Subscribe
Notify of
guest
153 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Linden Anthony

I understand he was also against Typhoon.

4thwatch

He dreams of 1000 bomber raids over the Ruhr.

pete

he makes some very good points. Britain is not a global sea power – or even a global power. and drones are the future without doubt. these carriers will be obsolete within 10 years as drones continue to develop. attacks, if there ever are any, will not come from sea or even land – cyber attacks will cripple a nation way before any carrier can get an aircraft airborne – to do what exactly? I am a veteran who served on carriers but Hastings on this point makes a very strong case against the nostalgia of an Admiralty still stuck in the 20th century,

Sean

Cyber attacks will certainly be omongst the first wave of any first assault against a nation state. There will be no single attack vector. But most will fail as cyber defences receive more funding than attack capability. The attacked state will also retaliate with its own cyber warfare.

Working for a tech company, yes drones are increasing in capabilities all the time. But full autonomous AI for combat is still decades away. Even when available, international law is likely to limit their deployment. In the meantime drones will be human controlled, either remotely, or as loyal wingmen by F35 pilots.

The QE carriers will probably ended up being equipped with 12 or 24 F35’s each. But they’ll also end up carrying dozens of heavily armed and expendable drones, multiplying the strike capability several times over.

The future will see more nations field carrier strike capabilities, as witnessed by Chinese and Indian carrier efforts. Far better to fight a war far away using naval and air assets then wait to fight it on your own territory.

Steve Taylor

Why do you assume a ‘drone’ will be smaller than a conventional plane? And why do you think they will be cheaper? By the time drones are smart enough to do things on their we won’t need large platforms as we will just obtain smart munitions and station them where needed.

Rising powers ape the characteristics of established powers and that is probably why China and India have carriers with real security concerns coming in at a distance. China is already winning WW3 by ‘digging in’ in Africa now in peace time.

A more worried by the Chinese Maritime Militia in their ‘near abroad’ than their sole carrier paddling about in the India Ocean.

Sean

Drone will be smaller because they don’t need to drag around a human pilot and all the systems needed to keep him alive etc. As for costs, human-rated rockets, spacecraft etc are all more expensive than robotic because they need to be certified to higher levels with more redundant systems to keep their crews alive. Same will be true for drones versus human flown aircraft.
Drones only need to be big enough to carry an equivalent payload a similar distance – particularly if they’re used as loyal wingmen. And they only need to have sufficient redundant enough to ensure you don’t get them crashing too often due to equipment failure.

Yes the Chinese power play in developing nations is disturbing. In many cases when they can’t repay the Chinese loans then China gains control of port for its use. Guess what vessels will be visiting those points, their future carrier strike groups.

As for ‘sole carrier’… You obviously don’t know about the ones under construction and their plans for future ones. They want to be able to match the USA carrier fleet, which will be necessary in any move against Taiwan.

fearlesstunafish

clearly the fact that all the stealthy combat drones to date are prettymuch the same size as existing fighters must have escaped your notice….. just because you don’t have a pilot, you still need large tanks fuel for range and endurance, and be large enough to have a useful payload if they are to replace manned fighters…… infact thats the main selling point of them….. by making them small you would negate their advantages, because these are replacements for manned combat jets, not hobby drones!

Edd

Having seen many drones up close I can tell you they are even bigger than manned fast jets. In fact the runway at RAF Waddington was resurfaced to cope with the extra weight from drones.

steve jones

Think about what you wrote there Sean. Drones only need to be big enough to do the same job as the manned fighter. Fly x00 miles strike radius, with the same performance characteristics as the manned jet and drop a few thousand lbs of ordnance.

The only difference is a couple of hundred pounds of organic CPU and maybe another similar amount of life support kit. If the difference between the two profiles is less than 500lbs weight saving for the drone how is it doing the same job without being pretty much the same size?.

Supportive Bloke

I’d see China as more likely to have logistical reach than India. The Indian carrier will be for show and won’t have the full support infrastructure required for real blue water use.

maurice10

As always Hastings makes these statements on many aspects of military thinking. For the most part, they are too emotionally driven, this article is a case in point. The UK needs the carriers possibly more than other assets in the MOD’s arsenal. Not only do they enable the RN global reach but they will be of great value when it comes to disaster relief. This aspect of naval operations will become one of its principal activities, and combining trade agreements with relife progammes, will be the way forward. The notion that Britain is no longer a global power is nonsense, it has extensive influence and dependencies across the World. However, the greatest challenge is yet to manifest itself, and that will be the policing and protection of global trade routes. To suggest Britain has no interest in protecting these vital routes, is forgetting that our trade is about to become more international.

The threat to trade routes and exclusive port agreements is going to be the crisis of the future, and nations that can provide appropriate vessels for policing and monitoring will be the only viable opposition to such developments. As precious minerals and other vital materials become restricted by corruption, and the increasing effects of climate change in the countries of origin, the greater the need will be to ensure our navy is there to protect our interests. The possibility of blockade and harassment by powerful navies against weaker nations on the high seas, is a prospect that can only be countered by the substantial naval presence of interested nations.

The dangers to large vessels being at increased risk of attack have always been a major concern to naval planners, but this will be the challenge of the scientists and engineers to ensure the carries stay one step ahead. We need our new carriers full stop; and intellectual arguments as to why they are dinosaurs, should be assigned to the reading rooms and libraries of military therories.

andy reeves

techno warfare as its being called is without doubt the future of warfare the lack of mention of dragon fire bothers me, did the proposed tests fail? did they even happen? the M.O.D shouldn’t be so coy about things like laser weapons the u.k must be at the forefront of all the new techno weapon,cyber warfare research.you can be sure that other nation and in particular china and n. korea are investing heavily indeed.

Callum

“Britain is not a global sea power” – the RN is one of three true blue water fleets on the planet (although I’d now argue China has joined that group). Our defence is intrinsically tied to the air and sea domains: Hastings’s army isnt relevant in a European war when all of allies are primarily land powers.

Drones are one part of the future of warfare, but how does that make carriers irrelevant? They need somewhere to operate from after all, exactly the same way as manned aircraft. In any case, I wouldn’t be so sure of the domination of drones. As you also pointed out, cyber is going to be massive as well. Major consideration has to be given to having a large proportion of your forces unmanned when a peer opponent could potentially hack them. Breaking an enemy’s intelligence network is already war losing, imagine how absolutely catastrophic breaking a drone network would be when most of your forces are drones.

Cyber attacks on nations fall into the same category as nukes and terrorism: massive escalation that exists at the top level of warfare. Just like nukes, it doesn’t make conventional forces obsolete, because what is far more likely is a military skirmish or a limited war over outer territories (the Falklands being the best example, the islands in the SCS being a potential future one).

Steve Taylor

How do you measure what is a ‘blue water fleet’ now?

Callum

A fleet that can sustain combat operations across the globe. So pretty much any navy can send a ship or ships around the world, you just use friendly or neutral ports to refuel. To actually FIGHT at that distance requires a base network or a fleet of auxiliaries capable of replenishing those ships at a distance. Then you need enough of those logistics capabilities to support an entire battlegroup.

The UK has that, although it’s a capability teetering on the edge. Between the RFA and global bases like Gibraltar, the Falklands, Ascension, Diego Garcia, HMS Juffair, Singapore (Naval Party 1022 if I recall?), and allies around the world, the RN can guarantee its forces can be replenished to a greater or lesser extent everywhere on the planet.

Dan

The logistics capabilities of the RN are impressive and beyond almost anyone except the yanks. The reality is they are required if you are planning to operate on your own. If you are planning to be the partner of US the public want to know why do we need to be there as the yanks can do it anyway.

Operate in the Med with the entire North coast NATO allies, RN is welcome support but not essential.
Down West coast of Africa no one local has a sub, and most barely have an Air Force.

Latin America has a big American keep out sign, barring the Islands that must not be mentioned, the idea of U.K. trying to take on Brazil is nil.

Get into Indian Ocean and you start getting serious, do we plan to be able to take on India 🇮🇳 or China 🇨🇳 both 1,000,0000 army’s with multi Carrier Fleets and Nuclear weapons. If not who is this peer we are fighting?

Callum

There seems to be this popular myth that the USN is entirely capable of doing everything on its own and the RN is just for show. That could not be further from the truth.

Let’s take China as an example, because a skirmish in the SCS is one of the most likely future conflicts out there. Realistically, the USN could on short notice maybe deploy 2-3 carrier groups. That’s a major force, but it’s still going against a massive A2AD network. The RN CSG represents a self sufficient ~20-30% increase in forces available at short notice (obviously not as capable as a full US CSG given the airwing and escort composition, otherwise they’d represent a 25-33% increase). That’s absolutely massive given that allies are on the offensive.

For a less US-centric example of why the RN’s strength is relevant, there’s the European strikes on Libya. The RN was present yet largely toothless compared to France, which despite Europe being extremely local conducted the vast majority of the airstrikes with the CDG’s airwing. No Americans in sight, but there was only a 50% chance the allies could’ve managed it because the CDG is obviously alone. Thus the RN’s permanent CSG becomes critical in yet another likely scenario, one that highlights the US pivot to the Pacific and the fact that European allies need to retain sovereign forces.

The size of the Indian and Chinese armies is fairly irrelevant given that there’s no logical scenario predicted by anyone that sees either us or our allies invading continental Asia. With service lives of roughly 50 years though, and with global politics likely to change drastically, a versatile and powerful response force like a CSG is useful in pretty much every conventional scenario that’s predicted or is likely to arise.

Gavin Gordon

Poor bloody Americans – it’s all up to them, apparently. Last I recall they were getting justifiably pissed at that mindset. One thing I do accord with, Dan, is that the public have a right to know, though frankly the Silent Majority do seem pretty switched on to developing issues and threats, I believe. I don’t buy in to the apparent all encompassing sea blindness meme. Outside of sites like these, who is there of late comprehensively countering such one sided access to the major news outlets?

Dave

Dan I think you over exaggerated the size of Indians military capabilities at the moment as they have currently a single Old Russian carrier that requires extensive repairs and can barely operate fighter operations

Darren

India is a Commonwealth Country and an old ally that contributed over two and a half million people in uniform in WW2. To think og India as a threat or enemy is sad.

