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Defence thoughts

I hope those people that dismissed EMALS can take it back now.


Didn’t dismiss it , but just was too expensive. I do wish we had developed our own EMCAT, even if now we would only use it for drone launches. Too many research project in our MOD and no realisation:


Did you note the price-tag for the 2 sets the French are buying? Way too expensive for the Royal Navy!

Supportive Bloke

Same price as the T31 project


Thats just the equipment cost for 2 EMALs systems for ONE carrier

UK has two carriers and would have required expensive changes to the carriers under construction, as well.


The cost of EMALS and AAG are bad enough, but then you get to all the ancillary costs…

  1. 2 EMALS sets minimum per carrier, up to 3 EMALS units for some of the QE designs
  2. Unless you want to be totally reliant on the US you might need one for a shore installation, and potentially 1 spare set….potentially 8 EMAL’s units and 3-4 AAG systems. Thats well over $4bn….and for reference thats more than HMS Prince of Wales cost in full…far more in fact.
  3. That then leads to CATOBAR training…unless we want to be, again, entirely dependent on the USN, like the French are (and they may be maxed anyway) we would need a dedicated training aircraft, either a T-45 Goshawk fleet (cost of reopening the line…) or the next step the US is making. That would all need personnel, basing, simulators etc with all the cost attached
  4. With 2 carriers, 1 of which may be in dock, scheduling in the initial training and concurrency becomes a major pain and takes a lot more time out of a ships availability for operations/exercises. The USN used to run a dedicated training carrier, but now has to schedule in a carrier for the purpose. Thats not easy to do with an 11 carrier fleet, let alone a 2 carrier fleet. The French essentially sub-contract most of it to the US…and accept the reduced availability of CdG for operations (in addition to the time its not available when in dock).
  5. The EMALS and AAG need to be operated, manned and maintained….large numbers of personnel required for the ships lifetime, huge increased lifetime costs and the inevitable breakdowns..those people also need berthing on ship.
  6. Cost of testing…each UK specific weapons load or amendment would need extensive testing at our expense. Far easier, and cheaper, to do this on a STOVL platform, again UK facilities would be required if we wanted to do it at pace. We have the STOVL facilities and experience already…
  7. As above…we have years of experience with STOVL operations, even if it fell into abeyance for a period of time. We last operated CATOBAR in 1979, a mere 44 years ago….there’s no-one left in service or support industry/establishments with any experience in it. We’d be building from scratch which would take years and huge quantities of £.

And there’s lots more beyond this…all of which cost serious money…

And for what?

All so we could operate E-2D Hawkeye (and potentially MQ-25). A very good platform for sure. But it costs over $250m per example. To maintain 24/7 coverage over a CSG you need 5, like the USN use. (The French only carry 2 x E-2C onboard CdG and only have 3 of their replacement, the E-2D on order, 1 of which will be ashore…so they cannot maintain reliable 24/7 coverage for any reasonable length of time). If the RN was to buy E-2D, and to train on it, we’d need to purchase a minimum of 7, which would only provide AEW cover for 1 carrier at a time. More realistically we’d need 12 if we were serious around coverage of 2 carriers at sea at once (in extremis). So a cost of $1.75bn to $3bn alone just for the airframes, again excluding maintenance, support, personnel, basing, upgrades etc etc…similar story for MQ-25 except it is likely to have a smaller price tag of around $100m per example.

Basically to get CATOBAR…and to make the entire exercise worthwhile would cost well in excess of $10bn over the lifetime of the carriers, I suspect in reality it would be more than $15bn.

The entire carrier programme for 2 ships, dockyard and basing improvements, facilities elsewhere, additional tugs etc. cost £7.9bn…i.e. less than $10bn (and even then included £1.6bn of costs as a result of Treasury and Ministerial meddling)….

I cannot believe after many times of explaing this that people still say…’should have been CATOBAR from the start’….

John Hartley

I still would like a review on fitting AAG to QE/PoW, to make them STOBAR.


The French only have one carrier, so when it’s in refit, they have a whole bunch of carrier capable aircraft without a carrier. UK has two carriers, but can’t (currently) outfit even one with a full aircraft load out. STOBAR has its limitations, but is usually viable when the aircraft is loaded for air to air. Most carrier fighter aircraft can operate STOBAR off a ramp equipped carrier.

