back to article 'We Want Two' Navy carrier plan pondered by Cabinet

Beleaguered admirals are fighting hard to save the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers and with them the service's status as a world top-three navy, according to reports. One plan thought to be on the table bears a close resemblance to that set out in the Register's recent "We Want Two [carriers] Or No Votes For You" campaign. …


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  1. graeme leggett Silver badge

    All amphibious?

    So unless it can be moved by a helicopter the RN can't land it?

    Doesn't sound very sensible to me. Perhaps it's to force the Army to give up some vehicles - after all virtually nothing they've got can be slung under a chopper.

    Perhaps if we want to save some cash, we should scrap the PFI idiocy that is the centralised training under Metrix the planned defence academy at St Athan, Wales. That is said to cost abot £14 billion over 30 years.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Now I have a title see, let me post my comment please

    So why has nobody started a petition at that stupid gov petition site ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I have the same problem with titles. Why do we need to be creative when all we want to do is criticise?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If escort ships are so important....

    Maybe the coalition can try to satisfy both the R.N. by providing more boats AND middle-class parents by providing paddle-boats equipped with a genuine R.N. captain to take children for free boat rides at all lake-equipped parks.

    At least the taxpayer gets to see where the money goes....

    1. Thomas 18
      Thumb Up

      No problem!

      We can just have 6 captains per ship, they can rule for 4 hours a day each.

      1. arkhangelsk

        Having six Captains as COs ruins the unified command principle, but

        What we can do is rank-inflate again. Since IIRC Brit destroyers and frigates (4-5 thousand tons) already have Commanders as well as full Captains as COs, it stands to reason that the CO of a Daring class destroyer (8000-9000 ton) be a Commodore and the commander of a 65000 ton carrier (complete with wing sized Air Group to be commanded by at least a Captain) be a Rear Admiral. And yes, of course, the "PWOs" of the carriers can be of Commander-Captain rank, plus a Commodore-rank "Commander"/Executive officer, coming close to your idea.

        Say what you will about rank-inflation, but in a realistic world where we can't fire or even demote senior officers, it allows at least some of them and their experience (at least, we hope they have experience) to be put to use in operational roles rather than sitting behind a desk.

  4. alexh2o

    Good call!

    Couldn't agree more about the need for 2 carriers! Not really sure why we couldn't just leave one as a hull in dock until we can afford to outfit it properly..

    Also, aren't the Type 45's ready to be equipped with Harpoon ship killer missiles whenever we can afford that? They aren't as useless as you make out!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hate to say it

    But 'we want eight and we won't wait' was a better slogan.

    Those white elephants nearly bankrupted the country as well and proved entirely useless in warfare.

    1. Jolyon

      So long

      David Lloyd George

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Not useful?

      If the threat of the Grand Fleet didn't keep the German Navy in harbour while the blockade starved the German people, what did?

    3. Marcus Aurelius

      WW1 Battleships were useful

      The UK navy kept the German fleet and merchants bottled up for the entirety of the war.

      Even looking at Jutland, where it can be argued the Royal Navy ships were "less good", the important thing was that the Royal Navy remained undefeated and stronger than the German Navy. Those dreadnaughts certainly helped.

      Lloyd George, who I think said it, was quite pacifist (for his time) until 1912 or so, when it was obvious war was looming, and he subsequently became a very effective War Minister and (later) Prime Minister.

      In WW2, technology had moved on, and carriers became the rulers of the seas, but there was still a role for 8-10 16" guns on a floating platform....

  6. Paul 77

    A new Harrier perhaps?

    I do get annoyed that the only options for aircraft are US... It would be nice if we could actually have an aircraft industry in the UK, that did not just put aircraft together from kits bought from other nations.

    I wonder if either of the following is possible:

    a) develop a new harrier with more use of composite materials, which would hopefully make it lighter and more stealthy. Because it would be lighter it would be able to carry a heavier weapons load, or more fuel. It would probably still not be supersonic, but it could probably still be very useful in the ground attack or air support role.

    b) develop a tailhook version of the Typhoon. I'm sure I'm seeing this from a very simplistic standpoint, but apart from the tailhook and strengthened undercarriage, what changes would need to be made? Don't we have some of these in mothballs somewhere, that we could use as development aircraft?

    Just thoughts from someone sitting on a (non naval) ship in the South Atlantic...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not feasible - sorry

      a) Harrier GR7s are already made of a lot of composites, it doesn't matter; the design is inherently "unstealthy". As much as the Harrier made us all proud to be British etc. etc. its never been that useful as, y'know an actual combat aircraft (Falklands notwithstanding - they were up against some fairly poor opposition), being able to carry fuel or payload, but not much of either.

      b) Tornado is poorly suited to carrier ops because of its high speed landing characteristics. Plus, re-engineering land based aircraft for carriers is a process that's always more complex and expensive than the other way around, usually resulting in something heavier, slower and shorter-ranged than its donor aircraft. I worked on the T-45 (navalised Hawk trainer for the US Navy) back in the eighties and the damn thing was basically a new (and not better) aircraft by the time the necessary airframe work was done.

    2. Trygve

      Naval Typhoon...

      If you fit a tailhook, you'd need to strengthen the fuselage to stop it just ripping the back end of the plane off.

      Then you'd need to strengthen the wings, to stop them ripping off the fuselage during the start/stop activities. As well as reinforcing the pylons etc. to stop them coming off the wings when loaded.

      Probably a lot more fuselage reinforcement to stop the landing gear being punched through the plane when it hits the deck, and maybe some big bulges to accommodate the reinforced gear.

      You might also need to replace magnesium components in the plane with aluminium or similar for corrosion resistance, and make other change to deal with the more corrosive naval environment.

