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The Wakeup Call for British Defence

September 16, 2009

This doesn’t sound like a vote-getter, but it makes perfect military sense. If elected, likely it will be British Conservatives who bring down exquisite Cold War type weapons programs, that have little justification other than a job’s program. Here is the Times Online:

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, said in a speech on the economy that he would hold a Budget within weeks of a victory. Afterwards, he was asked to identify specific savings that an incoming Conservative government might make.
In comments that surprised and dismayed his own colleagues, he cited the £20billion Eurofighter/Typhoon project, the £4billion project to build two aircraft carriers and the £2.7billion order for 25 A400 transport aircraft as areas ripe for cuts. Later, however, he admitted that he did not know what penalties might have to be paid out under break clauses if the contracts were scrapped.

Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon

Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon

£20billion is quite alot for a warplane originally intended to dogfight over the Central Front in a standoff with the Soviet Union. With not a single peer adversary daring to take the West on in the air in decades, we can see the rationality behind the Typhoon cuts.

As for the A400 transports we have little to say other than there has been numerous delays, technical troubles, and cost overruns, which might justify the Tories into saying “enough is enough”. Especially since there are so many cheaper alternatives like the C-17 and the C-130J which the RAF already operates.

Earlier we had thoughts on scrapping the Tridents altogether:

Savings here would amount to £21bn (US $31bn). In its place, the RN could equip Tomahawk missiles for the nuclear role, as her excellent sub fleet is already so armed with conventional cruise missiles. By spreading the deterrent around in more numerous attack submarines, they would also be more survivable and effective.

That said, I would hate to see it happen, but the Tomahawk alternative would be better than nothing.

Needless to say we are extremely pleased on the notion of canceling the RN supercarriers, as it has been a terrific drain on the essential operating forces of the fleet. Labour has sold the giant ships as a jobs program, and very successfully to the public, so it will be a tough fight to part with them. Mistakenly the Navy has also maintained these as the center of British seapower and its future, when it is nothing of the kind, as essential frigates like the Iron Duke prove on a consistent basis.

The future of the UK Military is more than Big Decks or superfighters, but decades of military tradition and the cooperation of the services, not a particular weapons program geared to fight some mythical future conflict but that is more about past wars. It is also about spending realities, as we warned back in July:

Rich Western militaries so used to proposing extremely sophisticated and costly weapons programs, almost assuring they will get passed through legislatures hungry for the jobs and votes which coincides with grandiose projects, might be in a for a shock very soon. In this new era where moneys are tight and political leaders are more concerned with propping up tottering economies, the funds are just no longer there for future spending sprees by our spoiled service folk. So instead of a rise in defense spending on just any new project the generals and admirals conjure up, look for weapons and strategies to be increasingly prioritized.

56 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 21, 2010 3:14 am

    Bryan, here is my response: I agree!

    Another disturbing trend with the West basically having an arms race with itself, its as if we are daring some rogue state to compete with us. This is a disturbing scenario, especially as nations such as China overtake us in industrial capability, recalling it was industry which allowed us to overcome the Germans, Japanese, and the Soviets.

    This was Britain and America’s real strength, people and industry, not technology so much. The Germans had technology, which did them little good in the long run.

  2. April 21, 2010 2:38 am

    It’s looks like this post hasn’t been updated in quite some time so I don’t know if this will get a response but my what I would like to know, and yes I am just an ordinary civilion so it’s quite possible that I am ignorant and have know idea what I am thining, but I was just wondering why are we still spending money on all of these weapon systems and military hardware today at the same pace or greater than we did during the cold war against the soviet union? Our military budget today dwarfs theirs on the order of magnitudes larger. Is is because of the chinese? Does anyone really think that they would ever even want to try attacking or invading the US? Not anymore, they really on our dollars too much.