Cammy

Does the RN have any facilities at the british Cyprus territory’s? If not why not…

Challenger

No not really as Royal Navy vessels still regularly call at either Valetta or Souda Bay in Crete which is heavily used by NATO members.

I think there was a small wharf and very minimal shore facilities back when the Cyprus Squadron patrol boats operated in Sovereign Base waters, but whether that’s still in place i’m not sure, plus it was always totally inadequate for ships the size of frigates or destroyers and up anyway.

Cammy

Ah right thanks mate.

Callum

No, they’re beyond the scope of the sovereign base areas. The base areas we retained were only RAF and army stations, the RN in Cyprus used facilities that returned to Cypriot control. Unfortunately major ports were tough to argue to retain.

Gunbuster

Not a major military port but support from the Base area infrastructure

Alex

If Britain isnt a global sea power it isnt anything. If Hastings sees the UK as a “faded power” then so is everyone else outside the top 4 economies on the planet and we might as well be Ireland and just rely on everyone else for our defence. Scrap trident, and the entire army with it. In short, Hastings criticism is everything wrong with post-war British decision making which has been based around the assumption of managed decline, and never around the suggestion that it could be arrested, and ultimately reversed.

Hastings is an army historian, and so fails to understand the eternal truth which is, always has been, and always will be, that the British army should be a projectile, to be fired with precision by the Royal Navy.

Cammy

Britain very much is a global power one of very few nations that are!. Global powers completely different from super power! We all know there’s only one true superpower USA and I’m glad we are their number one Allie, and we need to invest in more than 13 frigates and more millitary personnel to keep our status as a powerful capable credible Allie. It’s crazy how japan and South Korea each both have more frigates, destroyers and submarines than the UK and that shouldn’t be!!. We have to push above our weight like Britain has always done….its a shame we have lost so many RN and RFA ships!

Phillip Johnson

The UK has global interests but a global power? It simply does not have the bulk to claim that.
Take away the SSBN’s (which probably represent an unusable threat) and the remaining forces are simply too few.
The carriers are good looking ships, but follow the RN tradition of carriers with inadequate air groups going back to the 1930’s.

Cammy

Global power isn’t just about millitary strength, it’s soft power intelligence services and everything else like diplomats ect, and the UK was ahead of even the USA in number one spot for a while there thanks to trump isolating USA.

Include the UKs RFA logistics and amphibious force and nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers and training, special forces, 8,000 commandos and we still have a very strong millitary and amazing intelligence services. We are definitely a global power like I said global powers not just about millitrys size!! Oh and the fact the UK has millitary bases all over the globe. We are ranked very highly in lots of areas.

Gavin Gordon

Any drone worth it’s salt is going to be very expensive; in the medium term, at least, it has to match and overshadow that sophisticated processing unit currently known as as trained combat pilot.

Harry Bulpit

that’s why the worlds top tier nations are after carriers especially China and now Japan. Even Iran and North Korea countries both set on developing drone and cyber warfare, see the advantages of conventional weaponry and invest heavily in them.

Andrew ardron

This is exactly what people said in 70’s would happen with accurate powerful icbm. Carrier groups will disappear as technology threatens them.

Andrew ardron

Funny though that if us and America are so far behind the game why are the up and coming states building the same out dated kit.

Airborne

Hilarious, totally wrong and without an ounce of strategic thought. You served on a carrier? Really?

don

The Carrier Admirals in the USN and RN are today’s equivalent of the Battleship Admirals of 1935…it’s painful to think about, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Humpty Dumpty

I have no idea why you got so many down votes. Drones and cyber warfare are definitely the future. There are many ways we could (and should) make our currennt surface ships more survivable against torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, but in the first days of a war with Russia or China, I can’t see surface ships playing much of a role.

Bing Chandler

Possibly over the top calling Hastings a historian, he’s basically a journalist who occasionally writes books about the past. His assessment in the article of the Admiralty’s priorities at the start of WW2 overlooks the fact that the RN had 7 carriers with a further 6 in build or on order, more than any other navy.* So they certainly weren’t favouring battleships, only ordering 1, Vanguard, after 1937.

*Argus, Hermes, Eagle, Glorious, Courageous, Furious, Ark Royal, with 6 more Illustrious class to come. At this point the USN and IJN only had 6 carriers in commission.

Midge

You can add Lion and Temeraire to the list of Battleships ordered after 1937. They never got beyond being laid down, but it is worth noting that after the 5 KGVs, there were to be 4 Lions (which ended up with only Vanguard), while the contemporary fleet carriers being built were Ark Royal, 4 Illustrious’s and 2 Implacables (In the 1935-1940 period).

Definitely not favouring battleships at the expense of carriers though.

Challenger

There may have been up-to 6 Lion’s had events unfolded differently. Vanguard wasn’t quite to the same design as she used old 15 inch guns from the Courageous class battle-cruisers whereas the Lion’s would have sported new 16 inch guns to match the latest post naval treaty German, American and Japanese designs.

I think the RN did see the value of carriers, but like everyone at the time couldn’t anticipate just how central a role they would take and how quickly battleships would fall out of favour. The 6 Illustrious and Implacable’s would have replaced the pre Ark Royal vessels to maintain an overall fleet of 7.

The Lions would have replaced the Revenge class battleships, and possibly Renown and Repulse would have been retired as well but the Queen Elizabeth’s had been heavily modernized so had the war come later or not happened at all the RN probably would have maintained a slightly larger (and far more modern) force of 17-19 battleships and HMS Hood (in size and armament not really a battle-cruiser) into the 1940’s.

Paul Bestwick

The numbers you quote were to retain the same profile of fleet to match the treaty commitments so as to keep up with the joneses (the USA)

Steve Taylor

We have to remember the carriers were all part of Blair’s vision of humanitarian intervention and the idea of rule based international order. They thought Russia would never get back on her feet and they thought the could control China. The US and the rest of West would be free to hop around the globe putting our ‘bush fires’. The RN’s carriers were to be the spear of the EU end of that effort with Blair as our glorious leader. And I like many was excited at thought of 2/3 large carriers heading up a navy of 32 escorts, 12 SSN’s, 3 RN amphibious ships (plus considerable RFA lift too), and other maritime assets like the RAF MPA’s. The picture 20 plus years on is very different. But hindsight is a lovely thing.

Fewer escorts if we had no carriers? I can see the argument for that if our naval security wasn’t deeply tied to the USN. On other sites in the past if you are argued for this or that the counter argument was often, ‘We don’t need to that because USN……’ The USN are facing an escort and submarine gap. The Chinese build the equivalent of a European navy each year so the gap is growing. But the USN must have given the nod to QEC. We have seen the push to turn the USMC into yet another airforce and it seems our carriers are a part of that strategy. But the strategy is flawed as air power isn’t a panacea. Also consider how this idea of ‘strike carrier’ is always mentioned when the carriers are discussed. Is because of the USMC or was it to get the RAF aboard? Or is it because flogging the idea of a large aviation platform that will be a floating base for our ever decreasing pool of helicopters with a few FJ on top isn’t as ‘sexy’? I don’t think Bulwark or Albion will be replaced in light of this RM reorganisation. This will our carriers replacing in effect 6 ships. (We should have never flogged that Bay.) But if somebody in the Department of Navy had thought another way and we had not had a egotist for a PM there is every chance that our contribution to the West’s, or Anglosphere’s, maritime defence would have been maintaining our escort and SSN numbers. We don’t operate in a vacuum. Perhaps our biggest mistake in terms of naval technology since the end of the Cold War has been maintaining this idea that we can have own systems when we should have perhaps done what the RAN have done since the 60’s and just accepted American standards. Of course all this flows back to the Political Class’ distrust of the US and their support of the EU.

Jon

The idea that we could have been “maintaining our escort and SSN numbers” instead is fantasy. For the cost of both carriers we could have built 3 more subs and one more Type 26. And we wouldn’t have.

Steve Taylor

As with all things the reason why SSN numbers fell is political. If our SSN’s were built in Scotland you can better the orders wouldn’t have been interrupted.

Steve Taylor

How do you know that? You don’t do you?

Jon

I know the prices and I can multiply by 3 and add a frigate.

Whether they would have built those extra SSNs? You’re right, I can’t know for sure, but what would have been different about the Treasury’s insistance on the number reduction to 7, especially given the initial cock up?

Also, I’m not convinced Barrow can build any extra Astutes before the Dreadnoughts need to be delivered. Nor a subsequent batch of Astutes for delivery before the early/mid 2040s when the first Astutes will need to be replaced. Two batches and eight more subs in 24 years, yes. Three batches and eleven more, I’m less sure. Also I’m convinced the Dreadnoughts won’t be built to the original budget, so a late batch of Astutes would have almost certainly been cancelled to pay for Dreadnought overruns. That’s my guess.

If anything had to give, it wouldn’t be the nuclear deterrent.

Steve Taylor

So you are saying based purely on some sketchy arithmetic that if we hadn’t built the carriers we wouldn’t have built further SSN’s? And you just add a frigate for some arbitrary reason?

You are not even following what I said are you?

I can see why this site has the reputation it has.

Meirion X

@Troll S Taylor
If You say So! Go elsewhere then!!

Steve Taylor

Never any proper rebuttals here are there?

Dan

You are right the original strategy was drawn up in an era of US accepted lone HyperPower, Russia not a threat and would colaberate with us and China had an economy and Navy much smaller than today.

The U.K. needs to accept it is now a bit player not a global power or if it wants to keep the global pretensions it needs to persuade the public WHY we should invest 4% and growing of GDP.

The next decade will see peak costs of TRIDENT Replacement and even if the boats are built in Barrow lots of the components come with a $ sign on the price.

The public are not interested in Iraq the sequel, or Afghan war 5. In terms of the threat from China 🇨🇳 no one in U.K. or Europe sees it as their responsibility to protect Taiwan or Vietnam, China intervening to protect their investment in Sudan or Angola, would we really risk war to prevent them.

Once you are talking about evacuating civillians when the House of Saud falls or from a Tunisian coup, capabilities needed are different.

Gavin Gordon

Where do you get your 4%, though? It’s two percent of GDP, but five percent of government expenditure.

