maintain the ship, steer it, defend it etc.'

      You mean the bits the US Navy does for the US Marines?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Revert at soonest

      Rather than ask our US cousins to man the ship we will probably just offshore it to India like everything else. Can't see any issues with that...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Revert at soonest

        I thought they outsourced it to Turkey

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Revert at soonest

        Rather than ask our US cousins to man the ship we will probably just offshore it to India like everything else.

        Not a bad idea... They actually have two working aircraft carriers today and they are planning to build a nuclear Nimitz-like type as a replacement. Their aircraft carrier also has a carrier wing and is not just a sitting target. Its escort destroyers also happen to have proper anti-ship armament - as far as anti-ship missiles go BRAHMOS is probably in the top 5, if not top 3. That is if we do not count the Sunburns and Harpoons which they have too. AFAIK, they also handed the RAF their arse on a plate last time they were visiting to have some playtime with their ex-colonial overlords.

        So, for once, that may be an improvement in the "service" when outsourcing (*).

        (*)In fact, it is an example of a Navy which the Royal Navy cannot take on and win - a category which is rapidly growing and it will only get worse in the future.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Revert at soonest

          'They actually have two working aircraft carriers today '

          One they retired the ex-Hermes last week.

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Revert at soonest

        @AC

        India... well, they kept their Sea Harriers operational longer than us...

        http://www.janes.com/article/59005/indian-navy-prepares-to-retire-its-sea-harriers

        Not forgeting that INS Viraat was HMS Hermes before she was decommissioned in 1984 and sold to the Indian Navy.

    3. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Happy

      Beg, Steal & Borrow

      NATO member Holland currently has 2 F35-A aircraft and 0 carrier ships. Maybe they could hitchhike with their British brethren.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Beg, Steal & Borrow

        "NATO member Holland currently has 2 F35-A aircraft and 0 carrier ships."

        Isn't the A the non VSTOL one? No cats'n'traps for them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beg, Steal & Borrow

          Isn't the A the non VSTOL one? No cats'n'traps for them.

          The A is the land version. The C is the version for proper aircraft carriers, with bigger wings, foldy bits, stronger undercart and cat and trap bits.

          The British government couldn't have made a bigger mess of the new aircraft carrier project if the stupid, useless, retarded crooks had tried, even with specialist help from PWC. And the sad thing is that we did have a couple of aircraft carriers with cats, traps and supersonic strike aircraft just shy of fifty years ago.

          Is it too late to have a gallows arm fitted to the front end of HMS Queen Elizabeth? And then hang every defence minister of the past half century, every treasury minister (actually, cut our losses, make that every MP), and every one of the tens of thousands of useless fuckers in the MoD. There'd probably be enough guilty people to hang a fresh one every single day of the ship's service life.

          1. Toni the terrible

            Re: Beg, Steal & Borrow

            Yes blame the poor sods in the MOD, who can only do what their political masters and SCS want not what is needed. And not only that if they point out the problems sufficiently hard will find their careers torched, whistle blowers are still toast. Not that they are permitted to inform anyone outside, there is after all the Official Secrets Act / DORA etc. This may be a reason why they can't recruit CS into the MOD nor retain either CS or Armed Service Personnel, apart from the drive to the bottom in conditions etc. Still outsouce everything, which is the policy, and everything will be better is that not so. The New Model Army is likely to be a bunch of Mercenarys eventually.

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            "hang every defence minister of the past half century, "

            That would probably include most of the 23 000+ who work in MoD "procurement"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Friday pedant fist pump!

    Autumnal equinox is occurring at 20:02 GMT on the date you state. Summer would technically end at that time, as the sun 'passes' the first point of Libra, which is of course, in Virgo.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Friday pedant fist pump!

      https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=you+are+technically+correct&*

  3. @JagPatel3

    User Forced into Taking Drastic Action

    The Register is right to draw attention to the NAO’s conclusion that forecast costs of supporting and operating the new aircraft carriers and its embarked aircraft are less certain, and that the Ministry of Defence has always underestimated the costs of supporting its equipment.

    The fact of the matter is that the problems associated with procurement of military equipment are not only limited to the usual delays and cost overruns – they extend to the contractual support arrangements put in place to acquire, and re-provision additional Support Assets to sustain the equipment in-service, for the full period of its service life.

