back to article Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?

Hints are emerging that the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers may be equipped with innovative electromagnetic catapults in order to operate cheaper aircraft as part of the ongoing, behind-closed-doors UK defence and security review/cuts process. An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron ( …


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  1. Ian Ferguson

    Or alternatively

    we could save a whole heap of money by not starting unneccesary wars.

    </standard response to Lewis Page articles, which he's probably a bit sick of>

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Paul_Murphy

      Thats right

      Because it's always us that starts a war, and if we don't join in then the enemy will just have to sulk.

      We will still need a defence force, and a the navy is by far the most flexible way of providing one.


  2. Anonymous Coward


    "That issue is the provision of a carrier airborne-early-warning (AEW) radar aircraft"

    or you could build some air defence destroyers that can take out the threats without waking the fly-boys on the carrier. For arguments sake you could build six and call them Type 45s!

    1. SkippyBing

      You read the bit

      about the Earth being round? Air Defence Pickets are a WW2 tactic that caused the loss of at least 1 T42 in the Falklands as to be as effective as an AEW aircraft the ship has to get much closer to the threat. At £1 Billion a pop T45 is a bit pricey to risk on that sort of venture, plus it's shit at dropping ordinance in Afghanistan which is something the F/A-18 is rather handy at, something like half the close air support there being provided by USN carrier based aircraft.

      A cat and trap carrier and its airgroup is just that much more flexible than a one trick pony T45.

    2. Jason Tan
      Thumb Down

      Special amphibious Type45s with wheels?

      And how exactly will these Type 45s escort a strike force say 300 nautical miles inland?

  3. DaWolf

    let me guess

    US good UK bad?

    1. Lickass McClippers

      Have you...

      ...ever heard Lewis say anything else..??

      1. Dave Bell

        It's Be Fair to Lewis Day

        He's one of the people who had to use the results of the MoD procurement process. Though there were a lot of people who thought the RN, in his time, were rather good at dealing with mines. Which, to be honest, might have been a spin-off from the oil and gas business in the North Sea. Divers, you understand.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Nope, think you wil find that the carrier tech used by the US was designed by the british, sadley we are pissing it all away like we always have done

    3. Keith T

      Cheap off shelf good. Expensive custom made job creator white elephants bad.

      I think you are misinterpreting. I think Lewis is saying:

      Cheap off shelf good. Expensive custom made make-work-project white elephants bad.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        @Kieth T

        Let me try to make that a little shorter for you. I believe that Lewis Page's personal motto is:

        Pragmatism before Pork.

        I happen to agree with the sentiment. Carry on, Lewis!

  4. Desk Jockey
    Thumb Up

    A good article

    Praise given for where it is due. A much more balanced article although you forgot to mention the French Rafael jets which fly off the French carrier Charles de Gaulle. Not as capable as the US equivalents, but the French plane is likely to be more compatible with UK weapons systems as the US are a bit anal about letting people intergrate non-US designed weapons.

    Frigates/destroyers on their own may only be useful enough to host cocktail parties, but they are essential when sending off a carrier. When was the last time you saw a US carrier sailing about without a flotilla of cannon fodder-escort ships? If the planes/helis off the carrier fail to stop an attack, you would be damn glad that you had a few ships handy to save the carrier.

    As for the statement, "Overall savings are never as good to the MOD/Treasury as short term savings" that is all too true...

  5. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Darn Near Any...

    ...ship can launch a drone. The launch constraints are mostly the G-forces the mostly-water controller can endure.

    You could launch a drone with a gun. The fab and assembly tech already exists to build radars, etc. that can withstand explosive acceleration. But Short Electromagnetic Accelerators are the future of the navy, mostly because the acronym is SEA.

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    And in a time of spending cuts and an overstretched defence budget... really need to pour more money into unproven defence technologies. Let's face it, sooner or later BAE are going to get involved and the whole thing will end up running late, and either not working or need to be fixed by the Americans. This is (yet another) defence disaster waiting to happen.

    Has anyone ever really explained what these carriers are for? Because with the rest of the armed services being hollowed out they come across as nothing more than big, impressive bits of ironmongery we can sail around the world in the hope of impressing someone. But will more likely turn out to be impressive bits of ironmongery we can't afford to sail around the world in the hope of impressing someone.

    Surely a fleet of ships like HMS Ocean would be more useful, cheaper and let us throw our toys out of the pram in a major league power sort of way?

    Last week the BBC was reporting the MoD is considering cutting back our helicopter squadrons to make ends meet - you know the helicopters we're short of. And this is *before* anyone has worked out how to pay for the Royal Navy's submersible white elephant. The rate we're going the only military action open to us will be to explode a nuke - whether the provocation was a bijou invasion of Blighty or a kid chucking a brick at a squaddie.

    Seriously, has no one at the MoD worked out they can't have everything they want?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What they're for?

      Consider the European context. Only three European nations have any particularly capable naval force and only two of those three are building carriers, but the European Union is quite keen to be able to project itself around the world akin to the United States (to which it has an institutional inferiority complex).

      ANd so we have a situation where different member states are equipping themselves with what, taken in isolation, seem to be very poor equipment choices. There are anomalies here and there - the UK's insistence on VTOL aircraft is a case of preparing to fight the last war (in naval terms that was the Falklands) but when you consider the actions of the member states under the aegis of the Common Security and Defence Policy it all starts to make a wonderfully worrying sort of sense. Each member state is supplying part of a single European armed force.

      Well, except for France. They're just going their own way as usual.

      So, the argument becomes not "what is the MoD thinking making such bizarre purchasing decisions" but a question of whether we want our naval forces taking orders from the European Defence Agency. In isolation our defence choices appear schizophrenic (for example, the public insistence for so many years that eternally-delayed Future Rapid Effects System would be a replacement for the snatch landrovers in afghanistan - never mind the fact that FRES was a complete *operations system* for fighting a land war in Europe and not merely the name of a vehicle - insistence that delayed the purchase and deployment of Mastiff and rejected the RG-31 and variants for a decade even though it was much better suited to the expected asymmetrical warfare of future conflicts and expanded on lessons for mine defence first learned in what was then Rhodesia) but when considered in a European context (With the MoD's "europe first" purchasing policy that saw us purchasing the Vector coffins on wheels as troop transports in preference to other much more suitable vehicles) it makes much more sense.

