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DOCKYARD DAVY

These pictures say it all, what a wonderful ship with a fantastic future ahead, British built and proudly so. All the very best to Captain Kyd, you have done a great job

SilentMajority

Indeed. Superb.

I am very proud indeed of everyone involved – well done does not really cover it.

Plus, not only an extraordinary weapons system and deterrent, but a floating convention centre for diplomacy and trade, and a massive humanitarian aid platform to boot – fantastic.

Pen men

Superb photos and proud to be British. A genuine asset to our country.

Darren

Britain is so cool as does things with style. Cooler too, more dynamic and more competitive when we leave this despotic eu empire! We must not be part of pesco!

Anthony D

Either you have no idea what a despotic empire is or you have no understanding of the EU.

Frank

Chaps, let us leave the EU out of this debate, shall we? Just for once…

OOA

Absolutely fantastic to see. Thanks for another great article.

David

I find it slightly confusing that this ship is being promoted on a website dedicated to saving the Royal Navy. This ship represents everything that is wrong with current thinking relating to the Navy and the purchase of these two behemoths basically guarantees further massive decline of the Navy regardless of future spending decisions.

Each of these ships cost £3 billion. By comparison the Navy recently sold a 21,000 tonne quasi aircraft carrier to Brazil for £80.3 million (less than half the price of one F35). Expect more of these fire-sales in future or the decommissioning of other, more useful ships as the massive cost of operating these two massive carriers sucks dry more and more of the overall Navy budget. If the Brazilian government rather than British government were managing spending decisions they would be able to buy 37.5 carriers for the price of one.

Supposedly these ships are going to operate 24 to 36 F35s, although good luck with that as the cost continually increases due to the decline in the pound and the massive complexity and maintenance that these aircraft will generate. How will supplies for massively maintenance-intensive aircraft be delivered to the carriers when they are at sea as no platform other than helicopters are available or other ships with massive lead-time? It is likely that any number of F35s will generate very few sorties from these ships to due operating cost and maintenance complexity. More £££s to Lockheed Martin less capability! Just as the system is designed.

Assume that one of these ships will eventually carry 24 F35s (generous estimate – although massive over investment in such a large ship nevertheless), Governments and Lockheed Martin are doing everything they can to keep the real cost a secret although if you assume £150m per plane (again generous assumption), then you are looking at an investment of £6.6 billion in a single ship.

This is a massive investment of limited funds to spend on a single ship, given that they are vulnerable and in many respects defenseless against a range of very cheap weapons including:

– Mines
– Submarines and torpedoes
– Underwater drones
– Other aircraft (given F35 low sortie rate)
– Cruise missiles
– A small flotilla of speedboats or aerial drones would also be able to sink them

These ships represent 1940s thinking in 2018 and quasi-corruption in the political process, where British taxpayers send large amounts of money to BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and other companies, for very little in return. Admirals soon after retiring go to work for these companies in return for sending them money while working for the Navy. If the Navy were serious about paying attention to the reality of war, they would be investing in cheaper technologies such as patrol boats, diesel-electric submarines and drones.

Robert

David.What a waste of space this comment is.

Howard

I totally agree Robert, David appears to be another of those trolls that cannot bring themselves to praise a marvel of British engineering and using highly flawed analogies to try and prove their reasoning. These vessels are in fact great value for their money expected to last for fifty years.
They started before they were built and I’ve proved them wrong from the start and I will do again.

Over the coming years, they will prove to be a great asset to out country’s Defence needs more than they are capable of imagining.

RichardIC

Easily a contender for the “How Many Times Can I Be Wrong In One Post 2018” award.

Callum

It’s a genuine struggle to find anything agreeable in what you’ve just written. Lets break down what you’ve just said.

Firstly, the QEC definitely do not represent “everything that is wrong with current thinking relating to the Navy” or guarantee further massive decline of the Navy regardless of future spending decisions.” Granted, they do have the flaws, but overall they represent a step change in capability for the RN achieved at a relatively low price compared to USN carriers. That represents exactly the sort of thing the RN SHOULD be focusing: capability without gold plating.

HMS Ocean was at the end of her service life and was sold, exactly as should have been done. The only world in which she saw further service with the RN was if PoW wasn’t retained. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. Why exactly are you even comparing the sale of an end-of-service budget helicopter carrier to the brand new price of a ship more than three times the size, with FAR more capability and a projected service life more than twice as long? Right, to make a daft point about buying 37.5 carriers instead.