Defence thoughts

I wasn’t suggesting it for the RN. I was just referring to the “Grrrr, so useless, our carriers are WAY better!” crowd. The new USN carriers are good for the USN, and the new RN carriers are good for the RN. No more, no less.

Supportive Bloke


RN/RAF couldn’t afford the pilot training for catapult launch.

Enough problems with F35B pilot training without another whole specialisation.


Why? Is EMALS meeting its reliability requirements?


Most people did not dismissed just said that it was an unproved technology for deployment in a major asset. This ship spend already a significant percentage of its life not being in operational status.
The jury is still out.

Supportive Bloke

Exactly this.

The Captain isn’t even claiming that she is fully worked up to max tempo.

Can you imagine the blame games if QEC had those issues?? It would be a monumental distraction to other naval project budget lines being trusted.

RN did the right thing and bought what the nation could afford. A big platform that is relatively simple but with bags of room for upgrades.


The new carriers are amazing. The RN only had 57 sea harriers and 48 phantoms (operating off a single carrier), we have 26 F35s and will get to 47.

The British military has loads of gaps, but you have to say these carriers are one of the few bright spots in the car crash of MOD procurement and government defence strategy of the last 20 years.


the RN only had 28 F-4 in service, the other 20 to make 48 were diverted to the RAF when delivered


Appreciate the correction!


No problem. The UK version of the F-4 is a special interest of mine. Much of the later commentary later performance and engines was wrong , and is contradicted by the specialist and reputable aviation press at the time ( I bought a collection of late 60s and 70s UK magazines which covered this plane in depth)


Ford is very impressive but QE and PoW are better looking! Hopefully one day soon we’ll see them packed with aircraft on the deck too!

Matelot mox

It’s a different philosophy, forget the fact we dont have the numbers yet. We don’t overload with aircraft so that we can move aircraft around quicker therefore generate more sorties


The Ford and Nimitz classes aren’t even close to “overloaded” with aircraft. Nimitz classes regularly deployed with close to 90 aircraft during the Cold War and now only deploy with around 70. In fact, the theoretical number of Legacy Hornet equivalents the Nimitz class was designed to operate without degrading flight operations is around 100 (equivalent to around 90 Super Hornets or F-35Cs). Around 130 Legacy Hornet equivalents is the absolute maximum a Nimitz class can take and still theoretically conduct flight operations, albeit at a much degraded rate. I haven’t found these same hard numbers for the Ford class but it is almost certainly at least as much, if not higher. American carriers are actually underloaded at the moment, not overloaded. Accounting for the various aircraft sizes (for example, Hawkeyes take up much more space than a Legacy Hornet equivalent, helicopters much less space) a Nimitz or Ford class’s optimal airwing size is probably at least a dozen aircraft larger than they currently are.

Source for maximum aircraft numbers (see chart on page 23, page 64 for explanation for what maximum density means):

Last edited 1 year ago by NQS

Hawkeyes are the same airframe as they had in the early 60s, engines radars and onboard electronics all different.
Having a single type for strike and fighter escort and air defence means the numbers on board can be reduced. Once they had two types of strike aircraft and two types of fighter including the F14 . Another factor is ordinance is more accurate than the days of dumb bombs. For these and other reasons USN isn’t going back to the cold war big wings


Still doesn’t change my main point, that current US Carrier Air Wings aren’t overloaded, as the person I was replying to was saying they were.

Supportive Bloke

But in some respects reducing loadings increases generatable capability.

There is a balance.

Crew safety requirements are also a lot stricter than they were in the 1970’s when it was a ‘we are virtually at war so you will do what it takes son’ attitude that ruled.

Last edited 1 year ago by Supportive Bloke

I think the QE carriers can hold more of their compliment inside the hanger deck (24 aircraft) whereas the US carriers keep more aircraft on deck. I believe this practice actually dates back to WW2, but makes sense if you’re operating in the North Atlantic with jets with very expensive stealth coatings on them.