      Not complete sense, mind you. For some reason the Army still insists on sending out brownjobs with metal detectors to look for buried IEDs made from plastic.

    2. SkippyBing

      Has anyone ever really explained what these carriers are for?

      They're for launching aircraft off. The clue's in the name. What the aircraft do is up to you but as I say above the USN's carrier based F/A-18s are providing half the close air support in Afghanistan without any of the hassle of securing an airbase in a semi-hostile country.

      Think of it as an airfield you can park anywhere that's wet and you've got the general idea, you can monitor sea lanes, launch an amphibious attack, carry out a non-combatant evacuation, disaster relief etc. etc. all on a much bigger scale than the current dwarf carriers we have now.

      1. Annihilator Silver badge


        "They're for launching aircraft off. The clue's in the name"

        No it's not. Being completely pedantic, the clue in the name would suggest that they're for carrying aircraft, which strictly speaking any vessel large enough and with a sufficient displacement could achieve. You'd be looking for an Aircraft Launcher...

        Much like the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft doesn't launch the Space Shuttle...

        I know, I know, I'll get my coat.

      2. Mark 65


        The other issue is that aircraft carriers only work as a launch platform provided you do not need to traverse foreign uncontrolled airspace. In that case you need to get permission which may not always be granted. In the current context in has been achievable due to Turkey being a friendly and Iraq being controlled.

    3. Tim #3


      Er, I think you'll find that BAE is actually building large sections of these carriers. Tho wikipedia could be wrong about that....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Rail gun platform


    So Blighty will have two huge, movable, globally deployable gun emplacements fitted with super techy electromagnetic rail guns, shooting strange aircraft shaped projectiles... Scary!

    Let the coastal bombardement begin!

    (i'm off to hide in my bunker, hope it doesn't thave the range!)

    1. J-Wick

      As long as they don't release...

      ...the dogs with bees in their mouths!

    2. J-Wick

      As long as they don't release...

      The dogs with bees in their mouths!

  8. SlabMan

    The defensive option?

    "Downing Street to UK. Incoming nuclear strike detected. Commence evasive action."

  9. Steve May 1

    Oh foolish mortal

    Even if the MOD were to buy "off-the-shelf" F-18s, they would "of course" have to be re-engined with something Rolls-Roycey, requiring a complete airframe rebuild. And a new Euro-radar to guide the required Euro-weapons. And a new nav/attack system because we've got the thing in bits anyway. And some new wings because BAE have some very clever ideas. End result:- F-18Q. Twice the cost of F35s, 10 times the cost of standard F-18s. Anybody remember the RN Phantoms?

    As for carriers.. If they are intended to fight technologically competent opponents, the lack of decent AEW means we may as well scuttle them ourselves to avoid loss of life. If we intend to simply drop large quantities of explosives onto guys with AK47s, surely supersonic stealth is a LITTLE OTT? Perhaps we should have two sets of aircraft groups. One of F18s for the wars against people with planes and one of Skyraiders for "police actions" and "insurgencies". (Propellor Skyraiders of course. None of our nasty jets.)

    Possibly things might improve if defence ministers were required to go to sea with the real navy in time of peril. Shackled to a bulkhead perhaps.

    Last thought. Surely 'tis possible to build some kind of flash steam generator powered by electricty if steam is such a vital element of catapults? Hundreds of electric kettles?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      you nearly got there...

      New television show..... Osama v Obama, winner takes all, no other casualties.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Steve May 1

      I think you'll find the US designed the A10A to replace the Sky Raider.

      It's seeing a *lot* of action in Afghanistan.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Alternatively if you can't find some spare Skyraiders...

      You could always buy a load of Goshawks:

      Slow enough to see what your bombing, could be easily modified to carry a cannon as the Hawk 200, British made so no-one is going to try and put a bigger engine in it and it's still a jet so pilots will be willing to fly it.

      1. Marcus Aurelius


        Fragile enough so that if it were deployed in Afghanistan it would be known as the "Snatch Land Rover of the skies"!

  10. Volker Hett

    Frigates and detroyers for cocktail parties?

    Hm, a carrier or two are nice if you defend yourself by bombing people very far away, but I'd give them some escort ships in case the opposition has a couple subs to leave your pretty F-18s with no place to land at.

    1. Stuart Van Onselen


      Why am I all in "defend LP mode" today? Maybe it's because lame arguments annoy me. Or maybe I'm just a lame fanboi/sycophant myself. :-)

      Anyway, I didn't read the article as suggesting that you Limeys sink all your non-carrier assets, just that without a carrier to defend, frigates and destroyers have only limited utility.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Misunderstood

        "All" is a relative term. We still have the 2nd largest navy in the world.

        It's just not as big as Lewis would like.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


          I seriously suspect the size of the navy isn't what Lewis cares about. It's how the UK is (in)capable of using it that counts.

        2. SkippyBing

          3rd at best

          The US one is massive and the Russian one is really big. I'd be surprised if we haven't been overtaken by China and India in the near future if not already.

          1. Thomas82

            Who has the 2nd best navy?

            You'd be wrong about the Russian navy(largely useless). China and India are having great difficulty manufacturing nuclear submarines(China has them but there is considerable doubt on their effectiveness) .

            Besides, numbers are irrelevant for the most part. At no extra cost, the RN could do double in size and be half as effective.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Catapult eh?

    Wil E Coyote uses a very big Acme elastic band with surprisingly good results.

    But if we had thought about these carriers we could have had nuclear off the shelf designs like the better, bigger and more capable Nimitz class- built under licence (like S Korea has).

    Which do have provision for steam catapults. Oh and they'd be one third of the cost.

