back to article UK Carriers safe: Other war-tech ripe for the chopper

The UK government has confirmed to shipbuilding executives that it will shortly place orders for two large new aircraft carriers, after years of uncertainty. But the move has been accompanied by renewed wrangling over Ministry of Defence (MoD) accounts, and seems likely to foreshadow cuts to some other major equipment programme …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good analysis

    A good, interesting analysis for current trends in military spending - less cash on chaff, which has to be a good thing - although Astute remains on the books, for now. IT wise it looks like slithering out of the RAF and into the Navy / Army would be the smart move.

    Wondering our loud what about the French nuclear-powered carrier Charles De Gaulle, it can do all the things that you've mentioned that British carriers won't be able to do. I always wonder why didn't we go that route? Thoughts?

  2. Andus McCoatover

    MOD Director?

    "The Financial Times reports that Amyas Morse, MoD commercial director, telephoned BAE Systems and Vosper Thorneycroft (VT) this week with the carrier news"

    Are we sure that Mr. Morse phoned? I'd assume he'd just 'signal' the news

    <groan />

    Mine's the one with the ex-Marconi (honest!) key in the pocket

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A biased view

    The F35-B (jump jet version) is being purchased over the F35-C (carrier version) not for a "needlessly vast expense", but because the cost of running steam powered catapults/ arrestor hooks. Yes the F35-B costs more to start with, but savings will be made over the lifetime of the carrier. The carrier has been designed to use catapults at a future date when the F35 has become obsolete.

    Also there is relatively little performance difference between the F35-B and -C compared to the current gulf between our Harriers and American naval fighters.

    The costs of running a nuclear ship are also much higher than a conventionally powered ship, however there is little to no impact performance of using conventional fuel. It it just more challenging logistically.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not call Ocean Finance?

    Just one telephone call and they'll be able to roll up all those troublesome debts into one easy payment.

    (Homeowners only need apply, in the event of war your carriers may go down, 150% APR, your country may be at risk if you do not keep up payments. Apply now and receive this charming carriage clock autographed by June Whitfield)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    More UK defence industry bashing from Lewis.

    Yes lets buy american helicopters.

    We could park them in the same shed as the state of the art Chinooks that we've got but can't certify for flight because of lack of documentation. Then we can spend millions downgrading them to yesterdays model.

  6. heystoopid


    Maybe the UK Navy should be buying the cheaper and better Sukhoi SU-34FN which does not need the expensive steam catapults and make do with the ski ramp jump system !

  7. Jonathan Richards


    > It was seen as possibly worthwhile for the Soviets to grab off West Germany, Belgium et al in a sudden conventionally armed assault...

    Indeed, that was the definition of war, at least in those years. Anything else, at all, was by military definition, a conflict. Everyone old enough to remember will realise that the Falklands War wasn't, at the time.

    I also know that there was a plan for the defeat of the Red Army swarming out of Poland across the North German Plain. It didn't involve neutron bombs (remember those?), but rather a strategic withdrawal, leaving cases of Johnnie Walker (tm) beside the roads. It was calculated that this would bring the Red Army to a halt within a hundred miles, and then they could be bought off with air-dropped alka-seltzer.

  8. David Harper

    A modest suggestion

    Britain could always apply to become the 51st state of the United States. Then we'd instantly have the biggest, meanest navy in the world, just like we did in the good old days.

    Mind you, it would also mean that Tony Blair would be eligible to run for President.

    Maybe not, then.

  9. Seán

    Ho ho ho

    What would be the purpose of these already obsolete floating money incinerators? Planning on reviving the empire? Or maybe it's really advanced thinking and they'll make excellent artificial reefs when decommissioned .

  10. Ishkandar

    Considering that the Chair-borne army in the MoD....

    ....VASTLY out-number the total of the fighting troops, perhaps a mass slaughter amongst their ranks will save enough for all the new equipment needed by the fighting troops !!

    OTOH, our troops could try strangling the enemy with red-tape !!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with PFI

    after all it's good enough for schools, hospitals and anything else the civilians who pay for it need. The MoD need to get existing troops protected and fed before spending astronomical amounts on an easily targeted floating airstrip to send into another un-necessary war.

  12. Zimon
    Dead Vulture

    STOVL is best

    'tis better to stop, then land, than to land, then stop"

    It's also necessary for the rapid air-wing augmentation & Joint Force Harrier that was prereq from day one. Better for the crabs and other such drones.

  13. James
    Dead Vulture

    Expense and Expertise

    I can't help but think that the Reg. (or Lewis Page) doesn't know what they want from our MoD...

    >So what will we taxpayers get for our £2bn per ship? Americans spending that

    >much money get a Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier, a ship which on

    >its own can defeat most national air forces.

    >Funnily enough, we Brits won't get anything like that. The new UK carriers, for a

    >start, will not be nuclear-propelled.