Cammy

Global power isn’t just about millitarys size! There’s many more factors and the UK rank in the top section in all of them, diplomacy, intelligence services, special forces ect ect, and we have lots of global bases. Our millitary strength might have been eroded in recent ent years but we still have some of the best gear on earth with great intelligence, and we still design and build our own nuclear warheads.

We have second to none amphibious operation assets and troops and two new aircraft carriers and 7 new nuclear attack submarines and 4 new nuclear balistic missile subs, we will also have 13 new frigates, destroyers, tankers, aircraft carriers ALL NEW along with brand new atack helicopters and F35s jets. We are still a major millitary with amazing capability’s, granted we couldn’t field huge armys like before but we don’t need to these days no one wants another Iraq. But the UK can do everything else in a large or medium scale which I’m totally fine with. I would like to see more depth in helicopters and army tanks for the Army and ships for the navy and drones and jets for the RAF.

Supportive Bloke

Where do you start taking this apart

“Flat decks welded onto cargo ships” OMG has the guy never heard of aircraft maintenance, weapons loading. All pretty hard on an exposed deck in the middle of the Atlantic, or any other sea, in a high sea state.

It is just nuts walking away from optimised platforms.

Where he gives away his total lack of understanding of the subject is in his failure to acknowledge that there is a degree of responsibility for the souls on board who might be rather vulnerable on a cargo ship with some deck plate stuffed on top of it.

Maybe the solution is to send Max out as an aircraft maintainer on one of his improvised flat tops……to test his theory….

J. Gould

So what’s new.
All been known for years.
If nothing original to write, keep pen off paper.

Jon

Max Hastings points out that we have spent 15% of our annual defence budget on the capital costs of the sixty-year carrier programme, and he thinks that’s too much.

I agree with Max. Let’s double the defence budget.

Supportive Bloke

Double might be a tough sell but 3% is more like where it needs to be.

Jon

Alas, in politics alliterative sound bites carry further than a reasoned case. Aim high, get less; aim less, get nothing.

Duker

At the time of the Falklands War it was just under 6% of GDP, The Gulf War around 4% and 3% in 1997.
While the economic growth means GDP is higher , the cost of equipment has increased more

Sean

Might not be necessary. Rumour has it Dominic Cummings is to be set on the MOD to find out why is gets such poor value for money on its purchases. Part of an overall streamlining of the Whitehall apparatus apparently.

Jon

We get poor value for money because instead of actually doing something, like following the Parker recommendations, we ask Dominic Cummings to conduct yet another review. Because we listen to Whitehall manderins, who should know better but who have bought into Putin’s, your carriers are just floating targets for our buzzword-enabled, swarming sticks of hypersonic, supercavitating celery. Because we stretch programmes to fit a fixed annual budget, rather than building at the most efficient and cheapest speed. Because we don’t employ programme managers who understand that contingency isn’t just line on a speadesheet. Because we don’t follow up on “for but not with”. Because we …

“Conduct a so-called Strategic Defence and Security Review to save a lot of money quickly and make a number of random cuts throughout defence based on fallacious, last-minute departmental advice.” Rear Admiral Lidbetter, 2011, commenting on Cameron’s cuts.

Sorry for the rant. I just read the Grauniad’s article on the Cummings initiative and needed to vent.

Steve Taylor

The big problem for the RN is where do you spend extra without the bodies to man it all? Unless the extra is spent making sure that T26 doesn’t leave the wall FFBNW X, Y, or Z system. Extra helicopters? Do we have the personnel if we bought them? Plough money into T31 so it is viable and not just a jumble of numbers on a spread sheet?

Jon

You’d spend some of the money on more bodies. Increase the numbers by 20% and the salaries by 15% and make the job more interesting with exotic South Seas postings and a chance to actually make a difference in the world’s trouble spots. Arguably we are underspending on bodies vs kit even now.

Gavin Gordon

I note that Dominic Cummings has decided to carry out the Defence Review in addition to Social Policy, Infrastructure, the Civil Service and many other areas of government my puny brain is incapable of encompassing, no doubt. What a Paragon of Our Age that bloke must be

Sean

He’s a veritable polymath and strategist.

Chris Blanchett

I stopped reading Hastings as his writing always comes with a huge ‘benefit of hindsight’ criticism of our armed forces. His books on the Royal Air Force are as bad as his Royal Navy writing. His latest on the Dam Busters was particularly condercending and don’t mention his RAF Bomber Command history. Full of the leftie, knocking, journo opinions about area bombing. Hastings is no historian.

Scott Carpenter

Hasting is as far from being a “lefty” as is democratically possible. In this case though, I very much disagree with him.

Duker

He is contemptuous of Boris Johnson and was a labour voter during Blairs terms. You might call him a ‘centrist’

Geo

Being contemptuous of Boris does not make you any further to the left than a great many Tories, in much the same way that being contemptuous of Blair doesn’t make you a right winger.

Gavin Gordon

I read a sizable amount of history on all the armed forces. I see Max Hastings name associated with any such publication and don’t bother picking it up.

Simon m

To me the best thing the new labour government did was to virtually make the carriers unable to be cancelled. We all know what would have happened the project would have been the first to go in austerity and although the RN had to make some sacrifices to get them IMO it was worth it. It is much easier to get approval for cheaper escorts than huge carriers. The RN can now look at the rest of the fleet and although some purists don’t like it the type 31 does now give the real opportunity of expanding the fleet. The capability of the platform could mean with adaptations we could procure both air defence & ASW vessels for under significantly under £500 million a piece whilst maintaining & hopefully adding a few cruisers (effectively T26) and destroyers to ensure that a high end low mix can form a reasonable taskforce. I think the RN recognised this hopefully the government will support this & the sacrifices of T45s & GP instead of all high end will be worth it. This guy has army blinkers on plain and simple, what he doesn’t realise is that without significant and secure logistics a land force is going nowhere.

Challenger

So much to object to with Hasting’s view on this, but i’ll just make 3 broad points…..

1. History tells us when the Royal Navy is strong the United Kingdom is strong. Dominating the sea, dividing our enemies, forming coalitions to contribute the bulk of the land forces and limiting ourselves to peripheral campaigns works and all of the advancements in technology hasn’t changed that. The one time we provided a large chunk of the forces for a protracted, grinding continental fight led to the horrific bloodbath on the Western Front 1914-1918.

2. We can all make arguments for more money and extra kit. I strongly believe QE & PoW are woefully under-armed for capital ships so large and important and should have CAMM cells. FSS is also really important and needs to be delivered as soon as possible. As fantastic as Aster/Sampson is as a AAW capability i’d have no problem arguing that the T45’s don’t carry anywhere near enough missiles and that we need versatile, multi-role combat vessels in the vein of the Arleigh Burke’s instead of gold-plated, niche designs. But why do these criticisms somehow invalidate the carriers themselves? Saying they should be better protected is a criticism of wider decisions on funding as apposed to saying the very idea of operating carriers is unpractical or indulgent.

3. Just how much time and money has Max’s precious Army squandered on it’s inability to make what should be pretty simple decisions in selecting new vehicles? How many 40 or even 50 year old examples are still being driven around and in some cases upgraded at significant expense and difficulty because of the endless dithering? How many battalions are currently being starved of manpower, stripped of supporting elements and tasked with sitting in ‘The Adaptable Force’ because they can’t face amalgamating cap-badges. What about the failure of Watchkeeper or the complete lack of modernization of the Royal Artillery. Of course the Army has a place and there needs to be purple thinking at the top of the chain, but the idea that it should be front and centre at the expense of the RN & RAF i frankly find a baffling perspective for anyone commenting on the UK Armed Forces to take!

M.walker

This country has been caught ill prepared before , I will pay my taxes for our countries protection as we must be close to having adequate enough armed forces as it is .🇬🇧

Fat Dave

An article on a website called “savetheroyalnavy” is hardly going to provide “a more balanced view”. So the article is flawed from the start.

The truth is that the UK doesn’t need aircraft carriers of this size and complexity. There is no credible argument to support them. The last time the UK critically needed aircraft carriers was in 1982 – nearly 38 years ago.

They are too vulnerable to modern and emerging threats, too expensive for the UK and too manpower intensive.

Buying them has left the RN seriously short of other surface vessels. All the money wasted on them could have provided the RN with more urgently needed destroyers and frigates and possibly submarines.

Only the US and China can afford what are luxuries for a country the size of the UK.

Hastings makes excellent points.

The carriers should be sold now, no matter the short-term embarrassment, and the money reinvested back in the armed forces. Including buying the better version of the F-35.

The Army is too big, the RAF is too small and the RN is badly configured to meet the demands of the 21st Century. The expense of these obsolete carriers have helped contribute to imbalance. If this page is to retain any credibility, it should advocate getting rid of the carriers.

Dan (the other Dan)

The problem with the carriers is that they were planned and ordered before the financial crisis, at a time when it was expected the RN would still have a respectable number of frigates and destroyers. Right now, the fleet looks a little unbalanced with two massive carriers and the reduced number of escorts.

But you have to work with what you’ve got, and what good would selling the carriers do at this point? Who is going to buy them, given that they only jets they can operate are the F-35? You would be depriving the RN of a vital capability, and little chance of recuperating the money already invested in their development. Better to keep them, and focus now on building up capability in other areas that need addressing, like ASW.

D J

There are very few nations with both the money to buy & support the carriers & have access to the required F35B’s. The most obvious is USA, but may run into ‘not built in USA’ legal problems. Others would be Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea & that’s about it. Spain would like to but can’t even afford F35B for their current carrier. Italy is already sorted. Turkey is loosing access to F35. France is not set up for naval STOVL. Germany would not know what to do with one. Brazil currently does not have F35 & couldn’t afford two at any rate. India does not currently have access to F35, but possibly would look at them with the idea of converting to STOBAR. Canada pretends it can’t afford it (or anything else for that matter). Australia can if it really wanted to. South Korea would like to but the ships are twice the size they really need. Japan would need further law changes to allow for dedicated carriers, but otherwise jump at the chance.

