back to article MPs: This plan for proper navy carriers and jets is crazy!

Today sees the release of two new reports into the UK's plans for its future aircraft carriers and their aircraft. As is common practice, a National Audit Office document is accompanied by one from the MPs of the Commons Public Accounts Committee. Builders' concept art of the CATOBAR variant carrier for the UK. Credit: …


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  1. phuzz Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    to be fair, BAE also built the Harrier as well, although I guess they can't make much money from it any more.

  2. Big Al

    Ref. radar...

    What about unmanned aerial vehicles?

    1. horsham_sparky

      would need to be large enough to supply the necessary power for long range radar systems, so being unmanned doesn't help that much

    2. ScottAS2

      Not much help.

      UAVs are, as a rule, not much smaller and lighter than an equivalent manned aircraft, and thus are just as difficult to lob off carriers. Yes, you can ditch the seat, instrument panel and so on, but the vast majority of the stuff - engines, flight controls, sensors (especially on a radar bird!) - you need to keep a manned aircraft in the sky is also required to keep an unmanned aircraft in the sky.

      1. Rob Dobs

        maybe not much but still lighter and smaller

        Seat, Instrument panel, voice communication, oxygen, and ejection seat + parachute must weigh several hundred pounds all together. And don't forget you are removing 200lbs or so of meat from the craft as well. Surely a craft that shaves a quarter ton of its weight can be smaller and easier to store and launch.

        1. ScottAS2

          Still not much lighter or smaller

          Pilot + associated sundries is a drop in the ocean* compared to the things that unmanned aircraft still do need - engines, control surfaces, weapons, sensors, fuel (especially fuel: 200lbs of meat in an F/A-18; 14,000lbs of fuel - without drop tanks) not to mention a structure strong enough to carry all of that.

          *perhaps this isn't the best metaphor to use when discussing carrier aircraft...

          1. Monty Burns

            Balloons! Balloons to you all!

            Your all talking balloons! Thats the way to do a carrier based UAV radar platform.


            "cheaper alternatives to manned airborne early warning aircraft include unmanned tethered balloons, as used by the US Customs Service (USCS) on the Mexican border to detect drug smugglers. "

            (don't tell me a pilot can't navigate around the balloon)

            And then we also have what looks to be the "relativley" cheap space radar:


            Bung a few of those in space and you have 24/7 planet wide radar!

            So, why bother with an E2C Hawkeye?

          2. L.B.
            Thumb Down

            Pointless comparison.

            Comparing a F/A-18 to a Radar UAV is pointless.

            The UAV is not a fighter, so it does not need massive engines to fly, it does not need or want high speed.

            It will not be making 9G turns so will not need those extreamly strong wings and heavy engines and everything else needed for a heavy plane.

            It will not be carrying the meat and its life support equipment.

            All those thing do not exist in the massively successful UAV's in service today.

            The weight savings are huge, that is why a the Predator only weighs in at just over 1 metric ton fully laden. Also the Predator has a range of over 600 nmi, and can stay aloft for 24 hours.

            Something like that with a catapult system for takeoff would be ideal.

            The F/A-18 on th other hand weighs in at around 10 metric tons (empty) and 16-23 loaded.

            The Super Hornet takes that up to 14.5 tons empty and 21-30 tones loaded.

            1. despairing citizen

              Re: Pointless comparison

              yes it is a pointless comparison.

              Survielance radar system weighing 998kg (e.g. AN/APY-9) fits where on an aircraft with an MTO of 1043kg?

              That is before you have to factor in the antenna size, the structural weight to carry that, and the aerodynamics needed to keep aircraft flyable (i.e. big radar, small airframe = no control in real world weather)

              yes you could have a UAV radar drone, but it would be roughly the same size as a human operated one, and would therefore have the same take off and landing limits.

              the only advantage a UAV radar plane has for naval ops over a human one, is you can let the missile magnet get shot down, and not have to write any letters afterwards.

  3. nichomach

    You know, I was with you, Lewis...

