Defence, deterrence and aircraft carriers

HMS Queen Elizabeth

The Queen named the navy’s new aircraft carrier today: Queen Elizabeth (it is not clear if this is for Queen Elizabeth I or II- it is an name used previously for a Royal Navy ship).

There has been vast debate over this ship: whether she should be built; where she was to be built; whether she was worth the estimated cost; whether she should have cats and traps allowing more effective planes and the suggestion that she might be retrofitted with them; whether she should have been nuclear powered; whether the planes are going to be good enough; whether the navy should have one or two of these carriers etc. etc. Those interested in defence have argued about these issues for years and the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth will not stop that debate.

There are a number of fundamental problems about defence spending like this. It keeps high skilled jobs, provides for increases in technology which may be useful in other spheres, provides for potential subsequent export sales etc. Yet it costs vast amounts of money which could be used elsewhere.

Then there is whether or not a country needs weapons technology of this sort and whether having such weapons makes a nation safer or not.

Having a large military helped in Eden launching the Suez campaign: one of the greatest foreign policy disasters of post war Britain. Despite having a much smaller military Tony Blair used the UK’s still significant armed forces to assist in what is arguably the greatest foreign policy disaster since Suez: Iraq; as well as assorted Balkan adventures.

One could argue that having a large military and defence spending allows politicians to indulge dangerous fantasies of military adventurism which result both in periodic foreign policy debacles and the deaths of thousands.

The deterrence value of sophisticated weapons systems may be of limited significance in the current world of terrorists. Equally, however, against the possibility of conflict with another technologically advanced military nation one needs modern weapons. The disaster by which Britain was chased off the continent by Hitler’s divisions in 1940 would likely have been much worse had money not been spent (albeit belatedly) on state of the art aircraft and ships.

Of course had more money been spent earlier maybe Hitler might have been stopped earlier or indeed might have been deterred in the first place.

One does not need to invoke Godwin’s Law, however, to see the utility of deterrence. A better example, might be that in the 1960s there were proposals to build two large aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy (which were to be called HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Duke of Edinburgh). Had those massively expensive ships been built retaking the Falklands would have been vastly easier (although the Americans helped the British it is suggested that they assessed retaking the Falklands as militarily impossible).

Equally of course had the Royal Navy had two fairly new full sized carriers in 1982 it is more than possible that Argentina would not have attempted to take the Falklands in the first place. That would have saved many times the value of the carriers in monetary let alone human life terms but we would never have known that they had had such an effect: such is the nature of deterrence. Finally, had Britain had those two carriers and then there been no Falklands War, Thatcher’s reputation and the 1983 election might have been different.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Aircraft carriers are the means of projecting power on a global scale. However, they cannot do this alone but in groups based around them. Generally 2 capital ships for air defense and 2 for submarine hunting plus a submarine of its own. Add supply ships and the cost of aircraft and it cost 10 billion to build and over a billion a year to operate and maintain.
    Britains difficulty is that the aircraft are not scheduled to come online for another 5 years and there are already significant cost overruns and technical issues with the F35.
    Britain has traded in a relatively effective army designed for deployment across continents for carrier groups it cannot afford, cannot equip and cannot deploy. Britain would have been better picking a speciality and sticking to it. It is a perfect example, not of why Scotland should stay with Britain but why it should get out while it can.

  • Son of Strongbow

    “Scotland ………. should get out of Britain”.

    Now that is something I’d like to see. After digging the trench along the Scots/English border tow Scotland away from the rest of Britain (hopefully taking the islands too). That big new boat might come in handy.

    I’d suggest heading south, and if it can squeeze itself through past Gibraltar then moor in the Med. A warmer Scotland with much more sunshine would be even more attractive.

    ‘We’er awaa the noo’ I can hear them cry already!

  • I find it hard to understand any possible effectiveness of either aircraft carriers or nuclear weapon equipped submarines against the main assymetrical threat of the past 15 years or so. Suicide bombers don’t consider attacking such “deterrents”. The UK needs to waken up and realize that they haven’t been a “major” power for a long long time and find more effective uses for their resources.

  • MYtwocents

    lot of money,lot of money. However, Joe those suicide bombers have backers, and if Britain wants to discourage those backers from piling in behind their spearhead, then Britain needs to be able to play its part in the U.S.A. led world order.