Does not give many realistic options for selling the carriers & most of them are smaller military wise than the UK. If any of them can afford to buy them, surely UK can afford to keep them. The only other possible option is to see if NATO or EU is prepared to fund one of them.

don

Why would the USA want them, even if ‘made in USA’ prejudice was done away with?

They are quite inadequate for the USN which is already equipped with ships that have triple the firepower and capabilities.

Additionally, only the Marines are silly enough to buy the flying abortion that is the F-35B and like the Harrier II with its appalling accident rate/miserable payload/range, it will prove that the money spent on the idiot lift fan/nozzle/other dead weight would have been better spent on F-18s, or perhaps F-35 Cs.

FFS, the jar-heads could fly C models off of big-deck Navy ships (which they’ll have to do anyway as the number of F-35Bs one can operate from a (Navy!) Wasp LHA is severely limited because of the need to embark assault helicopters, berthing and equipment for Marines and LCACs in meaningful numbers).

Like Harrier the idea of flying the F-35B into jungle clearings to support Marines ashore is a non-starter, with extensive site preparations being required and Marines needed to fight their way inland to emplace fuel dumps. Like Harrier, it’s an interesting technological exercise and perhaps a good fit for nations with small carriers but an utter waste for the USN/USMC.

Gavin Gordon

Dear Dave, you may have noticed that during the Falklands the carriers* survived (due to Woodward knowing how to deploy them). The air cover they provided was essential to keeping the ground forces reasonably, though of course not totally, protected. * lucky for Max!

Rick

Like you’re an expert, what do you know pal?

Jon

Everyone has bias. Save the Royal Navy wears its bias proudly, and you know what you’re getting. That doesn’t invalidate what it publishes, nor magically make every article “flawed from the start”. The truth that is you have your point of view, and it’s brave of you to air it here. But you are so, so wrong.

As you said, 38 years ago we needed carriers. These ships last fifty years, so who is to say we won’t need one in 38 year’s time? Or next week. And if the UK could find a buyer for the carriers at 50p in the pound (we should be that lucky) what makes you think the treasury would ever give that money to the Navy for a few more escorts? No chance. And that’s twice the chance the RAF would see a penny. Boris would build a bridge to fairyland first.

AKM

It would have been handy to have had the ability to send a carrier into the Med as part of Operation Ellamy in 2011 rather than flying Tornados and Typhoons from Italy with transit times in the 1 to 1.75 hour range just to get to the operation areas.

Gunbuster

Finally, someone who understands the complexities of shooting missiles at a ship.
It is a big ass ocean and it is no simple task to find and target a vessel many hundreds of miles from land. Its difficult enough using Harpoon on an RN vessel and that has a relatively short range.
Search aircraft or surface vessels, missile carrying units (with air refuelling support for aircraft) and mid course guidance all need to talk to each other and that means you can hear them coming from a lot further away than a radar will see them. That means you can manoeuvre to avoid them well ahead of time.
Calculating a valid missile engagement flight path that has the missile arriving at the calculated target area is the big difficulty.
As stated Ships move and can move a lot in a relatively short time. When a missile arrives after a 200+ Km flight and starts searching for a target the target may not be in the missiles look and search window.
If it cannot see a target then it cannot hit it and if the missile shot was at extreme range it may run out of fuel before terminally homing .

Whilst all this is happening a Carrier is not going to be sat around doing nothing . It will have planes up shooting missiles at Search aircraft and vessels, missile carrying aircraft and vessels, mid course guidance units and the missiles themselves.

Drones are not the be all and end all. Until AI is possible you will require a data link on a drone. Data links, even encrypted and over satellite are jammable which will render a drone system useless.

Carriers will be around for a long time yet.

IanW

The partial flaw in this argument is satellite surveillance, not so much in full peer on peer war, when the satellites themselves would we targeted, but in the preliminary stages of such conflict; or in a more limited war, in which a hostile non-belligerent supplies the other side with intelligence.

Paul Corcoran

With regard to vulnerability I do struggle to see how, just three, Phalanx CIWS, is adequate cover given the size of the vessel. I understand that there is room for a fourth which hasn’t been fitted but I would prefer to see more long range defensive cover also fitted. Bofors 40mm or 57mm would be good as would Sea Ceptor. Given each ship is a £3.1 billion asset surely it is worth getting the defensive suite correct. Relying on T45/T26 should not be the only option.

Gavin Gordon

Indeed, and that would not remain the case as the threat level was assessed to be expanding. Luckily, having carriers to attach extra defences to in the first place is an immeasurable advantage. Let us hope we keep them. Regards.

Geo

While I don’t entirely disagree, they don’t “rely on the T45/T26 as the only option” – they are carriers, the air wing itself is the first line of defence! Which incidentally is the reason I can’t get completely with you, any extra weight assigned to 40 or 57mm is weight lost to the airwing.

David Graham

David Graham

Max Hastings sees himself as an “important man” and one with unlimited knowledge, and so, he believes, all must bow before his opinions.

For such a knowledgeable man, I should point out Port Stanley is in New Zealand; the capital of the Falkland Islands is Stanley. How do I know? I lived there for 5 years. The BAS ships were registered there, and had Stanley F I as their port of registry.

There are also a number of us old guys who support this publication who actually served in carriers when a previous generation of strike carries existed and who therefore know about the utility of such platforms.

Finally, size costs very little in ship building terms, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions by David Hobbs, who I guess knows a mite more about carrier warfare than Hastings.

David Steeper

At onetime he was arguably the most famous military historian in the UK. Sadly for him he has slipped out of the top twenty now. Like a fading pop/movie star nowadays he can only get attention with increasingly bizarre outbursts.

Stevep

I remember a statistic that of the 50 odd aircraft shot down in action by the UK armed forces WW2 every one was shot down by an aircraft that flew from the deck of an aircraft carrier

Hastings does have a point about Typhoon though. £35 billion for 120 fighters. We should have just leased some F16 MLU from the US until the F35 was ready or bought the F18 like the Aussies

Stevep

* shot down in air to air combat

Duker

Those ‘costs’ include development , procurement and sustainment ( overhauls and spares) and Treasury Capital charges for 12-15 years.

DaveyB

Was it not Max Hastings, who reported the location of the headquarters site at San Carlos, when the Para’s were about to take Goose Green?

For all his so called knowledge of military land tactics, he fails to understand the basic fact that manoeuvre warfare is just as valid for sea and air campaigns, as much as it is when fielding a division. You plan the fight to your advantage, not the enemy’s. Therefore, your main aim is to outflank your opponent and direct you fire in the most advantageous way to win the fight quickly. Why is this relevant to aircraft carriers? Well every man and his dog knows that Typhoons are based at Connningsby and Lossiemouth, whilst all the F35s will currently be based at Marham. Therefore, if we ever do have a conflict with Russia, you can guarantee these bases will be the target for a cruise missile strike. Similarly, if we are involved in a policing action or a small conflict, the media are all to happy to show aircraft taking off from places such as Akrotiri etc. Although Assad in Syria would be mad to do it, its well within range for a missile strike. With these fixed bases attacked and probably incapacitated, we quickly run out options on reinforcements or operational use.

This is the realism behind the carrier, for starters it’s constantly moving, so a hostile Nation will have to expend a significant portion of their forces to try and keep track of it. A UK carrier will deploy its Crowsnest equipped Merlins to provide overwatch with a minimum radar coverage of 250km radius along with a pair of F35s operating on combat air patrol, not forgetting another pair on deck on standby. The ship will be protected by T45, T23/26 and an SSN. By comparison what protects an airbase? Probably a pair of Typhoons operating alongside a Sentry, but no ground based air defences! Whose to say a Nation will allow our aircraft to operate from their bases in the first place, especially if they are neighbouring a country known for its warlike behaviour?

Ever since the battles of Taranto and Pearl Harbour, the carrier has shown how quickly it can be used against an entrenched enemy, who believes they are protected by distance. The carrier is the only option today that offers both the flexibility to be used as a visual deterrent as well as an offensive powerhouse. To some degree a cruise missile equipped sub could achieve the same strategic offensive goal, except they are limited by the number and type of missiles they carry. They certainly cannot act as a visual deterrence as that goes against how they are operated, or operate to support troops ashore tactically.

The last major incident of carriers acting as a deterrence was by the USN during the Third Taiwan Straight Crisis. This is where China objected to Taiwan holding general elections. The PLA ramped up its deployments opposite Taiwan and conducted missile tests to the North of the island, trying to threaten them. The USN responded by putting two carrier battle groups in the region. This had the effect of calming everything down, but from the Chinese perspective was seen as a failure on their part and a serious loss of face politically. This led to the Chinese plan of aggressively taking over the South China Sea in a move to dominate the area. Part of this plan is to adopt carriers as a show of political will, but also as a means to bloody the USN if a future conflict should happen. Imagine how the USN would react if China parked a couple of carriers off the East coast of Taiwan, or how the Taiwanese would feel being encircled by the PLAN.

I hear and read a lot of Bo***cks about the UK doesn’t need carriers, as we are no longer a world power, blah, blah, blah! If you are a scholar of history you would know that the UK came seriously close to being defeated in both WW1 and WW2 by being starved out of food and resources by German U-boats and commerce raiders. Part of the answer was putting the ships together in convoys protected by corvettes etc. But another part of the answer was the light carrier armed with Swordfish operating in the anti submarine role. Granted both QE and PoW are not light carriers by any stretch of the imagination like the previous Invincible class, but the much larger size allows more flexibility and a greater number of options on how they are used. As an island Nation we must protect our sealanes and commerce, the best method of doing so is with ASW frigates and the flexibility generated by a carrier.

Adrian

Reading this: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/16/dominic-cummings-seeks-to-launch-mod-spending-review – with its clear hostility towards the entire carrier programme, does Save the Royal Navy still feel quite so confident in its pre-election view that the Tories were the greatest political friends to the Navy?

David

“The procurement process as a farce that has continued to squander billions of pounds, enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists”.

I don’t think anyone could more accurately describe the current state of UK defence procurement than that.

The axing of these white elephants is inevitable. Better to bite the bullet now that wait 5-10 years before even more damage to the fleet and wider armed forces is done. As the author of this website demonstrated, the Navy is gutting the maintenance and operational budget to pay for these white elephants meaning that there are no more than nine surface warships available and at least three of these have major defects meaning that they are unable to properly operate in warm water. They also don’t have adequate people to man them without raiding the crew of other ships. The advertised crew number was an outright lie and it’s likely hundreds more sailors are actually required than was originally advertised.