    If past record is anything to go by, this aspect of defence procurement will only deliver further spiralling costs – and a headache for the Treasury.

    This is because the sustained spinning campaign mounted by the communications people at MoD HQ over the last 20 years or so has succeeded in making everyone believe that, it is acquiring Support Assets for its military equipment upfront, on a whole life sustainment basis when in fact, it has been quietly buying them separately from the prime equipment, on a piece-meal basis via a steady stream of Post Design Services contracts, let during the in-service phase – thereby, fooling not only its own people at MoD Abbey Wood and the wider MoD, but also the whole of industry and in so doing, diverting attention away from the Treasury’s exposure to whole-life sustainment costs which remain unquantified for lack of a firm Selling Price from the single main Contractor.

    What’s more, it is increasingly clear that the unrelenting spending cuts are putting such a strain on MoD’s equipment budget that, for some recently commissioned equipment into service, the military User can only afford to buy Support Assets for a very short period of the in-service phase, like one or two years at a time and on others, the User has no choice but to take drastic action like, de-activating equipment for those periods when there is no available funding for the acquisition of Support Assets – periods which are only likely to get longer and longer, thereby inadvertently creating capability gaps.

    There have also been instances where the Front Line Commands have refused flatly to accept new equipment into service, because they are unwilling to pay for the prohibitively high cost of sustainment, foisted on them by MoD Abbey Wood.

    @JagPatel3 on twitter

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "a piece-meal basis via a steady stream of Post Design Services contracts, "

      This sounds an awful lot like the usual Outsourcing/PFI process of making the profit on "change requests" because the mugs clients either failed to plan ahead for support needs or did not know what they needed to begin with.

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

    And now not enough people to sail and maintain them? Ouch.

    And to the previous poster saying that perhaps the U.S. Marines can help, the USMC can provide aircrew, maintenance and arming crews for the air wing and a small fleet marine force to provide security on the ship. And I suppose if things get really desperate the USMC can provide the ship's cooks. But that's about it. I'm not even sure if the USMC can provide the aviation planning personnel/flight ops for a carrier, since that would be done by USN personnel on an American LHC that the Marines usually fly off of.

    But a British carrier with American planes, American aviation maintenance and ordnance personnel, American marines being the ones who can carry guns around the ship and a British crew that actually gets the combat elements where they need to go sounds a bit enervating on a "British" carrier. At that point, it's almost as if the RN has become a cruise line.

    The best news is that the affiliation with the USMC means that the RN can access USMC Ospreys to provide Carrier Onboard Delivery of needed personnel and spares.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

      "The best news is that the affiliation with the USMC means that the RN can access USMC Ospreys to provide Carrier Onboard Delivery of needed personnel and spares."

      Could they do AWACs duties too?

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

        I'm afraid not. With the huge, adjustable angle props you don't have room for a radar dome fitted to the top of the Osprey. The Osprey was built to carry personnel and cargo as far and fast as an airplane, but take off/ land them like a helicopter. In fact, the props are so huge that the Osprey has to land and take off vertically.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

          Actually, reading up on the V-22 Osprey, it looks like the Indian Navy was looking at buying Osprey AWACS planes for their carriers, but I don't see any update on how the evaluation went or if it is still ongoing.

        2. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

          'With the huge, adjustable angle props you don't have room for a radar dome fitted to the top of the Osprey.'

          I've seen a Boeing proposal somewhere with a fixed phased array set up in an aerodynamic fairing on top of an Osprey but I think the development costs are putting off any potential buyers. Not to mention the running costs which even for a standard Osprey are more per hour than just about anything else in the US inventory. i.e ~$84K vs $40K for an E-3 or $68K for an F-22.

      2. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

        "Could they do AWACs duties too?"

        The RN use helicopters for SeaKing out incoming aircraft

    2. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

      And nothing for them to do that is not either immoral or suicidal - depending on whether they attack people who cannot defend themselves or people who can.

      But never mind: Mission Accomplished, they created some temporary jobs and brought in some votes.

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: So not enough planes to fly off the carriers, not enough escorts to protect them,

      'American marines being the ones who can carry guns around the ship'

      Yeah that's not really the done thing in the RN, it's more a secondary duty when the ship is alongside. To be honest I've always wondered why the US need internal security on their ships.