How does any replenishment at sea occur? By planning ahead. Its safe to say the RN knows a bit more about logistics than you.

You are wayyyy off in your wild guess at the cost of an F-35B. Currently, the price per jet is £90mn, and procurement is still on track for 24 combat aircraft by 2024. Putting that in your oversimplified terms, that brings the price of a QEC to ~£5.2bn, BUT WAIT! The whole point of having two carriers is that one is active while the other is refitting and working up, so that airwing will serve both carriers. So thats down to ~£4.1bn! Ignoring the fact that these numbers are entirely arbitrary and mean nothing, you’re off by over £2bn.

This next part is the dumbest. You’re listing off threats that could sink a QEC, ignoring the fact that in combat situation the carrier would have escorts and aircraft to deal with each and every one of those threats.

That “1940s thinking” as you call it has been repeatedly proven decade after decade since the war and is still more than valid today. Aside from the unrivaled striking power of an aircraft carrier (short of the nuclear option), there are the numerous strategic and diplomatic advantages of having a bloody big warship to negotiate with. Gunboat diplomacy has been, is, and will likely always be an effective tactic.

Grubbie

No where near.Current cost of F35b to the UK government is Approximately £160 million.Projected price for the next batch of F35a is $90 million I believe.
The carriers were designed for a complement of 48 F35s or possibly more. In order to properly operate the carriers you need at least 2 air wings ,not least because one carrier would be useless if the other was lost with its aircraft.Add in trails, training, maintainace and the fact that the early models of any fighter are effectively semi prototypes and realistically you need 100 plus.The F35 is incredibly expensive to operate and you have also neglected to include all the support infrastructure for the aircraft and carriers,such as hangers ,harbour dredging, etc.HMS Ocean was sold for £83 million but the exchequer received nothing like that. Some of the money went to Babcock for a refit I believe, but it’s extremely murky and I can’t rule out the involvement of middlemen and “commissions”.

Callum

http://www.jsf.mil/news/docs/20180927_LRIP_11_Press_Release_v2.pdf
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44392148
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/21/f35_uk_price_not_disclosed/

Thats 3 different sources to disprove your claim of £160mn, including the official press release. Obviously the cost of previously purchased aircraft was higher, but the current cost is about £90mn, and future batches will continue to fall in price.

I am aware that there is far more involved than just the raw price, but in initial response I did state I was putting it in the same grossly oversimplified terms that the person who posted the original comment used, and that the numbers meant nothing. My purpose was not to be precise, but to disprove the hyperbole being spouted.

Grubbie

$115 million is actually about £90 million for the F35b .That’s not disproving anything ,as I didn’t really say otherwise, although I am surprised based on other articles. This is a projected price for future aircraft.How about the number of aircraft required?As many as 72 per carrier have been mentioned at one time and all the mission requirements were based on 48 aircraft. You often get nasty and destructive inter service rivalry on sites like this one, but in my understanding the RAF are very generously paying for the RNs aeroplanes!There 2 books by RN and RAF harrier pilots written well after the event which show just how pathetic this squabbling gets.

Callum

“$115mn is actually about £90mn for the F35b. That’s not disproving anything, as I didn’t really say otherwise”

£90mn was the figure I used, and that you said was “nowhere near” your current cost of £160mn. My use of the correct figure, backed up by sources, disproves the incorrect figures used by you and David.

As I’ve already said twice before now, I was putting my answer in the same format as the original comment, that being the price of the carrier plus the 24 jets that will form part of its airwing, using the most current costs. The only adjustment I made was to split the cost of the airwing in half, as unlike the USN the RN don’t have enough aircraft to assign each carrier a dedicated airwing and it will therefore be based on the active carrier while the other is in refit.

I already said, and you’ve already explained the reasons why, those numbers mean absolutely nothing

Grubbie

We are not really in disagreement, but you have to read more carefully,as do I sometimes.

David

That’s right, the F35b’s that the Navy is now paying £160 million+ for are effectively prototypes. They haven’t undergone proper operational testing yet, so it’s likely that they may have to be substantially altered or rebuilt later. Possibly many of them will just end up being scrapped or mothballed for parts in later aircraft if the UK can afford them by scrapping older ships or fire sales to other countries.

Jonathon Band, former first sea lord and one of the carriers and F35 biggest advocates now sits on the board of Lockheed Martin – funny that.

Grubbie

Very interesting,sir Band is also an adviser to Babcock and threatened to resign if the carriers were not built.