    ...right up until the point where you launched into your standard Jeremiad against keeping the most capable strike aircraft we have as opposed to binning them for some asthmatic puffer-jets. Once again, it bears repeating (as I've said elsewhere) that "we have kept Tornado, since it is the only truly globally deployable and fully capable strike aircraft that we have, and that we have crews for. We are scrapping Harrier, because Tornado can carry anything Harrier can further, faster and a lot more of it, as well as carrying a lot of stuff that Harrier can't. That will leave us with a globally deployable air superiority fighter (Typhoon) that has a useful strike capability as well, and a globally deployable strike aircraft (Tornado) that can (with refuelling) carry anything we want to drop to anywhere we want to drop it.".

    I'm still absolutely with you on the correctness of adopting cat-and-wire carriers, though.

    1. smylar

      As you allude to there the Typhoon could pretty much do what the Tornado can (or it will in the very near future - on completion of trache 2), but with better top cover ability.

      So why in flubbery did we ditch all of CAS, Maritime and inherent flexibility of the Harrier, just so we can have two airframes that can do Strike for the next 10 years

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: smylar

        ".....So why in flubbery did we ditch all of CAS, Maritime and inherent flexibility of the Harrier, just so we can have two airframes that can do Strike for the next 10 years...." Beacuse we don't have Typhoons with Tornado-like strike capability just yet, and we won't have Tiffie pilots trained up for strike to the level currently available for several years too. I'm a big Harrier fan, but even I can see that it is more likely that we're going to need to do "surgical strikes" on terror targets around the World more than short-range ground support. Harrier is probably the best choice for the latter, but Tornado can do it and also do the global strike role the Harrier would struggle to do. We currently don't have a maritime threat where we the only solution would be a carrier (Falklands 2 is unlikely to happen with the Argies' navy in even worse state than ours!), outside of UN "peacekeeping" operations, and to be honest I'd prefer some of the other UN members to get off their arses and carry some of the load for a change. Besides, in most UN ops, we'll have lovely US nuke carriers to provide CAS and maritime duties.

        Lewis is also banging on and on again about Tornado "barely being up to the job" in Afghanistan, without mentioning the Army seems quite happy with the support they are getting from the Tornies. But the Army have a strong preference for Apaches anyway, which often deliver far more precise attacks than even the Harriers, can loiter, and manouvere in the tight Afghan valleys better than any jet. Oh, and especially as those Apaches come under Army control.....

        And F-18s are a non-starter for the simple reason that if we bought F-18s then it would be very unlikely that we'd buy any newer hooked jets. That would leave the RAF to fund the F-35 out of a much smaller pot.

        /Yaaaaar, natch.

        1. smylar

          Tranche 2 Eurofighter deliveries are underway, Eurofigthers have dropped bombs, they may not be fully up to speed just yet, so we may have a capability gap of just one or 2 years, as opposed to the huge chasm of a capability gap we now have which will last for 10 years.

          Unless we're going to launch deep penetration raids on Iran in the next couple of years (where a TLAM is probably going to do a better job, and overfly rights might not be a sure thing), there's just no need for it.

          And you do realise that Terror targets are done either by a) Drone b) Special Forces raid, Tornado is useless for that too

          (N.B. Tranche 2 should be as good or better bombers than Tornados, tranche 3 is not required for this)

          And @David Webb

          Tornados certainly don't travel everywhere at Mach 2, they can't do more if they are based 100s of miles further away, and in fact Harriers did have better availability rates. So the smaller Harrier fleet could easily do as much as the larger Tornado fleet

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            RE: smylar

            ".......And you do realise that Terror targets are done either by a) Drone....." Yes, please do explain how you are going to get very sub-sonic drones to hit the Iranian nuke facilities, which happen to be very far inland (too far for Harriers carrying a meaningful load, even if we were willing to risk carriers in the Persian Gulf)? Drones are great for attacking geurilla groups in mud huts with virtually zero air defences, but Iran is a bit more capable in that department, and the Iranian nuke facilities are bunkerised beyond the capability of any weapon a drone could carry.

            ".....b) Special Forces raid....." And do go ask the Yanks how their last major spec-ops jaunt in Iran went (Operation Eagle Claw). Iran is a very large country, so large that the force for Eagle Claw needed large transport aircraft and a desert refueling strip. A force large enough to attack and overcome the Iranian defences around their nuke facilities, plus carry the ordinance load to blow them up, would need a transport fleet! That transport fleet would require a pre-attack air-strike campaign to reduce the Iranian air defences and any ground forces in the area. So, your option involves a veritable WW3, or we could just use some Tornados flying out of Saudi or Italy and some ground-penetrator bombs.....