      I don't think any of this stuff was considered in the original design, so it would probably be expensive to add it all in now.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which ship

      Not the Aghulas I hope

      Sent from my computer, linked to a sat phone

      1. Paul 77

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

        Nope, not the Aghulas, but I don't want to tell you for reasons that would become obvious if I did :-)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sorry Lewis

    But you've done it again - Aircraft carriers are utterly, utterly useless in many of the Navy's current taskings - To the point where the last aircraft capable of an intercept from a carrier was retired several years ago. A carrier is completely useless in anti piracy operations. They are useless in enforcing shipping inspections, in fisheries protection, in drugs smuggling - and they're too expensive to be risked doing most of their work. The most effective work for a fleet aircraft carrier is a general war scenario - a scenario less and less likely, as we move into fourth generation warfare

    The most important ships in our current fleet are our amphibious warfare ships; particular HMS Ocean - which is pretty clapped out, and in dire need of replacement. So dire, in fact, that a defacto aircraft carrier, HMS Arc Royal (Light Aircraft Carrier, and current flagship) was pressed into the role of LPH - HMS Ocean's role!

    Combat Aircraft are useful in fourth generation warfare, but the original bid, for 150 aircraft is completely ridiculous - we have Typhoon Aircraft, which are superior in everyway to the F-35B and Super Hornet (indeed the only Super Hornet aircraft which is superior to Typh is the EW version, and the Americans will never sell all the vital software which makes this aircraft worth having in inventory), and our Typhoons are more than adequate at protecting our interests, whether launching from our own airbases, or from allied nations.

    What I'm most surprised though, is that lack of support for A British ship class, based on the thoroughly excellent America Class assault ship - capable of launching a small number of fighter bombers, operating a good sized fleet of rotary wing platforms (Osprey and Helicopters) and launching assault boats as well... much more useful for future Royal Navy and Marine Operations!

    1. Trygve

      anti piracy operations? shipping inspections? fisheries? smuggling?

      I hate to break it to you, but Frigates and destroyers are an utter waste of money in all those scenarios too.

      For those roles you can get by using a decent-size trawler with a ww2 vintage 20mm bolted on one end, a heli deck welded on the other and a few extra bunks for marines fitted in the hold.

    2. Alfred

      Your facts are just plain wrong

      "HMS Ocean - which is pretty clapped out, and in dire need of replacement."

      It's 15 years old (which is peanuts for a warship this size) and had a long refit in 2007. The "dire need" to which you refer, when Ark Royal stood in, was during the long refit. Much of what else you say is of a similar standard.

  8. DS 1


    "a) develop a new harrier with more use of composite materials, which would hopefully make it lighter and more stealthy. Because it would be lighter it would be able to carry a heavier weapons load, or more fuel. It would probably still not be supersonic, but it could probably still be very useful in the ground attack or air support role."

    The Harrier servers a brilliant purpose, and should not be scrapped. It needs a beefier engine, and a rethink on stores. As a multi-purpose aircraft, its been proven again and again in combat. Whats the reason for scrapping? Oh - it can't land on our small carriers. Note to MOD, you;ll have two big carriers. Maybe you should get a clue.

    At the very least, the Harriers could have been used as a basis for stage one aircraft, and after the payment on carriers, the later planes could have been brought in to suppliment the power of the platform.

    The entire mixed harrier force could have operated off these carriers, and could have done so as a proper cost reduction ideal.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    of course being a totally bankrupt third world nation we will be unable to get the loans to be able to buy the fuel, from other countries, to be able to run any of the damn things.

    Why do the polititians and defence commentators continue their belief in the idea that anything we say and do has no effect except, perhaps, to support the Americans.

    We are unable to afford to play with the big boys anymore as the state of our finances show.

  10. John Hughes

    "Develop a new Harrier"

    The moment you start talking about "develop a new..." you're fucked.

    Buy something that already exists for fuck's sake.

    "I do get annoyed that the only options for aircraft are US", or French.

    Who cares.


      Don't be such a pansy.

      What do you intend on replacing the Harrier with exactly?

      This isn't the sort of thing that you buy from other countries. It's the sort of thing that you sell to other countries.

      Never mind you guys. What happens when our own USMC needs to replace it's Harriers. Build a new Harrier so we have some place to buy ours.

      Expectations of total dependence or indepence are both equally absurd.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why do we need to project force on this scale?

    With expensive willy-waving substitute aircraft carriers?

    Firstly we have NATO to back us up militarily (remember that the UK has not won anything other than a small scale skirmish without allies since about 1850 and the USA has never actually achieved that) and secondly we have nukes.

    So anything we can't deal with using the current kit would be grounds to invoke the NATO treaty and anything large scale (or against another NATO member) would be grounds to go glow.

    OK, in an ideal world it would be nice to be able to piss high up the global wall through the medium of aircraft carriers but at the moment we have 2 major impediments to acheiving that erstwhile goal:

    (1) as a country we have no money.

    (2) as a country we have no fucking money.

    I would much rather the cash be spent on health, education, pensions, fixing the roads and paying off the massive national debt than buying big lad's toys so the navy can pretend that we are still the British Empire of olde Victorian times and that it is morally OK to go and bomb any Jonny Foreigners that we damn well don't like. That'll teach them. Damn foreign rotters.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The title goes here...

      People like you are living in cloud-cuckoo land if you think that we can abandon our military capability and spend it on lovely touchy-feely shit. I'm not paranoid, there really are groups and nations who are, or will be in 5-20 years, out to seize all of the dwindling natural resources at the expense of Johnny Englishman. Trust me when I tell you that the way we conduct war is positively saintly compared to the way these guys'll behave.

      When you are eating squirrel flesh and burning furniture for fuel, you'd probably wish we'd kept some military capability. But if you get your way at least you'll starve well-educated and with fine NHS teeth and a good pension you could've looked forward to.

      1. Alan Firminger

        Stop planning for the last war but one

        The competitor you refer to is China. I doubt that we could compete.

  12. DS 1


    Lewis's idea is fine, so long as its all against tin pot little sabre rattlers. The whole tin pot plan is only to look at threats now, and to ignore any powerful ability beyond. And this is all flawed because of the historically low GDP element.

