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Fat Dave

This is a brilliant article because it highlights perfectly that the UK just cannot afford carriers of this scale and scope, unless Defence is allocated more money, which is unlikely and arguably not necessary.
The carrier programme has severely unbalanced the nations defence and both carriers need to be sold immediately, with the funds and manpower reinvested into the RN.
There is simply no credible argument for carriers of this size for the UK and no supporting fiscal case to waste money, which is needed elsewhere.
Of course, presentationally it would be awkward to sell both but it’s in the nations and RN’s interest in the long term.

Paul H

See the bit about descoping what we do.


You must try to keep up. Carriers secure all our overseas territories and many Commonwealth Countries. Perhaps otherwise we will see more situations like the one developing in Hong Kong or is that what you seek?


Canada counts as “many”? Lets try and keep this in the realm of realistic scenarios please.

Last edited 4 years ago by Geo
Meirion X

Troll fat dave is just doing his mate Putin’s dirty work for a pittance
Nothing unusual here, the utter
Garbage he Sprouts, is Not even worth a pittance!

Stop wasting my taxes

You must try to keep up. Reading the article would be a start.
We will never have an effective carrier strike capability unless we spend a significantly larger amount of money, genius.


If you search GDP % of Defence spend, 1930’s, you will see a little spike towards the end of that decade, it didn’t really stop until 1946. The % attained was unparalleled in British History.


Spending Money is of course part of the answer. We need to think how much can be recirculated into our economy and how doing a job properly reflects positively on the UK. Spread over the next 4 years its NOT a significantly larger amount just as spread over the life of the carriers its even less. All crew cost goes immediately back into the economy.

UK is in a strategic place and we cant alter that. Unless you put your trust in Putin and China, we can’t hide away.

As for your taxes I suggest some of it is wasted on probably 20% of University degree courses and the pet Foreign Aid projects which achieve nothing towards the financial well being and security a decent sized country like ours needs.


You think China cares? They’ll do what they want.


The Russkies are present I see… ?‍♂️

Stop wasting my taxes

“Everyone who disagrees with me is a Russian bot.”
Bored while you wait for the schools to reopen, Sean? Can’t you just play more Fortnite or something?


No I’m busy working from home for one of the world’s leading technology & product design companies. Been an exceptionally busy period with both business as usual work and leading part of the ‘ventilator challenge’ set up by the Cabinet Office.
Have you done anything useful for humanity recently? No. Thought not.


You sure you haven’t been reading a different article to the rest of us? It’s not the size of the carriers causing the issues, it’s the lack of planning and preparation done by the MoD and Treasury.

As for allocating defence more money not being necessary, it’s the lack of reliable funding that has caused a lot of these issues. The yearly budget is too small, so programmes are delayed or scrapped. This causes knock on effects that result in other equipment being worked harder and needing replacement sooner, which cripples other planning. Occasionally someone throws defence a bone, but the occasional bonus is nothing compared to a reliable budget.

Rob N

Hum… spoken like a true RAF fan boy… are you one of tge folk who moved Australia on the map to stop a previous UK carrier…?

It is true that the project has been mismanaged in some areas. However there has been a vast amount of progress from going from no global power projection to an initial capability. Like it or not the carriers are too high profile politically to be allows to fail. They will find the money for them.

I do not think we will only get 48 f35s. They will have to fix the AEW situation. Perhaps we can buy an off the shelf solution in the future a V-22 with a current radar.

The fact is we have gone too fare on the world stage with the carriers – they are now too big to fail.

Perhaps the expected closure of the UK foreign development aid ‘cashpoint’ may free up some funds.

We will afford the carriers because now we have no real choice. Sell these and we would be seen as an incompetent 3 rate power on the world stage and the US would doubt our reliability and usefulness as an partner.

You say there is no need for carriers anymore…

How is it then that China, India, USA are building super carriers. Russia and France aspire to build large carriers and many other navies are looking to acquire a carrier capability (Japan, Australia).

The desire to operate carriers is growing not reducing. As a maritime nation looking after our interests is more important now post Brexit then in the recent past.


Is Fat Dave an RAF fanboy or are you an RN fanboy assuming he is?

Firstly the RAF never moved Australia on a map to help stop the purchase of CVA01, there is no evidence that they ever did and the origin of that ever changing story is from the memoirs of one man who had a chip on his shoulder.

Also it should be noted that there is no such thing as an off the shelf AEW solution utilising the V-22. To use a V-22 based solution would still require an expensive development programme plus purchase of the airframes and associated support equipment to stand up a Squadron.

Also ‘DFID’ was never a foreign aid cashpoint, it was internationally respected as a very effective targeted form of international development. It had its flaws but by in large it didn’t just throw money at problems. It certainly as Government budgets go not that big and is certainly not enough to fix all the problems in UK defence procurement that people think it will.

Nevertheless Fat Dave is wrong…

Rob N


I did not say currently that there was a V-22 off the shelf solution. What I did say was that V-22 could be purchased for QE. This would give both a transport capability and a AEW host platform. Yes you would need to invest in the infrastructure – nothing is free. Then you could buy a AESA radar from US/Israel and then employ a company to marry the two up. No this is not fiction much the same has been done on Sky Sabre (Swedish radar, Israeli C4, Land Ceptor SAM). This would give a modern and flexible AEW solution – not the heap of junk we are currently being offered.

As for Australia because it is reported by an individual you claim has a chip on his shoulder does not mean it is untrue… I do not think you were there…

As for foreign aid it runs into the billions. No it would not be enough to plug the MoD money gap but it would help. After Brexit and C19 it is time we cut back on international handouts….

Oh yes I am a RN fan boy and proud of it. As a maritime nation I would have thought supporting the RN is in the national interest. Considering the name of this site I should have thought most readers would be sympathetic to this view.


As for Australia because it is reported by an individual you claim has a chip on his shoulder does not mean it is untrue… I do not think you were there…”

The man with a chip on his shoulder is Ray Lygo former Admiral and later head of BAe who was heavily involved with CVA planning. The only place it is anecdotally mentioned is in his own memoirs, he provided no corroborating evidence and every attempt to find it in the Public Records Office or anywhere else for that matter comes up blank! Until this mythical map can be presented I feel perfectly comfortable dismissing it as utter nonsense!

Rob N

Reality check DFID spent 15.2 billion last year (from their website). I was wrong that amount could solve the carrier financial needs and go some way to plug the MoD funding gap, a few more T26s anyone….


Its a hall of mirrors when I looked.
Such as
‘International climate finance to build the resilience of vulnerable people to the impacts of climate change and support low carbon development’ 800 mill pounds. Hmm
“Development capital investment level to create more and better jobs that benefit people across society, including women (cumulative)’ 2 bill pounds…what does that even mean, but its over 5 yrs. Do they have buy British ?
“We work at international, national and community levels. For example, in Somalia, DFID has supported programmes aimed at resolving conflict between communities and political actors, building the capacity and legitimacy of Federal Member State institutions, and ensuring that women are represented in political decision-making.” 
Sounds like money to make the political wheels spin

Rob N

Yes the figure I used was taken from a departmental graph of foreign development aid given to other countries last year. It was in their 2019 report (a pdf on their site).

It is a vast figure,.,

There are plans afoot to close the department and fold it into the FCO. This will almost certainly result in a saving. However I also read that the UK is committed to a certain level of GDP spend. This will have to change in favour of more targeted interventions that are affordable.


No money to maintain the Merlins or buy new ones and your proposal is to buy MV-22´s and then stuck it with the an entirely new radar?!
Lets just buy the most gold plated VTOL airframe that we can find, one that we don´t operate and that it´s expensive has hell to acquire and operate, stuck it with a foreign radar and develop the entire thing!
Did you read the article? The MOD is broke.

Rob N


It is a better option for growth and long term flexibility. The V-22s would also be a flexible asset for the carrier.

Currently we do no have an AEW capability.when/if we get crowsnest it will be old technology run from a platform that is vastly inferior to V-22 in terms of endurance and service altitude. Lets face it MoD chose tge wrong option – what I am saying is lets correct that mistake now rather then later when it could cost lives. This is a re-run of the Nimrod 4 fiasco a limited capability platform and old radar being forced on the Navy on the grounds it was cheap. Crowsnest smacks of the same shortsighted approach.

Here we have one of the problems with recent procurement. We do not buy with the long term future in mind but what we can get cheep. I am talking about investment in long term capability and flexibility.

Do you think that our preposed AEW solution will cut the mustard up to the carriers out of service date? It can dearly do the job given it now let alone in 50 years time. So at some point the RN will need to replace Crowsnest – why not buy a platform now that is flexible and capable enough to go the distance.

As for buying foreign kit – we already do. Sky Sabre has a Swedish radar at its hear. Our nation AEW runs on US radars. I am no saying we must buy an Israeli radar, but I am saying we should no buy obsolescence warmed over UK kit (jobs for the boys).

Yes it will cost money to to prevent a mistake that will come back to bite us in the future. If our carrier force is going to be credible it needs credible AEW – that is NOT Crowsnest….

Rob N

P.S. as for the MoD being broke. We all know tgat tge amount of cash it is given is ultimately down to the political agenda. I recall a little while ago the RN ran out of money for the next stage of Dreadnaught. But money was found because it was seen as a priority. Getting a credible AEW platform for the carriers could be argued as a priority for tge carrier force too.