            1. Morat

              Good Luck getting a Tornado into Iran

              If you're going to send something that fat, slow and low into Iran you're going to need a lot more than good luck to get it to the target. The amount of effort required to kill the Iranian nuclear program requires the USA, there's no way the UK could do it alone. If it ever does happen I suspect we'll be there flying more flags than sorties.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

                RE: Good Luck getting a Tornado into Iran

                "If you're going to send something that fat, slow and low....." The Tornado, loaded even with Storm Shadow, still cruises faster low down (and is capable of a faster sprint) than the F-16s the IAF used to hit al-Kibar, or the F-15s they used to hit the PLO in Tunis.

                ".....there's no way the UK could do it alone...." Of all the possible Iranian nuke targets so far identified (sixteen mentioned in IAEA reports, including actual civillian plants like Bushehr that would probably not be targeted), only the under-a-mountain bunker at Fordow would be a problem for Storm Shadow. But, seeing as Fordow doesn't currently have any centrifuges (it is still being built), collapsing the entrance tunnels would probably be enough to delay matters there. Sites like Natanz are easy meat for Storm Shadows, and I seem to recall the RAF got 142 Tornies upgraded to the GR4 spec required to carry and launch Storm Shadow. Of the current RAF squadrons, IIRC, No.s 2, 9, 12, 31and 617 are operational with twelve GR4s each, so a mass attack would be possible even if half ran as ECM and airdef-suppression bombers. Thirty Storm Shadows would make a quite thorough mess of the Iranian nuke sites without the need for a return visit or US involvement.

                And the Tornie GR4s have experience of firing Storm Shadows in Iraq in 2003 and more recently in Libya, when they faced similar air-def as they are likely to face over Iran. Sure you don't want to think a tad longer before you claim it is impossible?

          2. Morat

            Supersonic sorties? Tornado? Please....

            There's no way that a Tornado can carry enough fuel to use its top speed to reduce its overall sortie duration. On a bomb truck like the Tornado the amount of fuel available for full throttle can be measured in seconds, a few minutes at most - and that is used for running away in an emergency not getting home in time for another trip.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              RE: Supersonic sorties? Tornado? Please....

              The Yanks practice interdiction from medium altitudes, so for them a kinetic penetrator like the MOP makes sense. But to do that mid-level attack you need a massive fleet of support aircraft to run interference, ECM, close- and exit-escort, etc. For the Yanks, a supersonic dash into the target area is preferred, using "stealth" jets to hopefully reduce the chances of being detected and targeted.

              The Tornado doesn't run in at supersonic speed, it just flies in very low (terrain following is still better at nullifying radar signature than stealth) and still fast. The supersonic dash bit is, as you say, more to do with running away from enemy fighters after having dropped the bombs. However, when it does do that running away bit, it is much faster than a clean Harrier (or even an F/A-18). Mixed with the ability to stand off and launch Storm Shadow cruise missiles from range, the Tornado would have good survivability chances against the Iranian airdef.

              Interestingly, whilst the Israelis were happy to use the mid-level tactics when provoking Syrian jets over the Beqaa Valley, for precision strikes (like the hit on the Syrian reactor at al-Kibar) they prefer the British tactic of sneaking in at low level.

      2. Danny 14


        but teh FA18 can do both reasonable well AND have carrier capability (and thus seasoned pilots thus trained) before the carriers are deployed.

      3. David Webb

        I think it was down to figures. If we'd ditched the Tornado and kept the harrier would we have had enough aircraft available to meet current and future needs? Could we have kept up our commitments in Afganistan, Iraq, Falklands etc. and still launched bombing raids on Libya or would we have a lack of aircraft for the purpose?

        Then we get into more specific details, the Tornado can travel at mach 2.2 the Harrier isn't supersonic (although there was a design for a supersonic harrier that got canned) so a Harrier requires longer to get from point A to point B and back again so Tornadoes can do more sorties, it could get from A to B and back to A before the Harrier is at point B so we can use LESS Tornadoes to obtain the same effect than we would with Harriers.