    And yet...

    >[British] products always require foreign tech support, their vaunted technical >innovations (in recent times, anyway) often appear to draw heavily on other >countries' work, and their claims to be the bedrock of the UK tech base seem >rather flimsy.

    So what would the MoD bashing Reg. like to happen?? A purely UK built supercarrier for half the price? Its not going to happen. If the our kit was 100% British then the price would soar for decades, until we can wrangle the price down because the expertise is easier to get hold of in this country.

    If the MoD turned around tomorrow and announced that it was going to build a totally British terrorist-defeating-super-laser-cannon (or just supercarrier) for £3bn, |'m sure that Lewis Page or whoever at el Reg. will, within the bat of an eye-lid start ranting that it is a waste of money why didn't Mr Big at the MoD buy ready made kit from our friends in the USA or France or Israel?

    This is Tabloid reporting from el reg. Normally I enjoy reading articles on The Register, but not the large majority of defence articles. Lewis... Get some legs to stand on...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    CVF Catapult

    So is the argument here that we should have had nuclear carriers, to allow for a CTOL design?

    Or (following the usual conclusions) that we should have just bought a carrier from the US?

    Bear in mind that your cost comparison doesn't exactly hold up, as you've ignored the effect of inflation since 1975 (!) and the current weak dollar. Something like a Nimitz costs more than twice the forecast costs of CVF, and the annual running costs are huge too.


    As I understand it the carrier design has always allowed for conversion to CTOL operations. This includes having the various engineering spaces necessary for the arrestor gear, catapult track and whatever support equipment included in the ship, ready for the gear to be installed.

    However the UK variant carrier is currently designed around SVTOL operation as this is apparently what the MOD want, given the choice of aircraft. The carrier isn't SVTOL because of a limitation, but because this is how it would be used. As I understand it the proposed French version would include catapults from day 1.

    The arrester gear is straightforward, and would be the same as the US carriers.

    The choice of the catapult is driven by availability and operational requirements. Currently no catapult is required, so it isn't fitted. Steam catapults (the C13 used on US carriers) are supported by the carrier design, were included in the design proposals and are a nice proven reliable option. But all that steam and water isn't good for the ship and makes through-life costs high.

    The EMCAT systems are still in development and are thus unproven. But they should have operational advantages and in theory the systems will be available to borrow from upcoming US carriers in a reasonable time frame.

    However I believe that steam is still the preferred option.

    As for secondary costs, as I understand it the planes can support CTOL operation and buying hooks for them isn't exactly expensive.

    You could question why someone thought SVTOL was the way to go (probably to support the Americans with that bit of the JSF program!) but that's a whole other issue.


    Finally, I recognise there was more to this article than carriers and catapults but that was what the headline was about. But to be honest I skimmed over the rest because it was more of the same.

    Please Lewis, we know all about your opinions about the defence industry and various defence programs. We get the point! You're welcome to your opinion even if it is sometimes ill-informed.

    But please back off a bit, the articles would make better reading if you stuck to the main point instead of putting the boot in with every opportunity; all you're doing is diluting the specific point each article is trying to make. For one thing the meat of the article wouldn't be on the second page!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it strange how....

    Whenever the MOD buys a new weapon system, they have to find a way of crippling it or somehow restricting it in the name of cost. I mean a great big super expensive destroyer without and real surface capability? You couldn't make that up could you?

  16. Michael

    So, two new sodding great gas turbines then?

    Or will it be oil derived? Start from the assumption that all future conflicts will be fought around oil-fields anyway, provide each carrier group with a refinery ship...

    When the machines finally rise, it'll be like an ocean based Battlestar Galactica.

  17. Andy Barber

    This is nuts

    "It was seen as possibly worthwhile for the Soviets to grab off West Germany, Belgium et al in a sudden conventionally armed assault - feeling sure that the NATO nuclear nations wouldn't think it worth destroying the world to save their allies, which would probably have been true."

    It this was the case, then why would NATO/USA deploy hundred's of short/medium range nuclear missiles <within> West Germany? BTW, they are still there, as are the hundred's of Cruse Missiles in the UK. (OK the Tomahawk Cruse can also be non-nuke, as in Serbian War/Gulf War Mk 2.)

  18. Steve Crook

    More pay too?

    It would be nice if they were going to pay the grunts* a good slice more. Then perhaps they'd actually be able to recruit the people they need. I see no reason why they shouldn't be earning as much as your average fireman.

    As for seeing sense about where the money is spent, you've got to be joking. There have been plenty of opportunities for sorting out MOD expenditure and they've all been fumbled. I see no reason for things to change.