On V’22 I am not saying we should buy all the equipment for the platform but jest get some that can be used for AEW and a transport option. The platform is not without its faults but it will be much better in the AEW role then Merlin. It is faster, can fly higher and has a better endurance. The result would be a better longer range radar picture. This is vital as to spot hypersonic missiles/sea skimmers you need to see them at distance to give time to kill them.

I have doubts that Crowsnest s up to the job of detecting and tracking a stealthy hypersonic missile at a useful range. As I have said we will be looking into the future too with 50 years of anti-ship threat development too.

And we are offered Crowsnest…!

P.S. I am not wedded to V-22 if the Navy can find a better platform tgat will work off QE that is not a helicopter – fine. However I cannot think of one.

Daniel Shenise

Not to mention it’s enormously touchy to changes in center of gravity and people act like you can just hang anything off either end. They had to come up with that ridiculous drop down gun system that ate up half the cabin and gave crew chiefs vertigo because of the sight.


there is no evidence that they ever did “
Of course not, these things have a habit of disappearing from the files. Monty did it after WW2 and it was done to the files after Jutland. Wasnt a critical report deemed to not see the light of day till half a century later when a version was found in private records.
In US recently a former national Security advisor was caught removing a critical document many years after the event.
In my country a recent defence purchase when investigated found critical documents missing, and this was for equipment that was more of less essential just the way that is was done was a shambles. Another major investigation of some events in Afghanistan only by accident found a critical file in senior officers safe and no one would admit to having read it or even how it got the safe.


FAT DAVE, mate, seriously, Some might say, If you wern’t so FAT, the NHS wouldn’t need so much money, and Defending this Country that you appear to live in wouldn’t be so unaffordable. Me personally ? I just think that you are a Cock after posting that. Have some respect for your Country.

Rocket Banana

A carrier is a floating airbase. An airbase is the FIRST requirement of defence. Etc, etc, etc…


£3.4 billion on MR4A, £20 billion to buy 140 Typhoons, £1 billion for Watchkeeper etc. etc. There are plenty of reasons we can’t afford to properly equip our carriers


What absolute crap you write

Stop wasting my taxes

Hilarious level of circle-jerking by the armchair admirals and BAES employees here, salivating over carriers we will never use properly.
I bet you all have a rack of soft air guns at home, and like to pretend you are SF with your pretend guns I know your type.
Yes yes I know, how’s the weather in Moscow blah blah blah. I don’t know. I’m in Basingstoke. How’s the weather in BAES HQ?


I have a few guns in a rack, if you would like to see them punk, well would you ?

Samuel Fry

50 years too late, I’m afraid. Spending Billions on a single high value asset in the era of unmanned aerial and submersible drones is folly. Especially if you can’t afford to operate it at peak efficiency. A fleet of smaller UAV carriers would be a better strategy.

Bloke no longer down the pub

Air forces around the world are looking to unmanned assets to boost capability at an affordable price. Unfortunately, especially after the USMC curtailed their MUX programme , there are no apparent options forthcoming that are operable from the QE class.

Meirion X

Wrong! The V22 is the best option to operate from the QE class, to provide, COD, air refueling, AEW, long range Commando assault.


The best option if your pockets are bottomless. If we can’t even fit an existing radar onto an existing helicopter platform without delaying and going over budget, you shouldn’t even dream about funding a new radar on a new platform with an entirely new logistics chain.

There would need to be some serious, reliable investment for that to happen, something that the defence sector has seen very rarely over the last few years.


I’ll take the 2 extra T31s for the price it would cost for a small fleet of V22s


The V22 is the best option to operate from the QE class..”

Not really , the USN doesnt have a helicopter in the class of the Merlin as far as payload goes, the MH60S not as capable.
The RAF Chinooks are carrier capable and could be used for some of the heavier lift.


FYI, the USN operates the MH53E which is most definitely able to carry a far bigger payload than the Merlin


MH53E Sea Dragon mission is mine clearance. While it can do Vertrep I dont see that as a normal use now they have the CMV-22B in production with planned 44 and its specific cargo delivery mission
The payloads of the Merlin HC2 when flown by the RAF was around the same figure as the CMV-22, 3 to 4 tons


Its crazy that Crowsnest is taking so long, the original two Sea King AEW2 where delivered in 11 weeks!


I just find the cost ridiculous and everything that is wrong with defence procurement. A handful of radars based on an older design hung in bags off a helicopter and some software to integrate costs this much!? Why? For this sum I would have expected new aircraft as well.


Agreed. Between defence contractors taking absolute liberties with price points to keep their shareholders satisfied, and the Government penny pinching as a result of a contracting economy and poor governance vis-a-vis tax collection; the military is increasingly left with less money to buy more expensive platforms and products. 1) Cancel HS2 and reinvest the money in existing public services (defence, healthcare, existing transport infrastructure) 2) Actually force corporations to pay the tax they owe instead of letting them pick and choose (and seize goods to the value of/revoke trading licenses if they try to evade). 3) Re-establish Government design bureau’s so that products can be designed from the get go by the people who need it, and mature designs can be put to private tender for build thus reducing costs.


 Nimrod XV230

The reason ( And rightly so) why the MOD and Contractors can no longer “cowboy” a project

Dave Wolfy

Money makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round.
money, money, money, …..

Just derr-derr the tune.


Back in the day, people didn’t understand what software integrity levels were. They do now.


To be fair to people back in the day, it may also have something to do with the fact that they were rushing it out the door for a shooting war…. If there was ever an acceptable reason to cut corners that would have to be on the list.


it was.


Suspect they’re not using a British Gas pipe for the ‘elbow’ on the radar mount either this time around..

Rocket Banana

Like the name – any SHAR still kicking about there?

I do wonder why we can’t just add OTHT to Wildcat. That will give us maximum reach for the Aster30’s at low altitude (cruise missiles and low-level strike aircraft).

High-level contacts should be seen by SAMPSON and then have a pair of F-35 on Alert5 scrambled. We then NEED to be able to maintain a CAP [there’s all 12 jets gone], which means the “strike” must come from additional embakred aircraft.


Following Haden Cave that sort of off the cuff stuff can no longer happen in peace time. Now everything is risk assessed and interactions with other systems is investigated.
The MOD will not do anything that risks lives( No matter how small the perceived risk is) because they and their contractors did not factor in an encyclopedic volume of what if scenarios.


GB, there is surely a balance to be struck. After Deepwater horizon, a number of energy companies (Mine included) were busy ratcheting up their unit costs to unsustainable levels by trying to mitigate the tail of very low probability but high consequence events. Recent market shocks have forced a re-think and a long-overdue one at that. I wonder if UK Defence may be on a similar journey.


There is a reason why Sea King AEW2 took 11 weeks…it didn’t.

Truth is there had already been a fair amount of development work on converting a Sea King to an AEW picket. The funding had dried up and work had stopped on the idea amongst the manufacturers involved and MOD. When the Falklands happened the programme was restarted and they were able to use the work already completed as a starting point. It should also be noted that the Sea King AEW2 was a VERY simple system lacking the mission systems that would be expected now.

It should also be noted that those who had been in the Gannet AEW community were brought in to help move things along.


The Government are spending over £100 billion on HS2, which is a complete waste of resources, has absolutely no business case and is basically a colossal vanity project for the ‘elites’. Simultaneously, tax evasion costs the UK upwards of £70 billion a year, and the Government responds by allowing corporations to choose how much tax they pay as opposed to paying what they owe. The Government continually decides to delay and defer key decisions and purchases, which has the dual effect of tripping up the defence acquisition strategy, inflating costs by prolonging purchases and keeping legacy equipment in service longer than anticipated (or creating capability gaps altogether!). Cancel the fancy train project, force corporations to pay their tax or seize goods to the value of and then buy the navy the ships they need, the RAF the planes they need and the Army the vehicles they need to do their job protecting us, which is something we certainly DO need in a world of growing uncertainty and slowly evaporating international norms.


Every part of the economy take a it’s share of the cake. It’s up to the MoD to spend it’s bit efficiently.


HS2 is not a complete waste of resources and has an excellent Business case. It is the cornerstone of freeing up significant capacity across the whole network.

Dave Wolfy

There are very few votes in defence, corruption just the same – not many votes.


It’s clear we have reached the point that additional funds are required. Hands up to the MOD for always doing the best with what we have got, but I think that is part of the problem. The need to be firmer with the government – you want, and we need this capability, but we cant do it unless x amount of funds are given to provide x platforms or we wont even try.
With multi billion pound uplifts regularly issued to the NHS, why not defence? I think we need one of two things:
– with the cost of borrowing so cheap, governemnt could issue a one off lump sum of say £20 billion to provide funds to fill many of the capability and depth issues we have with our current force structure. Alongside that, the quality of decision making and procurement needs to improve to ensure the current yearly budget goes further in the future.
– or, increase the defence budget. I would say around £5 billion a year for at least the next 10 years would solve many of our problems and allow the strike brigades to be properly armed, an additional batch of T31 to be ordered, T45 to sorted once and for all, an uplift in helicopter numbers & dipping sonars for wildcat, procurement of an ASM for ALL escorts, and sufficient stores of armaments do name a few.
I dont think many of us need to see a major increase in the size of our armed forces, just strength and depth added to what we have, plus maybe a few additional escorts, new autonomous solutions and an additional squadron of F35 for our carriers. We cant just keep going round and round in circles with this pretending our armed forces could cope if war broke out tomorrow.
I just hope that much of this comes out in the wash during the defence review and the correct decisions are made based on the threats we face and the operational need, not what the budget allows and remaining spread too thin.


