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Reactions to New British Supercarriers

July 7, 2008

From around the Net comes reactions positive and negative on Great Britain’s giant new 65,000 ton aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales:

Ian Bell-“…do we need two enormous aircraft carriers at £2 billion (this week) and 65,000 tonnes apiece?When finally the two war machines are named after Prince Charles and his mum, we will be allowed a supplementary question to the familiar one about Trident. Something like this. If, as our government repeats tirelessly, the biggest threat to life, liberty and security in the 21st century comes from small groups of fanatics hoping to attack civil aircraft and urban areas, for whom will those giant carriers provide protection?… Lumbering military giants have a habit of faltering in asymmetric wars.

The Guardian-“The government is proud, the navy thrilled and the army jealous. The problem is that no one seems to know exactly what the ships are intended to do or how they will be paid for. Nor is it clear what sort of plane, if any, will fly from their decks: the Joint Strike Aircraft, which they are designed to carry, will not be ready in time (and will cost a further £12bn), even if the United States goes ahead with the necessary vertical takeoff version, which is not certain.”

The Orange Party-“In ten years time we’ll have two new aircraft carriers to fly the flag. But will we? By then, they’ll be at the beck and call of the president of the new EU, as part of the new EU defence force. So which flag will they fly?”

Monsters and Critics-“The future aircraft carriers…will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in Britain. They will provide British forces with world-class capabilities, supporting peace-keeping, conflict prevention and our strategic operational priorities. They will be a highly versatile and potent joint defence asset, able to meet the widest range of tasks.”

Delusions of Grandeur-“The contracts for their construction are said to be worth £3bn and could create or secure up to 10,000 jobs. Now if we (the UK) knew what was good for us, we’d be out trying to sell variants of this carrier design, scaled down versions etc wherever we could as well as using them as marketing material for British ship-building industry at every turn yet these vessels appear to be pretty much a one-off.”

Defence of the Realm-“Arguments made for the project costed at £4 billion may or may not stand up, but they take on a different dimension when £20 billion is being considered – not including the running costs. In terms of force projection, one needs to ask what else could be bought for the money, and whether that would have the same “reach” or more as two large ships, their escorts and aircraft.”

Save the Royal Navy-“…lets face it, this order has been placed not because this government understands the need for carriers, but rather for political ends – ie keeping mainly Scottish workers employed.”

Gallimaufry & Chips-“I suggest that naval ship design and procurement is changed to enable three 27,000 tonne carriers of the HMAS Canberra, Juan Carlos I, or Cavour type to be acquired. These are more flexible ships more appropriate to the types of war the UK will fight and more useful in peacetime for projecting soft power.”

My comments-I saved this which I considered best for last, because I also have been curious why the RN didn’t opt for an Improved Ocean class as their light aircraft carrier replacement. This 21,000 amphibious carrier was already in the water in the 1990s and likely could have been lengthened somewhat to take on vertol aircraft like the Harrier or F-35B. The Ocean was a great bargain at $300 million American and even larger versions would have been less a drain on the RN ship numbers than the $8 billion Queen Elizabeth’s.

I believe if we must have aircraft carriers, they should be cheap, small, and expendable. I don’t see the giant ships as essential in the close air support missions, since in the World War tiny “jeep” escort carriers were used in this very dangerous role. Now, with the threat from cruise missiles and AIP submarines pushing the supercarriers further out to sea, it is difficult to see what role they play in modern warfare, save as status symbols like the old and increasingly doomed battleships of the late 1930s.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. charbookguy permalink
    July 7, 2008 3:43 pm

    Exactly Mrs. D! This is why I’m not worried when China acquires the same.

  2. charbookguy permalink
    July 7, 2008 3:40 pm

    Thanks Distiller, as I said, mainly status symbols. And the US Army learned the hard way that numbers do count in wartime. What would the USN do if it found itself in a full scale war of attrition at sea? I doubt seriously we could repeat the feat of building 100+ carriers in 5 years as in the world war, not if their are all “Nimitzs” as the Admirals seem to want.

  3. Mrs. Davis permalink
    July 7, 2008 1:58 pm

    it is difficult to see what role they play in modern warfare, save as status symbols


  4. Distiller permalink
    July 7, 2008 12:22 pm

    Agreed. Cavour would have been a very good role model. Pretty much the current word in light carriers. And Cavour for example comes at around 1 billion GBP. Now, that would enable four Cavours vs two CVF. Sounds much more interesting.

    Even the USN with 10+ large carrier can’t really afford to loose one.
    And if you can’t afford to loose a warfighting machine, you better not build it!
    But with just two gilded carriers the RN will never send them against a real threat.

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