        1. Johan Bastiaansen

          Yes, well the Harrier would be going from point C, the carrier, to point B. And since point C would be much closer to point B than point A is...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Point C

            harrier goes from point C, which has to be a patch of water within 250 miles of target at B.

            point C is reached at around 25 to 30 miles per hour, not in a straight line either, due to stuff called land.

            for a quick in and out (i.e. take out an SS20 IRBM that say the Irianian revolutionary guards might have), Tornado, same day op, carrier, if egypt not willing to let us use the canal, how many weeks?

            harrier is needed for naval ops, deep strikes is not what was designed for, or can be bent into.

            also over flight requirements are only if you do not want to piss off the locals a lot, respnse to not clearing in advance is either a stiffly worded memo through to trying to find and shoot down your planes. for details see how much clearance the US got before carrying out an air assult over a major pakistan garrison town when they went after bin laden..

    2. Archie The Albatross

      "Globally deployable".......?

      "Globally deployable"? Really? As long as no-one minds if we overfly their airspace.

      The point that seems to be being missed by several country miles is that whilst the aircraft type is important, surely the effectiveness of the asset as a whole is more important.

      A carrier, even our little ski-jump jobs, with a full air group embarked, is a far more effective and quickly deployable solution to a wider range of scenarios than trying arrange overflight or base facilities with the nearest friendly state.

      Yes, Harrier is/was quite elderly and on the small side but more than made up for that in manoeuvrability and operational flexibility.

      Tornado is past it, indeed was never really up to it from the start. Too low and too slow.

      Typhoon is fast and pretty. See the shiny-shiny, don't look at the price tag.

      Shall we discreetly ignore Tornado's unfortunate proclivity for burying itself in the scenery for no (publicly admitted) reason. Along with Typhoon's galactic costs, (built, re-designed, re-built, re-built again properly, still NFU)?

      Probably for the best.

      As for politicians ability to understand even the basics of effective defence requirement, forget it. It ain't happening any time soon. The present collection of drones, chair warmers and oxygen thieves occupying the Palace of Westminster seem to regard defence as an optional extra.

      Excuse me now whilst I go and chew the carpet.

      1. Mips


        Who need enemies when you have Defence Chiefs?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Sometimes we get exactly what ask for and not what we need.

      Right about the cat and trap, shame that Lewis forgot that his Naval colleagues Harrier fetish is what let to it being deleted therefore stopping the use of better and cheaper conventional aircraft..

      Went though this all in April:

      The BBC is also giving a good report of the costs rising and the new dates expected for delivery


  4. r76

    Not nuclear?

    How far will we be able to afford to send such a vehicle using fossil fuels in 2030?

    1. Rob Dobs

      Come on, isn't it obvious?

      what do you think its for in the first place?

      Said aircraft carrier will be used to attack places that have oil and appropriate those resources to run the Aircraft carrier, kind of like a self fulfilling Catch-22.

    2. mark 63 Silver badge

      not nuclear?

      it isnt?? ( i got bored of the article part way through)

      thats complete madness , given the inexorable, exponential and completely unstoppable rise of oil prices.

      phrases like "chocolate fireguard" are springing to mind.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    Couldn't BAE build the F-18 under license?

    1. druck Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Yes, but...

      ...only if you want them to be as expensive as an F35B per unit.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      I see...

      So producing things under license makes them more expensive. Which would explain why beer is so expensive nowadays.

      I saw the 1982 Only Fools Xmas edition the other night. A "Remay Martin" and a pint of lager cost 98p. I had to rewind the V+ box to double check.

      1. druck Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Under licence and then some

        But equipment built under licence is never just a carbon copy. Usually we end up developing our own electronics at enormous expense, as either the US wont export the best stuff, or we make up some additional requirements to justify it. Then we normally swap out the engines to keep Rolls Royce workers in business. Off the shelf costs 2x the dollar price in sterling as a minimum.