Two images that will hopefully post. Govt spending (£927BN) vs Govt receipts (£872Bn) for this FY. Deficit of £55Bn with 66% of spend on social protection, health & social care and education. Defence doesn’t even get close.


Here’s the receipts. Demonstrates that the so-called corporate tax avoidance isn’t what folk think it is.

Last edited 4 years ago by N-a-B

And that’s pre-C19 by the way……..


Social Protection = ? (Dole Money etc?)


I think pensions is about 60%


Job Seekers Allowance and Universal Credit is VERY different from Dole money. The UK benefits system is built around the concept that there is a job out there and putting incentives in to accept a job regardless of how poor it is. By all accounts those who are on Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit find it to be a wretched experience.

With COVID-19 and a Hard Brexit we are going to see a shock to the job market and economy that is almost impossible to comprehend. Companies are already starting to send out redundancy notices in their thousands as the Furlough scheme starts to be withdrawn and we are seeing over 6000 redundancies a day!

Those here hoping for an uplift of funding for defence spending are going to be sorely disappointed!


It’s primarily pensions. The UK demographic is ageing and fewer working age folk to support them. The pension reforms of the last decade or so are having a beneficial effect, but only slowly. It’s also telling that something like 60%+ of NHS spending is on the over 65s.

As Fed notes, UC is a very different thing from the Dole of last century.

What the charts ought to be telling people is that as a country we have rather over-ambitious expectations of what the state should be able to provide, without some form of insurance. The receipts chart shows that NI is a fraction of what’s needed for social and health support. Anyone who suggests that “I’ve paid my stamp, I’m entitled” needs this explained to them.


I go on about retiring, but in all fairness you, if you are a younger pre bulshie generation like me will not be retiring. Keep fit and healthy with a forward outlook and we have to realize that we have to keep working.

Captain Nemo

The temptation must be great for the RN to take the 48 and play by itself and for the RAF to take F35a and save 20% a copy.
The problem there is losing surge and airframe availability putting RN numbers back in through deck cruiser territory, making a mockery of the whole endeavour.
That and as F35 winds down then serviceable aircraft will by necessity have to find their way to carrier strike and we’ll need a mass of ‘B’ variant from which to draw in order to drag it out, unless QE midlife includes CATOBAR.

What a lot of money.

FFS, how hard can it be.


Except there won’t be a 20% saving as the 3 variants are sufficiently different to see an increase in training, servicing and maintenance that will wipe out any short term procurement savings.

Captain Nemo

I agree, but the danger is the RAF selling 20% off the headline number so we can meet our stated commitment to 138 airframes and what happens later being something that happens to somebody else, the implosion of carrier strike being the end result for the navy.
138 of course being four squadrons over the lifetime of the project.


138 airframes were never, ever, “four squadrons over the lifetime of the project”.
138 airframes were for a direct replacement, one on one, of the entire Joint Force Harrier, thats six front line squadrons and an OCU “over the lifetime of the project”, or almost the size of today´s entire RAF front line force… Unless Putin invades the Baltics (wich he wont), its not gonna happen (unless the entire “Tempest” program gets the chop or is sent to 2045)


Other countries have different versions. How difficult is it for a RAF pilot to train on a F35B?


Training will be relatively straightforward. Spares & ILS not so much. Tanking, entirely new system.

Paul T

N-a-B. Correct, all Flight Training on whatever flavour of F35 is carried out by Simulator initially.


It has puzzled me, Why are the two older Forts not continued with while we have the gap until new FSS? I thought they were laid up due to manpower rather than material state, which is relevant as new FSS would need crew. They might be 40yrs old but they have larger holds than Vic, carry more and are optimal for this role. Possibly their stores handling is not fully compatible for QE, but I am sure ways can be found to work around.
Really good balanced article.

All political parties need to agree a long term defence strategy and then fund resource and support it rather than the continual flip flopping, fad approach. Forces cannot be fully effective without one and it puts our forces and security at risk.


I think the fact that the rigs aren’t compatible with the QE is part of the problem, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be used to carry stores to replenish Fort Vic, or stores for the QE which could be transferred via Fort Vic.


Thats just the Clarky’s rigs. The issue with them was the configuration of the outhaul wire which was fixed and caused a potential clash with QEC structure. The reason they’re not doing the 6te load is because the jackstay wire tension is significantly higher (over double) that required for a 2te, which means bigger winches, stronger structure etc etc….


The Forts cost a fortune to operate.


A number of reasons.

  1. RN has convinced itself that single screw ships are not safe to RAS QEC – which makes things interesting when you look at Lewis & Clark / CVN.
  2. Rig positions not ideal to align with QEC
  3. Flightdecks not cleared for any aircraft still in the inventory – and might be tricky for Merlin
  4. I think there are around half a dozen of the Sulzer engines they use still in existence worldwide, so spares and support an issue.
Last edited 4 years ago by N-a-B

Modifying one of the Fort Austin shall be considered more seriously, to keep her until 2030, (and Fort Victoria until 2033 or so, as well), I think.

a. Helicopter hanger and the flight deck a top of it can be removed. There is a huge “helicopter hangar” onboard QECV itself. The main flight deck shall be strengthen, however?

b. limited to 2te transfer is OK, I think. Infinitely better than nothing. Looking at the photos, I guess (if needed, by removing the hangar), Fort Austin can accommodate at least similar RAS rigs as Victoria?

c. Cargo handling will be surely limited. But, limited vs nothing is a big difference.

d. To relax the spare-parts issue, the remaining Fort shall be kept (to be cannibalized).

Then, in 2028-2030, after (most of the) T31 leaves the dock (but still in fitting-out), Rosyth (with block built in Cammel Laird?) can build FSSS. 1 FSSS delivered in 2029 (IoC in 2030), and the second in 2032 (IoC 2033).

If needed, just cancel one or two T31 hulls (pretty low priority compared to FSSS, anyway), and put FSSS build 1-2 year forward).

Meirion X

Type 31 project will be finished by 2028! All 5 hulls will get built.

FSS will Not fit in the Rosyth frigate factory!


Thanks. For this proposal, 2028 or 2030 is not a big difference. Also, any delay is highly possible (It is Babcock’s first ever escort-class to build…).

FSS does not need the frigate factory. Build blocks there (and elsewhere), and weld those boxes in the dock. Here, Rosyth will be needed. Important point is the engineers/labors.

Babcock will hire/contract many engineers/labors for T31 build program. But, right after 2028 (or 30), they will suddenly STARVE for work. So, building FSSS in Rosyth makes sense here. (Very little possibility for T31 build export. If any, likely be only design export, as Babcock themselves say).

But, to do this, RN/RFA need to “save the day” until 2032-35, so Fort Austin upkeep comes proposal in. This is what I meant.

Hopefully, this will make a good way until Bay/Albion replacement comes in in further future (2035 or later)…

Last edited 4 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

Surely there would be no requirement to modify the older Forts if they were used just to carry stores for the Fort Vic to top her up whilst in the company of a QE carrier and task group. Could they not just carry the stores and cross deck them to Fort Vic in a 3 vessel RAS (QE – FV – FA/FR)?


Still a single point failure and using two ships and crews.

They were great ships, but their time is past. FSS is also relatively straightforward if MoD can be weaned off some of their more comical requirements – and get over the politics of onshore vs offshore build.


Yes. Just get them built here and get more of those tax reciepts. When you are the paymaster general, it never makes sense to manufacture abroad when you can do it here, which we can. We have to get out of this offshoring mentality.


It baffles me why Fort George was scrapped in 2010 when the 2 older Fort’s were retained. I realise it was part of a process of the wider deleting of carrier aviation but regenerating the capability after a 10 or so year gap was always the plan so it still seems very shortsighted.

The older Fort’s were still being used up until 2-3 years ago and there was always a requirement for 1 replenishment ship East of Suez that seems to have been quietly ditched (although perhaps that’s party due to HMS Jufair opening?).

Beyond their unsuitability for supporting the carriers perhaps a continuing lack of RFA manpower and the need to crew the Tides has played a part in seeing them laid up?


Fort George went because she was due a refit and the AOR op costs were more than AFSH. Defensible at the time, not so clever now. Oh and she was the better of the two AOR.

Meirion X

I would Not be surprised if there are not convert peace niks employed by the MoD?

Meirion X

I mean covert ‘peace niks’ in positions of influence, like in the Cold War there were covert Communists whom climbed the ladder of the Civil Service, like the ,’Cambridge Five’.


At this rate the Fleet Air Arm will be using Fairie Swordfish again, and dropping rocks from them due to a lack of ordinance. I wonder how long before yet another countries Navy eclipses the RN on fleet size. I just get the feeling of hopelessness because the RN has been collapsing for the better part of 30 years (was shrinking before that but the Falklands provided a ledge to sit on for a while) with no sign of a rebound. At this point I’d recommend rebuilding the Coastal Forces with lots of FACs so if the core fleet shrinks to nothing the UK can still defend its own waters if nothing else. All this whilst the world is a getting a much more dangerous neighbourhood. This saddens me greatly ?

Ian Skinner

Sadly, they got rid of their last Swordfish by disbanding the historic flight- it is now a charity.