    I do wonder if they might change their minds about the power plant for the carriers though. Oil is getting more and more expensive, and I'd hate to think of the carriers sitting in dock because we can't afford to run them :-)

    *No offence intended

  19. donc

    Dodgy costs

    I understood that a Nimitz carrier cost the US Government something in the region of $6bn a shot, even at today's exchange rate that is still £1bn more than one of the UK carriers. The reason the Brits are not going nuclear is because of the cost. Hell, even the French have stated that won't build a second nuclear powered carrier because of the expense involved! And Charles de Gaulle is not a ship with a good design history, they somehow managed to make the flight deck 40-60 ft too short for the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and it had to be refitted almost immediately after it was commissioned. Doesn't the fact that the French are buying the plans for CVF say something about the (non-)resounding success of the CdG?

    As for the type of aircraft, STOVL does lose some range to the conventional C version but the flip side is that it will be able to generate higher sortie rates (more missions per day) and operate in worse sea states, as Zimon says above "'tis better to stop, then land, than to land, then stop". Training is easier as well compared to conventional carrier aircraft, it took the RAF Harrier pilots in 1 squadron a morning to convert to operating off an aircraft carrier during the Falklands campaign. It takes months to get to that sort of competence on a conventional aircraft, something that the FAA gave up with the old HMS Ark Royal in the late 70's.

    The end of the article does hit the spot though, the reality is that the defense budget is too small, the military needs to spend money replacing some big ticket items (carriers along with most of the navy's other ships, Nimrod MR2, armoured vehicles, helicopters, etc) and also to pay for the operational costs of Afghanistan (body armour, armoured vehicles, helicopter parts, etc). At the moment it looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul. To cope with all these demands, instead of heading down towards 2% of GDP it should be heading up towards 3%. If anyone thinks that is a lot it might, be worth remembering that in the Cold War it was over 5%.

    And if the answer to every defense need is to buy it in the good ol' US of A where everything is cheap and on schedule, why is the cost of the F35 (all variants) sprialling ever upwards and the date of delivery receding into the distance....

  20. amanfromMars Silver badge

    All in All .....a Not Insignificant Future dDevelopment for Mission Impossible Denial.

    Oops, this should be here and not there... . With too many open windows that can always happen so easily

    Do IT Yourself

    By amanfromMars

    Posted Sunday 18th May 2008 17:39 GMT

    "Lord Drayson - the recently ousted MoD procurement minister."

    Recently ousted? I thought Lord Drayson just left to play with his toys.

    The MOD could always use their Intelligence Services to Generate and Divert and ReDirect Wealth in the Money Markets. How hard would it be for them to Create/MPort a Stealth Proxy ZerodDay Trader Sharing Lead Information?

    And ... "The US press doesn't really know good IT/Internet related stories. They'll wait for we grass roots types to raise a bother and then cover that." ....By Will Leamon Posted Saturday 17th May 2008 14:34 GMT

    The Achilles Heel of Failed Intelligence, Will. The Black Hole Vulnerability and AI Facility which they cannot Beta Deny.

    [And that puts Blighty way ahead as Fleet RangeFinder with ITs ESPecial Forces ....with SuperSubAtomic Astute NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActivity in ITs C42 Quantum Control Systems ...... for Viable and Verifiable Shared PreCogniscence with Advanced IntelAIgents Phorming CyberIntelAIgents CIAI2 from MuI7, Mutual Intelligences.]

    And that is Pretty Open Top Secret Privileged Intelligence, freely Registered for Transparent Prior Art Patent Protection and Available in and from the CyberSpace Environment.

    IT Creates an Embarrassment of Riches when Heavily into the Head Space of Do IT Yourself IDEntities commented on here.

  21. JimC

    the trouble with buying other peoples weapons

    is that you end up being dependant on them. Imagine what would have happend in thefalkwalnds if the British forces hadn't been able to get the new all aspect Sidewinder from the Yanks, and the Argentinians had been able to get unlimited quantities of air launched Exocets... A Super Etendard raid every day chucking in a couple of Exocets from over the horizon would soon have had the taskforce in major trouble...

  22. Leo Rampen

    UK Carriers are far more advanced than nimitz

    Just look at the crew needed. The UK carriers have considerably more advanced technology than the Nimitz class. More comparable would be the Ford class. These cost $5billion R&D, and estimated $8billion construction costs (although later ships will cost less as that price includes some shipyard building). Conversely, the UK carriers have a cost of £3.9billion combined, or less than £2billion a ship.

    The Nimitz has a crew of over 3,500. The QE class has a crew of about 600. The UK ship is 3/4 of the tonnage (although almost the same length) yet has 17% of the crew. It costs quite a lot of money to keep the kind of crew needed for a nimitz on staff and able to sail with the carrier.

  23. George

    I agree with almost all of it...

    ...except the Type45 comments (though I do agree they are way, way overpriced!), I don't agree that the carrier can effectively defend itself as a carrier in the USN sense also has a small fleet to operate.