  6. horsham_sparky

    Since when does common sense (or even the greater good) ever come into the heads of politicians? 'specially when vested interests, pubilicity or tabloid opinion are so much sexier

    remember, it can't be cynicism if its true :-)

    1. Asgard
      Big Brother

      Political chess moves

      This all reeks of political two faced back room dealing. The thing about politicians is, even in these austere times, as their attitude towards the banks shows all to well, its amazing how fast politicians can find money when they want to find money to pay for something and usually they pay top money for defense. So you have to ask why do they hold back and in fight about small parts of the carriers and add completely ridiculous FUD as the article said about their comments for 2020 and 2031 etc..

      The reason is our politicians have a different agenda to the one they want us to believe (and the clues are there to see). But the reason they try to hide it is because they know a lot of people would oppose them if they openly said what they really want to do.

      My attention was first drawn to the game the politicians are really playing, when they made the shocking and frankly incredulous suggestion we share carriers with France. Also in the past few years we have been able to watch one dubious move after another in how far our politicians are prepared to go and spend almost anything to prop up the European Union.

      The answer is they are treating it as if they are building a united states of Europe and that now includes their attitudes towards defense where all the states of Europe are supposed to provide collective (and increasingly shared) defense, which is what they think they are moving towards ... at least in theory. Of course in practice, we all know countries like France will argue with us every step of the way, like they always have done on defense matters, but on paper and in the minds of the political European empire builders, they behave as if it'll all work out.

      Don't believe me about a united states of Europe? ... Then also add in things like for example, the moves towards monetary union and moves towards union of no borders between European states. Also you can go back as far as the Maastricht Treaty to see how they wanted everyone to think of themselves as Citizens of the European Union. I'm not saying good or bad on these points, I'm simply saying they are happening.

      So it doesn't matter if you think the increasing moves towards European Union are good or bad. The key point is its happened regardless of what we think about it and now defense is becoming their next unification moves target and so they want it to look like current methods are failing, then they will introduce us to their solution ... such as, oh why don't we share carriers.

      Our political empire builders want to build up a united states of Europe, as its another bean feast for them. Its all part of their power games, year after year, decade after decade and its all heading in the same direction because control freaks always want more power and so year after year they try to unify more power into Europe.

      Defense is next on their hit list and the excuse will be we have no money and it'll take too long other ways (which they have delayed for years to make it take too long!). (Oh and no we don't have money, because they gave all our bloody money to the banks!).

      Its all two faced political chess moves. :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Are you a half-assimilated American immigrant? Picked up the UKIP rant and kept the American spelling? Some patriot you are.

        Perhaps, just possibly, the people paid and trained to do the analysis and the politicians who have listened to all the evidence and have got some practice in this area just may be better informed than you. Judging by your odd views of our neighbours and slavish adherence to the USA (arguably our true nemesis for many years, commercially and culturally) you are in the wrong country.

        1. Asgard

          @Anonymous Coward

          You dare to talk to me about patriotism when it is the European empire builders seeking to overthrow our country with their rule.

          I'm not against being European, I against an increasing authoritarian undemocratic federal super state.

          Here's some more damning proof of the European empire builders attitude in the news right now which helps prove what I was saying. This shows the European empire builders want their undemocratic federal super state with Germany central to the power and finally able to seek to achieve its long held ambitions for European domination. Something we fought two world wars to stop and millions died to hold them back. Yet now we are suppose to just accept these unelected EU leaders who are just puppets for Germany and France, whilst they seek to dominate us all with their increasingly dictatorial rhetoric forcing all other EU countries to fall in line with what they want!


          ... And yet you AC, dare to call my patriotism into question!!!

          1. Tilman Ahr
            Black Helicopters

            Holy shit.

            You _are_ that completely bonkers televangelist I used to get on Tv when I fell asleep over a star-trek rerun in my exchange-student year in the US back in '94 - the one who'd always wax on about how the EU was the biblical "beast". Or an AI channeling it's persona

            Well. My being German-born and not quite right-wing (by a long shot) Probably won't help with your mental issues...

  7. jason 7

    So 100% operational by 2030....

    ...and retired from service 2031 is that it?

    Am I right or am I right?

    I would like to go on record as stating I'd like to take over the running of this project. I feel that even knowing the basics of this kind of thing, I am light years ahead of everyone else running it currently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm also available

      And I should be just about to retire by the time the aircraft carrier is due to enter service (but probably won't).