    MOD grate doesn't it.

    1. Daniel Wilkie

      Of course there's a problem there...

      I don't know if you've been down to the south coast when one of the Yank carriers has been in, but they anchor in the Solent. Firstly, because the harbour channel is too narrow (or shallow, I can't remember) for them, and secondly because there is very limited parking for nuclear vessels in the dockyard, for some reason Portsmouth City Council don't like having huge nuclear powered ships sat there.

      Personally it doesn't bother me, hell my window overlooks the parking area. People these days :p

      Even to fit the QE class is taking a lot of work though - there's going to be a lot of disruption in the harbour before they can be bought in.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Elastic band...

      "Wil E Coyote uses a very big Acme elastic band with surprisingly good results."

      Good on the launch, but the landings leaves a lot to be desired. Somehow he always seems to end up kissing dirt, asphalt, stone, or a steel grate. IIRC, springs and rockets met with noticeably negative results, and he was a failure as a Coyote Cannonball.

      Oh well. Makes for fun watching him try, though.

    3. Thomas82

      Oh my.

      One third of the cost? Source?

      South Korea has nuclear aircraft carriers?


  12. Paul 77


    Might it not be possible to have a carrier version of the Typhoon or Tornado? I seem to remember a bunch of Typhoons were going to be bought to spend most of their time sitting in a hangar. If so, surely a couple could be used as development aircraft to testnew undercarriage and arrestor hook arrangement.

    I would have thought a Tornado could be turned into a pretty good carrier aircraft because of its variable geometry.

    But I'm not an expert in these things. And yes, I know it would cost money, but I would imagine that much of this money would be spent in the UK, rather than elsewhere :-)

    1. GeorgeTuk

      I'll beat everyone to it.

      Navalised version of Typhoon scrapped a little while ago.

    2. John Hughes

      Carrier version of the ...

      "Might it not be possible to have a carrier version of the Typhoon or Tornado?"

      There you go again.

      "Let's develop a new aircraft, it's bound to be cheaper".

  13. James Hughes 1

    Flywheel catapults

    Have been wondering why you cannot use a big flywheel to store up the catapult energy. Only need a small motor to wind it up, then 'boof' let it go and hey presto, off flies the plane. If you need to up the launch rate, two flywheels, one winding up whilst the other is being used.

    Mechanically not too dissimilar from a flywheel regen braking system. Some sort of CVT and clutch and a big lump of metal should do the job.

    1. smudge


      Wouldn't that affect the steerability of the ship? Mind you, I don't suppose carriers can turn on a sixpence anyway.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "Wouldn't that affect the steerability of the ship? Mind you, I don't suppose carriers can turn on a sixpence anyway."

        It would. The *classic* way to handle unwanted gyroscopic forces is to mount them in pairs *contra* rotating to cancel out their forces. As long as they both spin up/down together it works pretty well.

      2. Keith T

        Spin on a vertical axis

        Spin the flywheel on a vertical axis and it won't affect the ship turning, just rolling and yawing.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Some matsh on flywheels

          To store the 66MJ as stated above you need a flywheel of about 600kg at about 25k RPMish, you can already get electrical storage flywheels like that. Would need top reduce the RPM though, so a bigger flywheel at lower RPM would be better.

          As to gyroscopics. Can you image a 2000kg flywheel having much of an effect on a a ship with a displacement of 100k tons? Would need good bearings though.

          And of course, when in use the ship will be facing in to the wind going in a straight line. Because that's what you do when launching planes. No turning required.

          1. /dev/null

            Sounds familiar...

            This talk of flywheels is reminding me of a possibly apocryphal story about a warship with a very early computer (1950s?) on board. Said computer had a very large, very heavy magnetic drum storage device. When the ship changed heading, alas, the magnetic drum didn't...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Great idea!

      Now try navigating with a gigantic gyro in the bow. On the other hand, it might help stabilise the ship...

      I'm torn now.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Times two

        2 contra rotating flywheels should cancel out most effects, although I do remember something about precesssion and other forces acting at an angle to the main spin from my long ago school days.

      2. Anonymous Bastard

        Re: "it might help stabilise the ship..."

        Carriers already have gyros for stabilisation. I saw it on five so it must be true!

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Flywheel catapults

      The F35 has an all up weight of 27000kg. Assuming a take off speed of 140 knots (not sure if that is right), we have to get an 27000kg from 0 to 70ms-1 in a couple of seconds. Kinetic energy requirement is 66MJ. I'm pretty sure that is higher than most flywheels can store. Spooling up the flywheel is probably going to be just as hard as firing an electromagnetic shuttle.

      The most obvious answer is to put nuclear reactors in the ship rather than relying on hydrocarbon fuel. It would also have the distinct advantage of making the ships rather more easy to operate anywhere in the world without having to protect refueling ships as well.

  14. GeorgeTuk

    Same argument as always...

    ...the Type 45 was built (at an inflated price natch!) to defend the carriers and the fleet.

    I defo think the magnetic launch is good, it must be cheaper, if you can do it in a theme park then you are halfway there. Plus would make an awesome waterslide/ride!

  15. TeeCee Gold badge


    Or just the AR bit?

    It's possible that they're looking at the idea of fitting arrestor gear to get around the "bring back" problems associated with the STOVL "ski jump" approach.

    An F35B with a hook on the end would be able to perform a short takeoff and an arrested landing with no expensive (and currently non-existant) electropult carrier refit required. Arrestor gear works on wires 'n hydraulic dampers, requiring no power bar that required to "rewind" it.

    They could just be training for "traps", with any catapult takeoffs in there purely 'cos in order to practice landings it's also necessary to perform an equivalent number of takeoffs.

    Pirate, 'cos of the nautical connection and, of course, "AR"......

    1. /dev/null

      Er, no...

      No, they're looking at CATOBAR so they can spend less money by buying cheaper F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead of F-35Bs. As Lewis says, it also allows the use of E-2s for AEW, instead of some AEW version of the V-22 that doesn't exist yet and we couldn't afford anyway.