    The job of the carrier is force projection so therefore it is tailored that way, and so will be tailored that way, therefore to avoid compromsing that a ship has been built for defence of the carrier AND any other ships within a sizeable radius. Looking at the ageing fleet we have and very low anti-air defence capabilities something had to be done, the Type45 is the answer but at the wrong cost!

    And also once again, relying on the tech of other countries is not the question here but picking the best of what is out there. Not forgetting that mighty US is looking beyond its shores for technologies and best practice (the JSF F35) will be partially built by BAE Systems in the UK. And the point of the Eurofighter is not relying on other countries to achieve the goal but joining together to make a better product, something which seems to have worked (ignoring the huge cost factors).

    Jolly Roger...for it seems the pirates still rule the seas!

  24. Darren Mallinson

    What a surprise

    Yet more Brit bashing from the Register.

    What exactly is wrong with the AgustaWestland option?

    The Sikorsky helicopters may be cheaper and delivered faster, but are of a much lower quality. UK Coastguard buys Sikorsky Sea Kings - we've lost two recently to mechanical failure. Compare that to the ever reliable UK variant bought by the RAF.

    If Sikorsky is such a great helicopter manufacturer, why has the AgustaWestland Merlin been selected as Marine One - the US President's own transport, along with hundreds more for the US Coastguard?

  25. daniel

    @heystoopid & others

    Someone in the British Army advocated getting the AK-74 & ammo being made under licence by BAE to replace the SA-80 and multi-million "service pack" upgrades... or better, get them delievered by a bent Russian supplies sargent (a couple of 38 ton containers should do) paied for in cash on a moonlit dockside...

    So to replace the Harrier with a ramp take off mach 2 fighter-bomber seems a good cheap deal, plus the fact that BAE could then sell upgraded avionics to the russian navy like the Israelis tried after absconding with Dassault's Mirage design plans and building the Barak.

    Was it not the HMS Ark Royal that had a ski ramp to lauch Buccaneers?

    Also from what I have heard, the F35 V/STOL version has problems as it seems to have been lifted from a Soviet design with lift jets in the fuselage which take up precious fuel and weapons space...

    And finally, WTF happened to Hawker-Siddley's supersonic harrier? I know that they worked on a design....

    Voilà : Buy weapons from your ex-ennemies, and make substantial savings (at least on the Rifles), and you have a choice of buying an obscenely expensive aircraft from the Yankees or reactivate a 30 year old plan of finally delievering a bigger, better brother to the already excellent Harrier, oh and keeping the current baby carriers to launch them is an added bonus and saving.

    Please also note that the Charles de Gaulle has other problems, like the lowest bidder for the ships screws delievering sub standard goods and the screws screwing themselves off 2 hours into the first shakedown cruse (no-one could be blamed as the design office had a freak fire just after the MOD investigation started destroying the plans), and that the Rafale fighters designed by Dassault for this carrier had serious avionics and integration problems IIRC.

    Finally, having a nuclear powered carrier is good, as it needs refuling less often, especially when looking at the state of the current oil markets... so that carriers could still run even when oil runs out... But not their aircraft!

    The only solution would then to be running carrier versions of the old Soviet (then) SU-25 that could be converted to run on alcohol or diesel...

    This therefore means that the russian nuclear carriers with cold war fighters - if shown the Top Gear episode on making bio-diesel with chip fat and white spirit - would own the world and Lenin's Dream Would Finally Come To Pass.

    Everyone sing now the chorus:

    Long live our Soviet Motherland,

    Built by the people's mighty hand.

    Long live our People, united and free.

    Strong in our friendship tried by fire.

    Long may our crimson flag inspire,

    Shining in glory for all men to see.

    We're all screwed I tell ya.

  26. John Merryweather Cooper

    On Leaving West Germany and Taiwan to Their Fates

    Political and practical considerations often outweigh what is "logical" in warfare. Considering Taiwan first, no Republican President since Eisenhower--not even our current dimb-wit--would ever allow Taiwan to militarily fall. To do otherwise would be to turn the "you lost China!" claim historically leveled by Republicans against Democrats on its head. There is also the simple practical consideration that the Taiwanese have a well-equipped, well-trained military (with a outside potential for nuclear weapons itself) that would make a cross-strait assault by the PRC very, very expensive.

    Considering West Germany next, politicians like to "win" wars, and feeding West Germany to the Warsaw Pack is not a "win." Like it or not, American "progressive response" nuclear employment was designed particularly for this scenario. My sector along the IGB (Inter-German Border) would have been instructive: Should war break out, the 12th Panzer Division would occupy forward positions along the IGB with a very simple operational order: DIP (Die in Place). My positions would have been about 4 km behind--along with my 6 nuclear weapons. The practical consideration is very simple--these weapons will not be surrendered under any circumstances. The easiest way not to surrender them is to employ them. It was my professional opinion at the time that all six of my weapons would have been employed against a variety of targets within 45 minutes of the lead Soviet Armor Corps trying to cross the IGB in sector. I may have been too conservative. Moreover, the likelihood that the Soviet commander, if successful, would have stopped at the Rhine is nil. He would already have had to engage French forces on his way to the Rhine, so there would be no sense of "neutrality." And the only sure way you can prevent French nukes being used on Soviet forces is to occupy France. I doubt that would be a very pleasant process.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Electric Catapult - American Technology?