  • Son of Strongbow

    The UK is something like the sixth richest country in the world with global interests. It may not be a “major” power but protecting its overseas interests, to say nothing of being a regular responder to humanitarian emergencies across the globe, requires seaborne assets. The carrier fleet will play an important role in that regard.

    The new ship will have a service life of some 50 years. The military are required to maintain flexibility as future threats are impossible to predict to anything close to 100% accuracy.

    War gaming in command colleges is constantly developing military commanders that can think outside the box. A simple ‘red’ on ‘blue’ two-force scenario plays only a small part in those exercises.

    UK forces where at one time planning on having to fight a land based war in Europe against Soviet forces when the Falklands came onto the radar. Fortunately there was enough flexibility in the system to successfully fight that war.

    Basing your military planning exclusively on fighting the last war, or on current threats, is not good strategy.

  • Harry Flashman

    One does have to wonder at the point of this ship. Don’t get me wrong I’m delighted to see the Royal Navy looking like what it used to be and not just the coastal defence force it had lately become just above Indonesia’s navy in size, and if, as it appears, the UK government has gazillions of pounds to spend on most of the pointless activities it is currently engaged in then why not build a spanking big aircraft carrier for fun too?

    However, as a serious piece of kit, even skipping over the fact that it doesn’t actually have any aircraft to carry (HMS Chocolate Fireguard as the irreverent types in the army call it), what are Britain’s defence priorities? Like the US, Britain seems to be caught up in the armoured knight style of war fighting, very impressive yes against another army of armoured knights, but not much use when your enemies are fighting in forests and swamps.

    The Soviet Union is gone, massed ranks of battle tanks are not expected to sweep over the North German Plain any time soon. With the exception of the Argies and three days’ fighting against the Iraqi army Britain’s actual enemies for the past sixty years have been young men, led by local leaders, not wearing uniforms sniping and planting roadside bombs. Nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers aren’t much use against that threat.

    The Yanks have all the clout and more that is needed when it comes to fighting the great big conventional threats of old, Britain is merely an appendage. Britain needs to be prepared for the real future threats of cyber warfare, financial threats, terrorism, social breakdown etc and I’m not terribly convinced that an ocean-going aircraft carrier sailing around the South China Sea is going to be much use for them.

    Britain invented the battle-ship, it was the mainstay of the Royal Navy’s power, but when they became obsolete, like sailing ships, Britain was realistic enough to get rid of them and move on. A massive ocean-going aircraft seems to me to be a retrograde step and somehow I doubt the boys from Cardiff who are currently fighting for ISIL in Iraq and Syria will be terribly worried about HMS Queen Elizabeth, impressive though she no doubt is.

  • cynic2

    They can send her to Belfast Lough to deal with the Fleg Protesters and Marchers. Echoes of Churchill 100 years ago!

  • terence patrick hewett

    PM Anthony Eden launched the Suez campaign in 1956 not Alec Douglas Home who only became PM in 1963. I think Home was Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and played a significant part in keeping the Commonwealth together during the crisis. But I am not familiar with Home’s career so I may be in error.

  • Turgon

    terence patrick hewett,
    My apologies you are of course correct. I have updated the post accordingly. I always get Eden And Hume mixed up for some reason.

    Harry Flashman,
    Very rare for me to disagree with you and indeed you are correct that aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines or for that matter tanks and fast jets have been of no use for most of the fighting the British Army have taken part in over the last 60 years. That as we both know though is the problem of defence and especially deterrence. You do not really know which problems you have prevented. Had those late 1960s build aircraft carriers been floating about in 1982 the Falklands War would quite likely never have happened and then most of the UK population would never have known they existed. Then your already strong argument that the British military’s fancy equipment was of no use for most of the conflicts they had been involved in would have been even stronger. Furthermore some idiot PM might have launched another war on dubious grounds and brought an even greater foreign policy disaster than Blair did.

    I cannot square that circle.

  • Gopher

    The technological edge means our enemies whom heavily outnumber us are forced to fight on the most disadvantageous terms and at a high rate of attrition. You never have to fight a land war in Asia. Nuclear Submarines and Aircraft Carriers can *presently* only be trumped by Nuclear Submarines and Aircraft carriers. Manned aircraft for combat are coming to the end of their usefulness and will be replaced by drones. HMS Queen Elizabeth will see in that age.