      I have a suspicion that this will get a LONG way down the road before being canned - see TSR-2. One difference being that the TSR-2 was actually an impressive, ahead of the crowd project. This is a big boat with a flat top.

  8. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    Military spending is a horrendously massive pork barrel, whether you like it or not, Lewis.

  9. SuperTim

    Effin' useless.

    Our MOD procurement is the joke of the world. Even when we build the bleedin' things, we can't spec 'em up properly. Eurofighters with Guns that don't work cos we can't afford to maintain them, but they still need to be there because the plane won't fly properly without them. Ships built to immediately be mothballed, Chinooks purchased without the expensive avionics software just sat about making the hangar look all full and stuff. Landrovers being used as armour personal carriers/squaddie cookers.

    I am aghast as to how our once mighty military nation has fallen by the wayside. We deserve to be invaded, but the lax border agencies are making sure that happens without a shot being fired!

  10. Adam-the-Kiwi

    Dassault Rafale?

    Why not consider the Rafale? Comparable in cost to the F-18A but more capable, stealthier, newer airframe and avionics, also available in a carrier version.

    1. smylar

      For one it's probably politically unacceptable, and highly ironic, seeing as the French left the Eurofigther programme to build the Rafale because they wanted a Maritime version.

      Us now buying the Rafale for Maritime operations would make the French unbearably smug.

      Second we would/should probably lease/buy Super Hornets (major F-18 rebuild) which arguably makes it more modern than the Rafale. F-18s are built in much higher numbers with tonnes of spare parts so can't see the Rafale being cheaper.

      1. Adam-the-Kiwi

        Aye, I realise it would be politically difficult and make the French impossibly smug...

        Not newer than the Rafale, even in Super Hornet guise, but definitely a bit cheaper. Less capable in almost every way, though. Since we're talking about sharing carrier air groups with the French, the spares and training commonality would probably help with the overall price.

        Plus, on top of that, the UK would have a fighter that looks as good as, and flies/dogfights as well as the Eurofighter, but can actually engage ground targets too! And land on carriers, of course.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How on earth?

    Can it take twenty years from now to get to a working aircraft carrier? Are we waiting for the necessary engineers to leave kindergarten?

    I'm sure the Americans would sell us one of their nearly new aircraft carriers + air wing for a lot less than this mighty white elephant.

    1. auburnman

      It's a shame fighter planes need a big runway - if an emergency came up and we had to, we could probably buy a big civilian ship with a flat deck like a tanker and tart it up with some missiles and other military capability.

      If only we had some form of military jet capable of short or even vertical takeoffs...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: buy a big civilian ship

        done that

        it was called the Atlantic conveyor, and we lost all the helo's it was carrying, apart from the one chinook that was flying at the time.

        a less improvised version is RFA Argus (still with next to nothing in missile defences, I can only assume that either RN or MoD(PE) think close defence systems are expensive by comparison to say a ship full of sailors and aircraft)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope, the US carriers cost twice as much and are twice the size.

      The UK carriers seem basically the same, cost wise.

      The F-18 is cheaper than the Typhoon, but probably by very little. The F-18 costs about $95million

      But of course thats not including the cost of weapons integration and all that. Lifetime costs are generally 3x purchase cost of theses aircraft.

      Fly away cost of a typhoon is almost identical to the Rafale (according to India MRCA bids) but it much more aircraft.

      F-18 cost $22k per hour to fly, typhoon is probably the same. F-35 is about 50% more to fly and at least 100% more expensive than the F-18/Typhoon to buy.

      1. Mark 65

        I was with his post until he started talking about abandoning the Eurofighter and blathering about making a smart choice like the Australians in buying the F/A-18.

        1. It wasn't seen as a smart choice in Australia but was greatly questioned - "if an intermediary aircraft was always a requirement then why didn't we ditch the F-111 earlier" amongst other things. 2. Who knows what electronics they are ending up with as the yanks don't tend to give you their top of the line kit.

        3. We already signed up to the Eurofighter, trained for it and have introduced it, ditching it makes no sense unless you can break-even in the used aircraft market - we'd take another loss. As for spares, we make the f*cking aircraft.