    Strange, most of the technology that the American catapult is being built on is British(Well in truth European), as is their latest electric ship propulsion technology powering there latest DD(X) ships.

    At present we are well ahead in Naval Electric propulsion as shown by Type 45. We also have the expertise in DC motors that allows the EMCAT to be built. There are prototypes under trial in Leicestershire as we speak(

    This is also the same firm who will be responsible for the CVF propulsion.

    Please lets make the assumption that America has the only clever people.

  28. Luther Blissett

    UK carriers safe - not from a little Sunburn

    Why is then that the USN has put the procurement of further carriers on hold? It's not because the printing presses can't be diverted a few minutes from cranking out the $$$ to plug the gaping sub-prime void.

    Somewhere in the US there are a couple of middle ranking USN officers. They don't have a ship, not much of a crew, they don't sail (maybe at weekends), and their uniforms are probably gathering moths. What they have is the power to stop USN procurement in its tracks. Their job is to ensure whatever the USN buys can be defended. In IT terms they do sanity checks. They have decided USN carriers cannot be defended against Sunburn, and until there is a solution, new carrier expenditure cannot be justified.

    A little Sunburn is the ultimate boys' toy. Ixquick it, and have fun. An anti-ship missile with sufficient kinetic energy on impact to sink a carrier from the hole it can make - in case the dispatchers forgot to stick on a nuclear warhead. More significantly, an est 3 seconds for a defensive system to compute a firing solution and take it out. So if the dispatchers did fit a nuclear warhead, and you get real lucky and get a kill, you get fried anyway, and most of the carrier group with you. In short, the only place UK carriers are going to be safe from a little Sunburn is parked well up the Thames somewhere near Henley, and painted white pretending to be a marquee.

    Which simply puts into perspective what can be inferred from this item - that a whole load of politicking has gone into tying up this decision. Politicking about who gets the pork in the coming years, and who gets the jobs. An analysis by parliamentary constituency could be revealing. Were it possible to spin the idea of shipbuilding in rural Cheshire, doubtless we would be hearing it.

    If this is the way UK defence spending is going, our boys will be breaking into the Tower of London for the pikestaffs and the body armour to fight the Taliban. Luther notes that it is not so very far from the Tower to Whitehall.

  29. Rich

    Only two ships

    It does strike me that with only two ships, the air/subsea defence on the aircraft carriers had better be perfect. Because if a war/conflict were to happen when ship #1 is in little bits on the shipyard floor being refitted, and the enemy managed to disable ship #2 with a sub/missile/speedboat/kamikaze plane, we'd be stuffed, wouldn't we,

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @A modest suggestion

    Make that 52nd - Australia grabbed 51st spot years ago.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many carriers make a Trident replacement?

    How much money is budgeted for Trident this week, and how much will actually be spent once the Olympic-style overruns come in? Last time I checked the official figure was £20billion but £60billion seemed entirely plausible.

    How many front line folks could be paid decent wages and given decent tools for use in serving their fellow countrymen, for the amount of money that replacing Trident will cost?

    With no Trident replacement, Blair wouldn't even have needed to railroad the UK down the "nuclear power at any cost" route we've been railroaded down. (Aldermaston's nuclear warhead factory needs certain raw materials the Yanks won't sell, not even to us, so we need an ongoing nuclear "power" capability to produce them).

    Not in my name, Gordon Blair.

  32. mark

    Illinformed journalism?

    Don't wish to appear rude, but the comment about the carriers defending themselves is just plain stupid! Furthermore, the Type 45, as a strictly AWD, is arguably the best in the world. Surely Lewis should know these things?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "OTOH, our troops could try strangling the enemy with red-tape"

    Like it, issue the Normans with a risk assessment form (you could have someone's eye out with that) and tell them to come back when they've filled it in, bingo, we win.

    Or send out the Queen's Own Meter Maids. The Poole Borough Council Super Snoopers. We've really got a fighting machine here.

  34. E


    Vat? Jou haven't heard about zee terror-subs? Zee Germans had zem 65 years ago!

  35. Geoff Spick


    @luther blissett

    Nukes don't go off when shot to pieces... they only go off after a precisely timed series of charges cause criticality. Shoot down a nuke mid-flight in the ocean and all you get is some strangely glowing fish at the bottom of the sea.

  36. E


    You are already stuffed: UK foreign policy is made in DC, UK military purchases are crippled to keep the DC analysts happy, you can't afford to maintain your nukes without tests and you can't test new ones, you probably cannot afford new nuke delivery systems.

