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Ian

We will have a world class power projection capability provided we don’t leave gaps. Escort depth and point defence remain my biggest concerns.
We’re going to act all grown up but cut corners and fail to invest in resolving key capability / depth which could be fatal.
Indirectly we’re also going to risk carriers as HLPs because we won’t fund dedicated rotary platforms.
I’m very proud of the new carriers and all my angst / ire is aimed squarely at numbers 10,11 Downing Street.
Well done to all involved so far and in as we build IOC. I hope as many people as possible will encourage governments of both all colours not to short change finishing the job properly.

Ian

Fat fingers;
Well done to all involved so far and those as we build IOC. I hope as many people as possible will encourage governments of both / all colours not to short change the project and finish it properly.

kirk

as long as corners aren’t cut with escorts.

Steve Rigg

These ships offer so many options and possibilities, the only problem as always, is money. Properly funded defence will be the key. Type 31 to back up Type23/26 in the escort role will be crucial and a couple of exrra SSN’s would be nice. However ‘vulnerability ‘ will very much depend on the size – and mix – of the air wing. Attack is always the best form of defence, and eliminating threats before they arise is the best bet, by air strike if sufficient F35’s are available (and/orTomahawk from escorts if fitted with Mk41, or from subs) Point defence installed on QE is obviously pretty basic, just 3 x Phalanx, but adding 24-32 Sea Ceptor, perhaps on the starboard forward sponson, looks perfectly feasible. The onboard systems are all compatible, and given the ships capacity and presence of a mobile crane, even reloading at sea could be an option.

Iqbal Ahmed

The raison d’etre of the aircraft carrier is its power projection via its air wing, for both offensive and defensive missions. Each of these carriers are only likely to carry 12-15 aircraft. Maybe fewer. Their composition will be limited by lack of a catapult. Half of these aircraft will fly patrol. Therefore, only a puny symbolic strike force could ever be mustered.
The most realistic salve to this problem is to have Uncle Sam augment our meagre air group by basing themselves off our carriers. This would negate the independent action of the UK and confirm our vassal state status; regardless of the £6.2 billion spent.
As a result of the lack of an air group, disproportionate RN resources will be spent on protecting these carriers. Their deployment will mean the RN has to stop other ‘business as usual’ deployments. The whole RN will be deformed if a carrier battle group worth its name is to ever sortee out.

Steve Rigg

The prediction is for 24 F35 available for deployment by 2023 and I agree that more are needed – but only the US will have moreat sea. Russian/Chinese/Indian/Italian carriers only operate 12 fighter types or less and these are range/payload limited by their launch method. Helicopters form the rest of the air groups – just like our QE class. Indeed until the F35C arrives, even the US Navy only catapults 2 basic types; FA18/EA18 variants and E2 Hawkeyes. When unmanned combat aircraft enter service (Some years away yet) QE has space and power to accept catapults when required, so size also means ‘future proof’. And yes, allied aircraft probably will fly from our carriers – as part of NATO, our planes may also fly from theirs! ‘Uncle Sam’ happens to be supporting our carrier project (unlike you) On the whole, £6bn for 2 ships that have a service life expectancy of 50 years sounds like incredible value for money!

Challenger

Aside from the obvious but expensive need for more escorts and plenty of F35 to fill the decks i’d say there are a few smaller but significant enhancements needed to make sure we don’t end up with the sort of brittle, bargain basement carrier-group the CVF detractors have always claimed we’ll get.
– 30 Merlin is nowhere near enough to provide all that’s asked of the fleet. They don’t need to be updated to HM2 standard like the rest, but some (even if it’s only 6 or 8) of those redundant Merlin’s need to be pressed into service for Crowsnest and let the pricey, up-to date HM2’s focus on providing anti-submarine cover via a carrier based squadron and small ship flights.
– Extra VLS would be very desirable during the T45’s refits, but at the minimum swapping out the Aster 15 for Sea Ceptor, with the ability to quad-pack them would allow them to hold/fire a lot more than 48 missiles if up against any serious threat (with the added bonus of creating more space for Aster 30’s and a more robust BMD capability).
– A limited purchase of ASROC alongside the planned MK41 VLS would give the T26 a real anti-submarine offensive capability which the RN surface fleet has sorely lacked for decades.
– Sea Ceptor on the carriers is a must during their first major refits considering how cheap and easy adding some would be. Capital ships without point defence missiles is worrying-laughable and needs to be rectified.
– A roll-out of Seahawk-Sigma mounts fleet-wide to replace the existing standard 30mm ones would be pretty cheap if done over a few years and provide a much stronger anti-swarm and light anti-surface capability which could come in handy.