A “carrier battlegroup”, (an outdated concept based on 1940s thinking) would effectively use up the entire fleet meaning nothing is available to protect UK waters (the primary purpose of the Navy).

The Taliban are now in the final stages of kicking us out of Afghanistan and we need to learn from those who are beating us. These type of weapons are totally useless in the type of conflicts the UK is engaging in. All trying to bomb terrorists with supersonic jets does is helps their cause through killing more civilians than actual terrorists and therefore acting as a recruitment agency for them.

The recent foolish attempt of Mrs May to pick a fight with Iran shows how ill-equipped UK defence procurement is with regard to the current reality of war. Things like mine sweepers, small diesel-electric submarines and small missile boats are far more valuable to UK defence and there is currently pretty much zero investment in any of these things.

The sad thing is while the Navy is in decline, the Army is probably in the worst state. A country like Iran has something like 20 times as many tanks as the UK, despite spending less on defence.

sjb1968

Why just pick on UK defence procurement what about HS2, Crossrail, Regional Fire Control Centres, NHS Computer Systems, Buildings Schools for the Future, PFI Hospitals etc- All HMG Departments waste Billions and the cost of the carriers is no better or worse than many projects. It should be remembered there cost was increased by £1Bn because the build was slowed and then £100m was wasted on the cats and traps fiasco. Largely driven by the Treasury and not the fault of the Contractor.
The carriers are certainly not white elephants and will provide the UK and Europe with some much needed clout with the US when it comes to pulling our weight. Whether these vessels are obsolete along with tanks, manned aircraft and other pieces of military kit is open to question, but your guess and that’s what it is has no more weight than mine.
The only lesson to learn from both Iraq and Afghanistan is that fighting wars half heartedly with no strategic objective is a waste of money and most importantly people. These wars are now passing into history and to base our defence plans on these failed land wars would be a huge mistake for a nation that depends on maritime trade.

David

The Taliban have pretty much demonstrated that to win a war, all you need are the right tactics, AK47 assault rifles, improvised explosive devices and maybe some machine guns, rocket propelled grenades etc. North Vietnam taught the Americans a similar lesson which they did not learn and went out wasting resources on things like super carriers and B2 stealth bombers.

DaveyB

I strongly disagree.
Much like Vietnam, we had one of our hands firmly tied behind our backs. The reason I say this, is much like the Vietnam war, where China and Russia supported The North Vietnamese, Both Iran and in particular Pakistan provided arms, supplies, training and most importantly safe harbours, for both ISIS and the Taliban. A very good example of this collusion is the small town of Bahramcha in the very southern tip of Helmand. This is on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, it is and was the central hub of Opium refining before exporting. It was raided by us along with the US numerous times, with the refining plants burnt and destroyed, yet within a week was being repaired by the Taliban with material and equipment support from Pakistan. The plant equipment etc was stored 500m beyond the border in a purpose built compound ready for the next raid. Pakistan would not allow us to step beyond the border, they even had troops there to make sure.

In a straight up fight the Taliban in general were rubbish, a lot of spraying and praying. There were some very good commanders, but as they became more well known, the special forces targeted them. This was making a real dent in their performance. It was much the same for the ANA, without Western direction, they would go max chat for the first part of the engagement, then if the Taliban were putting up resistance went in to the default flight mode. What isn’t well known, is that the majority of Taliban fighters we fought were high on locally made amphetamines. Someone who is high, is really difficult to put down, they also do things a rational person would not in a fire-fight. I have an utmost respect for the Taliban, but they are not unbeatable. We were making real progress before we got pulled, the locals had turned on the Taliban. We had won the hearts and minds and as soon as our support was pulled, the vacuum was again filled by the enforced ethos of the Taliban. The main issue we faced was the lack of boots on the ground where we needed to sustain a presence.

The complexities of the insurgency required prosecution beyond the border, without this, we were basically p***ing in the wind. Especially during the quiet period of winter, when the majority of Taliban went to regroup south of the border in Pakistan and the madrasas turned out the fresh recruits.

David

You say you strongly disagree, yet seem to acknowledge that the UK and allies have lost this war. What do you propose? Invading nuclear armed Pakistan? Invading Iran?

Yes, the UK and allies never defeated the Taliban. They simply withdrew to Pakistan. The border between both countries is a fake line largely drawn up by the UK, whereas the Pashtun people are a nation across both lines of the border with a very ancient code of honour that resists being invaded and occupied by foreign countries.

By causing the Taliban to withdraw across the border, the UK and US simply turned the country into a battleground between large drug gangs and corrupt government officials happy to pocket western aid money. This is why the taliban is now coming back – their support amongst the local population being significantly enhanced by air strikes that kill more innocent civilians than actual taliban.

don

‘Much like Vietnam, we had one of our hands firmly tied behind our backs’

You’ve learned nothing from the debacle Vietnam was. Killing 2 MILLION Vietnamese wasn’t enough, then? Should the US have simply blown the face off of the entire country and exterminated the population? Because when you don’t win ‘hearts and minds’, and you are the aggressor nation without any moral authority to be there- ‘scorched earth’ is what is needed to ‘win’.

And we bloody well LOST, despite expending more ordnance than we did in WWII, not to mention over 150,000 killed, wounded and permanently disabled soldiers, sailors and Marines. And learned NOTHING from it, as Iraq 2.0 and soon Iran will show.

Meirion X

#David
NICE TRY! Working hard in Troll house
St. Petersburg!

Adrian

Still no response from STRN, I note. You allowed your personal party political views to colour your judgement in indicating who to support at the elections last week. ALL parties, Conservative at least as much as Labour, have been consistently hostile to defence spending and irresponsible on defence issues. And it looks like the new Conservative administration, that you argued people should support, is now coming directly for the carriers.

4thwatch

Knowledge of Naval matters and why needed and how it works has become a highly specialised and nerdy subject in todays Britain. Indeed just look at the HofC and there are seriously few MP specialists in any of the branches of the armed forces.
Hastings peculiar dislike of the Navy is unhelpful in the extreme and not based on the evidence.
The evidence from history is that we came closer to total defeat at sea for a longer period than certainly any threat posed on land.
If Hastings had any idea how close we came in the past he would not write such nonsense.
The Army is there to take and hold ground overseas. Overseas being the key.

Captain Nemo

Britain’s decline should really be viewed in its unique historical context to give an accurate sense of perspective; visitors to a dead Earth in some far future might find themselves in need of a helpful frame of reference, to such visitors I would say that whilst it was true our power faded, so too does a Sun 🙂

JFKvsNixon

I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that the Times decides to publish Hasting’s views on aircraft carriers, when they seem to mirror the PM’s chief advisor’s, who is quoted as saying that billions of pounds were squandered on them. It looks like the government are trying to build a consensus on cutting defence spending, and they’ve got the carriers on the top of their list.

It’s seem’s this government is going to follow in other Tory government’s footsteps in cutting back our armed forces.

Duker

“‘A teenager will be able to deploy a drone from their smartphone to sink one of these multi-billion dollar platforms,’ a comment attributed to Cummings.
Too silly for words. What casual observers dont see is the internal bulkheads and protection zones of capital ships like this, a follow on from the torpedo protections of carriers and battleships of WW2 ( without the heavy and thick armour plates used against long range guns of more than 6 in calibre , which dont exist anymore). Then there is the modern high accuracy gatling type guns and more recently electronic defenses against drones.
A teenager with a smartphone …. the ignorance of this guy is astounding. I hope he meets his demise up against something more devastating than said teenager …an Admiral with decades of experience and knowlege who can point out the ‘waste’ of the slow construction program, the Whitehall shifting sands of requirements. After all is he going to tell Johnston he has a cunning way to reduce total UK defence expenditure when its at the 2% and minimum force levels now.

JFKvsNixon

I think it goes a bit deeper than that. Cummings seems to me to be an anti-establishment crusader, and what’s more establishment in the UK than the Royal Navy?

don

I’ll bet the crews of ‘Sheffield’, ‘Ardent’, ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ would have been quite happy for some of that outdated armor…

David Steeper

I’ve read the comments Cummings made in March last year but let’s wait and see what Johnson does. In the short time he’s been PM he’s at least made positive speeches about shipbuilding and the RN. I’d be more worried if I was a RAF chief no-one makes positive noises about them nowadays. The organ grinder is always more important than the monkey !

Harry Bulpit

all these people going on about cyber warfare and drones forget two crucial aspects. 1st neither can fly the flag or hold ground, 2nd these are technologies excusive to major world powers. we are likely never to go to war with a major power. instead the most likely candidates for a conflict would be another radical group or broken nation. at most the most severe threat we would face would be tear two nations such as Argentina, Iran and North Korea. while even ISIS can field drones these are little more then commercial toys. the reality is that the Queen Elizbeth Carriers and F35s would be operating to far and high for these assets to pose any risk to them. also the Carriers soft wear would be much more protected and less crucial then those already attacked.

Oldun

Max Hastings is true about one thing, his historical writings about DDay and beyond. He pointed out the total ineffectiveness of British weapons, communications and military control in 1944 and 1945. His writings of the effectiveness of the German weaponry made me think hard, and that he was right. We had pop guns compared to the 88 and the PAC, and the Panzerfoust was a serious tank killer.
However, the jury is still out on our carrier fleet, not because of the armour and weaponry, but the mindset of the Admiralty in their deployment and use, which to me, is still stuck in Nelson’s days.

Harry Bulpit

17 pounnder, 3.7 inch gun, the fact Churchill had an extra inch of armour then tiger. British weaponery was generally no better or worse then anyone else’s.

DaveyB

The German Tiger 1 fitted with the 8.8 cm KwK 36 gun had in general 3 types of main gun ammo, PzGr. 39 (armour-piercing, capped, ballistic cap), PzGr. 40 (armour-piercing, composite rigid) and Hl. Gr. 39 (high explosive anti-tank). They found that both the PzGr 39 and PzGr 40 would over-penetrate a Sherman and at times pass straight through. They found that the HE round was more than adequate to knock out a Sherman. The only time they’d use the PzGr39/40 would be against the Russian IS series of tanks.