    Face it and move on: the UK's day in the sun ended in 1945.

    Even without WW2, the major colony - India - knew how to make their possession by the UK unprofitable: they'd been playing that card since the turn of the 20th century. China was lost to the USA (and then Mao & co) by the mid-thirties. Canada and Australia and Africa were not capable of floating the UK aristocracy or economy. The game was over. The past 60 odd years have been a sunset delayed by USA support and that only because the USA found the UK useful to play European politics with... kind of like an Israel. You are a colony of your former colony.

  37. Joe Cooper

    Reg's stance

    "So what would the MoD bashing Reg. like to happen?? A purely UK built supercarrier for half the price? Its not going to happen. If the our kit was 100% British then the price would soar for decades, until we can wrangle the price down because the expertise is easier to get hold of in this country."

    Well his point is that the whole buying british thing is a facade and doesn't actually work out that way. The typhoon and other "british" hardware actually consist of a lot of foreign equipment.

    He's not suggesting that they go 100% british; he's suggesting that they cut the middleman and go foreign without BAE's british facade.

  38. Daniel Wilkie

    @Luther Blisset

    Unless I've misinterpreted what you're saying - you're claiming that if you shoot down a nuclear armed missile, it'll trigger the warhead and go nuclear am I right?

    I'm afraid that's a hollywood notion - the same as seemingly petrol-filled hand-grenades and 100,000 round magazines for pistols. The conventional explosive might trigger, and you'll get lumps of radioactive material thrown around, but for a fission explosion it's pretty complicated and things need to be done precisely. The chances of that happening when it's being ripped to bits by 20/30mm cannon shells is pretty slim.

    The UK gets ripped off by everyone - foreign defense companies and domestic ones. It's not the way it should be, but it is the way it is. If we bought carriers from the States, they'd bump up their prices to double what they paid for them. Hell look at car prices if you want a perfect example.

  39. E


    Uh, James, I think the point being made is that there is nobody to FIGHT that requires an aircraft carrier. You cannot defeat insurgents with aircraft carriers, and all the tech-advanced countries are *on the same side*!

    You might drag the commies out of the closet in answer, but if China and the west or Russia or the west go to war then we are quickly back to nukes. And I'll bet on a nuke against anybody's aircraft carrier.

    Every single military conflict currently going that anybody in the west or Russia or China gives a d**n about is low intensity. Therefore why build or buy aircraft carriers?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Top speed, mach 2, range 100 miles. Best defense is to destroy the launch platform. A problem in the littoral environment of the Gulf but not really on the open seas when the air support will spot the launcher 100 miles before it's in range.

    And Nukes don't go off once they've been shredded by Phalanx. Any such warhead would become, admittedly high-speed, but fairly rapidly decelerating lumps of fissile material.

  41. Anonymous Coward


    Um, no. Buccaneers launched and recovered using catapults and arrester hooks.

    The ski jump was developed originaly for the Sea Harrier as a way to get it off the deck with a useful payload (that is, weapons *and* fuel). It was then "adapted" by other nations (okay, the USSR) to allow conventional aircraft (the aforementioned Naval Flanker variants) to take off without needing catapults.

  42. graeme leggett Silver badge

    WTF happened to Hawker-Siddley's supersonic harrier

    The Hawker Siddeley P.1154 of the 1960s?

    Came joint first in the NATO competition for Basic Military Requirement 3 in '62

    Couldn't get central (Nato) funding back at the time, UK funding stopped in 65 and the building of the prototypes cancelled.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Non-nuclear is a joke these days

    These ship will be expected to operate for decades, well past 2050. The non-nuclear choice seriously limits their use, they'll be lucky to make the round trip to the Gulf without refuelling. So we'll only be able to deploy in areas with friendly refuelling opportunities nearby. Over these timeframes, oil and gas depletion has to be a serious consideration.

  44. James Anderson

    To all self depreciating pommies.

    I know its fashoinable to do the old country down but consider:

    The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world. Of the counties of comparable size only Japan and Germany have higher GDP.

    Now that the UK has finished paying for WW II its economy will continue to grow or at least maintain current levels.

    On the other hand the USA has blown most of the money it made during WW II and is looking at a long slow decline, probably about five years before China overtakes it and maybe another ten years before it falls behind India.

    The world has changed significantly during the last five years the US is a declining economic power and consequently cannot any longer afford to be a military super power. The longer they hang on to thier military ambitions the faster they will decline economicly.

  45. alistair millington

    Bremnar, Bird and Fortune said it all

    50 helicoptors get dropped from the budget in favour of two aircraft carriers.

    The aircraft carriers are being made in a labour constituency.

    The helicoptors in a lib dem seat.

    The carriers are worth more to british jobs than the heli's.

