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Cam Hunter

Well! I was dead against it to begin with but te USMC are bad asses and we will learn some great stuff. The yanks originally learned from us british so we’re coming full circle, I hope we will eventually deploy 36 British F35s if we needed to.

John Clark

Cam, I think we need to copy and paste the USMC ethos regarding F35 operations.

The fact is the QE ships will become a defacto base for our American cousins and that’s fine by me, after all, it’s going to be 2025 (and an increase in defence spending) before we can put 36 jets on board and form a proper task group unilaterally.

It’s a way we can make a ‘really substantial’ contribution to joint operations with our key allies.

Iqbal Ahmed

Well, this fiasco just shows the folly of trying to stay in the military top table without the financial means to do so.

It’s China and India’s time in the sun now. We must learn to gracefully leave the scene without being thrown out.

I supported the carriers as a way to save working class jobs, support for the Union and Labour Party seats but even I realistically thought of them as helicopter carriers for most of their lives. Even I didn’t think we would effectively lease them to the Americans. So much for our sovereignty when we are dragged into unpopular wars.


Iqbal , I agree with your 2ND last sentence..

Meirion X

NO, it is Not time in the Sun for China and India! They are like children, most likely could destroy themselves!!

Always Right

Exact we are at the top military table with the financial means to to so. India and China are still nowhere, We’re not going anywhere.

Always Right

No they aren’t “bad assess” they’re unprofessional compared to the British. We are teaching them not the other way round you idiot. We’re not “coming full circle”. They’re still the learners.

Donald Rumosky

That’s a laugh my friend. The “Gator Navy” of the USMC has more ships, planes and men than the whole UK defense establishment.

Captain Nemo

I’ll get in early because I’m probably going to draw a lot of flak, but I think this is bad.
Not CSG21, we’ll be forever in debt to the USMC for keeping our carrier skills alive and we’re going to learn a lot from having them aboard, it takes the pressure off us so we can buy the later F35 batches and of course always happy to see them, but I was rather expecting them to briefly surge the carriers on deployments, not set up home.
There’s no real positive spin to this, the right wing media will say we’re failing to fill our expensive carriers and they’ll have a point in that HMG will feel less need to invest in carrier capability with USMC filling the deck. Left wing media will say we’re a vassal of the US and they too will have a point, because well, USMC are filling the deck; given the predicted operational numbers of British F35’s, American ones will always represent a high percentage, they have their own secure comms room too I believe. Foreign media will conclude both.
Nonsense you will say, an example of close NATO cooperation. Nothing wrong with that but the Royal Navy broke its back for several acres of sovereign territory, as a matter of record the carriers cost us the second batch of Type 45’s. For consideration, If it were simply a NATO issue rather than a national one we could have had 12 T45 and 12 T26 to more than meet our commitments and bought F35c to fly from American carriers.
It’d also be an absolute political nightmare, if QE turns out to be the answer when Donald asks “what’s the nearest carrier”.

An Informative article, which I’m afraid I found a little depressing.


In some respects I can see where you’re going with that train of thought. However, personally I think its a good think as it will be used to speed up our development and use of the carriers. It could also set a precedence with other Nations, such as Italy, Japan and maybe Australia, where they could deploy with us. The problem I forsee, is trying to get more than 12 of our F35s deployed in one go for at least the first 5 years from when the carrier is announced as operational. Therefore, with the help of the USMC it will help to justify the use of these magnificent ships.

We are facing the same issues with the F35 as what plagued the introduction of the Typhoon. The Government are prepared to see the first couple as good PR, but bulk at the idea of paying for any more and full capability.


Slight error there, mate: the Type 45 order went from 12 to 8 because of the spiralling cost of the T45 itself, and then ships 7 and 8 were cut to accelerate the Type 26 order. The carriers might’ve put on some budget pressure, but they weren’t the reason for the Type 45 cuts.