        4. From what I've read, I'm led to believe the Typhoon shits on the F/A-18.

        5. As stated above, the French option makes more sense if an alternative were needed. Smug they might be, but continual animosity towards your immediate neighbours, trading partners and carrier partners makes little sense save for generating a red-top headline. I'm sure they'd quite like the fact that someone was endorsing their decision to go their own way. Hell, you might even forge future joint development sans EF2000 bullshit down the line.

    3. Thunderbird 2

      American Carrier. You Cannot Be Serious

      The bogs wont work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But the coca cola machines will

        with special quarters for the vending machine engineers and a stranglehold by the yanks over what we can install and when/if we can use it.

  12. H2Nick

    Recession - what recession

    So despite the fact the UK's been in recession several years (I'm ignoring the growth of 0.made_up_percent) it seems the Gov spunk-o-tron is still in overdrive.

    Thing that get's me is that they never seem to learn

    eg buying £250 milion worth of helicopters then keeping them in storage as they didn't buy the reqd software...

    It's much worse than a simple "fail"

    1. Tom 13

      Haven't you studied your history?

      The best way our of a recession/depression has ALWAYS been a nice little war.

      The problem these days is you have to do it in such a way that nobody launches the nukes...

  13. BenR

    F/A-18 avionics packages

    I could be wrong - and will thus stand to be politely corrected - but isn't one of the big stopping points about simply buying F/A-18 E/Fs from the Septics that while they will quite happily sell us the airframe and what-not, that the avionics are:

    a) still classified, and thus wouldn't be sold to us; and

    b) not 100% compatible with all the rest of our gear anyway.

    This would therefore necessitate the development of our own avionics, presumably by BAe at eye-watering expense?

    1. Dog@86G


      So the Ausies are flying them with no avionics s/w is it?

      We can't afford to build our own kit anymore.

      Everything Jaguar and after has been a pigf*** kit wise, joint venture is just a barrel of compromises. The only JV that has worked for us was the Harrier AV-8B refresh in conjunction with McD-Doug.

      Suggest we do what the rest of sensible NATO does and buy license built US or Brasilian (gasp) kit, get 2nd hand carriers from the US with proper power plants, and save a fortune.

      Yes we won't be able to design and build another combat aircraft ourselves, but really, do we see us being in another conventional conflict in the future? And the money we save could be ploughed back inot the remaining manufacturing sector and boost growth.

      BAe will continue to be listed on the London Exchange, pay tax here, and sell to pretty much anyone they want to (preferably US as they can pay their bills (atm))

      1. BenR

        It is entirely possible that I may have been confusing the reasoning behind no exports of the F-22 here.

        Although I suppose if the original post was right and I'm not just mixing them up, that the Aussies simply bought the less-capable 'for export' versions that wouldn't be suitable for our needs in some way?

        I don't know really - I'm not a military man. I just vaguely recall reading it somewhere.

        1. Annihilator


          Yup, it's the Raptor you're thinking of. But the hardware is restricted too.

  14. Saucerhead Tharpe

    Surely the answer is starng us in the face?

    Buy Russian kit

    which seems a damn sight more cost effective for our needs than the Yank kit Mr Page is usually a fan of

    Might even be able to buy an Carrier off them, or the Ukranians

    1. pepper


      I think the Russians themself are lacking carriers:

      Should be the only one they have.

      I admit though, russian naval and avian equipment is a damn bit more sexy then anything we produce in the west, take a MIG-29 for example, or those fancy nuclear cruisers:

    2. Mips


      ...but bits drop orf.

      1. pepper


        Stuff being fastened is overrated!

  15. IT Hack

    Classics are classics for a reason...

    Bring back the Buccaneer!

    coz I really really need a long cold one

    1. Archie The Albatross


      And so say all of us!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems that if any would-be invader wants to send a gunboat or two up the Thames, they can bide their time while our defence get worse and worse.

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @not nuclear?

    BAe and WVICT (Whatever Vickers Is Called Today) make their money from selling copies of the kit to foreign governments after the UK has paid all the R+D and tooling costs (and usually subsidised the sales to the foreigners).

    If you make the carriers nuke then everybody else that can reasonably (or legally) operate nukes already have bigger fleets than us - with their own carriers.

