back to article Navy glovepuppets minister in carrier battle against RAF

The UK's plan to build new aircraft carriers remains under threat, and ongoing attempts by the RAF to shut down the Harrier jumpjet force - eviscerating the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm - have yet to be resolved. However, the RN has managed to manoeuvre a Defence minister into endorsing the view that Britain has needed proper …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Replacing RAF Harriers

    Ummmm.... correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the RAF flying Harriers on combat missions in Afghanistan? If they want them replaced, the only other plane they've got is the ground-support Tornado which is a: crap, and b: has a turning circle slightly larger than a mountain pass.

    Is the RAF actually saying they don't want to fly planes and wants to spend their billions on moustache wax and boot polish? If so, let's close the flyboys down and spend the money on buying Bolivia.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Fly Navy

    I was on the Last Ark Royal, 892 SQDN, The Falklands war would have been a hugely different conflict if the task force could have engaged the Argentinian Air Force before they got to the islands. With fixed wing radar coverage the task force would have known when the Argentinians took off, let alone got to the islands. This alone would have saved ships and lives.

    As good as the RAF might be they showed their limitations during the Falklands conflict. Could we have depended on the RAF to have provided fighter cover over the islands, especially when they couldn't manage to close a single runway.

    A proper aircraft carrier projects power anywhere in the world. The RAF can barely manage the Channel.

  3. null


    People in the UK really want to abandon aircraft carriers? Haven't they been proven to be one of the most useful platforms in a military since their inception? The West has made use of aircraft carriers in every major conflict in the past 70 years to great effect - WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Falklands, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan. Even in a war where where you've got good air force basing, the ability to come ingress from different angles and, in most cases, completely bypass the front lines make carriers a valuable resource - not to mention providing air superiority over blue water naval fleets. Also, modern navies are reliant on aircraft for their ASW duties and over-the-horizon reconnaissance. How do they intend to replace that?

  4. SkippyBing


    What the RAF seem to be saying is that to get the Fleet Air Arm out of fixed wing flying they're willing to send the wheezy fat kid to the warzone and get rid of the fast jet that's been most used this decade.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward


    @ Mike Richards: The Tornado GR4s & Harriers are designed for different roles. It is ill informed to say the Tornado is crap. The air defence variant is known for its limitations but the strike/ interdiction version is first class. It is not, however, designed for close air support of ground forces. It would seem the RAF is rotating Tornados into this role to avoid cuts to the fleet. It is high time this sort of politically expedient deployment within both the RAF and Navy (with its desire for escort ships) was knocked on the head and a coherent defence, and defence procurement policy established and followed. If only someone would jump out of the revolving door between the MoD and BAE Systems to do something about it. If France, a country of similar GDP and military commitment, can produce a nuclear powered fixed wing aviation carrier then so should we.

  7. Lionel Baden

    waste of money !

    Hang on what would be a good boost to a failing economy !

    Wait a min a couple a of billion on new ships and planes built in the uk

    And as for the conservative party not giving a shit about scotish towns

    well probably not but they then to be proud of the armed forcesa and would try and stay on top of it all

  8. Michael Fremlins


    The Royal Navy was around long before the RAF. Maybe it was about time the RAF was merged into the Navy.

  9. william henderson

    the RAF didi it!

    win the Falklands war, i mean.

    one bomb on teh runway after a zillion gallons of fuel in gawdalone knows how many staged refuellings did it.

    alsoplus the outstanding air-to-air capabilities of the Nimrod......

  10. Rab S

    Getting a bit

    Fucked off with the continual "its to buy scottish" votes refrain...its not like English Yards are not getting work from this contract you know...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Military Spending

    Speaking as an ex-RAF officer I think we need to make a very serious review of what we want our military to be. If we truly want to have an expeditionary military then we need to rethink our funding priorities.

    Firstly, spats between the RAF and Army aside, the first and most important thing is to properly fund the Army. At the moment the Army get something like 10% of long term capital funding. They desperately need proper armoured vehicles and decent radios. As well as proper supply chains so they don't have to buy their own boots and body armour when they deploy. Some shiny kit like the spams get wouldn't go amiss either.