OOA

I think it’s quite telling that other major nations are investing in aircraft carriers, China and India are the obvious ones. Everyone has cost constraints but most major navies have come to the conclusion (in 2018 not 1940) that such vessels still have utility. Are they all wrong? Note also the recent Dutch announcement that they will attach an escort full-time to our carrier strike group – that’s around a third of their entire deployable frigate force which is a huge vote of confidence and a portent for the influence which these ships can provide.

I think you have a view which most on here share when you flag concerns about aircraft numbers but you’ve gone a bit OTT with it. If it ever came to squaring-up to a peer-level enemy, we would pack the decks choc full of aircraft – just as was done in the falklands. If need be, they would no-doubt be loaned from others. Without having the carrier in the first place you loose this option.

Callum

Just a nitpick mate, the Dutch frigate isn’t a permanent fixture. Its just as part of her first operational deployment, although it is likely to happen semi-regularly. The intention is for that first deployment to be to the Far East and South China Sea, areas where the Netherlands previously had many colonies and a major naval presence.

Grubbie

For political reasons, the Dutch are unlikely to turn up for such operations as defending the Falklands.

David

Yes, the Chinese aircraft carriers are really a waste of resources as well. The difference with them, however, is that they aren’t mortgaging their entire navy around two mostly empty carriers, as they have plenty of other capabilities as well (almost 100 submarines and more than 100 surface ships).

Almost everyone being wrong is actually quite common in the history of warfare. Generals/admirals tend to try to fight the last war. Everyone in the 1930s was building battleships, although it turned out not long later that they were all actually fairly useless and had been superseded by newer technologies (eg. aeroplanes, submarines).

Grubbie

The Chinese have the critical mass to make up a carrier battle group, or possibly several. They are also trying to expand their territory.

Callum

The difference back then being that battleships WERE outdated. A carrier was generally cheaper, faster, had greater range and striking power, and could defend other ships in the fleet.

Carriers nowadays have lost part of the defensive aspect against weapons like hypersonic or ballistic missiles, but aircraft remain the most effective way to down other aircraft and attack ships beyond the range the ship can attack you (submarines arguably tie with aircraft for the offensive role, as they lack the speed and standoff range of air launched AShW missiles, heavyweight torpedoes breaking a ships back are far more likely to actually kill a target, and the means of stopping a modern torpedo are generally less effective than air defences).

Combined with emerging future technologies like drones, air power is going to remain a critical aspect of all combat theatres at every level of warfare, and to enable air power at sea, you need carriers.

Gullinborsti

The real difference is in carrier capability. Spending 3+ billion on a carrier without a catapult seems nearsighted to me. The carriers are supposed to have a 50 year service live. The F35 does not. What happens if no replacement STOVL Aircraft gets developed? What happens when the US designs the first gen of their fighter drones for their carriers – ships with catapults?

The current F35B are already limited when launching from the carriers due to the ski-jump start compared to a catapult launch. Their strike load and fuel load is much smaller than those of an US carrier – or also of the currently most comparable design, the French Charles de Gaulle. Also the QE has no airborne early warning radar capability, unlike the Charles de Gaulle. Helicopter can not provide the same amount of early warning an E-2 Hawkeye can do – not in the slightest. This is a serious handicap.

Once the F35 reach the end of their lifetime the QE-class might either need a refit with catapults for several billions – or they will turn into glorified helicopter carriers. Heck, even China is building their new carriers with catapults now – the UK building a new carrier in the 201Xs without a catapult seems like an Anachronism.

Callum

All valid points. A catapult carrier will almost always be fundamentally superior to a STOVL or STOBAR carrier, simply because it can operate bigger, heavier aircraft of a greater variety of types and roles.

However, you’ve already briefly touched on the reason: cost. At £3bn a ship, which was already well over budget, fitting catapults would’ve required either axing the second carrier or making cuts to other projects (e.g. a pair of T26s would be about the same as the catapult conversion). The RN has learnt the hard way that replacing lost hulls is nearly impossible, so it’s better to take a bit of a capability hit to retain other areas.

Regardless of what happens in the future, there’s one indisputable fact: it is a million times more likely that the QECs will get the catapult conversion in ~25 years or whatever, than it is that a future government will give the go ahead to build larger numbers of new ships

Gullinborsti

I would be surprised if they get a catapult conversion. Nobody invests a third of the original build costs into a ship with at most 20 or so years of service remaining. This is a thing of “do it properly or don’t do it at all”.