    Despite the counter arguments. Troops in afghanistan are 1200 miles from the sea and need helicoptors.

    Mr Brown has asked the MOD to cut 17BN from it's expenses over 10 years (body armour, proper tanks, decent land rovers, transport planes, apache's). The carriers are 4 BN, Trident replacement is 25BN. Northern rock bail out was 100BN.

    Also a final comment on the programme made which I think sums up this governent and arms spending.

    "The army is being run on a peace time budget, but we are at war. Two wars..."

    Other things mentioned were the anti terrorist bill clauses. One says MOD hearings will be in private if "it is in the public interest", because they can't handle the Oxford corroner constantly saying the MOD is at fault. The oxford corroner gets to look at dead service men because that is where dead service men are brought back into the country at RAF brisnorton.

    MOD now bring in the bodies to RAF lynam. Different corroner.

    No nuclear engines on an aircraft carrier in a world shortage of diesel. Now that sounds like forward planning to me. It has to be the MOD. I also bet it has to meet EU emission guidelines, just like our tanks.

    The government's defence policy and the MOD are a joke. Always have been.

  46. Slaine
    Black Helicopters

    faster pussycat! Kill! Kill!

    Britain (not Great), the Kingdom (not United), has been known to me as American state number 51 since the heady times of Margaret Thatcher's occupation. Australia, our very dear and diametrically opposite companions on this tiny globe, must therefore relinquish the title and adopt the more appropriate state number of 52.

    Given our inability to organise or afford the up and coming Londinium Olympics in 2012 (well on target to becomming a bigger fiasco than T5) should we, as a nation be considering the purchase of anything uNclear, explosive or, indeed, sharp?

    Icon - a nice chopper - as opposed to a picture of Paris that would accompany some trite comment about the possibility of introducing her to my chopper.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    SImple Solution

    Castrate the Air force and merge it into the FAA and Army Air Core. The Airforce had an independent role once, and many believe it was not even that useful then (Bombing German Stuff).

    The modern air force's job is to support ground troops and naval forces at the request of said forces. The Jousting in the sky image perpetrated is beyond old hat, iirc the last true air superiority war was Korea, and the aircraft used (at least initially) were essentially machine guns strapped to a big engine, nothing comparable to today.

    Thus put out to pasture all the top bods (especially those getting flight pay who haven't flown a plane in years, if they still exist.) and split the equipment and useful personnel between the Army and Navy (Both of which could do with some trimming up top also)


    1) Reassign obsolete formations to something useful (ffs who uses artillery any more) and sell of equipment that would otherwise sit and rust.

    2) Up minimum basic pay to £18k, Deployed pay to £22k, and get rid of the myriad of schemes that allow wage top-up without officially putting the wage up (Kennelling allowance ffs). Also make the pension scheme so good it shines.

    Both of these to up retention of useful people.

    3) Alter conditions such that you don't have to get promoted to want to stay (see 2 + better housing).

    4) Off the shelf isn't always bad.

    5) BAE is almost always worse value overall than off the shelf. (for taxpayer and services)

    6) BAE should not be allowed to buy any company that has a contract to supply uk armed services, and certainly not any more (if there are any left) gov bodies.

    7) Issuing 4 weapons to one man and calling him a fire team doesn't work, even if he can just about carry them all.

    8) A 30 round clip should not be found in an LSW

    Not all my ideas, some from a great book (Lions Tigers and Donkeys) the rest from experience of family and friends.

  48. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Rory Bremner..

    ..seems to know more about this than most, especially GB! Estimates for the trident replacement are now heading towards £100bn, so some savings possible there, I think. If I were a potential enemy, I'd be more worried about a few old Tridents with rusty catches than a new, untested version full of software that will probably ask 'are you sure?' before actually detonating.

    I'm not that keen on mutually assured destruction, either...

  49. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Change the Paradigm ....

    "The past 60 odd years have been a sunset delayed by USA support and that only because the USA found the UK useful to play European politics with... kind of like an Israel. You are a colony of your former colony." .... By E Posted Monday 19th May 2008 08:24 GMT

    Shame that they didn't learn from the lesson that the British Expeditionary/Occupation forces learnt about 220 years ago. A lesson quite masterly told by Mel Gibson in "The Patriot" and therefore Common Knowledge obviously ignored .... and ignored by all Offensive and/or Armed forces which would impose Subjective Will rather than cultivate Objective Support.

    There is something Perverse about Building for Wars rather Controlling and Provisioning for Peace, which would be so much more Profitable and Satisfying.

  50. Dave

    trite analysis - poor work

    I usually praise, but Lewis P has let himself down on this one; his anti-escort bias is clear.