    2. Dave Bell

      Small Problem

      This vertical landing stuff needs close attention to be paid to the weight of the aircraft. And there are a lot of differences to the fuselage structure.

      I really hope the fuselage is strong enough to take the load of the landing, or you might have some rather odd-looking aircraft skidding over the bow.

      I doubt it can be done at this stage of the aircraft development, but it doesn't look so daft an idea.

  16. JaitcH

    Cameron cuts and the new aircraft carrier(s)

    With Cameron trying to out do Thatcher it might come down to catapults OR aircraft.

    Last time it was destroyers running around with their main armament missing until they scraped the Euro's together.

    This time there is an alternative. Install the catapults and whilst they save up for aircraft they could use the catapults to launch bloody great rocks at the enemy. Rocks are cheaper, too.

    1. Daniel Wilkie

      Not to make it all political but...

      Four Words - 1966 Defence White Paper :p

      Also - the T45's missing PAAMS were nothing to do with Thatcher, I hardly think it's fair to blame her for that :P

      Or do you mean Sea Dart on the 42's, which I'm pretty positive was in place from launch?

    2. Mark 65


      "With Cameron trying to out do Thatcher it might come down to catapults OR aircraft."

      What a great idea, we could just fling shit from the UK. Old knackered cash for clunkers etc.

      "Stop that right now you nasty 3rd-World oppressor with huge hydrocarbon resources or we'll start flinging Austin Princesses at you"

  17. NogginTheNog


    An electro-magnetic catapult? But won't any plane (made out of a LOT of metal) just stick to it at the end of the runway..?? :-\

    1. Anonymous Coward

      A few very quick points

      I hope you are being sarcastic, but if not.

      1) Most planes have very little ferrous metal in them. A huge number of modern military jets are largely carbon fibre. Undercarriage are usually magnesium or similar. Metal used is usually aluminium, or other low weight high strength metals. You have to start looking in the engine to find any decent amount of ferrous metal, and that is a long way away from the catapult.

      2) You do realise how fast you can switch off an electromagnetic field?

      3) This isn't going to be some Wile E Coyote special with a huge horseshoe magnet on a bit of string with a rock you drop off the end of the ship. You play with electromagnetic fields to fire a shuttle along a track. Kind of a fast version of Maglev trains. When you last went on a Maglev train, did you find the nails in your shoes, your watch or your belt buckle stuck to the train?

      1. Keith T

        The EM field is well under the deck away from the aircraft

        Yes, the shoe dragging the aircraft would be in a channel under the deck.

        It is that channel under the deck where the linear drive electric catapult motor would be.

        I imagine it has to be well shielded from the aircraft's avionics. That should be no problem.

      2. NogginTheNog

        Yes I was making a joke.

        Thanks for taking the time to point out the silliness of it though ;-)

    2. Brutus

      Good point, but...

      aren't the planes mainly made of ceramics, non-ferrous metals and carbon-fibre these days?

    3. Steve Evans

      Re: Magnetic...

      Well they don't have much choice... They decided to go with a gas turbine driven design ship, so they don't have any steam to drive the regular steam driven launch system (which was actually invented by a Brit!). Why they didn't go with years of experience and user Nuclear I will never know.

      Basically they painted themselves into a corner.

      1. SkippyBing

        Blame CND

        UK Policy is not to have nuclear powered surface ships. I don't think this is actually the RN's choice but foisted on them by generations of politicians/civil servants. A non-nuke ship does have more options for port visits, but even if the policy was reversed now it's too late for the carriers what with large chunks of them actually being welded together even as I type.

      2. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

        No nukes for carriers

        Perhaps we're saving our "nuclear material allowance" from the yanks for new Tridents?

        Now there's an investment.

      3. F111F

        It's the weight...

        EMALS is significantly lighter than the steam system, has fewer moving parts, takes up less space, is infinitly adjustable (even during the launch), can be reset for different types of aircraft quicker than steam systems, and takes fewer people to operate and maintain. Those are what are supposed to be the benefits of converting...assuming it actually does work. US trials are in full-weight toss testing, using weighted sleds on a land-based test system. It doesn't seem to be too far behind the needed timeline, or too far over projected costs, yet.

        Go, because isn't it time to move beyond steam power?

      4. Keith T

        Chemical drive catapult would be an option

        Basically a plunger with an explosive charge.

  18. hammarbtyp

    Still a little way to go...

    While Electro Catapults are a great idea, we are a little away from realising there potential. The Converteam one was only a proof of concept and at present has only launched lightweight drones.

    Scaling it up to reliably launch a fighter, never mind a AEW aircraft is going to take considerable engineering so I would be surprised if there was one available for the launch of the carrier.

  19. Wibble257
    Thumb Down

    Anti-RAF again

    What a surprise, an anti-RAF article by LP!! He really can’t let the fact that the RAF would not hire him as a pilot go can he.

    The RAF does not care if the Navy get some good toys like the FA18 (the F35 is over hyped and will be a jack of all trades, master of none) as they will love to fly against modern aircraft like that. By the time whatever new carrier aircraft come into service (assuming they don’t get cut) the Typhoon will be in full serivce, even if in reduced number, and capable of both Air Defence and Ground Attack above the standards of the F18 anyway.

    The worry should be the skill fade inflicted on all the Navy fast jet pilots who no longer fly air defence aircraft or associated missions. The Navy will be reliant on the RAF re-teaching them those skills which I have no doubts the RAF will be happy to oblige as the petty inter service squabbles are mostly in LPs head.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Anti-RAF again

      Yes, Lewis even conveniently forgot to mention that RAF Tornados have been thrashing F/A-18s in NATO bombing exercises for years. A hooked Typhoon would be faster and more capable than an F/A-18, especially in the airCAP role primarily required to secure the airspace around the fleet, and it looks like we will have a number of spare Typhoons. And for all the people saying the navalised Typhoon program was stopped, there is nothing too major in starting it again, and navalising the Typhoon would probably be easier than integrating the F/A-18 into the RN seeing as we already have a supplychain and servicing capability in the RAF for Typhoons. In fact, the RAF would probably like that as it would give them even more control over the RN aircraft.

