I'll post this again to all who think CATOBAR is a good idea...
The point around being able to operate less types of planes holds less and less water by the day.
Right now there are a grand total of 4 types of aircraft in production that use CATOBAR systems. They are:
And, errrr.....thats it. The only other possible aircraft is the unmanned MQ-25 which is on the drawing board, and will be procured in limited numbers from 2025 onwards. Nothing else is on the horizon.
Of the remaining already operational CATOBAR aircraft the EA-6B and F-18 A/B/C/D have been retired from shipborne operations, the S-3 is long gone and the C-2 Greyhound is being replaced by the CMV-22 Osprey in the Carrier Onboard Delivery role. Which will of course be able to operate from a STOVL carrier.
3 of the above 4 aircraft in production (the Rafale, F-18E/F and F-35C) do roughly the same job, fighter bomber. F-35B is clearly superior to Rafale and F-18E/F. It's also the same as the F-35C with only a marginal reduction in range. In fact the UK's F-35B will be a better fighter than either of those 3 due to its VLO characteristics and Meteor and Asraam missiles (F-35C's Amraam and AIM-9X aren't in the same league).
So essentially, what it comes down to is the E-2D Hawkeye.
E-2D's cost around $250m each. The UK would need at least 12 to equip both carriers, do training, maintenance and have an attrition replacement. Thats $3bn right there. With shorebased support, training packages, spares, maintenance contract its more like $5bn. And thats before we get to the increased manning and lifetime costs.
To run a CATOBAR based CVF you'd need at least 3 (probably 4) sets of EMALS and arrestor gear. 1 for each carrier, 1 for a shorebased training facility and 1 spare. Thats at least $2-3bn just there. Those systems will also need lots more people to run then and maintain them. That would double the cost over the lifetime at a minimum to at least $4bn.
The question then is if you think getting E-2D is worth at least $10bn....and thats more than both carriers cost....together.
Personally in an age where persistent UAV support is almost here (think lots of Airbus/QinetiQ Zephyrs overhead at $4m a pop) I think it would be an enormous waste, particularly when Crowsnest will deliver a decent capability for far less.
STOVL carriers also have much safer, faster launch cycles than STOBAR. They can also conduct air ops in worse weather conditions. The disadvantages have mostly gone now, weapon bring back will be fine with the F-35B and SRVL, at least comparable with any CATOBAR fighter. The range issue is a lot closer than most people think as CATOBAR aircraft use far more fuel on launch and recovery, and have to retain a larger reserve for Bolter situations. In practically all situations the real range of an F-35C will be the same as a F-35B.