    Having Ocean and 2 carriers (and historically, we can't afford to run the carriers, they spend a lot of the time in port being 'refitted' which is babble speak for resting up due to lack on ££.) Sat off somewhere, with a very small escort group that can't provide either surface defense, nor air defense, and because its small a much less viable ASW defense - is asking for a big ship loss.

    And you better be ready for it, because if one of the many little tin pot idiots gains some opportunity to gave us a great big bloody nose, they can take it. And will.

    Carrier groups of any kind require solid, thick, and deep protection. Or you will lose the carriers in combat.

    And finally, NATO and friends. Yes, we've seen what reliance on others leads you to. Men left without kit or choppers. On the day you have to go in to fight, and the day you think your good buddies will provide you with what you need, will be the day you find like we did in afganistan, that you better bring you own frigs, cruisers, and the rest, because others won't provide this for you because you thought you could do it all cheap.

    We should be spending 4+ % of GDP and during war more, and we should have been doing so proudly. The jobs, industry and the rest is not a negative. Instead we spend enormous amounts of vast seas of 'social security' and other areas. We're still at war and the military is being told to bear a brunt. Stupid beyond any measure.

    In 2-5 years, when we have to do an op on Iran, with all other choices removed, watch as people say 'where did all the Tornadoes go?'.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      even more flawed

      > And finally, NATO and friends. Yes, we've seen what reliance on others leads you to. Men left without kit or choppers.

      > you find like we did in afganistan, that you better bring you own frigs, cruisers, and the rest, because others won't provide this for you

      eh? it's not nato or others who have fucked up the supply of kit or choppers for our forces. it's the fuckwits in whitehall.

      and its american choppers who have had to do the serious lifting in afghanistan because our army doesn't fucking have enough to do the job. we're relying on others to feed and supply our troops, recover casualties, etc. some of our squaddies are alive today because others are providing the stuff our own army isn't. ffs!

      btw, afghanistan is landlocked. so frigates and cruisers (which nobody's built since before ww2 ended) are no fucking use at all in that conflict.

      1. peter_dtm

        landlocked but

        its an amphibious operation

        the initial troop deployment was from ships (Persian Gulf); and ships continue to provide staging posts for much activity. That's way Ocean is so important; she carries large numbers of marines (& possibly brown things) to be deployed INLAND. Trouble is - to defend Ocean you need aircraft carriers; and to defend carriers you need lots of (different types of) escort ships.

        Here's a cost saving - scrap all RAF bases in the UK - build 5 or 6 carriers - the UK is small enough to be covered by a couple of decent sized nuclear carriers That way we can replace the RAF with the Fleet Air Arm; reverting the Army to their traditional role of being a weapon that is deployed by the Royal Navy

        'course I'll never understand why they didn't make them nuclear powered; stupid left politics I suppose; bad enough realising they HAVE to have armed forces; never mind having to cope with the concept of clean non-polluting eco-friendly & efficient nuclear power !

      2. DS 1


        Re NATO.

        Its been a failure in UK planning for decades that shortfalls, or equipment angles can be played out in the way that someone else fills a void. Hence the point about Afganistan. Did we have buffoons in whitehall? Off course. But you need to understand that while british men and women die, 3000 helicopters exist in NATO allied Europe alone. The Americans are doing all the lifting because they are left with little choice, and are frequently shafted by their 'friends' just as we are. NATO today is meaningless and is filled with people who want the benefits of it, but not the costs. Its time some of those were actually told to bugger off.

        To be clear, its not a British OP. Its an ISAF/NATO OP, and trying to pretend that shortfalls of equipment are a british shortfall are flat out wrong. The overall mission is NATO, and the contribution of the NATO alliance is supposed to fulfill the obligation. And in that OP, we are contributing 'enough' for our part that a shortage of helicopters is a pathetic outcome from others who shirk their load and responsibility.

        Now, I know of notables who do fight, the dutch, the danes, the brits. And I'm not going to name the ones who don't, because they should leave the alliance.

        As for the British assumtion on mixed forces that fulfil missions around a lower cost idea, we've assumed for far too long that others will help us out. However, operations across the globe continue to provide clear evidence that when Britain is in the crapper and is fighting, in too many cases that strategic idea falls down totally. It does not matter what op you care to pull up, wether its serbia, iraq, afganistan, the falklands.

        If the assumption is that somehow - in a handful of years - the falklands or any similar operation could be run with - oh lets say for the sake of argument, France would provide Frigs and Cruisers to protect our now exposed carriers. No. Very doubtful.

        Now, as to the Navy being useful in Afganistan. No, off course its not. I never said it was. But its a global issue. We don't spend enough on defense, and we have a misunderstanding that others will stand and fight with us and hold their share of a burden, when that is not true. Afganistan applied to the naval issue is the same.

        These two carriers are either going to be overly exposed, and thus will be useless and kept back in case they are lost, or they will be exposed badly and plausably sunk - because everyone thinks someone else is going to protect them while they do our work.

        Carriers, and thus carrier battle groups have to be able to take on whole states. When sat off someone coast, you better be able to. And alone these carriers are going to be badly exposed and a magnet for troubles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      re Flawed

      "Carrier groups of any kind require solid, thick, and deep protection. Or you will lose the carriers in combat."

      You're missing the point; if we don't cut back on escorts, there won't be anything to escort!!! Lewis is suggesting a realignment of priorities so that the RN will have a useful purpose; when was the last time that the RN was fired on by anything more deadly than an RPG from an inshore patrol boat?

      "you find like we did in afganistan, that you better bring you own frigs, cruisers, and the rest, because others won't provide this for you"

      Afghanistan is hundreds of miles from the sea; what good is a warship (other than a carrier) to the war there?