    It’s time to move on, the cold war is over. The greatest threat facing this country today isn’t from a large standing army like the chinese or even the north koreans. It’s the possiblity of a terrorist group gettng their hands on some nuclear material over in one of the old soviet provinces or pakistan. Instead of spending so much time saber rattling and acting like none of the rules apply to us or that we don’t need to waste our time looking for international cooporation to make decisions about invading a foreign country is just foolish in this environment.

    Bryan

  3. Alex. (the new'un) permalink
    September 30, 2009 4:04 pm

    haven’t seen this one yet..

    this will win votes because, in the place of these projects the MOD will get nothing and nobody cares about the armed forces if it means that they have to put their hands into their pockets.

    £20bn project for Eurofighter project over 232 units, R&D is so high because of poor international partners, Germany couldn’t make up their mind, France pulled out (again!) and everyone wanted something different but whatever the fact is that it a Tranche 2 Tiffy cost Britain €55.08m or £37.76m (as signed on the day) per unit, a mere fraction of the cost of a Raptor.

    CVF cost hikes caused by delays, most of the money has already been spent and without them the RN is no longer a credible force although there is little argument that if you want the capability of a carrier you need 2 and if you want to use them you need 3!

    A400m. less flexible than a Herc? wrong way round, far MORE flexible than a herc, longer range, larger payload (capable of shifting modern IFV’s; something a herc can’t do) and at a pinch could operate as a tanker, the problem is that Airbus/EADS are useless. this said the RAF needs 4-8 more Globemasters anyway

    Trident? In all honesty the nuclear deterrant should be manned by the RN but outside of the RN chain of command and funded independantly of the MoD

  4. September 19, 2009 4:08 am

    Chinese Admiral

    Sun Tzu is always interesting, and pretty good, but the guy was lucky he never had to deal with western politicians who will do anything to avoid war, and then when they finnally realise it is unavoidable set ROEs that are practically impossible to deal with.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  5. Armchair Chinese Admiral permalink
    September 18, 2009 9:42 pm

    [Mike Burleson : I don’t expect the Chinese to fight us carrier for carrier, stealth fighter for stealth fighter. If we use traditional measures of warfare as a guide, then we are lost.]

    Chapter Three: Planning Attacks http://www.sonshi.com/sun3.html
    Sun Tzu said: (selected quotes)

    Generally in warfare, keeping a nation intact is best, destroying a nation second best;

    keeping an army intact is best, destroying an army second best;

    Therefore, to gain a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence;

    to subjugate the enemy’s army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.

    Therefore, the best warfare strategy is to attack the enemy’s plans, next is to attack alliances, next is to attack the army, and the worst is to attack a walled city.

    Laying siege to a city is only done when other options are not available.

    Therefore, one who is skilled in warfare principles subdues the enemy without doing battle, takes the enemy’s walled city without attacking, and overthrows the enemy quickly, without protracted warfare.

    One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious;

    One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be in danger in a hundred battles.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 18, 2009 4:29 pm

    “The Chinese are a paper tiger.”

    Guess that’s why we beat them so badly in Korea. Oh wait, that was a draw, after they had come out of a decades long civil war and before they were an industrial power of any kind.

    I don’t expect the Chinese to fight us carrier for carrier, stealth fighter for stealth fighter. If we use traditional measures of warfare as a guide, then we are lost. Just as our enemies the terrorists used our weakness, not our strengths against us, so will China who aren’t stupid enough to match us where were are strong. I think it was they who invented the idea of the indirect approach and “strike at what is weak”.

  7. September 18, 2009 3:14 pm

    anonymous – in fact it is such an open space inside the hull that you could do far more than that….you could build specialist bits which fit into multiple container slots….that could be your radar/aircraft control system.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  8. Armchair Chinese Admiral permalink
    September 18, 2009 1:58 pm

    I hope I will get to participate in future discussions. My main thrust will be to argue that the USN carrier group is an obsolete concept in modern military assessments. The only two superpowers a USN supercarrier group is absolutely needed against are China and Russia. But a far more fundamental concept is that the superpower triad – US, Russia and China – is an inherently super stable balance of power. No two superpowers can make war on each other for both will so mortally wounded that the uninvolved third superpower will acquire unassailable world hegemony by default. No other country will have the wherewithal to challenge this hegemon for generations if ever. Imagine this hegemon having the power to tell everyone else to scrap their weapons and make it stick. Hollywood couldn’t come up with a better plot.