Ian

Agree with all this. Its the kind of nickel and diming that we’re guilty of.

4thwatch

Goes back to WW2 and not rearmouring HMS Hood. Really basic to get the basics right.

jon livesey

In the late thirties the UK was *cancelling* battleships, because it was clear that Germany would never have more than two. Apart from completing the KGV class, the ship-building capacity was put into carriers and light escorts, which was the right thing to do, based on the experience of the u-boat war in 1914-18.

don

I don’t believe ‘Hood’ would have stood much of a chance against a ‘Bismarck’-class, even with being up-armored- thanks to ‘Prince of Wales”s many technical deficiencies she was more or less alone. The battle would have gone on longer, and ‘Hood’ would undoubtably have fought bravely but in the end, the Admiralty class, like other battlecruisers, had no business slugging it out with proper BB’s. I’ll grant you her up- armoring might have made it possible for her to use her superior speed to retire and fight another day.
All in all a horrid tragedy. “Hood” was surely one of the most beautiful warships that ever put to sea.

Michael

The Japanese Yamato and her sister Musashi were the most heavily armored BB’s ever built, yet it was bombs dropped from carrier planes that put them both on the bottom, and forever relegated BB’s to a secondary role.

Necessary Evil

I agree with all of that, but I would say that you have listed them in order of importance (maybe switch 1 and 2), and that you have missed out the most important one of all, which is working out some way of engaging over-the-horizon targets with Aster 30. Without this, I doubt the validity of the conclusion made in the article that the CBG would be able to survive an initial saturation attack.

Necessary Evil

It just occurred to me that the easiest way to manage this is probably going to be using an f-35, as has already been demonstrated with F-35b/Aegis. Before someone talks about numbers, we could have a system where Crownest provides regular AEW (to take the strain off the f-35 fleet), and when it detects a threat down a particular axis it can vector a f-35 in that direction, to both engage the threat directly and to allow remote targeting. The trick will be getting the f-35 in position quick enough.

Ian Willis

One word: Zircon
A missile as fast as Mach 8 can penetrate sea captor.
The Russians have satellites, submarines and humint capabilities to pinpoint the carriers location.
Not only have the carriers cost billions to date but to deck them out with the latest weapons and systems and to keep them operation will cost more. On top of that people want more escort ships. Endless sinkhole.

Steve Rigg

Another word: rubbish. Cost of the ships should be put in perspective’ – that’s 6.2bn over something like 20 years. Finding a carrier group at sea even using all the resources you name is still not a given. Zircon stats are impressive – but unproven. Even if it’s aimed in the right place, it still has to track and home on a target, and ‘hard kill’ systems such as Sea Viper/Sea Ceptor are not the only option, ECM, jammers and decoys are very effective, and directed energy weapons are under trial. Perhaps the ‘endless sinkhole’ should refer to the International Bribe budget (oops, should have said ‘Aid”) which is equivalent to buying 2 fully armed and equipped carriers including their air groups EVERY YEAR1

Don

To launch a missile attack you need to know the carrier’s position .
Subs would need to penetrate the ASW screen .
Surveillance aircraft would be intercepted before gaining a fix .
You would need to have your attack assets in position and ready to launch as soon as you gain a fix on the carrier’s location which exposes your attack assets to prosecution .
Information is time sensitive.
If your info is a hour old the carrier’s position could be 30 miles away.
You may have super missiles to fire but getting your launch platforms into position and locating your target without getting jumped yourself is s tough challenge.

jon livesey

You have to get within 250 miles of a carrier to use Zircon. And of course we have ” satellites, submarines and humint capabilities” as well.

don

Mach EIGHT? At sea level? I guess I need to read more naval journals, I knew AS missiles were getting fast but…

Jefferson Merrick

Mach 10 has been achieved by China. They are building a Mach 18 missile right now.

rustyhook

The issue here is not “vulnerability”. Everyone thinks Battleships became obsolete because they were vulnerable. In fact, that’s not accurate, they became obsolete because they could no longer deliver their ordinance at the range that a/c carriers did by the end of WW2. Fact is battleships were much less vulnerable than a/c carriers, but that IN-vulnerabilty did nothing to stop their obsolescence. Now, to my point: to sink a ship, you let the water in. The best way to stop that ship sinking is through subdivision of water tight compartments. So the real question becomes: Does the QE class have sufficient water tight compartments, to mitigate flooding in the event of a hull breach?