    As for the usefulness of platforms they are essential. The Queen Elizabeth’s namesake was the lead ship of a class of revolutionary *Super Dreadnoughts* launched on the outbreak of World War One. These much criticized ships over matched every single Battleship in that war making it impossible to “lose the war in an afternoon”. At Jutland as part of an evolution in tactics they were formed into a *fast division* and saved David Beatty’s Battlecruiser force from total destruction.

    Post war because they were relatively large ships they were modernized and served in the Second World War. Although 30 years old this class because of continual updates they able to hold there own and defeat the more modern German and Italian navies at Narvik, Calabria, Matapan. At Salerno and Normandy these ships guns broke up attempts to throw the Allies into the sea. Designed to fight Battleships they ended up destroying Panzers. Who could have told? Platform size made that possible.

    Platform size means the present Queen Elizabeth like the “Queens” before her will have the capacity to adapt to the changing nature of warfare. They also mean the moat around these Island remains secure and saves us from the Levée en masse and means ISIL boys from Cardiff can die in a ditch somewhere else

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers are already trumped by Air Independent Propulsion submarines and Anti ship ballistic missiles. Weapons of the future will be platform independent and will compromise of unmanned aerial vehicles with global range and low orbit satellites.

    This is an expensive exercise in being seen to be seen.

  • Gopher

    Air propulsion submarines are slower, smaller and have a limited operational radius, they simply are not a Blue water Navy weapon.

    As for the “Queens”, Chinooks will not be platform independent in my life time giving the ships a humanitarian as well as a military capability. Unmanned aerial vehicles will be the weapon of the future but it will be a long time before they are platform independent. When they are we get a nice museum ship.

    Presently anti ship ballistic missiles are in their infancy and require practically a whole command and control network plus a Navy and airforce to work even theoretically. Military satellites require an independent space program which is prohibitively expensive making the expenditure on carriers look like spare change.

    So basically Im not sure any government will get elected on an attack China platform, India play test match cricket so that rules them out as potential enemies and the only people Brazil would attack is Columbia for crocking Neymar. Columbia it must be noted have no carrier Battlegroups. The Russian system is a museum piece which show how seriously they take it. The Americans of course have Aegis which looks like making the whole expensive exercise moot.

    Nope the UK (and Europe) are getting a platform that is versatile and flexible ideal for protecting and saving life in our current turbulent times. Airports that move will be around for a while yet.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    In recent exercises in both the Atlantic and Pacific, Swedish and Australian diesel electric AIPs were responsible for carrier ‘kills’. The german type 214 has a range of 12,000km. Your first point is null and void as are the others.

    You dont spend 10 billion on a humanitarian delivery platform. Once air to air refuelling is perfected by two automated systems, its done. Less than 10 years away from that.

    “Anti ship ballistic missiles require an airforce and a navy to work even theoretically” No they dont. They require radar and a launch platform. Its been successfully tested which is why US carrier battle groups are now accompanied by aegis platforms with SM3s

    Military sateliite launches require obsolete intercontental ballistic missiles that currently launch the vast majority of low orbit satellites. This is what the Russians currently use as the ICBM reach end of shelf life. 60% of the current commercial satellite launch market.

    What the UK (and Europe) are doing is investing in a 90 year concept in a half arsed manner (no planes for 5 years) with one eye on keeping up with the Jones and one eye on keeping the top brass quiet and no eyes on boots on the ground, assymetrical warefare and eyes on battlefield technology that will be crucial in future conflicts.

    A monumental waste of money and resources (75 billion over the 50 years of the life of the carriers)

  • Turgon

    Gopher and Count Eric Bisto von Granules,
    In no way take this as a criticism and please continue your debate.

    However, you illustrate and indeed miss a central tenant of my argument. In our now (largely appropriately) outcome and results based era of public spending I do not know how one values things like defence spending especially if one of its major aims is to deter aggression from other countries.

    Look back to my earlier comments about the aborted 1960s carrier programme. Had Britain had those two carriers and hence, about 80 fast combat jets along with the necessary escort, supply ships etc. it would have had to spend a great deal more money on defence in the 1960s and 70s than it did.