    Now the only real use of a USN supercarrier group is to intimidate Russia and China. Both powers are not quite ready to call your bluff yet as it must take a real big crisis to play this card. And you are not quite ready to create that crisis because you just might have to live with the consequences. Come to think of it my thesis has already been proved in Georgia.

    If you can’t use your superduper ships against Russia or China you certainly don’t need them to intimidate third rate powers you want to bully. Go from there.

    I’ll go to the Alex’s blog on Containership Conversions for further arguments.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    September 18, 2009 1:51 pm

    “Annonymous…I did not take offence, and sorry if it was abrupt, I wrote it quickly, I was just relaying the story of why I called her that….besides Ocean and Sea…it fits.”

    I know. Anyway Sea is better than St Albans……..

  10. Anonymous permalink
    September 18, 2009 1:50 pm

    I am still enjoying playing with this container ship carrier idea.

    Above I said we would need 1000 containers to support 50 aircraft. I have pushed few further figures around for a 8000 TEU vessel.

    I think we would need 2,500 containers worth of space for the aircraft.
    And if we allow for a crew of 1000 an allowance of 2 containers worth of space per crew member that gives an obvious 2000 containers (very generous!) That is a total of 6500 containers. Leaving 1500 containers worth of space for munitions and AVCAT. Shame not build all this into a 10000 TEU vessel which isn’t big these days…………

    I will keep my more fanciful ideas on engines etc. to myself….

  11. William permalink
    September 18, 2009 10:36 am

    “Hey. We still give you nightmares without trying. For every dollar we spend you spend ten times(?) as much to make that nightmare bearable. I think that a pretty good return on (China’s) investment.

    Armchair Chinese Admiral.”

    Its worth remembering that the Soviet Union bankrupted itself trying to keep up with the US and Nato.

    Perhaps the Chinese strategy is to do the same to the US and win without firing a shot?

  12. September 18, 2009 9:43 am

    Annonymous…I did not take offence, and sorry if it was abrupt, I wrote it quickly, I was just relaying the story of why I called her that….besides Ocean and Sea…it fits.

    Sadly armchair admiral you are right! although it does provide a ready argument for extra funding…. Thanks for your post on my blog, I have replied to part, I agree with you about the chinese advantage in using them as temporary carriers – no one else could afford to use them like you suggested though- that is as shields…to expensive and think of the litigation!

    I think overall we need to start developing a two tier naval strategy; with major warfighting vessels and low level conflict/stabilisation vessels (the latter being used to provide extra security for the task groups in war time…the former being used to support the latter in peace time when the situation gets more agressive) – i.e. a force of Carriers&destroyers and LHDs/ConversionAmphibs(see post)&corvettes

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  13. Armchair Chinese Admiral permalink
    September 18, 2009 9:33 am

    [The Chinese are a paper tiger. They mostly copy Russia stuff, badly. Their SSNs thump like metronomes. Their CCCIR are poor. They lack a decent cadre of senior rates (on which we all know all great navies are built.) Their operational doctrine is centre biased. They are not are a homogeneous whole; they are under the surface very fractured. ]

    Hey. We still give you nightmares without trying. For every dollar we spend you spend ten times(?) as much to make that nightmare bearable. I think that a pretty good return on (China’s) investment.

    Armchair Chinese Admiral.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 6:02 pm

    “to be honest Ocean’s sister, could have been named Sea ……(anything), the file is partially blacked out, and all I could makout on the parts I have seen was Sea – so that is what I call her.”