      1. DS 1
        Thumb Up

        indeed, but

        "You're missing the point; if we don't cut back on escorts, there won't be anything to escort!!! Lewis is suggesting a realignment of priorities so that the RN will have a useful purpose; when was the last time that the RN was fired on by anything more deadly than an RPG from an inshore patrol boat?"

        You totally miss the point. Warfare is not static, and neither is the strategic element. The weapon systems to take out big ships are many and varied. And getting them is a lot easier than building the carriers. Carrier groups need multiple layers of protection and coverage, because at their centre are irreplacable assetts. The theory that somehow the carriers can be surrounded by a less numerous fleet, one that lacks capacity as well as ability means that when a crunch happens, you very well might lose the assetts. And I hate to say it, but a carrier at the bottom of an ocean does not do a job very well. And it ends totally any idea of force projection for - in our case, a decade or more. I'm sorry, but I sincerely believe any carrier group HAS to have anti air, anti surface vessel and anti sub defense at a very thick level. The whole point is force projection, not having to run the carrier fleet away from combat zones because they are utterly exposed.

        Further, everyone keeps on about RPG from inshore patrol boats. Wake up. Seriously. Even the third rate tin pots can buy large ship killers on the open arms market.

        "Afghanistan is hundreds of miles from the sea; what good is a warship (other than a carrier) to the war there?"

        We have bases in Afganistan that provide the air cover, or would if we did it properly. A carrier is not a solution. Our men need equipment, and air cover, and choppers, and they are fighting there today. Now. They don't need carriers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re. indeed, but

          "Carrier groups need multiple layers of protection and coverage"

          I wouldn't argue against this, if we had a much larger budget then this would be the way to go; but in the current climate we're discussing options that allow us to operate carriers in a more limited, but still useful fashion. Other European allies have escort ships, and this would give us options in a more serious conflict, but if we only have escorts then we're left with only operating in support of the US with its carrier groups.

          "We have bases in Afganistan that provide the air cover, or would if we did it properly. A carrier is not a solution. Our men need equipment, and air cover, and choppers, and they are fighting there today. Now. They don't need carriers."

          Again, no argument, but one of the reasons for the lack of kit for infantry operations is that the budget has been blown on less relevant stuff like air superiority fighters (Typhoon) and super frigates (Type 45).

  13. Anonymous Coward

    But what about alien invasions

    Everyone know that when the aliens reveal themselves (it can't be an invasion if they are already here) that JUMPJETS hidden in canyons will be all that saves us from annihilation.

    If we don't bu y the F-35B jumpjet versions, then when our harriers go we'll be defenceless !!!

    What about having 50% F-35B 50% F-35C.....otherwise we're doomed


  14. Joe Harrison

    As a non-matelot may I say

    this all sounds a bit strange.

    1. If we have only one carrier permanently available then won't enemies eventually hit on the plan of attacking somewhere the carrier isn't? Or attacking in two places at once? Presumably if you need it on the other side of the ocean it takes a long time to sail it there.

    2. Why is it so important to have the radar high up on an airplane instead of on the ship? What about all these incredibly expensive satellites aren't they even higher up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      no title for you

      1. Any enemy that can launch attacks on the UK on opposite sides of the world isn't going to care if you have 1 or 5 carriers.

      2. Really? you are really asking that?

    2. Chris 244

      Wow, where to begin...

      1. "Attacking where the carrier isn't". If the carrier is posted somewhere with important strategic interest, then the attack would occur ... somewhere without. "Attacking two places at once". Launching large-scale near-simultaneous attacks on multiple fronts requires a lot of resources (measured in $trillions). Just ask the United States how well that one worked out for them recently..

      2. "Radar on the ship". FFS learn to read! Can only see to the horizon, allowing the enemy aircraft/missile in close enough to kill you before you can react. Can't see where to send your firepower. Can't protect yourself against enemy submarines. "These incredibly expensive satellites". Brits don't have even one of their own (rely on US data). Can see a very small patch of the earth at any one time (SAR-Lupe sees a box 5.5km2 at <50cm resolution). Move out of view very quickly. Response time measured in hours. Spend majority of time over parts of the earth you have no interest in. Enemies know when your sat is overhead. Are incredibly expensive. And you don't have one.

      I have to wonder, did I just get trolled?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Hey, Chris 244

  15. Chad H.

    Why Not Three?

    It sounds good to me!

    (See what I did there?)

    Give us Four, Or we'll show you the Door?

    (More seriously, Good article.)

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Even if they git rid of HMS Ocean, the navy will still have an amphibious capability.

    The Type 42 Destroyer can land ashore, as the HMS Nottingham proved at Wolf Rock back in 2002.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Why the hell are these carriers not nuclear powered? Plenty of steam production capability for catapults. The only problem I can see with these two large ships, is that all our eggs are in two large baskets. Even in World War Two, it proved better to have lots of small escort carriers to keep the subs down. In all truth we need both. It's the country's insurance policy. They all thought that after WW1, they'd never be another one. They even proposed to scrap the RAF altogether! The sheeple say that there is no longer a threat from Russia, but what can change one way can go the other way too. Never mind that China is trading all its useless dollars for assets abroad, and expanding its naval ambitions to match.

    The Germans sell submarines to all and sundry, we seemed to have given up after the Upholders, having a successful run with the Oberons. The Russians are buying helicopter carriers from the French. Why can't we make and sell this stuff anymore?

    If the world is going to hell in a handcart (parallels with the 1930's) then lets stay out of the next one and make a heap load of cash arming the belligerents.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "If the world is going to hell in a handcart (parallels with the 1930's) then lets stay out of the next one and make a heap load of cash arming the belligerents"

      Because it's not, perhaps?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


      >Why the hell are these carriers not nuclear powered?

      They were going to be a joint project with the French, since the French seem capable of making reactors on budget and time they would get the contract for that bit. If we go gas turbine then BAe get the job.

      These carriers are never going to do a battle of midway, their job is going around tin pot little countries to pretend we are a super power or on goodwill visits to pretend we are an empire.