Captain Nemo

I’ve seen somewhere on tinternet and never been able to find it since, reference to batch 2 in the high £600m, but yes the project would be over budget even with batch 2 averaging down unit cost. However, it has been admitted after the fact that the admiralty was happy to trade its escorts for carriers because it made the rather sensible and yet ultimately foolish presumption that HMG would end up having to provide money for escorts anyway because you need escorts for a carrier group. Sort of bluffing someone who doesn’t really care what you’re talking about.
Carrier design selected and T45 cut in 2003, happy to concede the point if I’m wholly in error though.

Regards, Nemo


Taking high £600m as ~£650m, and averaging that with the £1050m of the first 6, that gives an average unit cost of about £850m. That’s consistent with the sort of savings seen in the Type 23 programme, so I’d say that sounds about right. However, the original 6 destroyers were already massively over budget, which meant buying more would’ve required finding money from somewhere.

You’re right about 2003, the cut from 12 to 8 was made that year (7 and 8 weren’t cut until 2008 though). That entire paper was cuts though, for every branch. The carrier design may have been chosen that year, but the armed forces in general were being reduced. Pinning the blame on a single £3bn programme (at that point) that had just begun is a bit of a stretch.

Captain Nemo

Think it said £675m (it’d be nice to find it again to be honest), so £4bn to finish the job; the admiralty was probably presented with an either or but thought they could game it.
Viewed as a whodunnit against the backdrop of the 2003 white paper, there’s a dead Type 45 on the floor of the study, the carrier is holding a lead pipe and is very much alive.


There’s also a very suspicious Typhoon lurking in the corner with blood on its hand and a murderous look on its HUD. At £18bn, the Typhoon is the most expensive weapon we’ve ever bought, and part of its purchase was included in the 2003 paper.

Captain Nemo

Nicely done, the field is yours, you seem to have enough upvotes to carry a jury and it will spare the board from my rambling.
I would add (he goes on) that I found my way to this website as I noticed we were building two massive aircraft carriers, that’s odd I thought, how are we supposed to look after those? There’s some sort of irony at work that the carriers emerged unscathed from a paper that destroyed so many escorts.

Kind regards, Nemo


Ironic, but there’s a hidden logic behind it all. Like pretty much every other European power, the reductions maintain a wide range of capability, just with no strength in depth. So on the surface, government can claim they haven’t cut any capability, and that the advanced tech of the new equipment means we don’t need as many of them anyway, but anyone with passing knowledge can see that any serious war would deplete us with the first casualties. Its symbolism, nothing more.


Own secure comms-tells you all you need to know about this disastrous project,the UK has no possible use for them apart from a giant helicopter carrier. 2-3 decades until the damage can be rectified as the fleet is built around this structure. One carrier will be mothballed after a barely decent interval.


This is pretty normal for US forces however. I’ve been on exercise with them and not been allowed into Company TOC’s (despite being a US citizen) due to serving in the British Army.


Fare enough, it’s their TOC.Its the exact opposite, it’s not their ship.Or is it?


It’s their comms systems and their command and control system, in exactly the same way that it’s their squadrons comms systems and their squadrons command and control systems.
Whether it’s a Coy attached to a UK Battlegroup or a Squadron embarked on the a UK Naval Vessel it’s the same principle.

Always Right

No you moron.

Meirion X

Been over this argument many times before, it’s getting boring!!

Always Right

They aren’t having their own secure comms you idiot. Their use is as an aircraft carrier. That means both of them.


Agreed, not only depressing but embarrassing. We don’t need Americans to outfit and show us how to operate an aircraft carrier. We invented it for God’s sake! Raise the defense budget and start funding the carrier program properly.

Meirion X

Yes Rick, I totally agree with you!


Meirion, we are cow towing to the United States and the carrier policies outlined in this article are weak and submissive. We are a great country with a great history and we need to start acting like one. What is wrong with people in this country? Our political leadership is a disgrace and I can assure everyone that Thatcher would never approve U.S. jets being permanently embedded on OUR aircraft carriers!