My Dad was in the FAA and loved flying Swordfish A/S patrols even off an escort carrier winter North Atlantic.


Swordfish were great in Ww2, they done a great job for a biplane. Well loved.


By no means was my comment a criticism of the Swordfish ? after all the RN owe the Swordfish bigtime for breaking Bismarcks stearing ????? It was the 1st aircraft that came to mind that the UK used off of carriers in the way back when lol. I do laugh when hearing how impact fuzed shells failed to trigger when hitting the Swordfish ?? genius


Cloth and wood as an aircraft manufacturing material are underrated ??


I’m begining to wonder if Balistic missile subs are worth the huge cost. Wouldn’t doubling our atack submarines numbers and getting nuclear missiles/bombs for our aircraft and maybe nuclear cruise missiles for our atack submarines (in small numbers but the Russians wouldn’t know if all our atack subs had them or not so still a large deterant) and this would save tens of billions.

Too late now I supose. And shouldn’t the Royal Navy be ahead of japan in naval strength but they arent in many lists and charts! Because the RN nuclear missiles trump more destroyers or anything japan has making the Royal Navy far stronger??


Thanks it was really interesting and surprising.


That’s right, let the French have the nuclear deterrent…..


We could still have a nuclear deterant without balistic submarines, but it seems it’s the cheapest credible way…and that surprised me… and the French seem to have a better nuclear arsenal than the UK. ie nuclear capable fast jets.


Fort victoria is a crucial ship for a carrier strike group, without her we are stuffed! And we only Have one! her!, crazy times, she needs to be protected like she’s a carrier. I hope we build three new FSS ships with large hangars suporting three or more choppers. And they Better have good self protection.

Alao Wasn’t fort victoria fitted for but didn’t recieve self defence missiles?

Last edited 4 years ago by Cam

Whilst technically, yes, RFA Fort Victoria was fitted for but not with self defence this statement in itself is a tad misleading. The ship was designed along with the Type 23s as a concept where the Type 23s would be purely sub hunters in the North Sea, with very little in terms of self defence or offence. That, strangely, would come from the support vessels which followed them.

However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, there was an increasing demand for a more multi-purpose aligned frigate and hence the Type 23s were adjusted to accommodate Sea Wolf and anti-ship missiles. The Forts also had their weapons removed from the design requirements.


You cannot set up a carrier force at the click of a finger. It has taken us a while to get this far.
The first so called “operational” cruise will in many respects be a training exercise. After that we can expect us to be experienced and fully ready. By then other issues will be more resolved.

Dave Wolfy

A thumb or another finger is required, you are quite correct.


It should be as obvious to the insiders as it is to most of us taking a passing interest that 48 F35B is not enough to generate a worthwhile capability that can be shared between the RN and RAF. It should also be apparent that the 138 figure is an absurd relic from 20 years ago that’s never going to be achieved and is pretty out of step with the kind of fleet we could or should operate.

Why can’t they compromise and present a united front to the bean counters that suggests a fleet of around 70 F35B with the smaller purchase offset by replacing some of the Tranche 1 Typhoon’s with Tranche 3’s.

Better for UK industry, sufficient to deploy a significant carrier capability whilst placating the RAF and still providing a smaller/cheaper overall fleet than buying 138 F35.


The 138 number was part of the Government to Government deal, to ensure we were the Tier 1 partner, thus including the UK the 15% share in every F35 built. If we renege on the number whose to say the US won’t renege on that side of the deal as well?

Mike Minns

I rarely if ever post but am a keen reader of the site, keep up the good work.

I’ll be honest reading this article it sounded like one of the those horrible project meetings where someone external to the core team has come in and finally pressed everyone to be brutally honest about the true state of things, under scrutiny all of the false positivity falls away and even the core team finally realises the project is failing badly and will never meet its original aims.

There then follows the stage where the team tries to salvage something from the wreckage and come up with uses for what the odds, sods and loose ends they have managed to deliver. This seems to be where we are.

I wasn’t aware of all the the peripheral projects being cancelled, delayed, dropped or failing. I find it very depressing as I believe the carriers could and should have been the start of something better.

Maybe it is just my pessimistic nature but I think the positive, through gritted teeth, spin in the penultimate paragraph will prove to be just as misguided.

Sad times indeed.

Last edited 4 years ago by Mike Minns

That sad thing is that with the economy massively contracting, then the defence budget contracts with it. Even if they maintain 2% of GDP on defence, that’s going to be 2% of a significantly smaller pot, and will likely be a cut to defence spending in real terms. I think we’re in for a much bigger defence cut than people are willing to be honest about soon, especially given C19 and Brexit.


Hopefully with CANZUK, The Canadian Arms industry which is the legacy of the Infamous Sten Gun can provide better firearms for the marines and hopefully a new resource Gain from Australia will allow us to restart our arms industry to something worth while which hopefully would help the Tempest project.


Sorry, I didn’t understand a word of that. What were you trying to say?

Dave Wolfy

EXCUSE ME, I’ve had a bottle of port and I nearly understood it.


I don’t think it is a matter of wanting to be a global power as much as being able to protect those who consider themselves British that we have a duty of care to, e.g., Gibraltar, Falklands, etc. As well as keeping needed sea routes open. Twice in the last century we came close to starvation by naval blockade, being an island we really should remember this, so we’re not caught flat-footed again. It is always when we are unprepared that bad stuff happens.


A great article. The carriers have terrific potential but financial pressures limit their capabilities severely. These include;

1)The lack of air to air refueling or drop tanks on the F35 required the carrier to be close enough to a target to be exposed to land based SSM’s, TBM’s and aircraft.

2)The F35 lacking Meteor, Storm Shadow, an ARM missile or a longe range anti ship missile requiring it to come within the envelope of enemy AAM and SAM missiles. We’d better hope that the rumours stealth is increasingly vulnerable to search radars aren’t true.

3) Six Merlin’s having to provide ASW, AEW and launch guard which leaves them totally overstretched

4) An air group likely to be only 12 planes which is insufficient to deliver the CAP mission and strike missions concurrently.

Paul T

Sunmack – Regarding point 3 I wonder if there is any logic to buying a COTS Type Helicopter for the Launch Guard Role, such as the AW129. Would save valuable Airframe hours on the Merlin for it’s more important Roles.

Paul T

Edit meant AW139, the Mangusta wouldn’t be suitable.


If the Apache can strap Marines to the stub wings, so could the Mangusta, or in this case a rescue diver.


About point 2. The vulnerability of “stealth” aircraft to long wavelength search radars has always been known about, this is not the problem. So what, if you know an F35 is somewhere over there? The important issue is the aircraft’s vulnerability to tracking radars. These are usually high frequency (very low wavelength cm to mm) radar ranging from X up to Ka band. The F35 was specifically designed to counter these radars, as they are the real threat.

The aircraft’s shape plays a big part, but its radar absorbent material (RAM) coating plays the most. If it uses anything like the older iron ferrite RAM stuff, then the “bits” of ferrite are designed to a 1/4 wavelength or less of the expected tracking radar frequencies. Because of the ferrites small size, means it’s easier to package in a paint and apply to a fighter sized aircraft. Doing the same to counter long wavelength radar would be next to impossible with this method, as it just couldn’t be packaged adequately. Granted this type of RAM is over 70 years old now and today’s more exotic stuff is designed for a much broader bandwidth. But it works on a similar principle. It still won’t however, counter UHF, VHF or HF radars, because these work on a different detection principle to higher frequency radars. These types of radar are used because their wavelengths cause a resonant back scattering effect, when the transmission illuminates an aircraft. It’s a bit like when you get light scintillating off pointed objects. However, due to their massive size, these types of radar can only be used from land. Technically an F35 could approach a ship above the horizon significantly closer than would be expected, as the ship will be limited on the type of radar it can use, due to the required size of the antenna it can carry.

The active RF seeker in the majority of air launched anti-aircraft missiles needs to be small enough to package within the missile body that can easily be carried by the parent aircraft. Therefore, a missile such as AMRAAM that has a body diameter of 180mm requires an antenna that can fit inside, which is a smaller diameter still. As it also needs the clearance to be mechanically moved around on a gimbal to search for and keep track on its target. This means the operating frequency needs to be very high X band, Ku or Ka band due to the relationship between the transmitted frequency and the antenna wavelength and thus the overall size (area) of the antenna. For the F35, this means that its RAM coating will have more effect on a missile’s ability to not only find it, but more crucially track it.

So when people blather on about stealth becoming less important. Their statement can be taken with a pinch of salt, because they don’t explain how stealth has become less effective and are not clarifying the context. Yes, the aircraft is vulnerable to being seen by long wavelength radars, so what? When a company states they have developed a RF seeker that can be fitted to an air launched missile that can search for and track an F35 from 30km away, then I’d be worried!


Just a sidenote the F35 is also highly visible to Ultra Violet Seekers like the latest FIM 92 Stingers have (Dual IR/UV seeker) as the US put out a request for development of a UV stealth not that long ago. Combining the UHF, VHF and HF radars with UV Seeker missiles would seriously hurt the F35. The radars can detect the F35 but the accuracy is lower than X band etc (As far as I know) so the UV seeker missiles can finish the job. The F35 has had measures taken to reduce their IR signatures

Meirion X

Most UV coming from the Sun is blocked by our Atmosphere.
UV from UV lamps is very short range of a few meters.