      If they are nukes then it provokes WWIII when they turn up off Libya or WTFistan to sabre rattle and provokes complaints in the press when they aren't allowed into Canada, Oz, New Zealand etc on a visit because they are nukes.

      BAe won't be allowed to sell copies of them to other countries if they are nukes. Anybody you would be allowed to sell a nuke to already has carriers

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Won't someone think of the oil? Oops, I mean penguins.

        "These carriers are never going to do a battle of midway, their job is going around tin pot little countries to pretend we are a super power or on goodwill visits to pretend we are an empire."

        They will make damn sure our south american friends stay out of the Falklands, do they count as tin pot? I really don't know. Particularly useful since it looks like there's a fair ammount of the black stuff down there. Yes yes I know one drilling expedition recently drew a blank but that doesn't mean *all* the surveys carried out down there are wrong.

        As for nuke & steam cats, I'd rather our new carries could go anywhere. Our old carriers were the only ones capable of operating in the high arctic. The merkins can't because steam cats freeze solid. There is a big old bun fight brewing over the oil under the Arctic ocean at the moment and that is why the US is going with electric flingers next time.

        I vote for two carriers with electric catapults. Let the first boat carry Harriers initially to free up cash for E-2D Hawkeye. Bring in the 2nd boat and mix in one complement F18 Hornet so we then have two boats each carrying Harrier/Hornet/E-2D. Then when all the wrinkles have been ironed out of the JSF and it reaches the mass production phase retire the Harriers for F-35C. Oh and bin the 'austere' Typhoon upgrade, that'll save a bundle.

        Problably wouldn't work in the real world but from my comfy armchair that seem like a way to end up with the most capable carriers possible and to spread the cost.

      2. Chris 244
        Thumb Up

        Nuke carriers can visit Canada

        I have personally seen a Nimitz-class carrier in port in Vancouver, BC. Truly a massive bit of kit.

  18. ciaran

    One is enough!

    The UK will never not be able to rely on an ally to loan them a bit of international cooperation if needed. And if there is another falklands then a 2 week wait will solve the problem of getting your single carrier seaworthy again. Like, they had time to transform a cruise shop into a troop transporter. I think France only has one, think of the new entente cordiale that could be born!

    1. Chad H.


      So if in 5-10 years time the political situation is different and a shooting war appears inevitable, should we ask our opponents to hold off their invasion for a couple of weeks?

    2. Velv

      Apples and Mangos

      You really haven't got a clue, have you.

      "transform a cruise shop into a troop transporter"

      A cruise ship is designed to carry PEOPLE, so the leap from black tie to camouflage is not very difficult. Lick of paint on the outside and mount some machine guns on the tennis court.

      Refits of *any* ship (including cruise ships) takes months, and you cannot just stick them back together in two weeks.

      1. Chad H.

        Can't the machine gun go somewhere else

        Sorry, I just think our boys deserve the best, and that includes a tennis court.

  19. Busby


    So why exactly do we need to get rid of HMS Ocean?

    1. Glesga Snapper


      Because it was only built to civilian standards and, as such, was only intended to have a limited service life.

      In short, it's falling to bits.

  20. Will 20

    HMS Ocean

    Was designed a civilian ship with military add ons and a 20 year operational life. It was launched 15 years ago (tomorrow!) and given the first carrier is due in 2015, it's due to come out of service just as the carriers come into service.

  21. Marcus Aurelius

    2 Carriers fine, but need to go nuclear.

    If our fleet is going to consist of 2 carriers and little else, at least put a nuclear plant in them to keep them out at sea longer, and so any fuel tanks could be for the aircraft......

  22. D3F

    This is the worst article I've read in a long time..

    Yes, surface vessels may be unimportant in a major conflict but are crucial for protecting sea lanes in the event of hostility - do you intend to do this with two carriers?

    What about our SSN's? these have massive deterrent capability again naval threats.

    And as far as the F-35 is concerned, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about, it will be a paradigm shift in air operations, you're evidently one of the tin-foil-hat brigade who hasn't actually understood any of the capabilities the F-35 brings to the table relative to the Growler (EW-F18) or any other F-18 derivative, it can enter contested airspace, is an order of magnitude more survivable than any other jet we have (even the Typhoon with it's several M2 RCS) from most aspects, it is easily visible on radar (yes, even in frontal aspect) and will be easy pickings for S-400 batteries.

    The F-35 programme is actually the single most important in terms of britain's defensive capabilities, it has the ability to manage airspace in an entirely different manner to any 4th generation jet in service, has a strike capability that will be unrivalled, and through-life-costs (maintenance/refits) which will actually be far cheaper, with greater longevity than any other platform on the table. Developing 5th generation operational doctrine enables us to work in tandem with the US should the need arises and develops our capabilities to control airspace with a mixture of UAV/manned systems. Suggesting we buy F-18's would give us an expensive and limited option with a massively reduced lifespan, it's current incarnations are pushing the platform just about as far as they can go, that's why the F-35 is so important, when I see comments like those above suggesting that we scrap the contract with the US I simply reply that we will never get another chance to co-operate on major advanced tech with them, they are light years ahead in terms of capability and BAE (therefore UK jobs) are created directly from our 10+ percent stake in the project. To the idiot (above) who suggested that a typhoon would make dogmeat of an F-35 in combat, it won't even have the ability to detect it with it's obsolete CAPTOR array (not AESA, not LPI) further than a few KM. Pirate (IR detection) on the EF doesn't work well and lacks volume search capability.

    It would be seen in the US as a humiliating shafting, if you knew just how reliant BAE systems is on projects in the US, and what it would mean for british jobs if we were to crash their major procurement program for the sake of stupidity, you might reconsider your opinion.