Ian

Not necessary to sink her – disable more likely, either upper decks from the air or breaking her back from torpedo under hull explosion.

Michael

I can’t say I agree about what you stated, that “Battleships were much less vulnerable than aircraft carriers”‘( unless I misunderstood you) . The fact is that from 1939 until WW2 ended in 1945, no less than 14 BB’s were lost in action. The British RN lost 2, the German Kriegmarine 2, the remaining 10 were lost by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

rustyhook

I think, Michael, you may be misunderstanding what I mean. Battleships were designed with heavy plate armour designed to withstand battle damage from shells, bombs and torpedoes (some might say not very successfully but that is another matter) as the nature of their weaponry meant they would be subject to hits during a battle. Aircraft carriers on the other hand did not have armour plated protection to the same degree of battleships and were based on cruiser hulls, hence why often times they seemed a lot larger than battleships but displaced less. Put another way, if you subjected a battleship and an aircraft carrier to the same fire, the battleship would be able to sustain a lot more hits than the aircraft carrier. The primary defense of aircraft carriers was (and still is) to keep them out of harms way and prevent battle damage in the first place. Secondary to that (and no less important) should be watertight subdivision in the case of a hull breach to prevent loss of the ship and allow limping home to port for repairs.

Michael

Thank you for your further explanation.

Richard

The comparison of the number of missiles carried by Type 45 destroyers vs U.S. Aegis class ones is slightly misleading, I think! As far as I know the PAMMS system only requires one Aster missile per threat, whereas as the aegis system needs two missiles per threat to guarantee an intercept. This shortcoming of Aegis is due to be rectified in it’s next update. If anyone knows differently I’d gladly be corrected as I can’t find the article I originally read this in.

Steve Rigg

Aegis ships may have more cells, but also carry a wider variety of weapons in them, Standard, Asroc, Tomahawk and SeaSparrow, whereas Type 45 has 48 cells dedicated to AAW. Coincidentally this seems to be the ‘number of choice’ for most nations air warfare ships. Personally I would advocate carrying only the Aster 30 variant in Type 45 and adding 16 Mk41 cells (space is reserved apparently) quad packed For SeaCeptor – if your going to have a dedicated carrier escort you may as well maximise it’s potential!

Richard

Yeah, thats also true. And I agree with fitting the Mk41 cells, it should be done as soon as possible I think.

Bill

Not mentioned, but vital, is Airborne Early Warning (AEW). This represent’s the CBG’s “eyes,” and the ability to detect incoming threats at sufficient range to do anything about them, especially in the era of supersonic antiship missiles. Lack of AEW was the principal reason the RN took the losses it did in the Falklands; had Ark Royal with her Gannets (and Phantoms) still been in service many sailors would still be alive who aren’t.
But the CVF has none and can carry none, thanks to the decision not to install catapults and arrestor gear.

Steve Rigg

Crowsnest is the modern equivalent to Gannet and can be added to suitably equipped Merlin helicopters. It incorporates the Searchwater radar and Cerberus mission equipment and can be installed in around 24 hours aboard ship. Around 10 kits are to be deployed, with AEW or ASW prioritised as required. With the aircraft having an endurance of around 6 hours, 4 conversions will enable one to be lkept airborne, with additional equipment to increase tasking available at reasonable notice. The problem is, of course, that there are only 30 available Marlins to cover all tasks.

Bill

Unfortunately, a helicopter has neither the range nor the endurance nor the ceiling of a fixed-wing aircraft. Perhaps the solution might be found in adapting Crowsnest to the Osprey.