    The next thing would be to think about getting them there. The logistics aircraft in the RAF are woeful at best, as is the tanker force. Whenever we are going to fight a war we would also need ships - but that's frigate/destroyer escorted convoy territory and we can do that already. Next on the list is close air support - and that is where the real battle starts. Apaches fill part of that hole, but then you need either rough field capable aircraft, or carriers to have any deployability. The RAF is in desperate need of changing it's force structure to be fully deployable. Most troops are still assigned to fixed bases and then randomly deployed overseas, rather than deploying as formed units. Moving away from fortress UK mentality would help that a lot. The Typhoon is a wonderfully capable aircraft, but we don't need that many of them to get that capability.

    The problem is that it all comes down to funding. If we want to be a world power it will cost us. We spend 2.6% of GDP on our military compared to 4% for the US. If we want to get away with that, don't expect the armed forces to warfight in 2 regions simultaneously without massive overstretch like we currently have.

    And finally, for the sake of Mike Richards, the Tornado GR4 is actually a fantastically capable aircraft, as seen on pretty much every NATO exercise it is on. The Tornado F3 was always the weak link - although it's avionics in the last few years of service were actually very good, and used to come out well in air defence exercises against the spams. Turning circle is only really relevant these days for dodging ground to air missiles, and that is a lot less relevant than it ever was. "Dogfighting" is all about the quality of your missiles since you fight outside visual range now. And you'll be throwing anti-radar missiles at the surface to air batteries as well. Who cares if your jet has the turning circle of a battleship?

  12. wondrinfree

    Who will be the Lord of the Flies?

    This is all about who will survive the next round of Government cuts, the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm? For one is surely going to be axed.

  13. LPF

    Why even buy the F35

    Just install catapults fromt he start and but any number of naval aircraft, jesus F18 or Navalised version of eurofigter!

    Just add teh catapualts and stop wasting time and money and peoples lives!

  14. Paul Murphy

    Save your rants for your MP

    Don't waste everyones' time here - send an email to your MP.

    Support the Navy or not, just do something positive with your time.

    After all they do work for you.

    No, I'm not affiliated with the site, just my country.


  15. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Replacing RAF Harriers

    "....correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the RAF flying Harriers on combat missions in Afghanistan? If they want them replaced, the only other plane they've got is the ground-support Tornado...." Actually, the ground forces in Afghanistan seem to prefer the Longbow Apaches, but then that might be because they're flown by Army pilots rather than the Brylcream Boys.

    "....Tornado which is a: crap, and b: has a turning circle slightly larger than a mountain pass...." The Tornado GR4 is not crap, otherwise it wouldn't keep winning NATO bombing exercises. And with its swing wing it can actually manouvere very well at all speeds. It is also still one of the fastest jets in the World at low level and can carry a heavier weapons load than the GR7 Harrier over a longer range. Now you've been corrected you may go stand in the dunce corner.

    Whilst the Tranche 3 Eurofighter looks impressive, I still think we could cut our order in half and equip the rest of the RAF with something like the BAE Hawk 200 light fighter, which would seem more than adequate for most of the UN "policing" actions we seem to be getting involved in and save us a shedload of money.

    In the meantime, the Conservatives may not give two hoots about Scottish shipyards but they do care about defence, especially as the Falklands War occured on their watch. When the Tories get in you may see a shifting of some of the work Southwards to help bolster Tory fortunes in places like Portsmouth.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    There are always at it..

    The RAF has had it in for the fleet air arm for years, yes their are Harriers in Afghanistan which is run by largely the fleet air arm if im not mistaken.

    Funny thing about the falklands, the RAF insisted in sending a whole bunch of Vulcan bombers there to bomb the runway, 1 stick of bombs flown thousands of miles (several planes due to redundancy) using an unimaginable amount of fuel and they mostly MISSED!

    Had the fleet air arm had those level of resources and authorization to do so they could of precision bombed the whole damn island.

    Once again, another round of RAF and RN in fighting.

  17. Frumious Bandersnatch

    the ships' future?

    It's "the ships' futures", surely? Or do the timelines for all the ships converge to a single, unified entity? Like a Transformer-like mothership which can meld all the mini-mes into a single unit? That would be impressive, I must admit.