    I was joking gentle sir.

    “The West is investing its heart and soul in expeditionary warfare. Is anyone concerned about the Chinese anti-access weaponry, which if passed to the Third World might put an end to our operations close to shore?”

    The Chinese are a paper tiger. They mostly copy Russia stuff, badly. Their SSNs thump like metronomes. Their CCCIR are poor. They lack a decent cadre of senior rates (on which we all know all great navies are built.) Their operational doctrine is centre biased. They are not are a homogeneous whole; they are under the surface very fractured.

    If it came to an all out general war against them in the next few decades and the American military’s hands aren’t tied by PC ROE the Chinese would be killed wholesale and very quickly.

  15. Joe permalink
    September 17, 2009 6:01 pm

    Gates is being selective in his memory when (in Mike’s article link) he says the following:

    Gates said he is “committed” to developing a “long- range, airborne strike capability” — either a manned or unmanned bomber to replace Northrop Grumman Corp.’s B-2. It must cost less than the current stealth bomber’s $2 billion price- tag, he said.

    “Despite its great capability,” the B-2 “turned out to be so expensive” the U.S. eventually decided to buy only 21 of the batwing bombers instead of the planned 132, Gates said.

    I wonder if Mr. Gates recalls the following proposal from Northrup 14 years ago: In 1995 Northrop made a proposal to the USAF to build 20 additional aircraft with a flyaway cost of $566M each.

    Not that $566M is “cheap” by any stretch, but given that the B-2 will be forever known as the $2B bomber, it’s a pricing footnote that gets lost quite easily, it seems.

  16. September 17, 2009 4:34 pm

    Mike

    now you are being obtues – that technology is not even developed to a level to which the chinese even believe that such weapons are capable. even with their massive investment in its supporting infrastructure of satelite surveilance and space systems.

    none of those third world countries have even begun working on the necessary programes yet.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  17. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 17, 2009 4:25 pm

    The West is investing its heart and soul in expeditionary warfare. Is anyone concerned about the Chinese anti-access weaponry, which if passed to the Third World might put an end to our operations close to shore?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=am6ExRzB1cjo

    This is why I desperately seek alternatives to our handful of giant decks, and would see the small ships greatly outnumber larger vessels, plus more submarines.

  18. September 17, 2009 3:41 pm

    to be honest Ocean’s sister, could have been named Sea ……(anything), the file is partially blacked out, and all I could makout on the parts I have seen was Sea – so that is what I call her.

    The ABCs lost a hangar, capable of taking 2 Medium helicopters, and a third CIWS…plus being fitted with the same Sea Wolf missile system as is on the T-23s.

    You might be interested to know that in the ‘+’ version of the plan; or rather that which included enough above the mimum to give the British Forces leeway when they are deployed by the government would have inclued a 3rd LPH, a 3rd Carrier and a 2nd Batch 3 Bay class. However, all those involved realised that there would never be a chance that they would get such a fleet – most of them were right in their belief that the RN would not even get what they described ‘as that which is the minimum necessary for future operational capability of such necessity as to be most desirous to the nation’.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  19. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 3:28 pm

    “Carriers; Queen Elizabeth & Prince of Wales
    LPH; Ocean & Sea (her proposed sister)
    LPD; Bulwark, Albion & Centaur
    LSL; 4x Bay Class Batch 1 (as built), 4x Batch 2 (helicopter hangar) & 1x Batch 3 (Amphibious assistance UAV operator and sub/alt comand facilties)”

    This is interesting. Thank you.

    “They” messed about with the ABC’s too, didn’t they loose their hanger and few more things? The new LCU are good.

    I can’t recall Sea at all. I knew of the proposed second of class, but was unaware of her name. Would their lordships really ask HM to name a ship Sea? I know of ships where Sea has been coupled with other words. Perhaps Sea Devil would have been a good one in honour of one J. Pertwee RNVR? I suppose name like San Carlos would be out of the question……..?