    The Argentinian generals (not stupid people) calculated that Britain could not and in part because of that would not try to retake the Falklands. Had Britain had the carriers etc. it would have been clear that they could easily have retaken the Falklands. Hence, the Argentinian junta would have been much less likely to launch the invasion.

    That would have saved a great deal of money, lives and even diplomatic effort. Yet since we could not have known that without the big carriers the Argentinians would have tried to invade, a major saving from owning them would not have been apparent.

    This I submit is one of the paradoxes of defence spending. It may save money, lives etc. but one never knows in detail. It is a classic “unknown unknown”. A further and counter paradox is that sometimes with a large and capable military politicians can be tempted into wars of choice and not necessity which then cost vast amounts of lives, money and diplomatic damage leaving aside any moral issues about launching such wars.

    I have no way of predicting how one squares that circle nor how one assesses whether or not one has indeed squared it or even if there was a circle to square in the first place.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Youre right Turgon, the level of detail is probably not appropriate for your subject, although, I dont think weve missed the point.

    My point is the wholly inappropriate nature of the capital expenditure made. It is not a deterrent for any likely foes in the future on the non state front and in real terms there are no state actors in the future whose actions will be affected by 1 carrier and 14 F35s.

    But I will leave it at that.

  • Turgon

    Count Eric Bisto von Granules,

    No by all means carry on: I mean that. My interest is about defence policy rather than specifics. I would pretend no particular expertise on the specifics of what you and Gopher were debating.

    It is not derailing my thread it is adding to it so please continue.

    It is interesting considering the other threads on the go currently that it takes the subject of war to induce some peaceful discussion. Orwell was right: war is peace.

  • DougtheDug

    She’ll have been named Queen Elizabeth not Queen Elizabeth II in order not to upset us Scots seeing that the current Queen Elizabeth is the first QE of the UK. The other one only ruled England.

    If you’ve ever been to Scotland you’ll have noticed that the logo QE2 is missing from all post vehicles and postboxes because of protests when they tried to rename them in the fifties. (By that I mean they set fire to the postboxes.)

    Anyway back to the carrier.

    It’s a lemon. It has no catapult so it can’t launch conventional aircraft like the Dassault Rafale and it’s stuck with the F35B.

    And the F35B is also a lemon. A single engine means it can’t limp home on an engine failure from mechanical fault or enemy fire – it’s straight into the drink for both plane and pilot.

    It’s also got multiple faults with it’s software and is currently grounded due to an unexplained engine fire.

    The second carrier is going to go straight into mothballs.

    So what have we got. A single aircraft carrier that has no aircraft and may never have aircraft if they don’t manage to sort the F35B lemon.

    A total waste of money.

  • Harry Flashman

    I bow to others in their greater knowledge of the weapons systems, I am more concerned at the bigger strategic picture of against whom do we think this aircraft carrier will be used?

    I take aboard Turgon’s very valid point about the Falklands and how much money would have been saved by a big aircraft carrier fleet acting as deterrence. But the Falklands conflict was by no means an “unknown”, the threat from Argentina had been known for yonks, that’s why a detachment of marines was on permanent standby there.

    The Falklands was actually a classic case of ball-dropping by an inexperienced Thatcher government who in their determination to prove their monetarist credentials wanted to show there were no sacred cows and figured taking the pruning sheers to the navy was a cost-free option.

    What convinced the Argentine junta, and I have to disagree with Turgon’s high opinion of a bunch of ineffective thugs, was the planned scrapping of the Endurance rather than the lack of aircraft carriers. Removing the Endurance (along with the previous year’s decision to exclude the Falklanders from the remit of the British Citizenship Act) convinced the junta that the Brits didn’t care about the islands. Remember it took the dispatch of a solitary frigate by David Owen five years earlier to dissuade the Argies in their previous bout of sabre rattling.

    I ask again, against whom will this ship be used? And what more does it add that the Yanks don’t already possess in spades?

    When your biggest security threat is living in the suburbs of Leicestershire and Yorkshire or currently employed in a Chinese computer-hacking unit what leverage does an ocean-going carrier provide you?

  • Gopher

    “When your biggest security threat is living in the suburbs of Leicestershire and Yorkshire or currently employed in a Chinese computer-hacking unit what leverage does an ocean-going carrier provide you?”