About the budget: In my opinion the cost overruns were pointless and mostly the contractors milking the government, because the government does not do anything against being milked – especially so if it is spending the money to finance “key industries”. I will again point at the Charles de Gaulle – if the French manage to build a carrier with nuclear propulsion and catapults for a manageable price, why not the UK?

A Ford Class carrier costs “only” 9 billion dollar. It operates four times the planes with much higher sortie rate and is much more versatile. Also it is a much more future proof design. Yes, a Ford class is too big for Britain. But the QE does not offer enough for its price tag. In my opinion the UK allowed itself to get milked and the product it got is garbage for what they payed. But after paying 6 billion+ you can’t really admit that you did spend the money on overvalued helicopter carriers. For 3 billion a piece they should have had catapults – and I firmly believe that for 3 billion a ship with catapults would have been absolutely possible. With catapults you can do strike missions – I want to see a QE class doing strike missions. It will be impossible because I doubt that F35Bs with full fuel and full weapons load can even start from these things. If you can actually do stuff with them the military also would have been willing to use funds to provide a full amount of planes for the ships. The fact that they won’t even bother to fully equip the ships with planes shows how little capability the military itself sees in these ships.

In fact I have to admit that comparing the QE-class to the Charles de Gaulle could be misleading. It is more comparable to an US “amphibious assault ship” like the Wasp class or even more the America class with their full focus on aircraft operations. These also operate the F35B, 20 planes + 2 Helis as loadout, and at the same time transport 1600 Marines plus equipment. Even the price is similar, but then those things still got amphibious assault capabilities.

The QE class is kind of a paper tiger. It sounds much more impressive at first glance than it actually is. In reality they could never be the center of a carrier group. They lack the capabilities. The planes have not enough flight time, not enough flexibility in loadouts, and they are limited to F35B and Helis. They will always be delegated to being a support carrier against any enemy who actually bothers resisting. Also I doubt that they can mount any noticeable offensive operations due to planes weight limits. To strike anything they would be way to close to the enemy. In a symmetric conflict the first thing happening would be them joining with another carrier.

David Stephen

Do you mean everyone is wrong (about carriers), save for you who can see clearly with your amazing clairvoyant skills. If so I am calling bullshit on that claim.

Fedaykin

The Chinese are not developing a Carrier capability on a whim, whilst national prestige as a member of the Security Council certainly helped the decision towards introducing Carriers into their fleet they do have solid and actually documented reasons for doing it.

The current Fifty Year plan of the Peoples Liberation Army looks to expanding their reach, protecting their supply lines and projecting power out to the Second Island chain.

China wants to deny the area out to the Second Island Chain to other nations and Aircraft Carriers help them project the power needed to do that.

Cal Lawrence

What the difference is, is that China is a much bigger nation than the UK. They can afford a larger navy, both in terms of money spent and manpower.

Also, the “uselessness” of battleships in WW2 is often overstated. Battleships were surpassed by carriers, but not completely supplanted by them until the much larger postwar carriers were built.

Frank

David, please read well, quite literally anything other than what you’ve read until now.

David Graham

Well said, Frank. Amazing that someone knows exactly what current F-35Bs are costing.

My understanding is that 16 aircraft have been purchased to date [source: NAO report to parliament earlier this year]. 3 are development aircraft purchased some time ago and were never intended to be anything else: i.e. they were never going to be operational aircraft. A fourth aircraft is believed to be of a vintage with different software [perhaps Block 3i?] from the 9 aircraft of 617 squadron now at RAF Marham. This squadron is nominally a Royal Air Force squadron, but is in reality a “joint” organisation, as will be the FAA one when it eventually stands up I am unaware of the location of the 3 remaining aircraft: they might belong to 17 squadron based in the States, or are perhaps destined to join the training squadron at Marham, or they may in fact not have left the production facility. Originally it was stated that 21 aircraft would be purchased by the end of this year/early next year. Time will tell if this is correct.

It’s extremely difficult to pin down exact costs as various US sources quote complete aircraft less cost of engine, complete “fly-away” costs, and batch costs, which LM insist are “coming down”. Also unknown is the rate of exchange that was negotiated at the time of order, which the Treasury refuses to reveal. As to UK software, it is assessed that our current operational aircraft are either Block 3i or Block 3F, but no firm information has been seen by me to confirm this one way or another.

Although I firmly believe we should have built cat and trap carriers [I served in HMS Victorious more years ago than I care to admit], I sincerely hope we in the UK make a proper fist of what we have got.