  20. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 3:17 pm

    “I’m glad someone mentioned HMS Ocean. I always wondered why the RN didn’t consider a version with a strengthened deck for the F-35 as a fallback in case the QE class got the axe. It’s happened before!

    The San Antonio’s are a terrible design, riddled with technical faults. Just a bad idea all around. Almost any of the Euro-hybrid carriers mentioned here would be better (I have a new-found fondness for Mistral), or the Japanese Hyuga.”

    I had better clear this up! :)

    I am not advocating the SA class itself. Just a large, fast LPD to carry the big stuff.

    HMS Ocean is super, just slow. When on her flight deck without the ski-jump she looks much, much, longer than her 20,000 tons.

    The Mistral is wonderful but I prefer the Juan Carlos. Again Mistral is too slow; but her dock is bigger. That is why I want a 25,000 ton, 25kt LPD (like the SA!)

  21. September 17, 2009 2:36 pm

    I like the ABCs or Bulwark/Albion/Centaur (the name given to the proposed 3rd which never got built) – they are a brilliant design, cheaper than the San Antonio’s what they lack in ciws they more than make up for in comand facilities and internal comunciation.

    A point of interest, and something which a good friend and accademic I have studied under in the past worked on this – the proposed royal navy major expeditionary force…a study done about 1990s time (still not released, in any form other than abstract – even that had to be handed to me by my friend, a copy is so hard to track down).

    Carriers; Queen Elizabeth & Prince of Wales
    LPH; Ocean & Sea (her proposed sister)
    LPD; Bulwark, Albion & Centaur
    LSL; 4x Bay Class Batch 1 (as built), 4x Batch 2 (helicopter hangar) & 1x Batch 3 (Amphibious assistance UAV operator and sub/alt comand facilties)

    you will notice that this is a major level commitment to expeditionary warfare; the first that was canncelled was Sea…she went almost within 6 months of Ocean being given the ok. Centaur only ever existed on paper and in admirals/marine generals wet dreams. the Bay class were seen to by a civil service which decided that the first 4 ships could be fitted with temporary hangars when required, and extra command ship would never be needed. However, it is interesting to note that such a group would have been more than capable of landing a fully reinforced marines brigade.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 17, 2009 1:51 pm

    I’m glad someone mentioned HMS Ocean. I always wondered why the RN didn’t consider a version with a strengthened deck for the F-35 as a fallback in case the QE class got the axe. It’s happened before!

    The San Antonio’s are a terrible design, riddled with technical faults. Just a bad idea all around. Almost any of the Euro-hybrid carriers mentioned here would be better (I have a new-found fondness for Mistral), or the Japanese Hyuga.

  23. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:26 pm

    “I’d include an LPD in the mix but not the San Antonio class. Didn’t it cost $2 billion, although I hear they’re trying to get future ships for under $1 billion (we’ll see).”

    I am talking hypothetically. It easier to say San Antonio than say 25,000 ton LPD capable of 25kts. It appears nobody here likes Bulwark/Albion its all Bay!! :)

  24. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:23 pm

    “French Navy insists their new carrier must be nuclear-powered, presumably to provide steam for catapults. It needed 1/4-tonne of steam to launch a Phantom off the deck of (old) HMS Ark Royal – what kind of auxiliary steam supply can provide that at short notice?”

    No the principle driver behind nuclear power is that it greatly enhances the performance of the platform. No need to RAS for fuel oil etc; no need for 12 or so AOR just to keep her moving. Just up and down at a steady 30kts day in, day out. The steam is an added benefit

    For a ship displacing above 8000 tons the space requirements for steam, GT, or nuclear are about the same. Nuclear size of the plant; steam plant, bunkers, uptakes/intakes; GT (despite the small engines) need big bunkers, big uptakes/intakes as they need to breath.