      I do agree with Lewis that the old Hawkeye is the best off-the-shelf naval AWACS option. But, I suspect we would end up with some hideous compromise based around a navalised Sentinel R1 ASTOR as a cop-out under the Future Organic Airborne Early Warning project. I suspect the SeaKing ASaC7s to carry on in the meantime as it's likely any new carrier will also carry ASW SeaKings for local ASW patrols, and if Cameron gives the Future Organic Airborne Early Warning project the chop I suspect it will then be a straight fight between Hawkeyes and the ASaC7s, with the SeaKings seen as "good enough but cheaper". I think the RN would accept ASaC7s as it would also give the Type 45s more of a reason to exist.

      /Yeaarrrghh, of course.

      1. Jason Tan

        How have those Tornadoes been ....

        doing against the Hornets in Air to Air?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          RE: How have those Tornadoes been ....

          "..... doing against the Hornets in Air to Air?" Good enough, much better than most people realise, especially given the advantages the original F3 had over the original F-18 - four long-range AAMs to the F-18's two when carrying tanks and better speed, especially at low level. The move to AMRAAM has finally given the F/A-18 some combat persistance, as long as it doesn't need to carry tanks. The Typhoon is simply a different class to the SuperHornet in air-combat, it's like comparing one fo the new, fat and over-hyped MINIs to a Formula 1 car (and no, the F/A-18 is the fat and over-hyped one).

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Magnetic? V2.

    I hope that being hurled from a huge eletromagnetic trebuchet (I wanted the French word for the "pun" of it) won´t erase any credit cards. I've heard a story or two about soldiers getting their hands on "useful resources" because they had either Amex , Visa, or Mastercard with them during a tight spot. Not everybody is at war, and some people are up for profit, you know. Not to mention a movie gag or two.

    Plus you must make sure your planes are made of metal. At least most of it, and not some fancy composite like carbon fiber. Steam will push anything at all, it doesn´t need to be always metal.

    And yes, I never leave without my CCs, check the coat pocket.


    1. F111F

      By shuttle, not magnet..

      The aircraft will be launched via a shuttle holding the nose gear. The EMALS system uses an electro-magnetic rail that the shuttle moves along. Aside from being able to handle the stresses associated with a 6G launch, it doesn't matter what the aircraft is made of.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    There is no way the UK is going to buy F-18s

    The article is nonsense.

    There is no way the UK is going to buy F-18s - an aircraft originally designed in the 1970s. Eurofighter and F-35 are both a generation ahead of the F-18.

    You say Eurofighter was "designed as a pure air-defence platform" - No it wasn't. It's optimised for air defence but the design includes a significant air to ground capability.

    1. Keith T

      Current F18 is the Super Hornet, a half generation ahead of the original F18

      The current F18 is the Super Hornet, a half generation ahead of the original F18. It only entered service with the USN in 1999, and finally replaced the Tomcat in 2006.

      I assume that is what LP was referring to.

      The Royal Australian Airforce ordered some F/A 18E/F in 2007 and are only beginning to receive them now.

      So they are not an obsolete by any means.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no way the UK is going to buy F-18s

      > You say Eurofighter was "designed as a pure air-defence platform" -

      > No it wasn't. It's optimised for air defence but the design includes

      > a significant air to ground capability.

      Which the Germans who have no interest in mud-moving have dilly-dallied over implementing for so long that its capability for dropping things is more than ten years overdue. Hence the lack of Typhoons supporting the lads out in Afghanistan.

      Not that the German record on kitting other things in the sky is much better. Remember the debacle over the accuracy of the cannon as an A-A weapon? it's so bad that the RAF actually refused to fire it and are carrying round a perfectly good cannon as ballast.

      No wonder they call it British Waste-of-space.

      1. Wibble257


        The reason the Typhoon is not in Afghansistan is because the RAF do not have enough airframes and crew to support it along with QRA both in Blighty and the Falklands.

        Who says the RAF are not using or will not use the canon? Got a source other than PPrune or E-Goat?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      The more things change, the more they stay the same...

      Takes me back a few years, the expensive, state of the art Hawker Hunter was in competition with the cheap as chips Folland Gnat for an RAF fighter gig. Some folks (esp Teddy Petter, designer of the Gnat) figured that it was better to have more cheap fighters, than a few expensive ones.

      The RAF of course, went for the 'fighter that Harrods would sell you', rather than the Gnat (they converted the Gnat into a trainer, and it became famous as the 'ride' of the Red Arrows). Some time later, the cheap Gnat consistently thrashed more expensive fighters in a war in the sub continent.

      2 air groups of F-18 is better than 1 air group of F-35 in my humble opinion.... And the Hawkeye to seal the deal. Lewis is probably right, just this once.

    4. Jason Tan

      Actually the F18E is a fairly comprehensively upgraded beast...

      - not really the same as a F18A/B/C/D at all.

      Semi stealthy , larger fuel fraction etc.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    What a *possible* weapon.

    Granted you have to point the whole ship but what sort of "takeoff" speed would say a 10Kg projectile achieve.

    Quite high I'm guessing.

  23. Alexander 3

    Radar LoS problems

    A little off topic, but if you want to see over the horizon, why not float some large balloons with the needed radar gear up a couple kilometers? You'd see as far or further than you would with an aircraft, would have "infinite" loiter time, cheap and replaceable operation. The whole radar beacon thing might be a problem, but if you were in a hot zone you could untether them and let them float away while sending data back for a couple hours.

    The US border partol did something similar:

    1. Keith T

      Ballons are out near hostile territory

      Balloons are out near hostile territory because they can be brought down by home built radio controlled aircraft.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      An AWACS can go even higher.