    Your biggest security threat is sovereign country collapse. Interestingly Nelson rated Robert Blake higher than himself, Blake whose greatest security threats lay at home defined power projection against middle eastern threats. Mahan, ” The influence of sea power” is always a good read, the spine has fallen of mine through use


    The single salient thing to come out of the Falklands was the effect the fact the UK would actually fight and die had on the Soviet Union. Sea Power was sacrificed to provide troops that would actually fight on the North German Plain. Now we dont have to make that sacrifice therefore the carriers are a sensible investment.

  • New Yorker

    The US would like its partners to share more of the international defense burden. That does not appear to be a factor in the discussion thus far. In fact, some comments above take a rely on the Yanks position. Those days are drawing to a close and countries should plan accordingly.

  • MYtwocents

    NY, agree, this ship usefulness, is this, it sends the message to the U.S. and the U.S.s foe’s, that Britian intends to play its part. its a very expensive, highly visible, message.

  • Harry Flashman

    In fairness the Yanks are the ones who have been most keen to be the biggest and the best, it actually suited the US’ interests to be the greatest world super-power after WWII (and only super-power after the fall of the Berlin Wall), leaving the Germans and Japanese to build their rinky-dink little cars while Uncle Sam strutted the global stage showing what a real nation did.

    The US was perfectly happy to see Britain decline as a world power, indeed scrapping Britain’s global military reach was a specific demand by the Yanks whenever the Brits were looking for a hand-out.

    Now that the US is bust and suddenly realises that it has subsidised the rest of the western world’s welfare state for the past half century there is an understandable feeling of isolationism creeping back into the debate.

    Fair enough but I don’t remember the US demand that the rest of the world build super-carrier fleets, global reach inter-continental ballistic missiles, B-52 fleets, massive strike-anywhere armies when I was growing up. Quite the opposite, the discernible contempt that Americans had for the innate, and from the American point of view very desirable, weakness and effete nature of European statehood right up until Lehman Brothers went bust seemed to be a point of pride for most Americans.

    No doubt the US, in its desire to help European and other allies build up commensurately powerful military forces, will be supplying them with all that excess kit and gee-whizz technology that it apparently no longer needs.

    But somehow I won’t be holding my breath waiting for Uncle Sam to see his military power weaken viz-a-viz the rest of the world. Britain wasn’t in any hurry to see other navies “pull their weight” when Britain ruled the waves with a bigger fleet than the next two combined, and despite the rhetoric I believe the US will act no differently.

  • Kevsterino

    Harry, the USN isn’t building any more supercarriers. We have enough of those. What our Navy is concentrating on is working the bugs out of the new class of close to shore (littoral), fast and flexible vessels that can be used in a variety of missions. They can be fitted out in a modular fashion quite quickly, depending on the mission parameters.

    If you’re curious about things naval, take a gander at the USS Freedom and USS Independence. Remarkable ships and only the first of their class.

  • Kevsterino

    btw, I can’t make any sense out of building a carrier that large without a freaking catapult. What is the point?

  • The UK was the first country to own an aircraft carrier back in October 1918–96 years ago, based on techniques that the U.S. first pioneered in the 1910s. When the term superpower was first coined in 1943 it applied to the UK as well as the U.S. and the USSR. But by 1948 the UK had lost that status as it was forced to pull out of much of the Near East. And after Suez Britain was definitely not a superpower.

    The Royal Navy is at most large enough to constitute a single carrier group with frigates changing out of the group to take on local assignments like patrolling the Falklands area.. Britain is probably better off combining with France and Germany and possibly Italy within the Western European Defense Union to provide an integrated European navy that can operate to deter Russia. London and Paris should jointly fund a small fleet of ballistic missile submarines SSBNs that would consist of some of the present submarines of the two countries until they are gradually replaced with a new force that is jointly financed using production from both countries. Since France already has a proven reliable carrier operated-operated fighter, the Rafael, Britain should either use that or older American aircraft such as the F-18 Superhornet to operate on its carrier rather than building its own aircraft.

  • Gopher

    @ Kevsterino

    The USN is currently building 3 new super carriers of the new Gerald Ford class (At least the RN ships have better names) to replace some Nimitz class super carriers and the first nuclear carrier Enterprise. Those *littoral* class boats are relatively insignificant doctrinally compared to the emphasis on Nuclear Subs and Carriers. Even in financially challenging times the USN can have a hobby and invent threats needing a whole new class.