THIS ^^^^^^^^^^

As an aside the broad rule of thumb is 1000 tonnes of displacement for every plane carried. There is spare capacity in these CVN’s.


Plenty of room for MQ-25 tanker/drones and loyal wingman type AC


When it comes to looks, we disagree, the QE class are sadly one of the ugliest carriers built, with two islands and a short stumpy foredeck with big rounded ski jump…….


It is the ramp that makes them look off for me too. Good reasons I suppose why it isn’t more blended in like Russia designs or the Navantia LHD’s. I like the ‘twin islands’.

Supportive Bloke

Reducing forward weight so the bows don’t drop into troughs in rough seas?

Take a lot of hogging stress off the hull?

Just a guess.


They are too big for that to be an issue. I think this goes all the way back to the idea that could be converted to CTOL if needed at some time in the future. So the ramp is just ‘plonked’ (!) on top. In the Juan Carlos class the ramp (its sweep) is structura and same for the Russian ships.

Supportive Bloke

Hogging stress is a factor of mass distribution (at the ends), buoyant length and the distribution of buoyancy.

So the bigger the ship: the bigger the lever arm moment – the more taking weight away from the extreme ends reduces hogging stresses.


Carriers and similar have a structure from keel to the flight deck as a ‘structural deep beam’ which gives it great strength. Much much deeper than say a destroyer and they are beamier as well.

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

What makes the QE particularly ugly is the way the sky ramp is done and finished. The other ship part are just functional tech design not pretty but also not ugly.

John Fields

I am aware that this is a negative comment. But as a World War Two veteran I hate war for lives needlessly lost and the utter waste of trillions of dollars. This mighty ship cost billions to build and in her lifetime will cost billions more. In contrast I see that the richest country on the planet has 134 million people struggling to make ends meet. Many thousands living in cars and vans are in tents because rents are too high. The ironic part is that she may go through her life without any real war action. A complete waste of money. I put my own country , England, in the same category. Why is it that aggression plays such a big part in human culture?


Hopefully only for the purpose of deterrence.

No one actively wants war… although Ceasar only went to war if it was going to be profitable (e.g. a land/resource/labour grab). You have to ask why Putin is really invading Ukraine, I doubt it is truly to liberate.


There are some that argue the USN should consider a smaller, affordable design to maintain numbers. The USN could probably build a CATOBAR carrier based on the Queen Elizabeth-Class design for around $4Bn.

The USN were very impressed with the build of QE’s. If the balloon ever does go up I think that the QE’s will become essentially USMC assets carrying Bravos freeing hangar space in the LHx for MV22. I think the RN will have to give up ‘carrier strike’ fantasy for reality and needs of actual war. A wave of Bravo’s in stealth mode (what 4 missiles a piece) would be quite an asset in carrie battle……….

Last edited 1 year ago by X

I believe that there is a side along feature that can now make F-35s carry up to 6 missiles depending on size. Don’t know what variant however. also debate about whether the bolt on gun pod is stealthy


I can see a wave of stealthy Bravos carrying BVR as a reserve or an opening gambit just to take pressure off the fleet carrier. Of course that will be dependent on E2 or other US assets in range. 120 missiles or so launched into an enemy attack from nowhere would give opfor pause.

And I think that is where we will come unstuck eventually is lack of an organic E2 equivalent for BVR engagements. We will be constantly be beholden to the US for targeting.


Hmm.. Interesting conversation I found about combining aircraft ski-ramp and catapult.
Also, it us likely that 5th gen fighters with long range missiles against 4th gen, when with no guns, that they will very quickly have nothing to do. so my question is how quickly could a lightning land on HMS Q E , just re-equip with missiles then takeoff again? or will they just fly around in circles until the fight is won or they are destroyed?

Last edited 1 year ago by fvf

There are planes that can take off using catapults or ramps, such as Mig-29, Rafale or F/A-18. I’m pretty sure Gripens, Su-33s and F-35Cs fall into this category too. These planes will also be able to use combo auxiliary cats and ramps. The advantage over STOBAR will be higher payloads on shorter runways (so easier to divide fore and aft operations) although more expensively.