Rick- I really don’t understand when people say ” Thatcher would never……”. Don’t forget she was the PM when John Knott’s Defence review was going to sell the RN family silver. Also, with her relationship with Reagan, she probably would have supported the US.


Craig, bear in mind Thatchers back was against the wall in 1982 having inherited an economy that was ravaged by 35 years of state socialism. Once her policies began to take hold and the economy improved, defense was properly funded throughout her premiership which lasted until 1990.
In regards to Reagan, yes she was pro US, but would not have allowed foreign jets to be permanently deployed on a British flagship. Remember also, Reagan offered the RN the USS Nimitz, at the outset of the Falklands War, which she flatly turned down. Thatchers intellect and instincts would quickly grasp the bad optics of US Marines permanently deployed on QE.

Always Right

How many times are you chatting this shit? US Marines are not permanently deployed on QE or any British ship. There’s only one British officer permanently aboard the USS Winston Churchill due to its namesake. That’s it.


@Rick – I apologise for coming late to the conversation but I had to correct your big error in describing what Reagan offered the UK during the Falklands war. As to the warship Reagan offered it was the USS Iwo Jima not the Nimitz, it was based on the West Coast of the USA, we would have had no US aircraft, no US Navy crew and we would have had to work out how to crew it, drive it and THEN get it round Cape Horn to the Falklands as Panama would not have let us use the canal. Oh and it would only be lent to us when we lost one of our carriers!

He was studiously neutral before and during that war, which in itself was a disgrace, his Secretary of State Haig was batting for the Argies and the US Ambassador to the UN Jean Kirkpatrick was actively working against us gaining any international support. Our only friend was Weinberger who allowed us to use US stocks of Sidewinders rather than wait delivery from the manufacturer (we had been a long time customer).

In other words the complete opposite of how we lent a fully crewed HMS Victorious complete with all aircraft to the US Navy when they only had the USS Saratoga operational to fight the Japs.

Always Right

No we aren’t you moron. Submissive to who? There AREN’T ANY US jets being permanently embedded on MY aircraft carrier. This is a USMC squadron being deployed to be trained by forces that fly more annual hours and partake in more arduous exercises.

Paul Braham

I think you mean “Kowtow”?

Iqbal Ahmed

Rick, do you realistically see defence expenditure increasing significantly enough for a speeded up F-35 purchase schedule and sufficient numbers of escort vessels?

My own thoughts arte that having a helicopter carrier for the next 5-8 years until we could purchase sufficient numbers of F-35s would have been preferable.


Unfortunately I don’t see defense expenditures increasing. The carrier program will be one embarrassment after another if our political leadership does not smarten up. US Marines on QE is not what we envisaged and not what we want.

Always Right

WE are showing THEM you idiot! That’s why they’re there for this deployment. To learn from the British.

Always Right

“we’ll be forever in debt to the USMC for keeping our carrier skills alive”

No we aren’t, that’s the Royal Navy you have to thank for that. There’s nothing to learn from an inferior force.

” Left wing media will say we’re a vassal of the US and they too will have a point, because well, USMC are filling the deck; given the predicted operational numbers of British F35’s, American ones will always represent a high percentage, ”

The US is a vassal of its mother country Captain Nemo, that should be obvious by now. This is one deployment so the USMC can deploy on a real carrier.

“, they have their own secure comms room too I believe.”

You believe wrong.


The big question is will we buy more than 48 F35B, the treasury has been quietly lobbying for the F35A due to the F35B rising costs and air frame life.
Something that this article fails to point out is that the F35B has again failed to meet the operational requirements set by the USMC and still has embedded Lockheed Martin engineers because USMC engineers are struggling to maintain the planes and there are serious problems with the logistics.
The latest report for the Pentagon says the F35B will fail to meet air frame standards and flying hours will be 2000 not the revised figure of 2500 which was revised down from 7500 , the F35C manages 8000 flying hours and the A 9000 .