  • Kevsterino

    @Gopher, yes, we need to replace some old big carriers. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

    The littoral ships are unique, in that we’ve been planning them for years and nobody can tell us what they are good for. We were told they were for mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and traditional ship to ship, open ocean warfare. So far, they haven’t proven they can do any of these missions as well as the ships they are to replace. And that is after more than 15 years or so of development at ever rising costs in the billions of dollars.

    The USN knows aircraft carriers and will continue to build really good ones capable of a mission that everyone understands.

    The littoral ships, with now 32 projected and I think a dozen already built, might prove a bigger boondoggle than the new British carriers.

    Sen McCain gave a scathingly critical speech on the program in April.

  • Gopher

    The USN are probably the finest procurement monster that ever existed, they have become ever more adept at encroaching in traditional Army and Airforce areas. The change in emphasis from the North Atlantic and Med to the Pacific has been a godsend for the USN and the littoral warships are designed to keep Congress, the Airforce and Army reliant on the Navy in the South East Pacific as they are to defeat any enemy. Essentially a littoral combat ship is an APC that sails but unlike a Bradley is Jihadi proof.. The semi planing hull on a 3000 ton ship being especially extravagant.

    The Royal Navy on the other hand biggest enemy is the treasury, To get the previous class of Carriers the Invincible’s (I did mention the RN names are superior to the USN) the Navy had to tell the treasury they wernt carriers but “through deck cruisers”. To get this class they had to let themselves be part of labours election campaign and let the thing be built all over the country.

    As far as the RN care, yes they know its a boondongle with a ski jump instead of a catapult and an unsuitable aircraft. They also understand its likely a few politicians got backhanders to accept that specification which ideally the RN would not have, however it was the only fixed wing aircraft platform they were going to get so as ever they will make the most of it.

  • Kevsterino

    Not sure what you mean by South East Pacific. We have no plans for operations there that I’m aware of. Chile???

    I like the modular nature of the mission packages and the speed of these ships is pretty amazing. But not sure they can take a punch. They look utterly dependent on an air umbrella to me, but maybe they can fix that.

    But, as far as the new Brit carrier is concerned, if I only get 50 or so aircraft, I’d rather have the ones with longer range and more weapons options. Wouldn’t you?

  • Harry Flashman

    The RN used to have great names for its ships, in fairness it had so many of ’em they nearly couldn’t go wrong. My own favourite was HMS Devastation, well you know were you stand with a ship called that. Although HMS Donegal (which if I recall correctly helped chase the German cruisers into Turkey 100 years ago) has a place in my heart.

    The city class cruisers were also great because they chose such good names, Belfast, Sheffield, Glasgow etc. tough mean cities for tough ships, but am I right in saying recently the RN went for HMS Saint Albans? Jeez, what were they thinking of? And as for the wishy washy HMS Ocean, I mean seriously in all the magnificent old ships’ names from the past that’s the best they could resurrect?

    We’ll pass over the flower class corvettes mind you, which spent so much of their time in my home town, was there a HMS Pansy or is that a navy myth?

    The USN does go for rather more safe names, and in fairness presidents for aircraft carriers isn’t a bad choice, my own favourite being the Ronald Reagan, priceless, Ronnie would be proud. Like the RN’s city ships, naming the battleships after states is also a good call, the magnificent New Jersey being a case in point.

    Now here’s a question, no googling mind, the cruiser USS Phoenix survived Pearl Harbor unscathed, later she was sunk by an enemy submarine, but the enemy submarine was not Japanese, German or even Italian.

    Who sunk her and why?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I thought HMS Terrible was a great name.

    Harry, shame on me, I had to google it…

  • Since only a few other navies had submarines capable of sinking a cruiser and I have no memory of such a happening outside of WW2, I’m guessing that the cruiser was sold off and renamed and probably sunk by the UK, maybe the USSR. Am I close?

  • Gopher

    South East from the UK being the resource contested South China sea. Everything that floats is dependent on a air umbrella but at 40+ knots shallow draft and large cargo bay it says to the airforce stuff your unarmed airfield needing transport aircraft.