  25. William permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:15 pm

    “San Antonio – heavy/outsize equipment, main landing craft, marine support companies, artillery, cavalry squandron”

    I’d include an LPD in the mix but not the San Antonio class. Didn’t it cost $2 billion, although I hear they’re trying to get future ships for under $1 billion (we’ll see).

    I’d go for a stretched Bay class with Hangar. The original Bays cost £100 million each, so maybe £150 million stretched? Shouldn’t be too much more.

  26. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:13 pm

    “Admitedly it is slower. There might be a difference in optomization for carrier operations (I don’t know). But it is still HALF the price and would be superior for amphibious operations.”

    All out speed isn’t everything, is all about high economical cruising speed. The US aims to move an ARG 500 miles a day. Think about it this way. The world is 24,000 miles in circumference. So to get anywhere you are going to have to travel 12,000 miles. So that is 24 days steaming. HMS Ocean’s most economical speed is 15kts so that 12,000 would take 33 days. If a crisis were to occur you would want to get there ASAP once the politicians have decided to send you. A week is a long time. Don’t forget your embarked force will begin to degrade too…

    The Cavour needs the extra speed it helps with the launching over her aircraft. S

    And yes I know I have freely mixed land miles and nautical miles but you get my point.

  27. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:04 pm

    Another thought re container vessels. The Arapaho system needed 70 containers to support 5 AEW helicopters. So for an airwing of 50 could be supported by a nice round 1000 containers. About a tenth the carrying capacity of a large container vessel (give or take!)

  28. William permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:57 pm

    The Juan Carlos can carry up to 30 aircraft using the light vehicles garage as extra storage.

    Plus the extra 3-400 million euros would give it the extra weapons needed.

    Admitedly it is slower. There might be a difference in optomization for carrier operations (I don’t know). But it is still HALF the price and would be superior for amphibious operations.

    Plus I don’t think more powerfull engines would cost that much more if it was required from the outset, possibly included in the extra 400 million euros?

    http://www.armada.mde.es/ArmadaPortal/page/Portal/ArmadaEspannola/conocenos_modernizacion/prefLang_en/02_jc_i–04_perfil_mision_es

  29. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:55 pm

    “Cavour can accomodate about 20 aircraft, slightly more in overload, and has gas turbine propulsion for approx 30Kt. Also well-armed with guns, missiles. More money, but more ship.”

    Yes. The Juan Carlos is very much a compromise. For a while I have been wondering whether the American system of one flaptop to two docks is the best mix. Perhaps for the lighter UK forces one carrier, one LHD, one LPD would be a better mix. So….

    Cavour – fixed wing carrier duties plus marine reserve.
    San Antonio – heavy/outsize equipment, main landing craft, marine support companies, artillery, cavalry squandron
    Juan Carlos – spare runway for fixed wing, assault helicopters, balance of marine companies, marine HQ, secondary landing craft

    That is 70,000 tons of shipping……:)

  30. Jed permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:51 pm

    Mike – totally with you actually on the “balanced” force – yep lets have Super Tuc’s in the sandbox, plus more Merlin, Chinook and Apache while we are at it – but realistically we are not going to get any of them, hence playing devils advocate with my rip-roaring defence of the Typhoon !

    By the way I am ex-Navy and did 6 years in the TA, but I have never been in the air farce…. :-)

  31. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:46 pm

    “Pod Propulsion is exactly what I was arguing for; its the best system, as it puts the least pressures on hull space, and because of its modular nature it makes mainenance easier – instead of heavy work on the engines at every refit, you can just change the pods.”

    Super! Yes! My only concern is draft. But there is a solution in that the pods could be pulled up inside the hull principally for docking. If the space above them was kept open this could facilitate their exchange. Much in the same way as gas turbines are pulled up through uptakes…..