The only saving grace for us, is that we outproduced Germany materially. It was known that the 2 pounder fitted to the majority of tanks early in the war would be outclassed. It was supposed to be replaced with the 6 pounder, but they fearedthat by interrupting production to change to the 6 pounder and thus making the troops wait would be worse for the war effort. It was also well known that the 25 pounder using the supercharge round could at least penetrate the side of a Tiger at range compared to the 6 pounder. It was mooted to be fitted to the Churchill, but the Army’s artillery branch halted it, they believed it would get in the way of setting up more artillery regiments and replacing worn out guns.

They was a definite problem with the performance of the British army officer cadre during WW2, especially when compared to the performances of both the commonwealth and US officers. It could easily be dismissed as a class problem, which I feel went a long way. But in general, our officers were more risk adverse and reserved compared to our allies. This may be due to the history carried over from WW1, but doesn’t explain why the Canadians and in particular Australian officers performed much better. This went all the way to the top, especially when you compared how Monty performed throughout the war. Where he would only make a move if he had an overwhelming advantage. Operation Market Garden in some respects was out of character, it was a gutsy move and perhaps was driven by his reaction to Patton’s criticism. The only decent officer of note was General Slim. He managed to annihilate the Japanese 15th Army and drive them out of Burma. But unlike Monty, did it with 2nd rate equipment and men who had up to 1944 been continuously retreating. He turned the situation around and inflicted the most crushing defeat Japan had up to Russia’s invasion in 1945.

Harry Bulpit

I’m not really an expert on the command structure of the British military, so I take your word for it on that matter. But in terms of equipment while a Sherman could be easily pentrated with a 88 or even a higvelocity 75 to a less extent, the vehicle where so spacious and had so many hatches that it was easy for the crew to survive a hit. Shown by the fact that only 3% of U. S tankers died in the war and most of those outside their vehicles. Also most German tanks where not tigers but rather Panzer IV and Stugs along with a few more Panthers. Along with that unlike in Russia tank warfare in the west was rarely large numbers of vehicles engaging head on across open fields. But where rather short range engagements in dense terrain or urban areas, usually in the form of ambushes.

Dern

Okay a lot to unpack here:
First of all production wasn’t the only saving grace. The Tiger was a decent breakthrough tank that was criminally misused by the Axis, it was not designed for long road marches and when it was able to arrive on the field it did so in very small numbers largely due to maintenance problems. The Tiger was also never intended to be the mainstay of the German Armoured formations, instead used in high concnetrations on small points in order to achieve breakthroughs. That was it.

Next comparison of a Tiger 1 to a Sherman is a bit silly. It was never a Sherman vs a Tiger. It was a Sherman with Artillery support, and infantry and airpower vs all of the same for the Germans. Tankers do not fight each other one on one mano a mano fair fight “My gun is bigger than yours” unless they have no other choice. In fact the Sherman has several pretty decent advantages, including the fact that it had a remarkably high surivavability rate of it’s crew when it was knocked out (especially after the introduction of wet stowage of ammunition), a faster fire rate, better maneuverability (yes that extra weight on a Tiger means for example that bridges are a problem), and a better set up of it’s optics. A Sherman that was knocked out could easily be recovered, repaired and manned by the same crew within a few days, a Tiger that was knocked out was lost. Also worth noting there was a plan to upgrade the Sherman to a 90mm gun in the US army and the Army turned it down because putting the 90mm in was a) not worth it for the targets they where encountering b) putting a 90mm in the Sherman would provide significant disadvantages including ergonomics for the crew, rate of fire, and ammunition carried, and c) Any target that was a problem for the 76mm could more easily be taken out by the issuing of HVAP than by introducing the 90mm.

The switch from the 2 Pounder to the 6 Pounder began in early 1942. It wasn’t that the Government thought it was “better” to keep the 2 pounder, it was that after having to leave all their equipment in Dunkirk the army needed guns. Period. If the 6lber was to be introduced it would have meant stopping the production of the 2lbers while the factories where converted to produce the new design. In essence it wasn’t the choice between the 2lber and the 6lber, it was the choice between the 2lber or nothing.

Lastly yes production: There where less than 1400 Tigers made, people vastly overstate their impact on the battlefield (and most of those 1400 ended up in the east). Shermans, Cromwells, and the like where more than capable of dealing with the vast majority of the Wehrmacht (to the point where even a Panzer IV was a fairly rare sight for a tanker in the Allied armies in the later part of the war).

As for our Officer cadre, sorry but I disagree with that. We had some very fine officers, but got unlucky in places with (for example O’Connor was almost certainly Rommels match but got captured by the Germans and spent most of the war in a PoW camp). The American’s preformed much better, especially compared to Monty? I don’t think they did. Where did this happen? In Normandy? I don’t think so, most of the high quality Wehrmacht divisions where sent to the Caen sector where they faced the British (don’t let Saving Private Ryan fool you). Granted the Americans managed to break through in Cobra, but that was after a very slow advance against second rate German forces, and used a lot more forces than the British and Commonwealth had at their disposal. Market Garden? Well it was the US 82nd and it’s commander who failed to secure the Nijmegen Bridge, which in turn meant that XXX Corps was stopped there, so I don’t think you can lay the blame of that failure on the British. What else? North Africa? Again the US faced the B team and still got their ass handed to them while the British where driving the Germans across the Desert. Sicily? Perhaps the only place you have a argument (although I wouldn’t exactly call Pattons Prima Donna antics better leadership, but if being able to shout “FIRST” as you enter Messina is your thing go for it).

don

IIRC the Germans had around 900 Panthers at Kursk, against over 3000 of the nearly-as-good T-34s…
Shame more Shermans weren’t upgraded to the ‘Firefly’ standard but perhaps the heavier gun would have limited some of the tank’s other advantages you mentioned.

‘By Tank into Normandy’ is an excellent read, written by British tank commander who was saddled with a ‘DD’ ‘Duplex Drive’ ‘amphibious’ Sherman that sank before he reached shore. He got another tank and made it all the way to the end, but saw numerous friends ‘brewed up’ in Shermans by Panzerfausts and he had a lot of respect for German armor. Brave fellow.

That said, your comment about the US Army supposedly only facing ‘second rate’ German divisions was unfounded and petty, and I feel denigrates the sacrifices and fighting accomplishments of both officers and enlisted- especially veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, where the best of the remaining German divisions Hitler could scrape up were thrown against depleted/resting American ones, along with the British 21st- and were beaten.

I would say that overall, the cream of the Wehrmacht were pretty much chewed up in the East long before the Allies faced them at Normandy, etc.- despite that, look what they accomplished against us with limited resources (fuel, especially), almost NO air support, and with a large portion of their forces’ guns and supplies moved by…horses.

John Thow

The very same argument about cost, size and vulnerability brought about the demise of HMS Eagle and Ark Royal!

Ron

First I had to go and figure out who Mr Hastings is, then remebered that I have a book written by him sitting on my shelves collecting dust, well thats what I think of that work.
Anyway down to the comments about the Royal Navy carriers the need for them and in fact the need for the Royal Navy to be increased in size . I will not speak about Trident as that is a diffrent matter.
First the need for a Navy:
There are three types of countries in the World
Type 1; USA, Russia and possibly China,
Type 2; Germany, France in fact the majority of nations,
Type 3 UK; Japan etc and possibly Australia,
I will try to explain the three types of nation against survivability, when I say survive I do not mean the imports of I Phones or game boys but food, fuel, medicine and basic raw materials that every nation needs for its people to live a normal basic life.
Type 1 nations are mostly if not completly self supporting and do not depend on imports to survive. These countries are also to large to invade, conquer and police. Any nation thinking of doing it would well be just down right stupid. As such for purly defence reasons they do not need a blue water fleet
Type 2 nations have land borders they need to import a certain amount of good for survival but unless they have a war with every nation around them they could survive a naval blockade or embargo. These types of nations needs a ballanced defence force but again blue water capabilities although nice to have is not fully needed.
Type 3 nations are island nations, they depend on the sea lanes for their very survival, a blockade or embargo can bring the nation to its knees through starvation, lack of fuel, medicine etc. They are normally smaller nations that can easliy be policed if invaded, as such they need a larger blue water capable Navy to defend those sea lanes and against possible invasion.
Intrestinly enough the requirements of these nations for a large army is reversed, a Type 1 nation needs a large army, Type 2 nations needs a ballance defence force for land, sea and air, whereas an Island nation needs a mobile army, divisions of Main Battle tanks operation in the UK or Japan just would not work. Yes you can put an armoured division in the field for the same cost of a T45 or 4 T31s, but is that what the UK needs for the defence of the nation, possibly for the defence of NATO yes, the nation no, I would rather see the extra 4 T31s.
Looking then at modern naval power and its future development it can be seen then that the US Navy, Russian Navy and the expanding Chinese Navy is an offensive platform as it is not needed for defence, whereas the Royal Navy and Japanese Maritime Defence Force is defensive in nature.
So there is the reason for the Royal navy and its need, but why aircraft carriers?
The Queen Elizabeth class carriers would be classified as either CV or CVF meaning Carrier Vessel (Fighter) they are not CVA’s (Atttack), in many ways that makes them defensive in nature. Yes I know the F-35B can go and strike land targets if needed to but it would be like when I was in the Army, I had my SLR and a Browning 9mm, they both kill. Anyway back to the need for the carriers. The EEZ that the UK is responsable for makes it the 5th largest maritime nation in the world, there is also the need to protect trade routes in choke points and potential flash areas. Many of the choke points and flash areas have long range coastal missile battaries, I think you can see the point. The QEs would act as the air defence of the fleet and the fleet would get the merchant ships through. Not only that but lets ask ourselves an honest question would the Argintinians invade the Falklands in 1982 if HMS Ark Royal was still operational, I’m not sure but it would have made them think twice. So a carrier battle group is a good deterent, in some ways for many nations better than a SSBN, a SSBN is only a deterent to nations with nuclear missiles but parking a carrier group 4 miles of your coast will make you think twice. Thats all that is needed, politicians needs sometimes the time to stop, think and speak, and if the carrier group can do that then it has done its job without ever needing to be used in anger.
There is the arguement that the carriers are taking up to much of the defence budget, no what is taking up to much of the defence budget is the cost of the nuclear deterent and keeping equipment going such as the T23s past there sell by date. Put the nuclear deterent back into the treasury that would be an immidiate boost of 6-7% to defence and order ships on time would stop expensive refits to ships that have no life left in them. Good God, the T23s were meant to have a life expectancy of 20 years, 30 years later and they are still in service undergoing refit and repair. Every household knows that when you have a car that is costing more to repair than what you can get for it its time for it to go, how come the treasury don’t know that.