    The USS Phoenix was sunk because “moderation in war is the height of imbecility” The RN has always been aggressive from Drake singeing the King of Spain’s beard, Blake starting a war over “flegs” or Nelson removing the Danish fleet as a threat repeated in 1940 on the French at Mers el Kebir. They have broken neutrality agreements to sink the KMS Dresden and in the next war rescue prisoners from the Altmark. The RN even shoots and courtmartials officers who dont live up to the “tradition” poor Byng “pour encourager les autres” and Tourbridge for letting the Geoben escape even though a state of war did not exist.

    Nope if your a military Junta and invade Sovereign British territory surrounded by ocean it would always be useful first to know the traditions of the Royal Navy.

  • Delphin

    With the USA being home of the brave where free enterprise is king, I predict the next development in ship naming will be sponsorship. Apple could sponsor an entire carrier battle group. Carrier USS Apple Macbook Air, cruisers Iphone 5and 5s etc etc Think what a message that would send to SE Asian countries that were getting a bit uppity – be cool, buy American stuff!

  • Gopher,

    You have tweaked my memory. When I joined Ontario Hydro’s Nuclear Division in 1981, my intake class included two RN Officers who had resigned to take up new careers. They had both served on Nuclear submarines and a condition of their resigning was that they were on the recall list. When a war broke out in the South Atlantic, they were concerned that they might be recalled.

  • carl marks

    Come on boys admit it, this is a case of big car / small manhood! Britain is from a military point of view a division of the American army.
    Now we are told that Britain is the sixth richest country in the world but it’s worth remembering that Britain is effectively just minding a very large proportion of that wealth for the top five countries.
    The NHs is falling apart, the education system is screwed, the national grid needs very extensive modernisation, kids are leaving school with little or no job prospects, extensive work needs done to prevent future flooding across Britain and many senior citizens are making the call between heat and food every winter that is far from an exhaustive list of where 70 billion could be better spent.
    But if we get planes for it and cobble together a support fleet then we will be able to blow civilians to pieces anywhere in the world the USA wants them blown to pieces, with the added bonus of no American lives will be risked and please no crap about surgical strikes or smart weapons look at the number of innocent people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Gopher

    Carl civilians are almost universally the principle casualty in war and the only weapon that saves life has been nuclear weapons. It is alway a bit silly whether a neo con or an anti war activist to believe war is not an act of violence and can be humanised. In Iraq the neo cons believed their own narritive “the end of history” and thought you could fight a war with technology instead of troops. In this fiasco they devastated the country with ordinance with their confederates in USAF trying to prove their inherent belief that precision bombing could actually win a war. A rule of thumb except in wars of retribution it is the nation on the defensive that employs a scorched earth strategy. The weapons did not fail the doctrine and the strategy did.

    The Carriers will be able to wreak violence hopefully in a more intelligent manner and with luck that threat means they will never be used and the 6 billion will be well spent

  • DougtheDug


    btw, I can’t make any sense out of building a carrier that large without a freaking catapult. What is the point?

    It’s all down to the choice of the ships engines strangely enough. They’re gas turbines not steam turbines so there’s no steam to power a steam catapult.

    If they want a catapult they either have to build in an extra steam generator to create steam for a steam catapult which adds complexity and weight to the ship or they build an electromagnetic catapult.

    The US have an EM catapult but it is still in the testing stage for the US Navy. Even then there is no guarantee the Queen Elizabeth’s electrical power supply could generate enough current to power the thing.

    So to cut a long story short they have to fly the F35B lemon because they fitted her with gas turbines which means she has no catapult.

  • Kevsterino

    Doug, the buzz over here is that the EM catapult will be easier on the undercarriage of the aircraft, in that it is programmable in a way steam never will be. Personally, I’d prefer to have at least one of each, in case of electrical blackout you could still launch and recover…but what do I know?

    After the carrier, the rest of the battlegroup still has to be considered. It is like trying to buy your wife a pair of shoes without the belt and the bag. ;o)

  • GEF

    To fly the F35a using catapults, the 2 new UK carriers would have to change their propulsion systems from gas turbine to either nuclear or to revert to older steam systems from oil fired boilers. Gas turbine ships are not fast enough to launch and land F35s were speed of 30 knots plus is required.