Broke the RN to build these ships and now it plainly obvious we cannot afford to equip them .


The 2,000 hours quoted in the Bloomberg report refers to “early models” of the F35B, not the current version. The F35 has been undergoing continuous development since its introduction, so much so that they’ve decided in tests that they can no-longer use the original test F35B as it differs so much from the current version.
The alternative would have been to wait until the design was fully tested and mature before going into production. By which time it would of grossly outdated, such is the rate of technological development.


The report was submitted in November 2018 .


But the numbers in the report refer to the early model F-35B’s.


It makes sense, and it’s necessary as it allows us to make use of the new carriers and get our crews trained up without rushing to spend on the F35Bs, in the hope we can save money buying later lots.

It would be good though if we hadn’t put ourselves in this situation in the first place. It was clear at the time of the 2010 SDSR that scrapping the Harriers and the remaining ships of the Invincible class would cause us to lose our ability to run aircraft carrier operations for a decade, and during that time we would have to rely on seeding RN pilots and crew with the USN to retain any skills and experience of fast jet naval operations until both the QE and F35s came into service.

Arguably though, the real damage was done back in 1982, right after the Falklands was decided. Our takeaway from that conflict was to cancel the sale of Invincible and build Ark Royal. But really if we were more forward thinking, we should have started planning for a class of conventional CATOBAR carriers and a fleet of modern, supersonic multirole aircraft there and then (possibly a navalised EFA, before the design had been locked into the EF2000/Typhoon that is optimised for landbased operations and unsuitable for carrier ops). While the SHARs did a good job, ultimately if we had had the old Ark Royal or the proposed CVA01, a lot of British lives would have been saved, and quite possibly the war might never have happened in the first place, such was the deterrent value of the old RN fleet carriers.

Instead of which, during the 1980s and 1990s we came to treat the Invincibles as regular carriers rather than as the stopgap the Navy originally intended, born out of a necessity to keep RN fast jet naval aviation going until a new political climate took hold which would allow new fleet carriers to be built and put in service. The aftermath of the Falklands War was just the right time to press the case for fleet carriers once again, but for some reason the moment passed and all we did was develop the Sea King AEW platform and a decent radar system for the SHAR. We skipped a generation of naval fast jet experience, and allowed the future of UK carrier aviation to be held hostage to politicians once again, just as it had in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

We accepted that the Invincibles were the successors to the Audacious class (when they should really be seen as the follow on to the Centaur class light fleet carriers) and by extension the current Queen Elizabeth class was therefore designated the successor to the Invincibles, rather than Ark Royal and Eagle. As the Invincibles were all young ships, there was no rush to build a next generation of RN carriers in the 1990s.

Although this shouldn’t seem like a great problem, particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it did mean that we ended up without much choice but to accept the high risk F35B as our future naval fast jet airframe rather than continuing to operate whatever 4th generation naval fast jet we could have been operating if fleet carriers had been ordered in the 1980s. This has meant that we need to either spend a significant amount of money to get large numbers of the F35 into service early, or buy them in small batches and wait for the price to come down, accepting it will be decades before we can operate the type in large numbers and consequently our future aircraft carriers will not have a full complement of British owned fast jets on board for the early part of their life in service.

Furthermore, when the future carriers were at last ordered in the 2000s, their procurement would coincide with the 2008 financial crisis, putting the whole construction project itself at risk of cancellation. And while such a calamity was averted (thanks more to Gordon Brown’s need to shore up the Labour vote in Scotland than any great concern for the defence of the realm by either the Labour Govt or the Tory-led coalition), the existing naval fast jet aviation capability was axed instead, leaving us where we are today, effectively having to relearn skills we had pioneered over 90 odd years of fixed wing carrier operations.