Frank

David, thanks for your excellent summary. Further, we are in agreement regarding cats and traps. But we are where we are, and there is no doubt that we will make a success out of it. If anything the RN seems to absolutely excel in adversity. Hence, if the F35 turns out to be a different kettle of fish than what they bargained for, they’ll make them work, for sure.

Andy

The big concern should be the fact the RAF is quietly lobbying the treasury to only order 48 F35B and switch to the F35A on the grounds of cost .
The F35B is very exspensive to maintain as mentioned in the USMC report to the Congressional Defence Committee .
I would also like to point out how the RAF was very good at denying the FAA from using Harriers when the resource was pooled and it was the RAF who where driving force to sell them to the USMC.
The head of the RAF is on record saying that the RAF will have priority on the F35B deployment.
I expect the RAF to use every trick in the book to sabotage the FAA and the emasculated the carriers.
Of all 3 services the RAF is the most wasteful.

OOA

I think there is a good case for a split buy of A and B models: it lowers the overall capital cost thereby increasing the chance we can keep the numbers up – that should make the RAF happy. The 48B models then slowly but surely morph into a naval strike wing – which is actually extremely capable in its own right and a great core around which to build tailored air groups with British and partner country assets – that should make the Navy happy. Ok, it’s more costly to run than a single type but is it really that much difference? We’d be pooling with lots of other European forces for sustainment of the A model.

What’s not to like???

Andy

The navy dose not have enough fast jet pilots, dose not even have enough helicopter pilots .
The whole idea of sharing the F35B was to ensure there where enough pilots to put 48 jets on the carrier.
If the order is split the RAF will slowly starve the F35B fleet of trained pilots effectively rendering the carriers useless like they did with the Harrier fleet , they deliberately cut the flying at sea time for RAF pilots so only a very small number of Harriers where available to deploy to sea .
They will the same with the F35B .

OOA

Alright well if that happens, how about the Navy trains it’s pilots with the USMC? Much like the Dutch, Belgians etc etc do with the USAF for their F16 pilots.

I know that lots of informed observers say it’s crackers and while I respect that, I can’t help but feel that their arguments are too often viewed through the lense of wanting something close to original premise of 36 jets. That now seems unlikely to say the least and I’m wondering if that’s now shifting the thinking. In the excellent book, ‘Age of Invincible’, the author goes into detail about how inter-service rivalry cost the Navy CVA-01. So far it seems that the QEC programme has learned this lesson well and the service chiefs are playing nice (publicity anyway). On the assumption that this won’t last, isn’t there a case to go separate ways to some extent? But to do so in a way which neatly preserves the important optics of joint decision making, leveraging partnerships and cost optimisation.

OOA

For clarity, I mean the premise of 36 jets operating constantly from a single deck

Andy

It comes down to money it is exspensive to train a fast jet pilot .
The RN would need a min of 100 to fly 48 jets , at the moment they have 18 .

It takes 300 flying hours and costs £5 million to become a fast jet pilot.

I doubt the navy could recruit that many .

Bob

Gentlemen, it seems many have been missing out on the stealth flying the RN has been conducting with regards to fast jet pilot numbers. They are presently in the region of 65+ fast get pilots serving and many flying off foreign decks at sea. I’m assured that we The RN/FAA) could easily take the 48 so far promissed F35B’s and man at least 3 units as addtional exchange pilots would easily make up numbers, but a few more supporting engineers would always be welcome.
It should also be noted that the USMC fly’s the same version which will also fly from our decks even to the extend that 2 mixed national air wings could be accommodated. The USMC/USN are looking with glee at these two Ships which from time to time will also ease their pain of not having enough at sea carriers to cover their national needs. We will for sure always have a US presance in the Task Groups and for sure on those big decks too. The World is becoming once more a dangerous place and no one lissens to folk with no big stick to wave. The RN is very much still at the top of tree but if the UK Gov want the big sticks then they must pay up.
Just remember even today no other nation could but to sea a task group we could in a couple of years except our closest friend across the pond. China is still some way away from that.

Cal Lawrence

I’m not sure how anybody could claim HMS Ocean was a “more useful ship” than HMS Queen Elizabeth. Ocean was built on the cheap to commercial standards, was at the end of her service life, and anything she could do QE can do better.

Edd

Very nice.
It could have looked better with a row of british marked F35Bs on the deck . A few helos does not cut it really.