But the biggest advantage of CATOBAR over STOBAR/VSTOL is that it can launch slower planes that can’t make use of a runway/ramp combination such as the E-2D. Whether auxiliary cats and ramps (CRATOBAR?) can launch any planes that couldn’t be launched using runways and ramps alone is an open question, but the large Storm design uses this mechanism for all four launch points, so either the Russians think they can, or they expect to be be using a different type of AEW plane in the future. I’d love to see the figures on a ramp-launched Yak-44.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

STO launches are limited by entry speed to the ramp, which tends to be a function of nose gear load. That’s a hard limit, which means you’re not going to get a payload benefit.


You should get one for short runways. Russian STOBAR carriers have two forward points they use for flying CAP, and one further back on the angled flight deck they use for launching with heavier payloads. They can’t reach the ramp takeoff speed on the forward runways with heavier payloads, but with short auxiliary catapults, they should get up to speed anyway.


Straight winged propeller aircraft , with a decent run, can get airborne from a carrier deck without catapult. Landing requires a tailhook and the wires of course.
This is a P-2 Neptune, and on a ‘small carrier’ USS Franklin Roosevelt but its been done with a Hercules too

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

Not “unassisted” though, is it?

In both cases, Neptune and Herky-bird (and U-2 for that matter, since you’re asking), there’s also another implication, which dramatically reduces operational effectiveness of the carrier.


Yes. It wasnt a really useful concept as the plane had to be craned on board. . Doolitle raid during WW2 was the only time similar was used in war.
It was used to illustrate the propeller- straight wing combination for its lifting ability is short runs.
The Herc could land with its heavy duty undercarriage and take off without Jato
Over the next couple of days, Flatley and his crew made twenty-nine touch-and-go landings, and twenty-one full-stop landings and unassisted takeoffs from the Forrestal’s deck.
The USN chose the C-2 Greyhound version of the E-3 instead.


An AN2 had a stall speed lower than the QE’s max speed. I wonder if biplane configuration could be used to loft the likes of Crowsnest?


AEW aircraft have power-hungry radars, and power requires weight. Is it any surprise they picked a rotary with three engines rather than a modern acrobatics or agricultural biplane?

That’s not to say biplanes have to be single engined. The largest biplane ever built had four engines and weighed only a bit less than the MTOW of a Merlin, it was nevertheless quite a bit slower. I doubt the Curtiss NC-4 could take off from a carrier because apart from anything else, it was a flying boat with three times the wingspan of an F-35B. That was in 1918. I imagine they could do better now. Time to dust off the Vickers Vimy?


Very impressive on a maiden deployment. A mighty vessel indeed. Interestingly she already appears to have a fully fitted self defence system. Unlike our “fitted for but probably never with” vessels of all types.


But it is strange the missile launchers are old octo launcher rotating and not VLS.

Budd S

Those old ‘octo launcher’s can be reloaded at sea, the VLS cannot.


Yes they can. They tried it with some of the earliest sytems with a crane that folded into one of the VL silos. For various reasons it wasn’t continued. I suppose they thought a more peaceful world was here to stay


The reason it wasn’t continued is that it was impossible to do safely. Which is why all the cranes were removed gaining three cells back for missiles. I don’t believe it was ever done – beyond an initial trial – at sea.

You only have to think about a nigh-on 8m long, nearly 3 tonne load full of propellant and explosives, subject to both ship motion and wind loads, dangling off a single point, over a launcher with lots of other missiles to realise it was “a bit risky”.

That’s before you think about the space needed to deal with the empty canisters and how you move them to/from RAS points.

The clever folk at Port Hueneme came up with an idea to do it with a transportable loader, but it was always a long shot and still subject to the constraints of weight, space and complexity. Binned in mid-noughties.

The box launchers are used for two reasons. Firstly, the likely VLS would be Mk48 which isn’t widely fitted and takes up depth in sponsons which isn’t really available. Secondly, if the threat has got through the area screen, it’s close, which means you probably want a direct LoS shot rather than a pop up and tipover trajectory.