      The normal operating altitude of an E-2 AWACS is about 7.5km. At that height, it can detect planes and the like from over 300km away and covers a pretty sizable expanse of land or sea. Not only that, AWACS tend to operate some distance in front from the carrier group, where its early warning capability is best employed. Such a platform cannot be duplicated reliably by a floating apparatus; not to mention an aircraft can actually MOVE in response to situations.

  24. Jemma

    ...and repeat, ad nauseum

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. It makes little difference what we do - if the US dont invade us the chinese will and whatever crates the RAF/RN end up flying makes not a jot of difference.

    We havent been a world power since arguably before the 1900s - its unlikely that we will be again any time soon. We've sold off most of our manufacturing infrastructure to a mixture of the chinese and the US anyway...

    To quote Terry Pratchett -

    Let others boast of martial dash

    For we have boldly fought with cash

    We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes

    We own all your generals - touch us and you'll lose.

    The trouble is it will be other people singing that at us - assuming that we can understand them and they can understand english humour (and it hasnt been burnt for being anti-communist etc).

    If all the money that is spent bitching and whining alone about what the military are going to able to do was used constructively on projects to enhance life other than destroy it at least we might have a nice life up until whoever it happens to be invades us and impales dead babies on sticks...

    Because whatever else you think you can believe this - if there is some sort of global conflict in the near future the chances of these sceptred isles being anything more than a smoking crater with old crusties wandering the countryside telling trees "this ere used to be the ci-ty of Lon Don" is about equal with the chance of Reichsfuhrer David von Cameron having a sex change...

    And as for Trident? not so much a white elephant as a borderline psychotic Elasmotherium is sitting in the corner of my room mommy....

    We are not in that league, however much we may want to be, and we still havent learned the lessons of the war we 'won'. Our transport infrastructure is old and falling apart, we dont have enough housing... we are fighting a war on drugs & on terror that are a national disgrace... and we wanna build some nuclear submarines so we can go play in the swimming pool with the big boys... *sigh*

    1. Mark 65

      Er, no

      "We havent been a world power since arguably before the 1900s"

      In WWI we had the World's largest navy by far. From a simple internet search...

      "By early 1914 the Royal Navy had 18 modern dreadnoughts (6 more under construction), 10 battlecruisers, 20 town cruisers, 15 scout cruisers, 200 destroyers, 29 battleships (pre-dreadnought design) and 150 cruisers built before 1907. "

      I'd say that is the armaments of a World power.

      Just for the record, w.t.f would the Chinese or Americans invade?

      I think you need to calm down a get back to your Greenham Common campsite or wherever it is you "we don't need a military" types hang out these days.

      1. Jemma

        In response

        I suggest you read your history - the British empire was already well on the way to unraveling before 1900 - the only problem was generally that nobody really noticed because they were too busy playing canasta. I mention the various revolts in India for example - not to mention the disaster that was Afghanistan 1842 (and who says history doesn't repeat itself). You can almost imagine

        Elphinstone "I'm not a man to make up my mind ..."

        Blackadder "yes, we've noticed that..."

        And there, what a nice boy, you've saved me my old breath. While it is true we did have a large navy - the majority of the capital units were outdated pre-dreadnoughts (so no change there then) alot of which could just about manage 15 knots on a good day against a Kaiserliche Marine that was all new vessels, most of which were equal or better than their comparative units in the RN. Oh and should I mention that 3 of our cruisers were taken out in the space of 20 minutes by one submarine.. a unit in which the RN was severely lacking - and what they did have were generally petrol/electric boats that were more of danger to their crew than anything else bar the odd haddock, not to mention that some of those cruisers in outlying areas still were rigged for sail no less and alot of them were stuck in the back end of nowhere and as such utterly useless. And I probably should keep quiet about the part where in the one decent sea battle in the whole war at least two of our ships spontaneously exploded because of bad design (a design carried over into HMS Hood that did its own firework impression 20 years later)- and the German battlecruiser Seydlitz took 21 main calibre hits, one torpedo hit and several secondary battery hits - took on 5000 tonnes of water and yet still managed to get home under her own power. Made my point yet?

        The sole reason we were able to hold some semblance of world power was that navy and I suggest you have a look at the naval treaties of 1922 to find out what happened to it afterwards. Spurious, Curious and Outrageous anyone?...

        The Chinese would be more than happy to invade both Europe and Russia should they be pushed to that point - while they have some resources that we need, we have some that they need. If a trade war develops they are in a much better position than we are should it turn 'hot' - and by we I mean the whole of Europe and to a lesser extent Russia. Last time I looked the British isles was part of Europe. To be frank the Chinese already own alot of our manufacturing base either through direct takeovers (MG/Rover) or background investment. The fact that the other communist power has collapsed has made them more dangerous not less - and the way their economy is growing plus the fact that the communist government there is still very militaristic and very much in control means they have both the resources and the underlying will to squish us like a bug should they so wish.

        It can be argued that the US have already invaded - since most of our 'defense' is at their beck and call anyway or was - why do you think so many air force bases shut down in the last 10-20 years - thats right - the Americans didn't need them since there wasn't a cold war any more and we couldn't afford to run them.

        And no, I am not a pacifist, but neither am I an idiot... a good commander knows when to commit forces and how to withdraw them when they know they are being wasted. As it stands the only way Europe could hope to win a war against china is if the USA assisted and we collectively went more into hock with them and I honestly doubt, considering the way the PHB's are sniping at each other since the 2008 crisis that there will be any chance of that - at least within a timeframe that might have an effect. It makes not a jot of difference if your plane is better than the ones attacking you, if there is one of you and 30 of them, you are going to lose - a lesson learned in Russia circa 1942.

        1. Daren Nestor

          You must be kidding...

          Sure, the British fleet in WWI had many outdated ships, but it wsas twice the size of the next largest 2 navies put together. That was the British naval doctrine.