    I do not agree with the contention that the correct aircraft is all that is needed for the new carriers to provide organic self-defence. The purpose of an a/c is to take the aeroplanes somewhere else in order to do something else, not to carry aeroplanes around to defend itself! As far as I am aware, the Joint Combat Aircraft (UK name for JSF, we cannot - by doctrine! - call it the same name, the aeroplanes that these new floating airfields will bear around the place) has no look-down-shoot-down capability against a supersonic sea-skimming missile; whereas the highly-capable PAAMS on T45 (including somewhat North of two thirds by contract value UK content - btw) of course can despatch such a menace as SSSM.

    OBTW: wtf is FCS?

    LP confusing his US and UK (again)?

    FCS is the US 'network-centric warfare' Future Combat System. I think our Defence correspondent might have been trying to refer to FRES, which is the UK Future Rapid Effects System (which will exhibit network enabled capability, but not NCW).

    Now THERE is the REAL money-wasting pork-barrel defence procurement story, Lewis!!

    Go look at competitions, with no rules, between 3 different off-the-shlef vehicles with no published result - all overseen by a 'procurement consultancy' with 0 track record in defence - there's THE story, Lewis!!!

  51. Slaine

    Profitable and Satisfying

    You have My Liege, been of use in reminderful comment in my absentness to mind of a wonderful literary ditty - "Utopia", read by MysElf in years long by of an idea so proposterous in its simplicity that it stILL might just work.

    Build for peace and prosperity, be eCONomical, gROW and look after your fLOck, prosper in peace and, should the E-Vile tHrEAT of War be lOOming, place an drunken BINge of staggeringly enormous bounty on the head of thy enemy and his/her/it's family, friends, servants, spindoctors, dogs, leeches and other hideous foul attrocities.

    Lets face it, for 100 billion (US stirLING or UK dOLLarz) how many of your dearest and nearest would you REmove perMANently from the pOOl of genesis?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There appears to be some misconception that we dont need a decent navy as modern wars are low intensity affairs.

    Has anyone else seen the flip side? - That the reason we havent any major threats is because US CVN battlegroups are roaming around 'keeping the peace'*?

    With China and India building carriers we definately want a couple more (remember the current crop will simply be put in drydock with possibility of reactivation or conversion to helicopter assault carriers). Hell, even the increasingly aggressive Ivan might finish off the supercarrier they have had half finished for years.

    As for Type 45, 'built for but not with' surface/asw capability... This is just a clever budgeting ploy to get a refit later on for Harpoon, Towed array, and ASW merlin/puma capability.

    * Heavy dose of sarcasm, but the point stands.

  53. Rob

    tis better to stop, then land, than to land, then stop

    "'tis better to stop, then land, than to land, then stop"

    Except when what you're landing on is moving at 30 knots into a 20 knot wind.

  54. baloysius

    Change the Paradigm .... @amanfromMars

    Far be it from met to criticise the alleged master but the Mel Gibson film "The Patriot" bears as much resemblance to real history as the "master's" ramblings do to the real world. Apologies for the ad hominem but it really was a dreadful film both historically and as an entertainment.

  55. John Merryweather Cooper

    Phalanx is not a Panacea

    For all that Phalanx is capable of, it is instructive to remember that there are usually only 750 rounds in the drum under the gun. At 3000 rpm, thats 15 seconds of continuous fire. You might get three engagements out of the first magazine full, but then it is time to reload. Supposedly, this is a 7 minute activity, but from what I've seen, I'd double it in practice. Obviously, while be reloaded, the system is downing zero inbound threats.

  56. Bruce Sinton

    RAF not useful ?

    Simple Solution by Anonymous Coward

    Well as well as Fighter Command defeating the Lufwaffe in 1940 , and so getting Hitler to call off the invasion of England, Bomber Command managed to kill over 600,000 Germans.

    Quite a good effort by the RAF.

    Ex British subject ie- A New Zealander

  57. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Re: RAF not useful?


    The big problem for the Germans in 1940 isn't the RAF, its the Royal Navy. Any invasion would have had major issues getting any heavy kit or supplies onto the beach with the vast flotillas of the Royal Navy arriving. Peter Flemings "Sea Lion" covers the issue in some detail.

    Bomber command did kill lots of women and kids (600k is the outer estimate, others have it at half that); for the loss of some 55 thousand airmen - a 40%+ death rate, which was higher than that of WW1 trench-front Infantry officers. It had no appreciable effect on the war. It was however, the only thing we could do to Germany at the time.

    The reality is that German morale never broke, although whether morale, under a Nazi government, was ever an feasible target is a question that was not asked at all at the time. It did improve British morale, so I suppose that's something.

  58. Zimon

    Phalanx is old hat.

    Phalanx has lingered so long becuase the number of Sunburns and other such beasts in tubes that have left port within the last few years is a little on the low side.

    Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) and much improved gun systems are aviable, and there is always Metal Storm!

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Bruce Sinton

    "Bomber Command managed to kill over 600,000 Germans".

    Pity most of them were civilians. Otherwise, top hole!

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