    And even BAe think it might be a little tricky to persuade the govt to give an export license for nukes to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Saudi and all the other peaceful 3rd world countries that normally buy our kit.

  18. Cat Sitting

    Margaret Hodge on the Today programme

    Did anyone hear her (as Chairman of the PAC) defending the report this morning? She so sounded like she didn't know what she's talking about, hardware-wise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MP's with at least half an idea

      it's interesting that one of the few MPs with at least half an idea about defence, had to resign from the defence commitee, as his sectary was a russian spy, (according to the government), but stragely enough, not a spy, according to the judge reviewing the evidence trying to deport her.

      when considering recent secret intel dossiers, this one seems to be about as good as the 45 minutes to attack cyprus fictiion that was created because the previous government wanted it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        If Hancock knew anything about defence, he would have been assigned one of their prettier spies!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Defence Knowledge in MP's is a relative

          Having watched the select commitee in action, the Portsmouth South MP at least understood their where some basic job differences between medical staff operating in the military and "my local A&E" as the neo-Lab idiot on the panel was twittering on about.

          This being after one witness had explained the need to crawl through a live minefield in bosnia to try and get to the injured civilian.

          Whilst Mike Hancock may be a "character," his questions in parliment do demonstrate he has been utilising his research assitant for something other than the stuff in the headlines.

          However it would be interesting to get Lord Ashdown on the Defence Select Commitee, whatch MOD squirm then

  19. MD Rackham

    No Refrigerated Deck Needed

    Despite the speculation in your two year old article, testing of the F-35B has so far shown no heat damage to standard carrier decking. The Pentagon made it pretty clear that if there was damage that the B would be cancelled.

    The F/A-18 is a fine aircraft, but by the time they were built and delivered to you they'd be pretty much EOL.

    The UK should really just accept their third-world economy and keep a third-world military. Some coastal defense and enough soldiers to keep the peasants in line is all that's needed. Following the US strategy of a third-world economy attempting to maintain a best-and-biggest in the world military would be as foolhardy for the UK as it is for the US.

  20. John A Blackley

    I have an idea

    Why don't we just scrap the whole lot and mind our own business? (And, no, don't give me any twaddle about those foreign johnnies invading - who in their right mind would want to invade Britain?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Peace in our time

      amongst other statements, such as the war to end all wars, etc.......

      peace is an illussion, the real world is full of people who would like to do you harm, either beacuase they can, or they see profit in it, or they don't like your race, creed, etc.

      Whilst an invasion of the UK mainland is >currently< unlikely, there are lots of people who wouldn't mind turning it into a radioactive wasteland, etc., just because they think we should do X, or follow Y religion. The best place to deal with that is somewhere not here, for which you have a military that can go there, and deal with it (preferably in advance).

      if you think total nuetrality and safety is cheap, have a look at Swiss defence costs.

      Tibet was pretty non-offencive, but the lack of defence capability didn't prevent the Chineese from taking advantage.

      Simply put international behaviour is still at the state of walking down dimly lit streets in a bad neighbourhodd, and there is a reason why muggers target a frail pensioner rather than a large armed police officer.

  21. Linbox

    Was all good until you got the name wrong.


    No such beast as an F-18. Never has been. Never will be.

  22. AA Cunningham

    re: The F-35B

    "For example it is strongly suspected that the terrifically hot exhaust from its downward-pointing engine will damage steel flight decks, to the point where the US government has seen fit to look into protective refrigerated decking for its ships."

    Page should familiarize himself with the results of the initial sea trials of the F-35B as conducted in October of 2011 aboard USS Wasp, rather than parrot the musings of other ill-informed critics of the aircraft. It would also be beneficial for him to learn what the delta is regarding exhaust temps between the AV-8B and the F-35B.

    Incidentally Mr. Page, the JBDs - jet blast deflectors - equipping the United States fleet of CVNs are already liquid cooled. Any angst over that?

  23. David Evans

    Still banging the Hornet drum eh Lewis?

    I agree entirely about the F-35 choices that need to be made, but forget the F-18, its rubbish anyway and UK Gov are in too deep with Typhoon to back out now. There's still time to make sensible choices about the carriers and the F-35, but the Typhoon debate is done, move on.

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