Bill

For a surface or sea-skimming target, the E-2 has a radar horizon of ~270 miles at 35,000 ft. A Merlin can only get up to 15,000 and its radar horizon is just half that.

David Stephen

Yeah but the helo will be a couple hundred miles away from the carrier. And 4.5 hrs is a decent loiter time for Merlin and there will be at least 5/6 AEW equipped versions on the carrier.

Steve Rigg

Nice idea, but perhaps more realistically the 11 ‘spare’ Merlin HM1’s in storage could be given a permanent Crowsnest fit to add to the mix – go for quantity as a solution.

David Stephen

There are no airframes left spare. They have been cannibalised as part of the HM2 upgrade to the other 30.

jon livesey

From what I read, Merlin has an endurance of five hours.

David Graham

Spot-on, Bill,
Time people hoisted in the limitations of AEW in helicopters [range and, importantly, ceiling]. A helicopter, no matter how good the equipment, will never match a purpose built fixed wing AEW aircraft.

David Stephen

So, its better than having no AEW. Only two navies have any fixed wing AEW, the French (5 E2D) and the US.

Tim

AEW Merlins with 4.5 hrs endurance at say 100mph will cover 450 miles, thats JUST enough to go 50 miles out, do one circle around the CVF then the 50 miles back. Given that it’s radar coverage is only 150 miles there is not decent coverage all round all of the time. Alternatively the mission only searches a part circle. Then the Merlin needs maintenance. 8 on board will mean only 1 in the air at a time, for a month max.
What we need is a fleet of drones. The LM Fury weighs only 30kg and can carry 50kg of payload for 15 hours at 18,000 ft and also do 100mph. 24 of those will be about the same price and space as 1 Merlin and the fuel cost per day will be much less even with 3 in the air all the time. A radar that small though will cover less but it only needs to look at the over-the-horizon sea level space because the 2050 will look at everywhere else.

Craig

Are you expecting them to lap the carrier? I’d have thought they’d loiter 100 miles up on the axis of threat, or tangential to that if 2 were being kept airborne for heightened vigilence.

4thwatch

I’ve often thought it would be possible to develop & marinise the STOL Pilatus Porter into an AEW/communications aircraft at a fraction the cost of the alternatives.

Harry

By 2030 when the frigates regain a anti surface capacity, and we get are full complement of four f35 squadrons, in a time of need the uk could field a very strong and effective carrier group by itself. But would mean that no other commitments could be meet, which is the real issue with the navy.

Iqbal Ahmed

Why is it that every article on this site turns into an unrealistic wish list for equipment and munitions?

Steve Rigg

Because many people believe that the proper defence of our country is one of the primary duties of Government, and want it done right!
Your comments, on the other hand, always seem to be negative and derogatory towards the Navy in particular- I’m beginning to wonder if ‘Iqbal Ahmed’is a pseudonym for ‘Jeremy Corbin’!

Iqbal Ahmed

My point is that there are so many other ways of improving the Royal Navy that would merit discussion other than buying offensive equipment to intervene around the world? A more holistic approach to discussing issues affecting the navy may be beneficial.
For example, sailors are leaving the QE Carrier in significant numbers because they are apparently ‘bored’ of being in port rather than ‘seeing the world’. Deployments and improvements to the ship are being delayed causing dips in morale. Due to lack of personnel numbers, sailors are not being released for training and alternative postings and thus chances of promotions are being affected.
What is the point of extra F-35’s, Sea Ceptors and anti ship missiles if the boat can’t go out to sea, never mind enter a war zone because of a lack of personnel and the correctly trained personnel?

Steve Rigg

Good idea – a Navy without ‘offensive equipment’! Why have Weapons. when you can use appeasement and … oh yeah, worked well in the 1930’s didn’t it? Sailors cannot just ‘quit’ and ‘the QE Carrier’ is not even part of the Navy yet, she still belongs to the builder until formally commissioned and handed over after completion of trials! Deployments cannot happen until the Navy officially owns the ship, and there are many items of equipment still to be installed, systems to be validated etc, the last thing the crew will be is bored. Bear in mind that the ship is actually ahead of her trials program, and ‘improvements’ have first to be identified before they are implemented. The vessel is still BRAND NEW, and additional equipment may well be scheduled once initial work up is complete. Personnel retention affects the whole of the Navy, not just one ship, but the QE class will surely prove to be a major recruitment booster given the extensive media coverage generated.

jon livesey

The QE is in sea trials. Propulsion and equipment trials. They have not yet even got to weapons and sensor trials. They can’t go swanning off to see the World. Deplployments are *not* being delayed.