  32. steve coltman permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:11 pm

    Cost of Cavour vs Juan Carlos. We are not quite comparing like with like. For Juan Carlos: “The hangar can accommodate 12 aircraft, while six aircraft can be parked on the flight deck. The ship will have two elevators, with a capacity to carry bigger aircraft in the future. The vessel’s displacement for air operations is 24,660t and maximum sustained speed is 21kt (Displacement of the LHD for amphibious operations is 27,079t, while the maximum sustained speed is 19.5kt.)

    Cavour can accomodate about 20 aircraft, slightly more in overload, and has gas turbine propulsion for approx 30Kt. Also well-armed with guns, missiles. More money, but more ship.

  33. September 17, 2009 11:23 am

    Pod Propulsion is exactly what I was arguing for; its the best system, as it puts the least pressures on hull space, and because of its modular nature it makes mainenance easier – instead of heavy work on the engines at every refit, you can just change the pods.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  34. Anonymous permalink
    September 17, 2009 10:56 am

    “you might want to take a look at this http://amphibiousnecessity.blogspot.com/2009/09/is-there-possibility-for-amphibiosity.html

    I have been thinking this is the way to go for an age now. With modern pod propulsion there isn’t even a need to run shafts down the hull.

  35. William permalink
    September 17, 2009 9:44 am

    “More aircraft-carrier, less amphib. Cavour cost 1.4 Bn Euros, more than Juan Carlos but not too bad.”

    Cavour 1.4 Billion Euros VS Juan Carlos 300 Million Euros.

    Sure you’d still need to add 300 million euros extra to the Juan Carlos for sensors and weapons.

    Even if a Juan Carlos comes out at 700 million euros, thats still TWO Juan Carlos for the price of ONE Cavour.

  36. steve coltman permalink
    September 17, 2009 9:20 am

    I have several points, but they refer to the RN, not USN.

    RN has recently bought several ships that have the amphibious capability of the Juan Carlos class, so I think the Italian Cavour Class might be a better bet for the RN. More aircraft-carrier, less amphib. Cavour cost 1.4 Bn Euros, more than Juan Carlos but not too bad.

    Three (even 4?) 30,000-tonne ships certainly more flexible and affordable than just two big ones

    Any light carrier proposal rests on the assumption that the F35B will (a) work as advertised (500 deg C jet-blast is a worry) and (b) come in at some not-too-ridiculous cost. If this is not so, we really do have a problem.

    If we had to go for some kind of ‘orthodox’ carrier, what are the options?

    French Navy insists their new carrier must be nuclear-powered, presumably to provide steam for catapults. It needed 1/4-tonne of steam to launch a Phantom off the deck of (old) HMS Ark Royal – what kind of auxiliary steam supply can provide that at short notice?

    A gas turbine powered ship would presumably need electromagnetic catapults, but this is unproven technology (I am not saying it won’t work but as of now banking on EMALS is a risk, even assuming the USA is willing to sell this technology).

    Or a STOBAL carrier, as per the Kusnetzov, but I understand the Sukhois cannot take off with full load of payload and fuel, compromising the entire investment.

    I think the RN may be stuck between a rock and a hard place if F35B does not come up trumps. F35B is stealthy (supposedly), STOVL and supersonic. Only the Raptor combines even two of these qualities. F35B is very revolutionary. So is the V22 Osprey, so ‘revolutionary’ is not reassuring.

  37. September 17, 2009 4:43 am

    Mike

    I know you like the smaller ships; but here is the fact you need to be able to land a minimum of 150 troops per wave in order for it to be effective as an aphibious ship.

    The RN will never get permission to build 8 of anything. You also need a hangar big enough to maintain and repair multiple types of aircraft including the Chinnook. Simple speaking Mike the major troube you are going to come up against is the space needed for the work shops – to put all in a smaller ship, and maintain the sortie rate required to support these opps you would need a second ship just for workshops and major maintenance – for each one in service! this would also have problems in the fact that it would heavily impact upon operational capability.