    Another reason the two new carriers are not nuclear powered is because of nuclear free zones, which includes Portsmouth Kent were the carriers home base will be when they become finally commissioned. The area around Portsmouth South Sea Isle of White is largely populated, unlike Faslane in Scotland were UK’s nuclear submarines are based.

  • carl marks

    Gopher, it’s not going to 6 billion the running costs and the cost of planes will run that through the roof.
    Why does Britain need to be able to wreak havoc thousands of miles away? Has it done Britain any good lately?
    Can’t get round the feeling that this is going to be a white elephant, the money could be spent better and you can bet that if it’s put into service some asshole (politician or Admiral) will use it probably protecting American interests on some third world country and sure that won’t matter, who really gives a shit about innocent civilians .

  • Gopher

    We live with globalization its a fact of life, large numbers of UK and European citizens live and work throughout the world and can be vulnerable in an instant. These carriers come along at a time when sovereign country collapse and messy revolution are real possibilities. There may be a time somewhere thousand of miles away that a rebel advance needs slowed, a regime needs propped until a shed load of EU nationals get evacuated or possibly all three at once. The violence these Carriers can wreak or just the mere threat of it might save lives. We don’t know what is round the corner but these platforms no matter how flawed the purists believe them to be are the most capable in the EU that is why we need them. We can’t always bank on an American carrier battlegroup being on hand when our civilians need saving

  • Harry Flashman

    “The USS Phoenix was sunk because “moderation in war is the height of imbecility” The RN has always been aggressive”

    Obviously a fan of Jackie Fisher’s “sink everything” theory, although in practice when war broke out he bottled it and couldn’t bear to see his precious ships being put in harm’s way.

    The sinking of the Belgrano was a strategic master stroke and completely justified, it sent the Argie navy scuttling back to port with its tail between its legs never to re-emerge thus completely neutralising it and its carrier-borne fighter threat.

    It’s perhaps no surprise that the institution so much to the fore in the Dirty War turned out to be so cowardly in real combat, while the relatively clean Argentine Air Force played such a valiant role.

    Oddly enough this was mirrored on the British side, the military unit with the greatest fondness for murdering unarmed defenceless civilians was, despite the subsequent bally-hoo, medal shower and cover-up, the most incompetent and hopelessly inept unit while the other more distinguished units got on with their job with quiet efficiency and determination.

    No surprise also I suppose that the unit in question was the only one against which credible accusations of war crimes were levelled. You really can’t change a leopard’s spots I suppose.

  • Delphin

    It’s the economy stupid! Navies are about the ‘projection of power’. American economic and military power go hand in hand, as did British power in times gone by. Europe has relied on American muscle to defeat the Nazis and the Soviet Union and then to keep the world in a state that suits the NATO alliance. America appears to see its future centred on the Pacific so maybe the Europeans need to man up and take control of their patch. The carriers, for all their apparent faults, will play a vital role in this.

  • Gopher

    Harry of course it was right decision. The Royal Navy has had its administrative heroes, Samuel Pepys, and St Vincent though none as interesting as Jackie Fisher. I’m sure to his dying day Woodward in his professional mind mulled over whether he should have spared the two Type 42 destroyers escorting the Belgrano. Nelson, Blake, Cunningham et al meant he has a lot to live up to. Now the the officer following Woodward has him to live up too also. Its a good way to run a meritocracy. Fisher being largely responsible for the revolution that let a son of a bank clerk have his chance to command.

    I don’t really think this forum needs an excuse slip back to the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone so I wont comment about an infantry unit but admire the single minded creativity of trying to take us to the six counties in an international defence thread

  • Harry Flashman

    As far as I understand the Conqueror did fire at the destroyer escorts too, one recorded a strike and damage to the hull subsequently appeared to confirm a hit by an unexploded torpedo. The Conqueror was using a mix of old WWII torpedoes, which sank the Belgrano, and more modern unreliable ones which failed to explode.

    I wasn’t trying to bring the discussion down to our own bitter wee squabble, but in fairness I remember a snior British general saying that the Falklands was won on the streets of Derry and Belfast as those were the places that the British Army’s junior officers and NCOs honed their leadership skills, skills they would never have learned sitting around in barracks in Germany waiting for the Red Army.

    My subsequent dig at a particular crowd of thugs who should have no place in any respectable army was perhaps uncalled for but, hey, I’m only human.