First time I heard that aircraft can generate UV?

Last edited 4 years ago by Meirion X

There is still much that can be done to reduce the IR and UV signatures of the aircraft. Much like the predecessor of the SR71 Blackbird, the A12 which used a Cesium fuel additive to dramatically reduce the radar signature of the plane’s massive engine exhausts and afterburner plumes. The Cesium additive when injected into the after burner would create a ionized gas stream. The ionization effectively blanked out the rear aspect of the aircraft to C and S band (old school) radars.

The early Harrier used water injection to boost its engine power. There are two trains of thought on this. One was that it increased mass flow through the engine, the other is that it cooled the turbine section to allow more rpm. Either way it increased power for a short duration. What it did do though was change the engine’s IR signature. The exhaust now also contained high temperature steam. This had the effect of blocking out the low wavelength IR signature. Unfortunately the majority of IR seekers todays a broadband looking for both short and long wave IR. But also IIR seekers look for an actual target image rather than just hot spots. The F35B is stuck with the round exhaust nozzle, it can’t be fitted with a rectangular shaped one, which diffuse the exhaust plume faster and thus cool it quicker. The A and C versions could be redesigned with a flatter exhaust nozzle, but that would take quite a bit of engineering. The aircraft’s RAM has also been designed to be an IR suppressant, which lowers the aircraft’s overall heat signature. Though at supersonic speeds the nose and leading edge temperatures will steadily increase.

To counter a UV seeker will take some imagination. MANPAD missiles like US Stinger, the Chinese FN-16 and the Russian SA-29 (Verba), now all use a dual mode seeker that combines both an IR and UV seekers. A UV sensor does not look at hot or cold but an image contrasting between the UV background of the sky and anything that blocks it in the foreground. So it sort of operates like a normal digital camera but in the reverse. How do you counter this type of sensor? There are a number of measures you can employ. One is the UV reflectivity of the aircraft. Unlike with IR or RF where you want to absorb the energy, with UV you want to reflect it. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks out UVC, but UVA and UVB pass straight through. So at ground level to 100,000ft the level of UVA and UVB is the same, though it changes depending on the time of day. The aircraft needs to reflect as much UV as possible to try and match the background UV. You could also employ UV lamps much like the IR jammers to pulse in certain patterns. It is “thought” that the Chinese and Russian missiles use seekers that use a circular scan. If you could find the scan frequency and match the lamps pulses to it, you can cause confusion in the missile’s processor and throw it of track.

There is actually a third option. Active countermeasure such as laser infrared countermeasures (LIRCM) uses a turret to aim a laser at the incoming missile. The laser is not powerful enough to destroy the sensor, but is enough to temporarily blind it. By pulsing the laser you can guide the missile away from the aircraft. The UV sensor in the missile is used as a back up to the primary IR sensor for counter-counter measures. Specifically designed to so that if the IR sensor is jammed, the UV can put it back on track. If the power of the laser can be increased to damage the IR sensor or specifically the lens by turning it opaque, there is a very good chance it will also block the UV sensor.


Great article – would be nice to see coverage of at least some of this more prominently in maintsream media.

For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly regular visitor here and to Defence Journal UK, and have made a point of writing to my MP to highlight many of the issues raised in the excellent articles on both of these sites (and the well informed reader commentary too). Given that we are a democracy, if you care about this sort of thing and haven’t already done then badger your MPs about it. Particularly if you are in a swing constituency; mention that you would be unable to support them in future elections if they fail to take such concerns more seriously. I’ve written to MPs several times over the years on a range of issues and the vote threat seems to garner a response a bit more often.

Stray Vector

It may be time to put less focus on the concept of “strike carrier”, and consider more of a sea control or other type of roles for these ships. I’ve often felt that criticism of the carriers displayed a lack of imagination and an appreciation for their inherit flexibility. It’s almost a branding issue. In a War On The Rocks podcast entitled “NAVAL AND MARITIME STRATEGY”[1], Chris Parry says the carriers should be called Large Deck Aviation Capable Platforms (at around 50 minutes into the podcast) to emphasis their adaptability and flexibility.

While perhaps not optimal for strike, 48 total F-35Bs with 12-24 available (if all are dedicated to the carriers as they should be) may be sufficient for other types of roles, especially if the carriers are also used to host non-UK f-35s as well. In episode 393 of the Midrats podcast, entitled “Building the right carrier; heavy, medium, or light with Tal Manvel”[2], the guest speaker (who served as an engineering officer in the USN specializing in aircraft carriers) does an interesting analysis of the potential roles and capabilities of carriers with mixed airwings of 80, 60, and 40 aircraft (at about 7:30 into the podcast). He also has some interesting comments about the Queen Elizabeth class.

Crowsnest is a total debacle!

Last edited 4 years ago by Stray Vector

Midrats is a very good podcast.

For me the carrier buy has always been about aviation support in its broadest sense from ‘sea control’ through to ‘amphibious assault’ to ‘carrier strike’. I always assumed ‘carrier strike’ was the attention grabber to sell to MP’s, other sectors of the establishment, and the more excitable members of the general public who take an interest in defence matters. That the £60 million can’t be found to complete the accommodation of an EMF says a lot to me. We are running out of helicopters. Crowsnest even though its ‘modular’ (yawn) should have had new cabs; yet it seems even that ‘system’ is flawed. Talk of buying A because of budgetary reasons seems short sighted to me. But you can bet A will be bought in stupidly small amount to give us a tiny increase in performance while losing out a lot. It’s a mess. The RN will limp along I should imagine. The service will never get the uplift in funding it needs. And there is too much political capital invested in the carriers to ‘mothball’ or sell them on.


Of course the problem with aircraft carriers is all in the name…

The QE class might be excellent ships, but without a fit for purpose air group, they are somewhat pointless.

Yes I agree with the precept of the article that not everything needs to be ready on day 1 but RN / HMG are famously bad at planning.

1. Crowsnest – bin it. Sue the supplier for non-performance. Either look to the USMC for second hand V22 (their new plan includes a downsizing in V22 squadrons) and bang the same or a different radar on it; or just use the V22 as AAR tankers for Bell V247 Vigilant tilt rotor UAV’s equipped with suitable radars.

2. Accept the low numbers of F35B give them all to Fleet Air Arm and manage the service life and availability appropriately. Conduct all training via a program with USMC if necessary. (Leave the RAF to get updated Typhoons and concentrate on Tempest).

3. Pick a missile – NSM, or whatever and buy it for F35 and in boxes for T31.

4. Replace Merlin with Merlin – as someone already said, but as a post-COVID / post-Brexit UK jobs with, building new Helos in Yeovil would be an economic boost with good political optics.

5. Invest in UAV’s – the V247 Vigilant could do a lot to unload F35 fleet in many operational scenarios. The General Atomics Avenger could be tested to see if it could work with the ski jump, but would probably need arresting wires ? The Kratos XQ58 Valkyrie can be rocket launched, but again might need arresting gear and beefed up undercarriage – but experiment !

How to pay for all this – bin the deterrent force. If HMG cannot afford all the toys it wants then it has to give some up. I say give up the one you will never use (or use only once!) and find the one that has great flexibility and potential utility.


V22 is a nightmare of a cab. The cost in operating it would be far greater than just buy new Merlin (or N90) and putting Crowsnest right. Each Osprey is practically a sub-type the software is such a mess. A viable organic ASaC / AEW system is probably the reasons for operating a large aviation support platform. If the platform was just another big helicopter then yes go for it, but V22 is a nightmare.

We could shove Crowsnest into V247.


The US Navy did do a trial on an AEW V22 in the 90’s. It was a complete disaster. Rather than a designing a bespoke new system or even borrowing a Sea Kings ASAAC. They used a heath robinson design on the cheap. The design used a cradle that was attached to the ramp. The ramp was lowered to the horizontal, and the cradle slid out, positioning the radar below the aircraft. They used the radar from an S3B Viking, the AN/APS-137 inverse synthetic radar. The main problem they had was the radar would fail after half an hour. This was attributed to the ramp’s vibration when placed horizontally. The other issue was that the crew had to be on individual oxygen supplies for the majority of the flight, as the cabin was open to the elements with the ramp down and they were operating above 20,000ft.

Bell, partnered with Westinghouse, did a few conceptual designs with a fixed radar placed above the wing, the famous one being the triangular PESA antenna. Technology has moved since then/ Leonardo have a nice modular Osprey X band AESA array that could be built into the airframe. A long range lower frequency radar would still be required in my opinion, perhaps reusing the triangle design proposed before. The longer wavelength radar would give better range than the X band radar for the same amount of radiated power. By using a combination of the two radars would give a much better chance of detecting stealthy targets.


Interesting work of fiction, was Biggles flying the V22?


Unfortunately not, he may have got it to work! If you’re ever in the neighborhood of the officers mess at Pax River, there is a photo of a Marine V22 flying with the radar hanging off its ramp. According to the old and bold there, the trial was entirely a US Navy conducted one, where neither Bell or Raytheon were involved. Part of the reasoning for the trial was not primarily AEW, but was anti-surface and ASW, because the Navy needed a replacement for the Viking, hence the use of the X band radar as it can search for periscopes. The Marine variant doesn’t have a forward facing radar and the nose of the V22 would need re-engineering to get the AN/APS-137 to fit, hence the reason of hanging it off the ramp (quick and no airframe modifications required). It was hoped that a multi-role version of the V22 could have included this role, the AEW was considered an additional benefit. When the radar was working it was providing the same picture as seen when the radar was fitted to the Viking. It also provided some basic air to air modes, but these were never part of the radar’s original design. Unfortunately the US Navy couldn’t fund a Viking replacement and their interest in the V22 dried up. But now they have their COD CMV-22Bs, its possibly that they may revisit the requirement. as they have stated they have a long range carrier ASW capability gap that the Viking originally filled.