          There were revolts and trouble, but the British Empire (the largest the world had ever seen, remember, by any measure) was, in the main, at peace. And it lasted a fair bit after 1918 too. Whatever many Americans believe, they didn't win the war themselves, and the British bankrupted the largest empire the world has ever seen to fight a war *on a point of principle*. Easy to forget, that (and I'm Irish - trust me when I say that our history books don't paint the British Empire in the nicest of lights).

          As for Europe - you paint that tired old picture of a failing, decaying continent that can't keep up. It is simply not true. The European Union members, for historical reasons, are very reluctant to militarize. And no-one really wants them to, either. If you look at Europe as a whole, it's a superpower, but it's fragmented at the moment and the other powers like it that way. It's a sleeping giant, and no-one really wants it to wake up.

  25. asiaseen

    Frigates and detroyers for cocktail parties?

    Aircraft carriers are even better for cocktail parties - all that hangar space.

    Been there, done that, got laid

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Who needs AEW heloes or planes

    Give the job to a stealthy UAV. Remember that article on Taranis?

  27. Rogerborg

    "well-equipped enemy air defences"

    Presumably crewed by Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Man Friendly Lesbians, since we're about as likely to encounter them in any potential target.

  28. tomsk

    Longevity of F18?

    So how well would even recent ('super') versions of the F18 be expected to hold up in a carrier-defence/ground-attack role over the next 20-30 years? It's a 30-year-old airframe already; seems to me it'd be hard-pushed to get near even recent Russian fighters, let alone the kind of thing that may appear over the life of these carriers? Said recent Russian fighters could be appearing all over the place before too long. The F35 at least has stealth…

  29. Russell Long

    @"Why not balloons"?

    A couple of reasons that I can think of:

    The size of balloon required to shift the radar platform, the time to inflate, the strength of the winch and the thickness of the cable required to keep the balloon under control, and the storage space required for all of this.

    Further, the balloon can only float above the carrier, and since it's a huge, visible radar signal what it's basically doing is advertising to the enemy the precise location of the enemy carrier group, whereas an aircraft can stand 100 miles or so away.

    1. Eke


      You could ofcourse buy a dozen cheap freighters with plenty of capacity and have them sail around the carrier 100s of miles away.

  30. Number6


    I'd hate to be responsible for getting an electromagnetic catapult through the EMC testing. I wonder how far away a launch could be detected/pinpointed. You'd probably find that any hostile submarine in the area (and subs can be pretty hard to find if they're trying to hide) would be able to use it as a homing beacon unless it's well-shielded.

  31. Craig Vaughton

    What about..

    We could always go Euro and buy Rafale's off Dassault?

    Oh wait a minute, couldn't we have done that ages ago instead of developing Typhoon? But no, we threw a strop because the French wanted design authority, wanted to keep the weight down to operate off their small-ish carrier and wanted a single engine. I can appreciate the twin engine bit, but at least Rafale is in service (though it did get fat!) ! Meanwhile we eventually get an even more over budget plane that's useless as a ground pounder which is what we need now, unless we fork out even more to the Preston mafia.

    We could always navalise Typhoon I suppose? Ok, maybe not...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      About the Rafale

      Rafale is twin-engined, though less powerful than the Typhoon. And it will get an active (AESA) radar sooner than the Typhoon. Navalising the Typhoon has already been envisaged, but abandoned because of huge expected costs (too much redesign needed). Both are no slouch compared to their US counterparts (except the radar). Many discussions about both aircraft (and all others...) on KeyPublishing forums.

  32. Big Bear


    Afraid I'm going to have to call you up on some points there;

    The RN of 1914 had many, many dreadnoughts, from the original 1906 12-inch HMS Dreadnought, and three classes of very similar ships (about 12 ships IIRC), to 20 so-called "super-dreadnoughts" that followed HMS Orion, carrying 13.5-inch guns, including the superlative 15-inch gunned Queen Elizabeths that were fast enough to accompany Beatty's battlecruisers at Jutland. The many pre-dreadnoughts were used in less intensive affairs such as the Dardanelles campaign and HMS Canopus was involved in the Falklands battle hunting Gneisenau and Scharnhorst under von Spee.

    The Kaiser's navy, on the other hand, was composed of about 15-20 dreadnoughts, usually carrying 12-inch armament, and indeed I believe they sailed into Jutland with pre-dreadnoughts in Scheer's High Seas Fleet, whereas the British did not have any, just dreadnoughts.

    Another area of comparison is the design aim of the ships - the British Empire still spanned a lot of territory so they designed far ranging ships of superior sea worthiness, range and endurance, whereas the Kaiser's ships were generally considered to be sturdily built, but as a consequence of that lacking the legs or comfort for crews to go on extended sorties. They were designed to fight in the confined spaces of the North Sea close to safe harbour, whereas the Royal Navy had to choose to weaken protection for extended range in protecting the Empire's trade. Sir Jackie Fisher, who created the concept of the dreadnought, went on to create the battlecruiser, designed to outrun what she couldn't outgun, and outgun anything that could catch her. These ships were woefully underarmoured, and the final designs such as HMS Furious were armed with the most massive 18-inch guns, but barely 3 inches of armour on the main belt!

    During the Battle Of Jutland, Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible were all lost to catastrophic explosions, but it has been shown that the designed "best practice" was not being followed, as highly explosive cordite was stored everywhere for ease of access and the flashguards were removed, something that cannot be blamed on the ship design, but rather the all-out aggressiveness of the Royal Navy ever since the time of Nelson. One major problem that Beatty had during the early phase of the battle when he lost two ships was he was firing at Hipper's dimly sighted battlecruisers whilst being silloutted by the setting sun, a most unfavourable situation, but his entire purpose was to draw the German fleet into Jellicoe's Grand Fleet which he did superbly. Jellicoe managed to deploy his fleet to cross the "T" of the opponent, but Scheer's fantastical "Scheer Turn" saved his own fleet, combined with the distraction of the suicidal Death Ride of Hipper's battlecruisers, which they got away with due to the closing darkness and Royal Navy communications incompetence.