    <-- grammatical pedantry, so flame me.

  18. amanfromMars Silver badge

    It's no way to run a World either....... FFS Sort yourselves out, .....

    ..... you 'orrible shower. Shape up or ship out. It is embarrassing.

    "That said, this sort of nudge-nudge can't-say-a-word-in-public Byzantine backroom manoeuvring seems like a pretty crazy way to be running the second richest military establishment in the world."

    Seconded, Lewis. Blame the Fag System if you like, which probably programmed a lot of them while at school.

    And don't the plonkers/wasters in Government and the Military not yet know, that all Campaigns are now Won and Lost in the Virtual Communications Space of CyberSpace?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    I tried to watch the video linked on the RN site - but it got to about 26MB download with no indication when it might actually play and I kind of lost the will to live... RN fail :-(

  20. Joe Zeff

    Uncle Sam's Navy did it right!

    This is one thing the US Navy got right the first time: Naval Aviation is completely under their control, and the pilots are officers of the Navy, not the Air Force. This is the only way to be sure that you're not going to lose access to your aircraft because of some turf war back at headquarters or because some politician doesn't like you. The Royal Navy needs to get full, permanent control of the Fleet Air Arm, including transferring all pilots, crew and ground crew from the RAF to the Navy along with the budget to fly and maintain them. Command of the sea is too important in war time to be left to the whims of officers with no seagoing experience.

  21. Steve

    Define Major Spending

    "At the same time all major spending on the carriers has been pushed back into the next government."

    What is major spending? The steel has bee bought, indeed, at Corus in Scunthorpe they have been rolling and processing plates for this project since September '08. Furthermore, Babcock's Appledore Shipyard in Devon has been preparing steel plate destined to become an internal deck of the carriers. Contracts valued nearly £90 million were signed in the middle of January for various parts of the ship. Thales Nederland has formalised a contract to deliver the Thales’s S1850M radar, this was ordered in early February and is due to be delivered be delivered during 2011. The second radar is scheduled for 2103.

    I can't see either party canceling these carriers now.

    The point about the Type 45 is a good one. The RN wouldn't need a very expensive, world-class(and it is, I can assure you), wide area defence destroyer if they don't have any thing to protect. Would be a bit of a white elephant. Could have had a dozen or more multi-role Horizons for the same money.

  22. Dave Bell

    Copy the Soviet Union

    Why dowe only have one airforce?

    The Soviet Union had Frontal Aviation to work with the Army, Strategic Rocket Forces to do the mega-scale rubble bouncing, and PVO-Strany doing air defence of the Soviet Union (missiles,guns, and fighter aircraft).

    If memory serves, the long range stuff was another distinct air arm, which was focused on maritime warfare rather than Douhetism.

    Air Vice-Marshals are pretty cheap to sustain, compared to active pilots. I'm sure it would be easy to find them a pretty secretary each. MPs, who don't have the glamour of the uniform, don't seem to have any problems finding willing staff.

  23. elderlybloke

    The Armed Forces fight each other

    It has always been that way, but fortunately in WW2 , the Germans and the Japanese were far worse at their inter service rivalry .

    The Japs especially , the Navy and the Army could barely bring themselves to speak to each other.

    It gave us a great advantage, non co-operation caused cockups that we managed to avoid.

    It is sad that your services now seem to be trying to strangle each other.

    They are supposed to be on the same side.

  24. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    @Darren Tuffs

    "Funny thing about the falklands, the RAF insisted in sending a whole bunch of Vulcan bombers there to bomb the runway, 1 stick of bombs flown thousands of miles (several planes due to redundancy) using an unimaginable amount of fuel and they mostly MISSED!"

    Troll or dumb as rocks? I can't decide.

  25. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Re: Copy the Soviet Union

    Since they don't exist, the USSR might not be the best model. :)

    Buy why do we have three armed services rather than one? Do we have two other countries to defend that I haven't heard about? The reasons are surely just historical. The Israelis invented their armed forces in the middle of the last century and decided to create a single structure. (I suspect the successes of the IDF owe more to their supplier than their management, but the arrangement clearly functions OK.)