Steve Taylor

China without Russian hydrocarbons isn’t self supporting in energy. Their fishing fleets are raping the world’s seas. And they are buying every square yard of agricultural land around the world as they are facing, even with a demographic trough thanks to ‘one child’ coming, a food crisis. Russia will help to feed China and their alliance is stable and strong so they are safe. But to say on their own they are self sufficient.

I think you will find France and Germany are as dependent as the UK on the sea.

It is hard to police any invaded nation. Look at how many troops it took to police the small territory of Northern Ireland. But you don’t have to invade a first world nation. About two or three hundred cruise missiles on the right targets and the country will be on its knees. Go look up how many power stations the UK has, and imagine crashing a pair of TLAM into their generating halls.

Industrial war became an anachronism the day the US dropped the bomb. The truth is all out war between developed states would disrupt the ‘world system’ too much and that is what keeps us safe now. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t be armed. (Plus for us and the handful of others the bomb.) Situations less than war are the danger, but unless something serious happens they will be de-escalated by diplomats rather rapidly.

Edd

Carriers only useful if they have full airwing onboard (british F35Bs), Airdefense missiles to be first line of defense against anti-ship (hypersonic or otherwise), plenty escorts and hunter killer subs riding shotgun under the waves.
If I am honest I hate the F35B. That lift fan as part of its STOVL design is only useful at take off and landing. Its dead weight the rest of the time and that cuts into its range and payload. If britains so great why cannot they design their own aircraft any more? Alright part of the F35 are made in britain but its a far cry from Sea Furys, Sea Vixens and Shars.
France can build their own with the awesome Rafale N. Stealth does not come into it. If they cannot enter a hostile nations airspace they deploy Scalp cruise missiles from them. And no doubt they have the Rafale air launched nuclear option as well as part of Frances two leg nuclear deterrent.
And they dont have to worry about whether they have to shoehorn it in to a weapons bay.

Sam

Sea Vixens????? How can you even use them as an example of great British built aircraft….they were flying death traps, they had a whopping 37.93% loss rate to accidents killing 55 people. I dont think any were lost in combat either.

David Steeper

Sam. There wasn’t any combat for them to be lost in which is hardly there fault. Until the introduction of the Phantom they were probably the best all-round fighters in the British military.

Jon

They did kill a fair number of crews through

Meirion X

Scalp can only be launched for Sylver A70 cells from destoryers/frigates, only Storm Shadow can be launched from aircraft. But Storm Shadow will Not fit in a warpons bay, only on external pylons.

Adrian Cockerill

This cyber threat, whilst is a threat needs be taken in the context of if the UK goes to war, one bombing tactic since ww2 has been to take our communications equivalent of the enemy. No comms, no cyber attack

Sam

No 1 ship type can be a Dinosaur, even the old Battleships have their uses (look how upset the USMC have been after loosing the 16inch Mark 7s the Iowa Class had for NGFS). Battles wont be fought by a single type of ship but a well balanced fleet capable of massive amounts of AAW, ASuW, ASW, C2, ELINT etc. Smaller Carriers should be built, but not to replace the Fleet Carriers but to support them like the Escort carriers did during WW2. His comments about the Type 45 lacking in the Anti-submarine department are very valid…..but in her Air Defence???? The Sampson Radar is very powerful (The US wants them for AB DDG batch 3s) and although missile numbers could be higher (if the extra S70 VLS does ever get installed) they would slaughter an air attack. Its also good the remember the Arliegh Burke has 96 cells not just for SAMs but Tomahawks, ASROC and now SM-3 ABMDs

D J

The biggest problem with the T45, other than it’s well known propulsion problems is lack of overall missiles. An air warfare destroyer with total of only 48 missiles, no matter how good they are, is not sufficiently armed in modern warfare terms. It needs either more cells or convert some cells to quad packable or both. A single squadron of 12 fighter jets armed with two AShM each would use up half the missiles. Armed with 4, they would use them all up. Most frigates carry 8 SSM, some 16. T45 missile cells are not reloadable at sea. They may slaughter the first air attack, but they won’t the second or the third.

Either replace some or all Aster 15 with quad packable CAAM (& convert the spare Aster 15’s to Aster 30), or add more cells ( & fill with CAMM). 8 more cells gives 32 CAMM, full allowed for 16 cells gives 64. While AB’s do carry more than SAM’s in their 96 cells, some of those SAM’s are quad packable ESSM. Australia’s smaller Hobart class destroyers also have only 48 cells, but again, ESSM is carried in some cells to boost the numbers. Both AB’s & Hobarts carry more SAM’s than the T45’s.

Sam

Agreed DJ Replacing Aster 15 with Quad Packed Sea Ceptor is something I like. 🙂

Jon

What most people fail to take into account is it’s not just about missile numbers, Aster 30s and 15s are a different fish to standard or CAMM, Aster is designed as a one shot one kill missile I believe standard is a 3 shoot one kill missile. So standard and CAMM armed ships will be firing far more missiles per target than a type 45.

Infact I believe that if you actually add up missile numbers vs the doctrines of numbers of missiles fired per target a Burke would run out of missiles before a type 45.

ANDREW JOHN WILDE

Do Type 45s go to sea with full missile silo,s? I bet not. Are there enough missiles held onboard RFA Fort Victoria and in the various RNAD depots to completely reload all Type 45s, not a chance. Remember the Royal Navy,s proud motto. “fitted for but not necessarily equipped with”

DaveyB

Sam, although the USN value the capabilities of Sampson, they are not getting it. For the flight 3 ABs they are getting SPY 6. This like the Sampson is an AESA radar, but uses four fixed panels mounted on the ship’s structure below the bridge. The SPY 6 is a modular radar made up of 2 foot square modules. But rather than transmit just 1 frequency band they can transmit 2. They have combined what is in effect the T45’s S1850M and Sampson together. The SPY6 can transmit both frequencies at the same time using beam-forming to control the angle and direction. It is a more powerful radar than Sampson but not as powerful as the S1850M. It will still suffer the same issues as the previous AB’s, in that the radar horizon will be much closer than the T45’s. This is due to the necessity of mounting the four panel lower on the ships structure due to weight. There is a problem with the ABs, due to their relative narrow beam, they are limited in the size of panels that can be fitted. As the panels are slightly smaller than what’s required, they won’t have the same search and targeting ability as the S1850M for low altitude space objects.

Sam

That is what I meant….Not exactly the same system no but an AESA regardless DaveyB 🙂

taskforce

I don’t fully agree with Hastings on this but I think we are all overlooking the real reason for their building. This was a vanity project to please the scots. Let’s be honest, England doesn’t need carriers in the future, what we do need is a focus on home water defence not projecting power. Let’s save money and sell the carriers and invest in more usable equipment and systems. Also closing down the shipyards in scotland and moving them here is a must in the light of recent developments.

Reaper

He makes the same claims as one who has spent more than enough time around the military to become jaded by everything about it.
Overhaul of the whole damn thing, top to bottom is needed. Bin the mess, the silver, the stable belts, the different coloured berets, the sideshow cleaners, the green duty jumpers etc etc. Scrap the fucking lot and lean the life out of it all. Start again and make it start working again for it’s intended purpose, defence and power projection.

JayC

Max Hastings has become nothing more than an embarrassment and a side show, voice to the anti military society.. Unfortunately his age has given him the ability to forget that the UK is an island nation and that more than 90% of what we use and need comes from the sea.

4thwatch

I would say we can all play Max Hasting’s kind of game. Evidence being the deployment of the 50,000+ troops of the BAOR for the 60 years after WW2 which eviscerated the RN and which never fired a shot in anger.
Meanwhile the eviscerated RN was powerless to prevent miniscule Argentina taking the Falklands and serious threats building elsewhere.
Great misapplication of resources, Old Boy.

Dern

Yeah that’s funny, because the Navy wouldn’t have been around the Falklands no matter how funded it was, and proved more than capable of dealing with the Argies, meanwhile although the BAOR never fired a shot doesn’t mean the threat wasn’t there and several times it came to within a hairs breath of being needed (and even then it was rather underfunded).

US Guy

Americans are very enthusiastic about GB’s new carriers and the resurface of the RN. The RN has gotten a ton of press here as a result and I think all defense minded Americans are thrilled with the result as well as the exercises the US and UK are doing together.

As an American, if seems nuts to me that there would even be a debate in GB about emphasizing the Army over the Navy. You are a bloody island.

Dern

Because the Navy ultimately needs the army to actually win a war.

LLaa

“Ever since Royal Navy aircraft destroyed much of the Italian Fleet at Taranto in 1940”

I would have expected more knowledge from a site that calls itself “Navy”. Only one battleship Cavour – well more of a battle cruiser – was not put in operation again despite being recovered and started being upgraded after the attack. Of the other 2 battleships hit, one was back in service after 4 months(3 torpedoes hits), another older likewise could be called a battle cruiser so not a priority was in service 7 months later(one torpedo hit) .

Regarding the carriers, they are a disaster waiting to happen if they have go to a conflict zone: only outdated mediocre Phalanx CIWS, no active EW, no active ASW protection, no anti aircraft/missile missiles.

Steve Taylor

The Cavour was a very handsome ship as were most of the Italian fleet at the time.

LLaa

I agree, but quite inferior to most battleships at time, re-bored 320mm gun from 305 and 250mm belt.