    Its capabilities are beyond anything we can hope to develop natively, its survivability means that we don't put aircrew at risk by shafting them with an older model F-18 aircraft (which is only in continued use by the US to in order to compliment its 5th gen air doctrine), it is the single most important and effective military programme we have going on in the UK, if we shaft the americans we'll be on our own (or worse, with france) in future, given where our defense companies are currently making their money that would be an insanely short sighted and operationally stupid decision to make.

    The only solution that works is to reduce the budget cut to managable level - we could make up the shortfall by cutting 40 percent of our corrupt and pointless foreign aid programmes, why should defense have to suffer in order to provide the same capability to others.


    1. arkhangelsk

      W/O debating finer points

      if you had read Lewis' book and more of his articles, you'll know he's very much in favor of F-35s, as long as they aren't the more complex V/STOL version. They are not only more costly and inferior in most categories, but they provide an excuse for a cost-cutting Treasury to justify inferior carriers.

      Part of the much-criticized decision that Kuznetsov be a STOBAR rather than CATOBAR carrier is due to Sukhoi and Mikoyan proving that their planes can get by on a ski-jump... sometimes too much performance can be a net minus...

      So why does he want F-18s? Only because he prioritizes the acquisition of a more capable platform, and knows he has to make cuts somewhere (or at least delay the expense). In the long run, it makes sense to emphasize the base potential of the hard-to acquire ship hull. Planes can be swapped with RELATIVE ease.

  23. Evil Genius

    Hello sailors

    There's a reason that in a crisis, the US President asks "Where are the carriers?"

    The don't just project power anywhere in the world, they tell your enemies "wanna play? At your own risk!"

    In 1980 we scrapped our last real carrier. 2 years later we had exactly the war that she was designed to fight. Had we still had her, it would have been over a lot quicker (if it had even started) with a much lower loss of life.

    Nuclear power was rejected due to the very high cost of it for a carrier.

    Building them means 2 things. 1. You don't have all those ship builders on the dole figures, sorry, queue. 2. The skills need to be kept alive and passed on. BAE SSS have recently regained all their skills with the Astute class. Who'd want a strategic asset built in China or Korea?

  24. Skymonrie

    Everyone knows...

    Flying monkeys > planes

    Sharks with lasers > Anything in the sea

    Admirals Pie > Actual Admiral

    Becoming friends > Making enemies

    Last time I checked, the only real conflict to go on recently was:

    a: Started by us

    b: People with AKs, RPGs, suicide bombs

    c: Solved with a smile

    Whatever happened to the "prospect of peace"? When my father was growing up, he truly thought we'd be living in a garden of Eden using cool gadgets or out in space. What happened to that dream?

    I for one, welcome the aliens to open our eyes to what is important in's not death, that's for sure

  25. Danny 2

    Play the World

    Some of the IT posters here must've put a lot of effort into customising their 'Civ3' units. The most realistic naval threat to the UK in the near future is hundreds of thousands of tiny boats carrying starving refugees. Maybe our own security would be better enhanced by ploughing this expenditure into farming more subsidised export crops?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Play the World

      "Maybe our own security would be better enhanced by ploughing this expenditure into farming more subsidised export crops?"

      Maybe our own security would be better enhanced by not shafting people in developing nations by (1) taking their natural resources away from them (as seen when a bunch of trawlers show up to suck up local fish to serve to (diseased) farmed fish - yes, not even to actual people - in the "developed" world), (2) dumping subsidised products from mega-corporations into their markets and driving anyone still trying to make a living out of business, (3) handing corrupt "leaders" money as taxpayer-funded "aid", partly to pursue (1) but also to create a market for (2), and also to give the weapons industry some export business.

      That people in developing nations then want to find work where the money is (relatively speaking) should be no surprise to people with any capacity to digest the facts. Naturally, bigots and Daily Fail-reading "anti-immigration" politicians have no capacity to digest even facts in their most digestable and obvious form.

  26. DS 1

    Typhoon and F35

    The argument has been that we don't face Russian fighters today, so the Typhoon is an utter waste. You might apply the same arguments to an F35.

    However, the whole problem with this stupidity is stragically clear. Unless you own the sky, you are operationally imparied. Period. So, anywhere in the world we need or must operate, the function of domination has to exist. The fact that *today* you cannot cite the state or enemy plane is irrelevent. You have to be able to project this for the next 20 years or so.

    In those confines, the two planes matter. And globally, any force projection requires the ability to project on land, sea and air. And to do so effectively and with superiority. This is a premise of if you want peace prepare for war. Its not even about war. Its out being able to say, we have the superior ability. There is no need to fight, but if you choose to, if you step beyond a certain point, you can and will be dealt with and its not in dispute.

    It does not matter wether we talk about the RAF, The Navy, or the Army. We already know they are going to get hammered, and we know why. But longer term, unless the three services can take part fully in operations, and do so with superiority, the country is placed at risk.

    Its not about the simplistic threats on the table now, here today. What choices are made affect the next 20 years, and any glaring cut in capability or capacity may leave a gaping casm. The UK has to spend a higher proportion of GDP on defense. Its been too low, and given current situation, will be too low, but longer term has to be elevated up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For comparison

      After the First World War, the Treasury invented the ten-year-rule. This stated that since no war was going to be forthcoming expenditure on new ships would be held for ten years. The only thing was they kept rolling the rule forward. As such building of new capital ships was not started early enough and the RN's new battleships were still being built at the outbreak of the Second World War.

      1. Jim Morrow

        ww2 and battleships

        Stopping the navy building battleships before WW2 was a fucking stroke of genius. That war proved air power was decisive. and made battleships obsolete.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The rule

          Also stopped the UK ordering any aircraft carriers or modernizing other ships such as cruisers and destroyers.

          1. nichomach

            Yes but no...

            What would have stopped the RN buying aircraft carriers even if the 10 year rule hadn't existed was that they hated the frickin' things with a passion and would have spent the budget on battlewagons (which would have resulted in a lot more Force Zs - ).