    It's hard for outsiders to look at *any* of this debate without wondering whether the various parties aren't just defending their turf. It must also be hard for any of the insiders to concede that, maybe this time, the other side has the greater claim on funds. That can't be good for decision making.

    IT angle: Conway's Law: If you have four teams on your compiler, you'll get a four-pass compiler.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Why even buy the F35

    "Just install catapults fromt he start and but any number of naval aircraft, jesus F18"

    Is the Jesus F18 a variant of the F/A-18 for the Vatican or is Jesus actually making warplanes these days?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Civil Service

    There are two big problems here.

    1. We have three separate armed forces that overlap in their responsibilities and constantly squabble. Within each of these armed forces there are lots of smaller forces who overlap in their responsibilities and are constantly squabbling. One thing they are all forced to squabble over is funding.

    2. The civil service think they're in charge of all that.

    So what we actually need is a top down redesign of our whole military structure and to convince the civil service that they are there to support the military not to run it.

    On the subject of civil servants and the military, there was once a story that tickled me greatly. Of course it may not be true but this is how I heard it from a friend who was in the army at the time. Back eighties the civil service were looking to save money and noticed that the army's motorcycles were unnecessarilly expensive because they shared not one part in common with the other vehicles and even ran on different fuel and so required their own unique support infrastructure. The civil service therefore wanted the army to by diesel motorcycles that shared as many parts as possible with other vehicles in use by the force. The facts that no such vehicle was in production and that a bespoke vehicle would be prohibitively expensive per unit did not seem to deter the civil service.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The military seem to set a lot of store by history. History shows us that the military has made a lot of mistakes because it is so obsessed with history. They don't seem to learn from that particular area of history.

    In supporting the claims of the fleet air arm most people seem to bring up the Falklands. Which seems a little odd. If the best argument you have relies on a conflict almost thirty years ago then it may appear that you are stating that the idea of the fleet air arm operating fixed wing aircraft is out of date. It is certainly an argument that avoids the fact that modern warfare is very different.

    It seems to me that what is actually needed are big aircraft carriers that can carry a variety of aircraft, not something designed to carry a plane that the navy are clinging to because it did a good job almost thirty years ago. That's furture proofing.

  29. SkippyBing


    Actually the Navy would like nothing more than conventional carriers with conventional aircraft and some proper AEW. However the conventional JSF is seen as more of a threat by the RAF than the VSTOL version, at the time the RN basically had to go the VSTOL route to get some grudging support from the RAF. The slightly lower cost of a VSTOL carrier was seen by the civil servants as evidence that VSTOL was also the cheaper option, obviously big picture it isn't but they're only civil servants so you can't expect much.

  30. J Day

    Numbers game

    An interesting fact is that a single Nimitz class carrier can hold 89 planes ,the number of harriers in the whole of the RAF is 77, so all we need is one or two big carriers and give them to the RAF, but then they can't fly ships can they?

    ....but the RN didn't do itself any favours either by taking out the missile system of the current carriers so it could fit more planes, thus leaving it a sitting target. I suppose that gave it an excuse to buy more destroyers/frigates to protect them.

    Anway matelots can drink more than the crab fats!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being paid to sing from the same hymn sheet

    We have a major problem in this country with senior officials not being able to speak out, presumably in fear of being reprimanded and sacked.

    The senior officer (in this case the admiral) should be able to give their own opinion and state what the feel is in the best interests of the country and they should be free of any political interference/control. Although when you get to the top jobs with a reporting line to a politician - the Secretay of State for Defence, that's difficult.

    We all know politicians make decisions and have views of a political persuasion. To require a serving officer to adopt the political views is wrong, first and foremost the views of the senior officer are to the country and the public, not Mr. Bliar, not ZanuLabour, nor Mr I -have-a-funny-mouth-and-can't-say-I'm-sorry Broon.

  32. Andy Barber

    Hawker P1154...

    ... should have been developed, rather than the P1127 Kestrel/Harrier. Then the RAF/RN wouldn't need the Lockheed F35, which is as outdated as the the Typhoon/Eurofigjter!

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