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge

    If...

    F-35 fighter jets should be flying from new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth by the year 2020, if all goes to plan.

    If Trump doesn't follow through on his promise to cut back on the expensive F-35 program thus skyrocketing the price of planes for the UK, or uses the sale as a bargaining chip in the much-heralded UK-US post-Brexit trade deal, or gets pissed off at GCHQ's refusal to acknowledge his carefully reasoned and fully-evidenced conclusion that they peeked up Ivanka's skirt, or...

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: If...

      Did you miss the bit where the Donald declared the F-35 really great after he negotiated a $700M reduction in the cost of the next batch. Ignoring the fact that the price reduction was already in the programme due to the increased production rate.

    2. Geriant

      Re: If...

      a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you?

  6. Doc Ock

    Carriers are very vulnerable to submarines and there are lot's of nations out there with extremely quiet submarines.

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/could-sink-the-us-navy-lethal-stealth-submarines-15034

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      we still have "just" a reasonable anti-sub capability this is what the type 23 was designed to do

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        we still have "just" a reasonable anti-sub capability this is what the type 23 was designed to do

        13 type 23s. Assuming three in refit or repair, one in port for turnaround, ignoring international obligations, that's nine, so that's 855 miles of British coastline each. Can't see them being very effective when they're that thinly spread. And that's inshore, before considering the full extent of waters we might want to use them in.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Just send fisheries protection vessels to escort Russian ship, can't see any problems with that at all!

          http://navaltoday.com/2016/09/08/hms-tyne-escorts-two-russian-vessels-off-british-isles-in-a-month/

      2. Doc Ock

        we still have "just" a reasonable anti-sub capability this is what the type 23 was designed to do

        HSMS Gotland

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotland-class_submarine

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      there are lot's of nations out there with extremely quiet submarines.

      If hunting RN ships, they don't need to be quiet, because they won't be heard over the bag of spanners racket from the Type 45s.

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'Carriers are very vulnerable to submarines and there are lot's of nations out there with extremely quiet submarines.'

      By that logic all ships are vulnerable to submarines, quick lets get rid of the navy.

  7. Scroticus Canis
    Facepalm

    "2359 on Friday 22 September" - Hope that's a time typo and not the year

    Shirley that should be 23:59 hrs or are you preparing us for the worst?

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    I'd always thought the nukes were naturally quieter

    Which compensated for their enormous cost, and the long delays between the start of contract and actual deployment.

    Seems not.

    So I guess that just leaves the ability to never surface, and hence have their snorkel seen on satellite, as their major remaining USP.

    You do wonder what would happen if Rolls Royce Nuclear could be allowed to supply a reactor for one of these.....

  9. Tom 64
    Coffee/keyboard

    > "speed up the deployment"

    ... "in order to be seen to be delivering value for money to the taxpayer as soon as possible".

    in order to support the next foreign war you mean? The conservative government doesn't give a crap about taxpayer value, just look at the NHS.

  10. Adrian Tawse

    The worst outcome possible

    Following the damning report on the F35, and the truly horrifying cost overruns, what if tht US decided to can the whole thing. Those of a certain age will remember the TSR2 F111 debacle. An incomming Labour government cancelled the TSR2 project on the promise of cheap and better F111s. The TSR2 project was not only cancelled, but all the design dat was destryed, all the jigs were destroyed, all completer aricraft, part completed an parts were destroyed utterly. They were burned. Then - the F111 was cancelled.

    Move forward 40 odd years and what if the F35 gets the chop. The US can survive withouit it. The Marines would like it, but not essential. The Navy Has both better and cheaper alternatives. Where does that leave thE UK. Both carriers are nearly useless without the F35. Extend the takeoff area and non STOVOL could takeoff, but without an angled flight deck there is no feasable way they could be recovered. The entire deck would have to be cleared to recover a plane. The reason the US won at Midway was because the |Japanese carriers, sorry I foret the names, had cleared their decks to recover planes, so were defenceless when the US attacked.

    But wait, it gets worse. As I have mentioned before, without a catapult launcer the carrier has no long endurance AWACS. A carrier group without AWACS is just target practise.

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