If the Thatcher government had ordered two 50,000 ton CATOBAR carriers (powered either by a COGAS or COSAG arrangement) in 1982 there would have been greater political appetite for a naval variant of the Eurofighter aircraft, which in turn would probably have kept the French in the project. Such an aircraft would have been designed from the outset to be multirole, as the Rafale was, rather than having its ground attack capability added in later tranches, as per the Typhoon FGR4. The new carriers and their aircraft would have come into service some time in the late 1990s, well ahead of the troubles of the financial crisis and, as a young and state of the art weapon system newly commissioned, would not have faced any threat of cancellation during the 2010 SDSR. The benefits of keeping the French in the Eurofighter consortium would have also benefited UK and European defence exports, with one less competitor in the crowded international fighter market.

HMS Ark Royal would likely not have been built, nor would Ocean, with the existing light fleet carriers Invincible and Illustrious taking on the LPH role once both fleet carriers came into service. The Sea Harrier FA2 would still have been developed as a stopgap until the new carriers could be deployed with the Typhoon/Rafale hybrid, and would have been retired around the same time as actually happened. The UK would still join the JSF project, but we would probably focus on the conventional F35A for the RAF and the CATOBAR capable F35C version for the FAA. With the decks of the carriers full with the Typhoon/Rafale, the UK could take our time over the F35 procurement as there would be no pressing need for it to enter service until full capability had been achieved and unit prices had dropped to acceptable levels. While this is in effect what the MoD is doing now anyway, with the fleet carriers already in service and equipped with a navalised Typhoon/Rafale, we would be able to wait for the F35 without having a major capability gap, which is what we have had since the decommissioning of the Harrier fleet and has been exacerbated by the retirement of the Tornado.

With a fully multirole Rafale/Typhoon hybrid in UK service from the early 2000s with both the RAF and RN, it is likely the elderly RAF Harrier and Tornado fleets would have been axed in the wake of the financial crisis, leaving the RAF and RN both operating a single fast jet type until the F35 came into service. The Invincibles would have faced the chop, too, with the second fleet carrier expected to replace them in the LPH role.

it could also be argued that, had two fleet carriers had been ordered in the early 1980s and survived the swingeing cuts of the Options for Change White Paper to enter service in the late 1990s, their presence in the fleet would have made a compelling case to build the full order of 12 Type 45s, even when that project went over budget and behind schedule.


Excellent prospective.


A really well thought out post.


Agreed a well thought out post but markedly gaining from the benefits of hindsight IMHO.

Meirion X

It was the Pro-European orientation of Britain’s politics at that time determine the defence policy, including withdrawal of East of Suez. The Falklands War would not have changed the paradigm. Same policy continues after the Cold War has ended. The UK defence budget was about 5.5% of GNP in the midst of the Cold War mid eighties, leaving very little to spare outside the European front line.
The Ark Royal was ordered in 1978 by a Labour Government, it was too late to cancel after the Falklands War!
The UK would have had to leave the EU in 1993 for your scenario of ordering CAToBAR carriers to occur.

Hugh Jarce

The problem with all aircraft carriers is the inadequate range of the aircraft on board. What’s needed imo are extremely long-range stealthy drones with sophisticated EW suites to carry out the SEAD/DEAD mission over enemy territory with sopisticated IADSes.


American and former Navy man here, and I’m thrilled to see this kind of cooperation between the USMC and RN. This will provide invaluable training for both forces, and further strengthen our special relationship. In the coming years the US military budget will have to shrink (like many other nations), and I think it is vital that liberal democracies further integrate operations to meet rising powers like China and a resurgent Russia.

I also agree with many of the posters that hopefully the RN gets the money it needs to fully outfit the QE’s with F35’s (whatever number that may be). I think we all want to eventually see British planes flying from British carriers.


Thank you for your comments. Particularly that last sentence.

Always Right

It already has that money you idiot, just like the US. The problem for both is spare parts and huge assembly time.

” I think we all want to eventually see British planes flying from British carriers.”

Are you retarded? We already have lol

Lord Sugar

Calm down you muppet. No reason to get so defensive.