David Stephen

More nonsense. Where do you get this crap from?

Iqbal Ahmed

From the papers:
Sailors abandoning Royal Navy’s new warship ‘because they are bored’, it is claimed

4thwatch

What are you worried about. No plans to strike the middle far east that I’m aware of.

David Stephen

Why is it you bitch and moan at every article?

Grubbie

Because the royal navy has committed itself to a daft and unviable structure. The attempts at justifying the carriers by STRN are getting desperate.” Soft power” is the sort of crap that you usually get from the Guardian or the labour left.Carriers might be of some limited use in humanitarian crisis, but it’s basically the same nonsense we used to get about the royal yacht being used as a hospital ship. The navy seems to agree that there is no need for offensive weapons and doesn’t foresee the need to sink enemy shipping!

Tim

What about lazer defence ? Is that close ?

Geoffrey Hicking

Given that cuts will be inevitable, the fact we don’t have more than 45 AAW missiles and have to rely on a sub for anti-ship kills is extremely depressing.
Any chance of an article outlining where the next cuts might fall?
I just wish people would look ahead and see how on earth we will have a navy in the next 50 years. Have we ever seen an increase in funding/ numbers? At what rate can the cuts continue to allow us to maintain capabilities?

Geoffrey Hicking

I apologise for my arrogance. I really don’t know what I am talking about. I shouldn’t have imagined I could contribute anything.

The Ginge

Just read the article and it does throw up some interesting points.
1. On the T26. Do we really need the Chinook capable, massive mission bay, quite as a ghost and 8,000 tonne plus Anti Submarine Ship (can not call it a frigate at 8K Tonne plus) or do we A) Use the T26 fitted for but without the tail that could be attached in time of War, to provide Global Missions on their own (out of 8 I would like to think we would get 3 at Sea at most times) doing the Gulf Patrols etc. Whilst we build a smaller sub 4,000 tonne Frigate with quite engines and fitted with a tail to operate close to or within the air envelope of the carrier, could do away with a complicated ASW Control Centre if networked in to spaces on the Carrier/T45’s and would need a small flight deck hanger since it would always be operating with big flight deck Carriers/LPD’s etc. Buy 6 to 9 T31’s that always operate as escorts with Carrier/Albion/Bulwark. It doesn’t need a top off the line radar as the T45’s will take care of anti air. Since it will also have close in Tankerage it doesn’t need the range of the T26’s which are looking more and more like old fashioned light cruisers designed to operate singularly around the globe. Move the Radars and point air defence from the T23’s to the T26’s but put the 2087 tails on the T31’s.
2. The T26 desperately needs a Mk41 compatible ground attack and anti-ship missile. Develop with the French but in meantime we have to have something, so buy American until an Anglo/French solution is ready.
3. Point Defence, can be taken care of with trailer/container mounted land sceptre being lashed to QE/PoW decks. Not ideal but it’ll do.
4. More Missiles. Simple solution, work with a small number of Oil Rig work boat with lashing stand alone water proof canisters that will work close in with the T45’s so they have line of sight networking which you can not jam, so that T45’s will launch and control missiles. You could easily double the number of missiles for each T45’s, they could return to be restocked whilst the T45’s stay on station. They would have a survivable cell at the front to minimise any need for armour, or damage control. IE A Commercial Design maybe with an X Bow.
5. Someone really should look at lifting the new AEW on a unmanned Helicopter or fixed wing drone that could be fitted to T45’s/T26’s and Carriers as it would have a lot higher ceiling than manned helicopters, or even could be fixed wing and caught in a net for retrieval, no people, more fuel again networked via line of sight to Carrier/T45 command centre to process the raw data. It would then free up more Merlin’s for ASW work without the cost of refitting the 8 Mk1’s in hangers plus increase range of the radars by lifting them higher.
6. With extra anti air missiles or mark 41 silos buy Assroc to give the T31’s some long range anti submarine capacity when Helicopters can’t fly or are absent. If they used the some of those on the temporary containers as outlined in 4 it cuts out the need for Mk41 cells in the T31. Plus the ships outlined in 4 could be RN Reserve Manned and only deploy on times of tension. With Modern control systems the T31’s could always practice Assroc launches without the missiles present on normal escort duties.
So for very little extra cost you have networked your assets, use the money saved by redeploying the River Class Boats to do Mine Warfare remotely, with a boat launcher crane and small hanger/enclosed workspace and save the money on looking at Sandown etc replacements. If you leave the T26’s to go off and do their thing and be used as Merchant Escorts in packages of 1 or 2 in the Atlantic doing ASW & Anti Air with the big Type 997 Radar then build ships to work with the Aircraft Carriers rather than using independent monsters tied to the Aircraft Carrier Group which negates their strengths at no extra cost to the budget.