Steve B

Ok, I am very late to the discussion here, but want to add my $.02 worth. American, my son is active duty US Navy. He recently spent almost 4 years on the Harry S Truman (CVN75), and is now in Sicily. He works in IT and his job has been classified since the day he joined, so I really don’t know what he does. BUT, I do know from following the Truman, and the US Navy since he joined, that the addition of the UK carriers to the mix is very welcome news indeed to most Americans. For those of you who know, or care, there is a great deal of RN tradition in the USN. My son worked with numerous UK sailors while on the Truman, and he found them to be quite professional and capable.

The UK carriers will help fill the needs of the US/UK interests and reduce the stress on the USN carrier fleet. The Nimitz class ships are mighty indeed, but even they are feeling the stress of 18 years of continuous war. The commonality of aircraft and the mingling of ships (USN ships as part of the UK strike group) is a good thing. It is viewed very favorably here in the US. Indeed, we know that the UK (and Australia) are the only allies that we can genuinely rely on come hell or high water. And folks, we are all in this together, so this addition of UK carriers is good indeed. So as an American, I say THANK YOU to the UK for being willing to stand beside us and be a force for good.

zaph

He isn’t wrong. A Type 45 costs 1 billion pounds plus and is impressive on paper. PAAMs can track 2000 individual targets and can deal with multiple targets simultaneously. This all sounds wonderful. So Mr Hastings is wrong about the Type 45. Except for one small detail. The ship only carries 48 missiles.

So I am a hostile who finds a Type 45 approaching my coast and I have a limited budget, what is the obvious thing to do? Simple, I buy myself a 100 relatively inexpensive drones, strap some explosives to them and fly them towards the Type 45. Now the Type 45 can’t afford to ignore this threat, even one of those drones exploding near a sensitive piece of equipment could cripple the ship’s defensive capabilities. So the Type 45 has no choice but to waste its limited munitions against the cheap drones.

Assuming that the ship deals with all the drones, it is now completely disarmed. So if I save a few more drones and my limited supply of expensive anti-ship missiles for a second follow up strike. The Type 45 survives how?

Now you may say that is implausible, that it is allot of equipment to destroy one ship. I would argue otherwise. Commercial drones are getting cheaper and more capable each year. It is it really so far fetched to think a hostile power wouldn’t sacrifice that equipment to take out a 1 billion pound ship?

David

Good analysis, however in reality far fewer than 48 drones would be required to take out a type 45 destroyer (and the carriers for that matter). Radar guided missiles are historically by far the least reliable of all missiles. Realistically a fire to kill ratio of the missiles around 10% would be highly optimistic based on historical evidence. Vast majority of radar guided surface to air missiles fired in war have missed their target. It is impossible to know how many drones would be required to take out a royal Navy ship, although it probably isn’t a particularly high number. Not much value in large surface warships anymore against a capable adversary.

James

“Hastings has a point that the carriers are pressurising the rest of the RN’s budget but the answer is more resources for a balanced fleet, not tearing out the centrepiece and reducing the RN to a second-tier navy that must live on the defensive. ”

Problem is, that’s also the argument against non-nuclear and non-CATOBAR. Don’t complain (as you have more than once) they would have cost too much, argue we should have paid it.

Marc Graham

We are the 5th largest economy yes but that doesn’t mean we are the 5th richest, we are about 20th depending on which ranking system you use.
We have a much larger national debt than many of our rivals and have many protected areas of our budget, which mean limited defence spending.
Although the QE class offer a lot for the money, I believe we should have bought smaller, cheaper carriers, leaving more money to have them better defended.
We are seeing a leap in technology in anti ship missiles and our defences for the carriers should be able to counter this and other new threats.
There is limited funds for this and our other forces also need additional spending.
Hopefully a review of our forces will offer a better thought through future, one without the likes of Phillip Hammond deliberately creating capability gaps in our forces to force us into military union with the EU.

Darren

It is said that this eu empire costs the UK directly and indirectly 10% of our GDP every year. With this, we get the advantage of running a massive trade deficit with them too. And some talk about assets like the carriers in negative light, which makes no sense.

Mustafa özülker

Really interesting stuff,good investigated and much thought on.I also strongly recommend:
” A Carrier at what cost?” By Jerry Hendrix in cnas.( Center of new American security”)

Mustafa ozulker

I strongly recommend :” At what cost a carrier ?” By Cpt. Jerry Hendrix,PhD, in Center for a new American security.Really interesting stuff,start reading now

Steve

Firstly, ad hominem attacks detract from your argument. Play the issue, not the man and your writing would have greater credibility.

The decision to build the carriers is in he past and obviously cannot be changed. There are however many reasons to suspect that it was a poor decision. The obvious questions are;

1) Why were they built? 2) What problem was being solved? 3)Are they fit for purpose? 4) Could the same outcome have been achieved more effectively with a different approach?

1) I think the answer to the first two questions are difficult to answer. I suspect that the reason they were built is that the existing carriers were getting old and needed replacing. This really is the outcome you see with organisational inertia. There does not appear to have been a discussion around what was required for force projection and what was the most effective way to achieve that outcome.
2). Their role appears to be to provide close air support for amphibious operations as part of an allied force. They are not capable enough to be able to operate independently against peer opponents in a heavily contested environment. The ship appears to have been built around the F35B and here lies the problem.
3) The F35B is clearly better than the aircraft they replace ie the Harrier. The problem is that the aircraft struggles to carry enough weapons in Stealth mode to be effective. It therefore has to carry weapons externally and is therefore loses its stealth characteristics. In hot conditions as in the gulf region there has been problems landing the aircraft in vertical mode. The result is that they have had to reduce fuel load as well as the carriage of weapons in order to safely land. The question arises are they fit for purpose? How can you answer that question without knowing why they were built or what problem was being solved. I
4) Could a different approach been more effective. The answer to the last question is clearly yes. A summary by Hendrix in 2013 is a well compiled analysis by a senior Navy strategist. s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906080533
This better explains why force projection is better accomplished by SSGN. The UK would have achieved better force projection using submarine based cruise missile submarine based on the dreadnought hull. The problem is that aircraft carriers are the most expensive way and least efficient way to solve a problem.

I think the carriers are a product of organisational inertia rather than being the result of a well considered and logical decision process.

ANDREW JOHN WILDE

The F35b clearly has some outstanding characteristics electronically but is curtailed by the amount of weaponry and fuel it can carry. However if sufficient planes are used in stealth mode on the first day of combat they can fly around in any mode they want, with whatever they want, strapped to the wings on the second day.

andy reeves

u.k STRIKE group? 24 f 35’s and a few tomahawks ‘lobbed’ from an astute wouldn’t worry belgium. most modern conflicts begin with a cruise missile attack i’d like to see the M.OD tell MBDA and BAE to design and produce a system like the russian club k there is room on just about every ship in the R.N to fit a shipping container, yet it would potentially quadruple the cruise missile capability of a group. THAT would make it a strike group.

Humpty Dumpty

A very disappointing article with poor research.

“Hastings calls the F-35 “insanely expensive”.
The F-35B most certainly is. What’s wrong with that comment?

According to https://www.f35.com/assets/uploads/documents/F-35_Program_Fast_Facts_-_August_3_2020.pdf the F-35B costs $101.3 million. (Many people quote the lower cost of the F-35A and make out either out of ignorance or to deliberately deceive that that’s the cost of all F-35 variants. That’s not the case.)

But $101.3 million is just the flyaway cost of an F-35B which gets you an airframe and an engine, it doesn’t get you a fully functioning weapons system.

According to https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6534949-FY20-Navy-Aircraft-Procurement.html#document/p79/a533442 a fully functioning F-35B weapons system costs over $166 million. If that’s not insanely expensive I don’t know what is.

And the F-35 is also expensive to fly, expensive to maintain and time-consuming to maintain. Even if it worked perfectly, which is doesn’t since it’s riddled with over 800 unresolved issues, I don’t see how the RN can afford to fly many F-35Bs. Even the USAF, which is hardly a poor air force, has said that it may cut its orders of F-35As if the cost to fly them per hour doesn’t drop.

https://www.f35.com/assets/uploads/documents/F-35_Program_Fast_Facts_-_August_3_2020.pdf
F-35A: $77.9 milliom
F-35B: $101.3 million
F-35C: $94.4 million

But as I said, those prices don’t get you a fully functional weapons system.

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/11/deceptive-pentagon-math-tries-to-obscure-100-million-price-tag-for-f-35/
“The Pentagon’s own budget documents list the FY 2020 procurement cost for those 48 aircraft as more than $101 million, nearly $12 million more than the figure rolled out for press reports. Using the Navy’s charts and the same math shows that the real costs for each F-35C is more than $123 million, while each F-35B costs in excess of $166 million. But even that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. None of this factors in the research and development costs of the program.”

So the actual costs (not including R&D) are:
F-35A: Over $101 million
F-35B: Over $166 million
F-35C: Over $123 million

Last edited 11 months ago by Humpty Dumpty
ANDREW JOHN WILDE

Max Hastings will only go away when he is proved to be completely wrong and a fool. The British Government, the M.O.D, and the Royal Navy succeed time and time again in allowing him to present himself as anything but. The Royal Navy s “fitted for but not equipped with” cruise to the Far East this year will prove the point. Sending a £3.5 billion warship to a potential flash point with only 26% of the UK planes it was built to operate, a patched up Crows nest system, a 40 year old CIWS, not forgetting of course that the 30mm guns will now not be fitted, what else is missing? No hunter killer submarine, I bet that someone tries to tell us that there is one down there really!! Apparently two of the groups escorts will be detached to go to the Crimea if things escalate up there, it would really be interesting if the Q.E group was passing through the Med when the whole Ukranian thing blew up- American and British F35bs flying in different directions or what. Those warships that eventually get through the Suez canal will apparently be visiting over 100 different ports during the groups time away – enter the scene RFA Fort Victoria the Royal Navy s only, and definitely the worlds busiest Stores Supply Ship having left her sister ships behind, well really they are still in some drawing office but who cares. This whole exercise reminds me of the Far East Fleet Summer cruises of the past but of course those sunny ports spread out across the Pacific are now packed with laid-up cruise liners. I can see an Australian somewhere pointing out that the lack of any armament on Q.E could be concealed by painting her like a cruise liner. “Do you hear there, ships painting party muster on the flight deck in 15 minutes”