  27. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    BAe and the US

    So the same old BAe+MOd partnership then.

    We have to buy a 20billion quid system from the US because BAe has a 1bn business in the US and that supports 1000 jobs in the UK. So isn't it cheaper to just give 20Million to each worker?

    The Canadian government is trying to use a similar argument for why they just spent $12Bn on some F35s while US cities are banned from using made in Canada components in bail out projects.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Someone's been reading arms industry videos?

    Interesting arguments but sorry, seen too many already on the lines of "Intel's new CPU line will ream AMD's current one" or "My dad is bigger than your dad". Just substitute F35 for Intel and the Typhoon for AMD and we've got the above, written as if off the back of receiving a marketing video from the parasitical arms industry. How about the possibility that the USA is actually suppressing our capability in their own interests by tying us in to their overpriced, overengineered fighters? Expensive carriers need expense in planes and expensive escort.: to think of the fuss just made of renewing a fleet of 3 nuclear strike submarines that can survive on their own.

  29. Giles Jones Gold badge


    If you're not fighting two long wars then you can afford to build such things. But building lots of ships and hardware which are no use for the wars your engaged in is a bit much. Many people have left the army because it's current work isn't defence work.

    The only downside to losing carriers would be another defence of the Falkland islands. It would be much harder to defend them.

  30. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Number of tin cans...

    Buy some from the Iranians, they seem to have the mass production of cheap navy boats figured out. And every operator can be a captain too!

  31. h4rm0ny

    Flat Earth

    I don't know about the modern military so I welcome explanations. But an argument put forth for these carriers is that you need to be able to survey large areas of the ocean from the air and to do that, your planes need a base in the ocean to land on. Isn't a carrier a very expensive solution to that? Wouldn't it be better to put a fraction of the resources into aerial drones that could remain up there for extended periods? For the sort of money you spend on carriers, you could probably field disposable drones of some sort! But I'm sure the technology to make drones that can operate up there for extended periods is in our grasp. Just a couple of weeks ago I read about the US developing some.

    Tux, because if you want your drone to stay up there for a long time, it better be running Linux.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A simple question for Lewis or whoever

    So we have established that the F35B will be very expensive, especially in the early years of production.

    We will likely have 2 (much needed) New Carriers.

    Th RN successfully operated a fleet of Sea Harriers for years.

    The Nation does not have anything like enough available money to commit to a full fleet of F35 Lift Fan equipped fighters.

    So what is wrong with doing the obvious 2+2 = 4 Math

    And outfitting the first new carrier with a 'temporary' fleet of (existing?) Harriers for a few years until

    1) The F35 is in full rate production

    2) The electro catapult has been perfected

    3) The economy has recovered

    This has the added benefit of

    a) Punting the expensive decisions until after the next election

    b) Punting the expensive decisions until after the second carrier is under construction and hopefully beyond cancelation.

    c)There still exists the option to _threaten_ to buy F18 as a bargaining position

  33. Dex

    Is it just me.....

    ....but since when did sending flaming rubble...sorry ships...towards the enemy not stop them attacking?[Spanish Inquis.....Armada sorry] just modernise the strategy, send nuclear ships verging meltdown towards them instead....instead of the threat of fire/flaming ships, we use nuclear/fallout riddled ships.

    Alternatively build 3 carriers and multi-purpose them [or build in modular format] so it can be universally used.


  34. Carrierbag Head
    Paris Hilton


    I'm not really sure about all this stuff. Couldn't we just hire Chuck Norris?

    Paris, because for some reason, there is no Chuck Norris icon.

  35. John 136

    We have to have two carriers

    Becuase it will cost £55m to have two, or £57m to have one once you total up the contractual cancellation charges ;)

    BAE don't employ an Army of lawyers and commercial people for nothing!

  36. Peter Rowan

    Lewis has written a good piece.. surprise

    I actually enjoyed his arguments on this piece as generally he has his own agenda on things However this is a good article and raises some good questions and one or two people in the comments have added to it as well. The choice of aircraft is an important one and been not in the know of what their real capability will be, I can not make choice of what is better there. On the use of the frigates etc. let them go as they are last generation. Some people say they help defend the sea lanes, not much good in Somalia are they? The sea lanes are so large, it is they are very hard to defend, a good air defence can see a lot further than ship based radar.

    On the issue of steam jets, use the electric ones and then this opens up the carrier to other aircraft from allied nations also in shared operations. On joint operations, which is what we do a lot of now also, we can provide the carrier and the allies provide the support, some people we have do it on our own, basically we can not afford it anymore, this is the same for ground operations as well. We can project ourselves to tin pot nations, but as one person said before they can get good P-800 Yakhont cruise missile from Russia, via Syria if they want to. So it is a dilemma, what to do? Well until the defence review is published we will not know, i just hope it does not cripple the armed services too much. That is my bit to the conversation anyway and to thank Lewis for an interesting read

  37. David 141

    Drone carriers

    They should replace them with drone carriers.

    (I have no particular reasoning for this statement - I just think robots are cool).

  38. Anonymous Coward

    This Is How the Carriers Will Die

    Mandatory read for all carrier fans:

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re. This Is How the Carriers Will Die

      The author makes a good point, but the extension of this logic is that all surface ships are vulnerable to ballistic missile attack.

      That doesn't mean you should abandon all surface ships, it just means you have to be careful how you operate them. The big advantage a carrier has over any other surface ship is that with a flying radar and long range strike aircraft, it has the ability to keep potential threats away from itself.

      Also, the threat outlined is from a sophisticated missile on a land based launcher (range about 3000km); so yes, the carrier is vulnerable if it attacks mainland China.

      In practical usage, carriers are good for lots of things, because aircraft themselves are flexible, they make better search and rescue platforms than frigates, better for working in support of relief workers in natural disasters, better against low-level threats in lawless areas of the world.

      You can argue against any military system in a specific scenario (why bother with guns if the opposition has armour?) but that doesn't mean that the system is useless in all situations.