Grubbie

Is it really not possible to fly off the vast ski jump equipped flight deck without vtol. Avenger, skyraider, even B25s managed it without catapults during the war and hurricanes even landed without arrestors. Steam catapults were not invented until after the war,when they did have gear it was very simple and cheap. These old planes had better speed, altitude and range than the merlin. Swordfish could take off with not much more than the speed of the ship.

Richard B

I closely followed the CVF programme in its early years, and and one thing I often asked about was the armament and armour of the selected Thales design. Based on “off the record” replies, as a cost saving measure plans to fit PAAMS (Aster 15) were dropped in 2002, and all armour (albeit I was never clear as to the type – hardened steel, composite, ceramic…) followed a year later. Remember that SDSR 1998 assumed that building BOTH new carriers would cost about £2bn (“Steel is cheap, air is free”), a brutal reality check was facing the RN and MOD by 2002. However protection remains one of the most sensitive aspects of the QEC design, so who knows, maybe they have 3″ of flight deck armor and a Pugliese underwater protection system!

ThePymes

You wouldn’t be Richard B of Navy Matters by any chance? I was fortunate to have two tours of QNLZ during her build at Rosyth and one thing that was clear was that the design does include armour that isn’t discussed much in public. She even has armour in areas that I hadn’t considered previously (think de-arming damaged or U/S aircraft that might present a risk to the ship).

Remo

The above post states, “Even if the RN cannot act independently, the QEC significantly adds to NATO naval capability and deterrence which is presently inadequate in the European theater.”
We can debate why naval capability and deterrence are presently inadequate in the European theater all day long, but the bottom line is if the Royal Navy and these carriers are unable to take on Russia, NATO’s primary adversary, on their own without major assistance from other NATO warships, then what good are they?
Basically you are admitting that unless these new carriers get a large amount of support from other NATO navies, especially the United States, then they are only useful for much smaller “brushfire” wars, as they were known in the 1970s. The Falklands campaign would be a good example of a “brushfire” war. If this is indeed the case, then he Royal Navy would have been better off building 3 smaller carriers, possibly he size of the new USS America (LHA-6), which is an all V/STOL carrier. At least this would have spread the work around to a larger number of British shipyards and it would have guaranteed that at least one carrier would be “on call” at all times, which was the case with the Invincible class.
The Royal Navy may now be in a bad position where these carriers are too big for smaller confrontations and not big enough for major confrontations, such as with Russia. And in either case, there are still way, way, too few escorts for either contingency.

ship fixer

Just a quickie, and not to get embroiled in this ‘aren’t we shit?’ moanfest, T45 can replenish missiles at sea.

4thwatch

The Drive journal has done a useful article outlining a fix for QNLZ class defensive upgrades. I don’t agree with everything but for the price of one F35 each, the ships could likely be made more or less secure in even a hot war environment. Needs doing.

4thwatch

Never quite sure why HMS QNLZ doesn’t turn 180 and dock Portside for fast exit to Searoom when in HMD Portsmouth. More seamanlike than present arrangement. I’ve noticed this seems an RN tradition. However in 7/12/41 at Pearl Harbour the USN moored seaward allowing the junior watch officers of USS Nevada to get up steam and nearly escape (but in the event she was beached inside the harbour).

Jefferson Merrick

what will stop the hypersonic missiles that approach at Mach 10 or more? Nothing is the short answer. They are a waste of money.