The AN/APS-137 radar has been further developed into the AN/APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) that is fitted to some P8s in a canoe like mounting underneath the aircraft’s fuselage. A further development of the 137 radar is the AN/APY-10 radar that’s used as the forward facing radar in the nose of the P8. The question of the radar’s performance was never in question. It was just the integration on the ramp of the Osprey. Both Raytheon and Westinghouse have shown how they would fit out a V22 properly for the AEW role. Raytheon’s latest offering is with four AESA panels located around the aircraft’s airframe. With this method there would be no blind spots due to interference with the aircraft’s fuselage, unlike with using the above wing “Dorito” antenna. Bell have also shown drawings of a V22 being used in the anti-surface and ASW role.

Personally, I still think the unmanned Bell V247 would make a good platform for the role of AEW, perhaps even ASW. However, costs not withstanding, the V22 would be just a great an asset for the FAA, as it can be used for AAR, COD etc.


Depending on the USN own review, can UK-RN lease (or purchase) one of the US MSC’s Lewis and Clark class as a “interim measure”?

RAS rig may differ, ship standard may differ, but RAS shall be “doable”? In other words, can QECV be “re-supplied” by USN Cargo-Ammunition supply ships?

If USN is (as rumored) to reduce active CVN numbers, some of the cargo ships may also be “surplus”?

This will save the day until Rosyth yards be cleared of T31 build, and in hand, starving for next order after ~2030. Struggling to survive, then.


Johnson said ‘Build, Build, Build’ a couple of days ago…. so lets start with building some kit – ships in Devon, Liverpool, Scotland and NI, Helicopters in Yeovil, aircraft in Wharton, protected vehicles in Taunton and Telford.

The RAF is half the strength it was ten years ago and the Army’s kit is reaching block obselesence and they have a lot of expensive stuff they brought just for Afghan that have limited uses elsewhere.

More money is required (and it would be a drop in the ocean compared to the Covid-19 bailouts), but better decision making as well – as shown by the cost of the Crowsnest kits.
Finally Carrier Strike is one of the best value defence projects: yes we got these amazing ships thanks partially due to New Labour largesse – but its an amazing opportunity for the RN. In truth the cost required to be the second strongest Navy in the world now we have this kit isn’t that much of an incremental increase; a few more escorts and RFAs, short term LSS converted from a commercial vessel and in time a couple of proper LPHs.

Meirion X

Why waste money on limited size LPH and limited range helos for a LPH?
A QE class with V22s on board would be able to do the same job much better.


The industrial benefits, the danger of having £3bn assets in littoral waters and the need to transport troops and vehicles…

v22s are what £75m? A mistral class is £300m. So you can only buy 3 or 6

Meirion X

Grant, Yes the V22 is $75m apiece,
but with a over a 1000 mile range, this would enable a carrier to keep out of littoral waters, to carry out commando/SF assault from a safe distance.

You still putting a lot of lives at risk by operating a Mistral in litttoral waters!

Spend the money instead on equipping the QEs and up arming the escorts.

Also I like the idea of stren landing ships for littoral assault.

I would go as far as ordering another QE, which would allow 2 to be in operation at a time, 1 for CEP, and 2nd to carry out beyond littoral assault. I suppose you could do the same task from a bigger enough strike ship for V22s to operate from?

Last edited 4 years ago by Meirion X

If you are facing an enemy that can push a carrier that far out MV-22 with its 100 knot or so advantage over Merlin is going to offer little protection. MV-22 is still very slow. The range of Merlin isn’t really that much different.

Troops will only go ashore once air superiority is achieved. And you are going to want your amphibious assets as close in as possible.

MV-22 is too expensive and a real headache technically.


No, a MV-22 Osprey is not a 75 million pounds aircraft, and the question is not if the UK is going to acquire a third aircraft carrier, the question is “can the UK MOD deploy one carrier at a time with a full airpower wing, backed by enough escorts and support ships?”


MV-22 looks and is spectacular. But it is nightmare technically. Too much really even for the US.


Fly away cost for financial year 2015 $72 million.

Fly away cost for CH-47 $39 million.

Combat range MV-22 390nm

Combat range CH-47 329nm

Lift MV-22 24 to 32 troops.

Lift CH-47 32 to 55 troops.


That chinook must have extra range fuel tanks, the v22 has double the range of the chinook.


I agree the V22 would be very useful but buying them doesn’t provide any industrial benefit to the UK and you would need to establish air superiority before using any rotary wing asset. An extra Queen Elizabeth would be amazing but would cost 3 times the amount of 3 LPHs

Meirion X

Yes procuring V22s will be an industrial benefit, because Rolls Royce makes the engines. The AE1107C engine.
The V22 is only rotary on take-off and landing. As I said in my comment, a large strike ship could be a platform for V22s, instead of a carrier.

Last edited 4 years ago by Meirion X

Key fact from this article is that a bigger budget is needed. At the moment when we need Fiscal stimulus the UK defence industry needs to be shouting loudly and with heavy factual support just how much economic stimulation could be achieved particularly in those parts of the UK that have suffered from globalisation. Yes the FSS will be expensive to build in the UK but the economic multiplier should be greater than a new road/airport runway or High Speed rail line. Every F35B bought has a direct UK economic impact and return to the UK Exchequer. The Germans have been quick off the mark and ordered Typhoons but stipulated that Hensoldt take over the radar from UK based Selex. France is investing heavily in aerospace etc etc. Unless the industry and perhaps even sites such as this get “on the economic case” other government departments will get the cash.


Not strictly true. Hensoldt are part of the Euroradar consortium. They make the transmitter/receiver modules for the Captor-E’s AESA. Selex manufacture the majority of the processing. Hensoldt will be getting basically kits from Selex to build up.


Hensoldt is now the lead company for the AESA radar. Work Share is based on who is actually paying and that’s by the far the German side now.


Perhaps you need to tell those fine people in Edinburgh to stop what they’re manufacturing as Germany are taking over?


I’m not sure what you are about. Edinburgh is where the radars are put together for the export customers but even for the MK0 variant Hensoldt developed, produced and tested the antenna of the radar – the most crucial part of the subsystem.

The AESA radars for Germany and Spain will not be manufactured at Leonardo UK.


Selex doesn’t exist anymore.


Just a name change by its owner Finmeccanica, they are grouped under the Leonardo name image


Why do you think FSSS will be more expensive to build in the UK when the UK has been able to build cheaper than other similar countries including Spain? You are assuming this myth to be fact.

Stop wasting my taxes

Jesus Christ just sell the damn things already. We have no intention of spending the money needed to make them the slightest bit useful, all the while spending just about enough money to keep them at sea (doing nothing) at the expense of other RN, and some RAF, operations and activities.

Stop wasting my taxes

Without the will to spend the money necessary to build a proper carrier (i.e. with catapults for F-35Cs, Hawkeyes and Ospreys) we would have been far better off buying the Wasp design from the US and building three of those to carry a UK buy of around 36 F-35Bs and 18 Ospreys, and increasing the size of our T26, T45 and Astute fleets by maybe 25% – or more. By the end of those programmes we would have spent probably about the same amount of money for what would certainly be a more sustainable and effective expeditionary capability that matches our needs. But no, we build two hobbled carriers (basically overweight LHAs) that we can barely run, let alone support, and ask the US to lend us some jets and pilots every time we set to sea (only USM mind, because we can’t support USN flight operations. Or French Navy). We have one FSS for at least a decade (it WILL be longer, just watch). Early warning is not even proven yet, let alone ready. A very limited lift capability. And now, an attack submarine is just “optional” in the carrier group (!) – a nice surprise in the ONS report that everyone is pretending they didn’t see.
All this crap about “yeah but we don’t need so many protection or support ships, our allies will fill the gap!”. Really? Ignoring the fact you just acknowledged that we purposefully designed a tens of billions £, 50-year carrier programme on the basis we can’t operate without help (it’s embarrassing just to type that…), do you really believe we’d get that help in a hypothetical Falklands II? Sure, if you say so. And anyway, that works both ways: what large conflict can you conceive of the UK being involved in in which the USN won’t be there with at least one of their real carriers, if not two, with 75+ aircraft each, throwing dozens of F-35Cs and a few Growlers and Hawkeyes off each day? Exactly.
Now go ahead and accuse me of being this, that, and the other, and anti-British. You are the ones arguing we should throw tens and tens of billions at a programme that will never deliver what we wanted. My argument is that we should have spent that money – or, instead, spent the same amount of money as we are now but on a different concept that would have been far better value for money, £ for lb, than the QE-based approach.

Last edited 4 years ago by Stop wasting my taxes
Stop wasting my taxes

Oh and how could I forget.
A dry dock she can’t reach unless the conditions are perfectly right.
Round of applause everyone.


OK, if we decided to sell them, who would buy them?