      1. Charles 9


        One important word was left out of the repeated diatribe "There is no known defense against a ballistic missile." That word is "YET".

        And unless it can be physically proven that a ballistic missile cannot possibly be intercepted (which I doubt--the contrary is more likely provable), then the threat will likely be addressed in the near future: probably through some sort of anti-missile designed to get it going down. It's much more difficult to alter course going down without going off-target, and an anti-missile with the right warhead (think something like an annular ring) doesn't have to hit head-on to shred it or even send it off course.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Please make it stop

    So once again we are treated to the sight of a bunch of IT lightweights spouting ill-informed Wikipedia on matters of military hardware.

    WTF do you all consider yourselves experts whenit comes to military hardware or physics? Judging from the success rates of IT projects 95% of you can't even handle your own business let alone offer advice on these slightly more complicated topics.

    PLEASE - just give it a rest.

    1. IglooDude


      I for one consider myself an expert because I spent four years at Annapolis learning about military hardware and then eight years driving it around the ocean before I got out of uniform and into IT, and I strongly suspect that I'm not the only one here with a prior service background and an informed opinion.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Oh dear

        "eight years driving it around the ocean...prior service background...informed opinion"

        Why does "driving it around the ocean" and having a "service background" make you qualified to comment?

        I've been driving cars around all my life but I wouldn't presume to tell Ford how to build their cars.

        You're in IT now - get over it.

  40. RollinPowell

    2 carriers? how quaint!

    Don't worry you can always count on Team America instead of those carriers. We have like a gazillion carriers.

    cue Team America soundtrack....

  41. Lucas 1
    Thumb Up

    They need to get rid of that bump in the deck

    Perhaps they could iron-out that ugly ramp at the end of the flight deck. It would make for more maneuverability.

    1. arkhangelsk

      I can't say for sure that eliminating that ski-jump won't improve maneuverability

      ... an iota, since I'm not a shipbuilder or even shiphandler. What is guaranteed is that losing the ramp will kill off the carrier's STOBAR ability. Even if they eventually implement CATOBAR, a ramp still cuts the takeoff distance, which will permit heavier loads or lower power on the catapult (which is a good thing because catapult take offs really are rather stressing for even dedicated naval aircraft, not to mention making it easier to make a passable catapult due to lower power requirements).

  42. Anonymous Coward


    How about banging some of those UAVS on the carrier for long range radar cover.

    Carrier based Typhoon? FFS. The Eurofighter consortium* can't deliver capability (FLIR, Helmet Mounted Sight, ability to drop bombs**) that should have been in use by the RAF back in 2001. Typhoon should be on a Mid-Life Update by now delivering additonal and undreamed of capability.What makes you think they could navalise Typhoon at all, never mind by the time the carriers are ready - even allowing for delays building them.

    * Eurofighter Consortium = BAE Systems + EADS

    Delays aren't all British Waste-of-spaces fault

    ** Air to Surface capabiity of Typhoon is not a 'bolt-on' as so many commentards on here are always saying. It was in the requirements and design right from the get-go, but the necessary avionics capability was planned for later software releases. Unfortunately those releases have slipped and slipped and slipped. Now who's idea was it to give responsibility for developing mud-moving capability to the Germans whoc oculdn't give a monkeys chuff about offenseive capability seeing as they are still apologetic about the Blitzkrieg ?

    Give that man an arse kicking.

  43. Richard Gadsden 1

    If I was designing a navy

    If I was designing a surface navy for a small power like Britain....

    First priority would be anti-smuggling, shipping inspections etc. That means small, light, fast boats with a gun.

    Second priority would be some kind of mothership for the gunboats, so you can use them for anti-piracy operations. It would also have a helipad so you get high-altitude surveillance too (for inshore operations, you can use ground-launched helicopters).

    Third priority is a marine-landing force of some description. (HMS Ocean or equivalent - preferably two so one can be in refit and the other at sea).

    Fourth priority is an SSM platform that can smack bigger enemy ships. If designed properly (ie not the bloody Type 45) then it can be a CV escort as well, but a long-range SSM is a key part of the ship.

    Fifth priority is a carrier battlegroup, ie carrier plus escorts. As the French and HMS Ocean have proved, you should never have only one of a class - so two is the minimum number of carriers, but we don't need two full CVBGs - if a CVBG is 1CV+3DD+3FG, then we need four or five of each of the DDs and FGs; we're only going to have one CVBG at sea anyway.

    If we're not going to have the carriers, then we should scrap the entire escort fleet - ie all the Type 45s and Type 26s as well; the purpose of the escorts is to protect the carrier.

    If you want something to show the flag, then use the gunboat motherships or the SSM platform; most of this is about impressing the rubes, and they won't know the difference anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or in British terms

      1) Motor Gun Boats

      3) Helicopter Carrier

      5) Fleet carrier

  44. PlacidCasual

    always with the high technical risk solutions!

    I'm not a naval expert but I work as an engineer and I reckon I can smell a high risk solution when I see one.

    Why oh why are we buying STOVL bleeding edge fighters and AEW aircraft for our first sizable aircraft carriers in 40+ years? A CATOBAR solution with cheap proven F-18's and E-2C AEW aircraft would be so much more sensible. We could update to F-35C's 10 years down the line when we have money and they're established aircraft.

    The British have a fixation with costly early adoption and bespoke solutions. Our nuclear power station fleet has practicaly no 2 stations the same and has cost a fortune. The French have 58 rectors to 3 common designs. They have nuclear industry we have a glorious history of nuclear development.

    When it comes to a crisis we rule but when it comes to steady incremental management we suck. Someone needs to slap the brass hats around the head and remind them that when it comes to bombing medieval peasants back to the stone age tried and tested solutions is all we can afford.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    H M Gov snaps up contractors' BOGOF offer

    Royal Navy chuffed to bits with success of Reg press campaign.

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