    HMS Hood's situation was just bad luck IMHO, sending an old ship out against the Bismark. Hood was never seriously upgraded like many other ships, as she was out showing the flag everywhere, so she never got the increased armour, redesigned protection schemes and uprated machinery that other vessels got, the most extreme of which was HMS Warspite, who was basically a new ship afterwards! I agree with the thought that it was the secondary armament that caused the explosion on her - her 5.5-inch guns were still the old-style single, non-turreted emplacements, with the ammunition feeds being essentially open to all and sundry. It was unfortunate that Admiral Holland refused Captain Leach's offer to let his newer, much more heavily protected HMS Prince Of Wales to take the lead in closing with the Bismark and Prinz Eugen, as a KGV-class battleship could probably have come through the battle as the main target better than the old lady of the fleet...

    1. Alex King

      Yes, yes.... military history is bigger than yours. Whatever.

      I think the fundamental point that Jemma started out by making (but which quickly got lost in a gush of historical point scoring) is a valid one:

      We are a small country, not a massive empire, and should start behaving like one. Everybody in the UK would have a much higher standard of living if we could just stop spunking all our money away on an enterprise whose sole purpose at the moment seems to be annoying arabs.

      If a regime is crazy enough to start lobbing nukes in our direction (North Korea, Iran) then it's not going to matter whether we equip our carriers with F35s, F18s or Hurricanes. Much more likely is state-sponsored terrorism in any case, and in this situation said planes would be about as much use as the proverbial monopod gentleman in the posterior hoofing tournament.

      Furthermore, the argument for supporting manuafacturing industry is also nonsense. Who makes more stuff these days - Germany and Japan, or the UK?

      Nope, hack the budget back by 50% and turn it into a true defence force, and lets concentrate on doing that well, rather than our current role badly.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Why we're not so small a country.

        ".....We are a small country....." Depends on your terms of reference. The UK is actually an economic "large" country as it has a dense population with considrable earning and spending power. Our standard of living is actually quite good compared even to other European countries such as Greece or Spain. Which is why we can maintain such large Armed Forces.

        " enterprise whose sole purpose at the moment seems to be annoying arabs...." So which "arabs" would that be, or do you just mean Muslims in general? Shias or Sunni? See, your verbal spunking is kind of short in what most of us call facts or argument. And if by "arabs" you mean Al Quaeda and the Taleban, maybe you should read a bit of modern history rather than WW1's and check out the reasons why the West went into Afghanistan.

        ".....Much more likely is state-sponsored terrorism...." In fact, the UK faces several potential scenarios, one being UN-sponsored peacekeeping, which could be done with cheaper jets such as the Hawk 205. But even tinpot African dictators are buying relatively sophisticated fighters from Russia and China, so any UN peacekeeping mission such as Darfur could mean having to use top-grade fighters. Another scenario is said state-sponsored terrorism, and if that sponsor is a well-armed state like Iran, and NATO decides enough is enough, we will need an ability to gain air superiority over Iran, and that will probably happen from carriers operating from the Gulf and using sophisitcated fighters, not Hurricanes. And then there is the possibility that another Russian Baltic adventure like the Georgian affair could see NATO dragged into defending against top-grade Russian fighters. Are you still so sure we don't need a good fighter force?

        ".....Who makes more stuff these days - Germany and Japan, or the UK?...." Whilst we don't have as much of a manufacturing industry as we used to, we still do have quite a sizeable manufacturing base. I know it's fashionable to make out that the UK is just a dead man walking, but it's still one of the largest economies in Europe and was ranked sixth in World GDP figures in 2009, so quite important.

        ".....turn it into a true defence force...." Actually, I used to be quite in favour of the old isolationist stance, the problem is it means you have to deal with the problem later when it has grown and comes knocking on your door (like 9/11) rather than earlier when it is easier to deal with (like.... actually, our politicians have a bad habit of wating for problems to come knocking rather than dealing with hard political issues).

  33. Anonymous Coward


    Is the Select Committee on Defence where Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup had to defend the debacle a good enough citation?

    I wonder if Sir Jock realised the irony of his use of the word "accuracy" in his answers? It was only partly down to gun support costs. Ask these people...

  34. E 2

    Power consumption

    An EM catapult system would require large amounts of electrical power, yes? Do these two UK carriers have power plants capable of generating such power?

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      That is when

      The navy quietly go for nuclear propulsion for their ships. It is a bit pointless having a carrier weighing the best part of 100k tons, expected to go world wide, and be available most of the time, propelled by anything else.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Diesel is still the fuel of choice.

        It's rather easy to carry and can power even a huge ship a good ways (after all, that's what those huge and heavy cargo ships use, seeing as how compact nuclear plants are, for security reasons, military-only). As for being able to power an EM catapult, if the diesel engine is rigged to a generator (which these carriers will), then there's your power right there. One can briefly divert power from other systems if needed to power the catapult the few seconds needed to launch a plane.

  35. HKmk23

    Landing on carriers

    Er.......if they used cruise missiles I believe they don't come back, so no arrester wires etc required?

    A few Warthogs (A10's) for ground pounding, and some Hawkeye AWAC's.

    Why all this VTOL nonsense? Just to get VIP's home quick? I really wonder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      VTOL is largely redundent but is still very usfull. Back in the day surrounding west germany, the Harrier was designed to be positioned in forward bases without the need to fly about high dodging those pesky SAMs, the sea Harrier was designed because our large Carriers were mothballed leaving only pocket carriers which as we know cant land conventional aircraft, the sea harrier was perfect, very high manoverability, the ability to target multiple aircraft at range land on just about anything you feel like. Negative points where its subsonic speed and low fual.

      your A10s are very powerful craft that poses as a nice fat air target for anyone with weapons but are very god ground attack, cruise missiles are not effective against aircraft, sticking an AWACS up without air support will get it killed very quickly, so you see, you need AWACS, you need long range interceptors, and ground attack. any ship born defence systems are piss poor as the aircraft firing them could be long gone before you know that anti ship missile is even in the air.

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