Hypothetically if the UK did want to sell them (Personally against this as UK taxpayers paid for them and I want to see them still running when I am in my 70s) Russia is in need of a new carrier…Admiral Kusnetsov wasnt looking so good when last sailing. China might want them….India is another (and more politically palatable than the previous two). The US might want them (just to have an even larger Carrier Fleet and especially if Russia/China want to buy them lol)


The only others are Germany/NATO (but I doubt it), Japan (already buying F35B & converting existing helicopter carriers for them), South Korea (has announced intension to build 2 x 30,000t F35B capable ships), Brazil (money will be a problem) & Australia (already operates F35A, already has 2 x F35B capable LHD’s & have just announced further naval spending). That’s about it.


India or Brazil. Against that, the Indians have launched their first indigenous carrier already, they would only buy off shore if there was a significant technology transfer agreement in place, or if the price was right. So Brazil.


Brazil is short of cash & could definately not afford to operate 2. They would also have to buy F35B (not cheap & not garanteed) or fit arrestor wires (& use Sea Gripen). India would (at this stage) also have to fit arrestor wires, but could take both. S.Korea, Japan & Australia would not need to modify the ships & could operate a STOVL carrier as a singleton, because, like Italy (& Spain’s original plan), they would have backup options of LHD’s/LHA’s for when the main carrier is unavailable.

Leaving aside the silly idea of selling the carriers, if Japan keeps modifying its constitution, the a sale of a new QE (built in Japan) may become a possability?

Last edited 4 years ago by D J

South Korea and Japan are not buying foreign, and in the case of Japan have already built the hulls as something else already anyway and just need to convert them. The RAN knows that politics is the art of the possible and has developed an amphibious capability at the expense of a carrier capability, they know they will never get the funding (for a carrier; for the extra escort group a carrier would need; for the somewhat larger logistics train – including but not limited to the AOEs; and for a carrier air wing). They are not in the market.

It’s India or Brazil.


South Korea & Japan buy foreign quite often (eg F35B). Australia has the money & has just announced a 30% boost to defence spending. For all three it would come down to the price. We are talking second hand & only buying one of. S.Korea & Japan have plenty of escorts. Australia currently have 11, 3 of which are brand new destroyers & 8 upgraded frigates (with 9 new frigates on order). Last time I checked, Brazil had 7 frigates (all 40+ years old) & no destroyers. Australia has 2 new AOR’s about to be delivered & has just announced an intention to build 2 joint support ships (combination sea lift & replenishment).

China is driving a major arms race In the Asia Pacific area. None of these 3 are currently in the market for a big carrier, that is true. It would all come down to price. These 3 are currently spending an amazing amount of money on very high end gear. All academic anyway. I just can’t see them (QE & POW) being sold.


They don’t often buy foreign built ships however, at least not in recent history (powerful vested interests in local shipbuilding). Australia doesn’t have the money, the recent increase is already earmarked for other things (mostly it’s bringing purchases that were scheduled for latter this decade forward) not for pie in the sky procurement.

The RAN have 8 frigate hulls but only 7 frigates, the Perth has been out of the water on blocks at BAe Henderson for over two years now due to a crew shortage, two minehunters are also in reserve (same reason), and the only reason all six Collins SSKs are in the water is what SDSR 2010 did to the RN (although there has been an influx of refugees from the the South African navy as well) they certainly can’t crew a capital ship. The two AORs are too small to support a carrier and it’s escorts. Mostly however the RAN know full well that politics is the art of the possible, they are not getting into the carrier business because there is no will for it anywhere else in the greater ADO or government.


A dry dock she can’t reach unless the conditions are perfectly right.”

That applies to any big ship dry docking. Tides and wind are often the critical factors, indeed can apply to any ship entering a port as its very easy to end up in wrong place , ie aground.

Phillip Johnson

On Crowsnest:

  1. Thales and LM were always a partnership made in hell. The French and the US in the same box!
  2. Treasury was behaving entirely normally in terms of funding. Spend it or lose it is business as usual. It is not like the MOD hasn’t been told.
  3. On penalties. It is very hard to impose penalties on contracts written under British law. What you can impose is ‘liquidated damages’ providing you can show you have suffered economic loss and quantify that loss. Unfortunately government is appallingly bad at identifying where a delay would cause quantifiable economic loss.

1. It’s Lockheed UK and Thales UK so your xenophobia is misplaced.

2. Just because it is normal practice doesn’t mean that it is good practice.

3. It’s the government. Correct me if I’m wrong but can’t they fix the law??

Dave Wolfy

I suspect that Phillip is not scared of foreigners.

Phillip Johnson

1.Some times you would be surprised how little control local branches of multinationals have. Ever since the internet arrived Big Brother HQ is truly watching.
2.Government finances are immutable. Governments raise revenue annually and spend it annually. If you don’t spend it you lose it and you then have to pay the bill out of next year’s allocation which means you can do less new stuff.


Thank you for such a good analysis of the NAO report; it goes into enough detail to cover all of the points, while not getting so far into the report that it may as well be a copy/paste job. Best summary I’ve read so far.
I am pro-carriers and a meaningful strike force, on the fence about the nuclear deterrent’s value beyond political weight, pro a level of infrastructure and social spending and pro-soft power via DfID or something similar. Which I think puts me on the fence between the views displayed here so far.
CEPP gives us a useful and meaningful military and soft power capability that not much else does in our inventory right now. I think they should definitely be kept, and delivered as intended. That said, how to pay for them?
Regardles of what was said about austerity in 2008-2010 and beyond, government spending is the best proven method of achieving a recovery from recession (it is, and always has been, the management of the subsequent reduction in that spending once the economy has recovered that is difficult). I am not against HS2, but would add that a trans-Pennine route is what the north of the country really lacks; prioritise that northern part of the route first, rather than further improve the already relatively good links from London. Other than that, investment in industry (defence, green/renewable, high tech, space), particularly areas where we already have market share, is something that has been ignored for too long.
But I think some of the fundamentals of key institutions and how the government pays for stuff (and views cost) has to change:

  • The NHS has absorbed a huge number of additional services since it was first brought into being and is beginning to creak at the seams (while still being world class). The French system might be more suitable; where 70-100% of basic services are covered under the national system and the rest is covered from personal funds or under a non-profit health insurance system (to stop costs spiralling like the US).
  • Military spending on domestic product/capability should be a preference, as it is in the rest of the world. The government has hidden behind the false excuse of EU rules for a long time, but the truth is they have never prevented us from keeping defence spending domestic. Treasury and MOD should have some kind of recgonised method of incorporating the benefits of domestic purchase into budget allocations and project costing.
  • The way that budgets are funded in government seems to be incredibly rigid, limiting flexibility for projects to advance costs etc. all in the aim of balancing the annual books at the cost of project lifetime total. I’m not an economist, but there surely has to be a better way of doing it.
  • The MOD does not have a good reputation for managing projects well. Criticisms of regularly rotating military staff changing specifications and suchlike come up often. There is always a danger of removing the end user from involvement in product development, but a review of the way this is done should be carried out and changes made to ensure better continuity, better change control, and more timely project delivery.

I’m sure there are other things too, but in my view it makes sense to change things from the ground up; it is no good just asking for more money if the current amount is not well managed. It is ridiculous not to utlise the military’s massive budget as a potential industrial boost. It is foolish to keep adding extra services to the NHS and adding piecemeal money that does a poor job of managing the costs. Get back to the basics of what all of these things should do and then you can start looking at cash allocation.
But that would be a rather monumental undertaking, so I doubt it will ever happen.


More evidence, if needed, that we should have stuck with cats and traps.


Even more risk, even more expense. So no.

Meirion X

Maybe in the future when EM catabot
tech has matured.


You will always get somebody who alludes to the cost of CTOL gear; funnily enough mostly those who go orgasimic over carrier strike. When you are a few billion into a project of that size it is in consequential. Oddly F35b will be able to fly from more decks than you average FA18. But not going CTOL cuts off from USN carrier aviation mainstream development. So none of their forthcoming UAV cabs for instance. Then there other reasons like being able to operate E2x which is a tad better than Crowsnest. FA18 is half the price of F35b so 48 lots of $45 million is more than enough to pay for CTOL. But it ain’t going to happen.


EM catapults were the only option and are eye wateringly expensive. So no not inconsequential and that was even if they worked properly. By comparison the British steam catapult idea worked extremely well from the start.
Catapult launches and traps are very hard on airframes , a rolling takeoff and vertical recovery is a picnic by comparison ( especially now the vertical landing is largely autonomous)


The main problem was going with the smallest possible design which left no room for a steam generator. Odd that that sounds for a 70k tonnne hull; not that there was much difference in displacement.

I never ever said CTOL could be fitted to the carriers. I was saying going with F35b over and against an established cheaper platform was always going to cost. Buying 100 plus of a new aircraft when it is known those costs always rise. The idea that CTOL was too expensive never really held water. We could have gone for say Rafael-M.

I also appreciate the problems carrier landings generate for carrier aircraft. But we would never operate them at the same intensity as the USN. Operational intensity is something that seems to pass the majority here by; something that is never considered.

Dave Wolfy

ICCALS is a viable alternative – it would not have made the contractors much money as used existing catapults.