This is the close in missile defence, which is reloadable as well.
The ESSM, in the octo launcher, these days can reach out a lot further.
The USN really loves multi layer defence for its carriers , 2 x 8 box ESSM launcher, 2 x RAM launcher, 3 x Phalanx and 4x Mk38 25mm automated gun system


I think a slight increased in size QE (and with defensive weapons) with Catobar for USN would be the best choice for them regarding asset dispersion and availability.
But it will nix the nuke propulsion system.

I am afraid Ford is too expensive and will imply a reduction in carrier numbers available.


The French carrier is smaller than the UK ones and its nuclear powered. No reason for US not to have a smaller reactors for a smaller ship, not that they show any inclination of doing so.


Maybe use some of their submarine reactors?

Steven Alfred Rake

It’s good to see an aircraft carrier in British waters with actual aircraft on its deck, not and open deck with a lot of promises of what will be, come the 2030’s


Interesting that the carrier could enter the harbour at Halifax , Canada but can’t enter Portsmouth harbour itself


Halifax harbour is much much bigger and deeper with a wider entrance. The ship did however have to anchor inside as there was nowhere to come along side.

Last edited 1 year ago by AlexS

Ford construction began on 11 August 2005, when shipyard held a ceremonial steel cut for a 15 ton plate that forms part of a side shell unit of the carrier.Commissioned in July 2017 by Trump, but build was only completed when11th and final AWE completed 24th December 2021,16 years and 4 months later.
October 2019 CBO reported build cost $16.2 billion in 2019 dollars plus the additional $6 billion in R&D reported by the GAO
Unbelievably the new Ford cannot operate the F-35C, it would seem the necessary kit was not cheap and as ship was over budget USN just deleted the requirement, Congress found out and have insisted the necessary kit be installed on the 2nd ship of the class,USS Kennedy, which USN had not planned, current rumour is that the AAG reliability so low that is why ship has not officially joined fleet?


Obviously the planes can land and takeoff, its the F35 complicated digital maintenance systems and because the the very high thrust single engine compared to the twins the US Navy uses that require changes – like they do for all the existing Nimitz class


Rumsfeld and Bush were a catastrophe for US foreign and defence policy.
Two wars started and neither won with a contributing factor being insufficient boots on the ground thanks to too much faith in technology.
Ford looks like she may mature into a decent platform but the Zumwalt and LCS classes are absolute lemons in terms of the capability offered compared to their costs. The main driver for that was Rumsfeld’s insistence that new platforms had to be a technology leap from existing ones leading to high cost, high risk programmes.
I don’t think that there’s been a worse combination in office than Rumsfeld and Bush in recent history. A smug know all working for an arrogant know nothing.


It is very hard to follow the logic behind either classes. If anything they are both exercises in what not to do. Yes partly it was down to politics.


Agreed mate. They were solutions looking for problems that didn’t exist

Fat Bloke on Tour

LCS classes — real world exercise in build economics.
Introduce competition and the costs start to tumble.
The ships are secondary to the process.
Not a good look for the US MIC

Fat Bloke on Tour

Pebble in the pond time — why has old “nae helmet” got his name on a carrier?

Three years in a job that he inherited without a democratic mandate and then goes on to lose his only presidential election and he gets a gig that many others have missed out on.

Strange but telling regarding the USA of today.


Ford did serve on active duty in WW2- on the the carrier USS Monterey, but he wasnt a pilot
George HW Bush , a former WW2 navy pilot also wasnt re-elected and he also has a carrier named after him.

Fat Bloke on Tour

At least “HW” managed to win an election …
Even if it needed the reptilian skills of Lee Atwater to make it happen.

From memory “HW” was a bit of a bullet magnet — he survived but some of his crew didn’t. Not quite the war record that a carrier should hope to emulate.

“Nae Helmet” — he never even managed to win a presidential election. Spiro Agnew was seemingly a better choice for VP in 68 and “Nae Helmet” had to wait until Tricky Dicky needed a new running mate although he was so far out of the loop that Watergate never touched him.

Anyway — “Nae Helmet” and “HW” are not really fit to grace the signature ships of the USN.

Fat Bloke on Tour

Soft furnishings …

At times you have to wonder — going into battle with a police escort?

Are Habitat / IKEA on the supplier list for gruesome twosome?