Vapour -ware !
The Navy had originally intended to develop and test a catapult launch system called the Internal Combustion Catapult Launch System (ICCALS) to compete with EMALS. ICCALS is claimed to offer all the advantages of EMALS and can be readily retrofitted to thr Nimitz CVNs. Essentially, it uses jet fuel in combination with an oxidizer to generate the energy neede to launch aircraft. A mere 25lbs. of JP-5 jet fuel with oxidizer will be sufficient to propel a 70,000lb aircraft at 170kts according to its proponents.”


Identified problem: “Not enough budget”
“Bob” answer: “We should have bought more complex and expensive ships, more expensive aircrafts (yes, Dave C is more expensive than Dave B) and have a vastly more expensive flight training sylabus”

Head explodes


So you think spending all that money and going to sea with half-arsed AEW is wise?
Of all the lessons from the Falklands war, the need for effective AEW coverage was number one.
This requirement has not diminished in an era of long range supersonic/hypersonic anti-ship missiles and shoehorning an aging system into an unsuitable platform is not the answer.
You get one shot at defending a carrier and had better get it right or all of those “limited budgets” cost a great many lives.


Bob isn’t as far off as you would think.

This is the report from the 2012 reversion decision to STOVL. In it, it states that the carriers would have cost £2 billion more, but once we factor in the cost of the F-35C versus the F-35B and operating costs, it drops to only £600 million over 30 years.

Unfortunately, a lot of those assumptions have aged poorly. The F-35B has cost more than expected and is costing more to operate than expected. So that gap in cost is narrowed considerably.

The F-35C not being ready until 2023 isn’t true, as neither will receive Block 4 until 2023 and the F-35C is already operating with the USN.

In addition, with the question of the F-35A split buy, an F-35C would satisfy the RAF’s needs for range and payload, and if the RAF is content then it would prevent any possible kneecapping of the carriers.

And if the UK only ends up with 48 F-35Bs, then you only end up with enough aircraft to operate continuously on one carrier, so the continuous capability of two is rendered moot. Whereas the original plan of one cats and traps carrier and one converted to amphibious assault duties, we can cover more mission sets now.

Finally, the UK gets access to the USN’s future roadmap. That means Super Hornets and Growlers, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, and the MQ-25 Stingray as well as anything else they develop over the next 50 years, which you know that they will. Right now, having the E-2D sounds really appealing given the mess that Crowsnest is.

Meirion X

The problem is, the E-2D costs about $250 million each!
The RN are going to need a min of 6 of E-2D, as well as spares and OCU,
which could cost about £2Bn easy.
It is Not going to happen!


With those cost issue remarked, I cannot stop saying, RN shall cancel 2B GBP T31 program. It might be too late, I agree, but surely building at least two FSSS, establishing logistics, filling the holes will be more important than building 5 assets which are “armed less than a typical corvette, packed in a full-fat large frigate hull”.

Cannot RN cut 5 T31 into 2 hulls (to be sold to RNZN in 2035, for example), and re-allocate ~1B GBP into FSSS to be built in Rosyth?

Now RN is hoping for 19 escorts first, leaving all measure to make CVTF “usable” as a matter of future increase in budget. It’s the wrong way, I think. Make CVTF “usable” and go along with 14 or 16 escorts, and only after that, when further money comes in, RN can re-generate “19 escorts” dream (although T31 is barely an “escort”).


We don’t need to reallocate a budget for FSS. It’s there. Those who bid in the competition know what it is.



I think you are saying FSSS must be ordered abroad now (if I remember correctly, because there is no capacity left in UK, as you pointed out), but is it possible with current situation?

My fear is, simply it looks like HMG is planning to bin those “allocation” because of COVID19 recession, and if so, FSSS will not materialize. Also, as this article states, there are many “more” money needed, but yet to be allocated and/or allocated but not committed, to make CVTF “useful”.

For me, T31 is nearly in the bottom of the priority for RN, compared to all these other stuffs (just personal thought, though).

Last edited 4 years ago by donald_of_tokyo
Meirion X

SoSD has just announced in Parliament, that a decision to build FSSS in UK will be coming soon.
He wants them built in the UK.

Last edited 4 years ago by Meirion X

Not really participating much nowadays but, can anyone confirm how many CIWS are mounted on HMS QE at the moment ? I can only see 2.


She was designed for 3 but only 2 are mounted


Any reason ? I’d have been questioning this back along.


Money. The MoD must have a good number of Phalanxes.


Good to see a credible carrier strike plan coming together even if there are a few stumbles with Crowsnest and the solid support ships.
Be interesting to see how things evolve when the Chinese put DF21 launchers on their reclaimed Spratley islands.


Not sure they will reach Pompey.


The PM pointed to dither and delay pushing up costs. When he gets round to looking at the defence review, whenever that’s completed, I hope he remembers that and gets on with it. There’s enough cash flying all over the place right now I hope the MOD can grab some. The defence budget is pitiful.

Rob N

Why use the Searchwater radar for Crowsnest – it dates back to tge 70’s when it was fitted to Nimrod MK2. Thats 59 years old! It was given an air mode in 1982 and rushed into service on Sea King. This is basically what we are being offed now with some software updates. This is meant to be future proof for the life of the carrier (another 50 years) and cope with saturation attacks from stealthy hypersonic sea skimming anti-ship missiles!

Some how I doubt we have the right radar/platform combination.


Its an upgraded version of the Searchwater radar. The radar principles havent changed for medium altitude sea search, its the separate mission system that tracks and classifies the targets thats important.
The radar has been in continuous development since including for cancelled MR4 and overland use on Sea Kings in Afghanistan.
Lockheed Martin proposed a version of the F-35 AESA radar but that was too expensive for the small numbers required
Remember the E3 Sentry is still going with the same scanner


How much would it cost to bring the carriers up to scratch that’s the question. Include 2 Squadrons= 24 F35B’s each. 3 FSS. Decent self defence. Decent AWAC’s. Fully armed AC and ships. The Real Deal.
Not including Escorts which S/B ABM equipped.
When can it be achieved?

Scott Parker

Small typo. Discrete is written, but should be discreet. Different meanings

Last edited 4 years ago by Scott Parker
J Nettleton

Complete inept performance yet again from the military and government. For gods sake fun an increase in defence expenditure in line with new global brexit Britain and stop acting like complete morons.
Also how stupid to reduce army troops and Royal marines. Again total idiots and bean counters in charge.


Thats the reality. Britain isnt going to spend any higher % of its GDP ( it was 5% during the Falklands, and 9% in the late 50s).
Germanys and Frances share is even less.
This is a conservative government and labour isnt going to promise more but might have a more stable equipment buy of made in Britain.


And France is still classified as a stronger millitray than the UK

Meirion X

The Times article was dated March 2017!


A very interesting exchange between an MP on the Defence Select Committee and General Sir Nick Carter, head of the armed forces regarding defence procurement. STRN linked to this entire hearing in a tweet but I think this is potentially the most interesting bit…..

Good to know that at least some of our politicians have a grasp of this issue.


Ouch – needs saying though. Perhaps having Cummins do a review/audit is what the service needs?


In a word indecision is crippling us. The Treasury can’t or won’t commit funds over longer planning cycles; lengthy projects encourage requirements changes; requirements changes drive redesign delays. Treasury yells Gotcha! Things are improving though. Identify which items are circus acts and which are commodities – frigates are tending to a commodity so you buy on price and jobs e.g. Type 31 and Boxer. And make decisions fast on urgent gaps where protracted competitive evaluation is a waste of time e.g. P8. There are good reasons why some projects like Astute overrun. They are very complex and involve rebuilding lost skills and capabilities – which were likely sacrificed to meet Treasury imposed cuts in the first place. The general is right – longterm strategy is cheaper in the long run. There are good reasons why Boris Johnson has put his man in Number 11. He sees the problem more clearly than Mark Francois. Just imagine how we would have coped with covid if Sajid Javid had been Chancellor. There is more to life than balancing the books.

Humpty Dumpty

The article states “This is way short of the 36 fixed-wing aircraft /110 sorties per day the ships could accommodate.”

According to
“To tell how many planes can actually get to the fight requires a second measure, the sortie generation rate: that is, how many flights per day each fighter in the fleet completes. The 2018 DOT&E report makes no mention of it. The fleet-wide sortie rates for the three F-35 variants POGO calculated from the 2017 report were extremely low, averaging between 0.3 and 0.4 sorties per day. During Operation Desert Storm, frontline combat aircraft including the F-15 and F-16 flew an average of at least one sortie per day, and the A-10 fleet averaged at least 1.4 sorties per day. Even under the pressure of recent Middle East combat deployment, the F-35’s rates have not improved. According to statements from the squadron commander, 6 F-35Bs onboard the USS Essex flew over 100 sorties in 50-plus days in the Middle East. In other words, each F-35B flew a third of a sortie per day—meaning they flew an average of once every three days—in sustained combat.”

The 2019 DOT&E report also doesn’t give specific figures, but does say the following:
“Although the program released several new versions of ALIS in 2019 that improved ALIS usability, these improvements did not eliminate the major problems in ALIS design and implementation and are unlikely to significantly reduce technical debt or improve the user experience. ALIS remains inefficient and cumbersome to use, still requires the use of numerous workarounds, retains problems with data accuracy and integrity, and requires excessive time from support personnel. As a result, it does not efficiently enable sortie generation and aircraft availability as intended.”

To say that F-35Bs on the QE or POW could achieve 3 sorties a day each doesn’t seem likely at all.