    Mike as you know I agree with you broadly on corvettes, I even agree that destroyers (except in the case of ABM) should be the ‘big’ escorts to support them and provide AAD/strike for task groups. However, when it comes to supporting troops and operations it is sortie rate which is crucial, and for this you need maintenance facilities; to have all this you need a fairly big ship. Finnally I chose this side, because as I said it is the best balance; all the smaller ones are about 20kts maximum, and also have troubles in that they do not have the stability required for aircraft operations (the Top Weight factor!).

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  38. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 16, 2009 9:45 pm

    Alex, I just scanned your link because I got home late. I am completely supportive of auxiliary warships built on merchant hulls. I think they have a place in warfare in support of specialized warships and may eventually supersede them altogether, though not yet.

    As much as i like your idea, I still think for cost and numbers sake we need to keep hull size down, about half what you are proposing here. All the modern weapons currently in the Navy arsenals, I see no need in the future for any ship above 20-25,000 tons. I know that may shock some but even with arsenal ships, amphibs, carriers, or transports this should be the limit. I sincerely believe we have the technology now to pull this off, and think this is the only way to get hulls back into the hundreds of millions instead of billions each.

  39. September 16, 2009 8:48 pm

    Chuck

    I just don’t know – its been being skirted around for years…but the money has not been there for a proper study, and in reality one would have to be done; but all the theory has been done – the only question that realy remains is ‘are their practicable hulls out there’ – the answer is yes, especially at the moment, when the globalisation is on a cool down, so they are sitting doing nothing – and are therefore cheaper to buy.

    mostly it has not been done because if you have a choice between arguing with a politician who does not want to part with the cash; are you going to argue for a bigger better version of what you already know and understand or something you are not sure about – and really don’t want as much cause it is slightly more difficult and slightly different from how you usually go about buisness. Its an easy answer – you argue for what you know. The reason the RN lost its lead in naval aviation after WW1 was it lost all of its senior air officers to the form the RAF, so instead of them fighting for carriers and fighting for aircraft for the navy- they were fighting to protect the RAFs existanece. The same goes in this situation; where the RN has choice with fighting the MOD/Civil Service/Parliament for larger VSTOL carriers or fighting for this ‘whacky conversion idea’…they are going to fight for what they have the most solid ground on.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  40. Chuck Hill permalink
    September 16, 2009 8:36 pm

    I like Alex proposal. It seems so obvious, why hasn’t it been done?

  41. Joe permalink
    September 16, 2009 5:15 pm

    I’ve thought that the totality of Mike’s naval arguments make the most sense when you apply them to a mid-sized navy like that of the UK.

    Given that the MoD’s primary purpose in recent years has been to whack things, it seems to make more than a bit of sense for the RN to go smaller yet more numerous, as William alludes to. It provides budget flexibility and multiplies their “presence” capability at the same time. As it stands, given that both political parties seem committed to continued “whacking”, it seems plausible that the surface fleet will continue shrinking to accomodate the QE’s.

  42. September 16, 2009 4:35 pm

    Willian

    you would not have 8 available, currently (or up till recently) the RN operated 3 carriers to garuntee 1 available and one 1 ready; they Americans operate 11 to keep 2 on station, 2 returning, and 2 going out. So the maxium you could hope for would be 6; and absurdly it is actually easier to refit a nuclear carrier than a gas powered one – so conversly you would probably only have 5.

    they generate about 1/4 of the possible strike sortie rate of the Queen Elizabeths so in actual fact it is possible that 1 does equal the to others. Although you are right about the number of hulls – hence the post I put up to the link to previously.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  43. William permalink
    September 16, 2009 4:26 pm

    Alex,

    Fair point about the space issue for maintenance. But how would the sortie rate for TWO CVF compare to the sortie rate for TEN Juan Carlos?

    Also bear in mind that only ONE CVF is guaranteed to be available at all times. With TEN Juan Carlos, you could probably have EIGHT available.

    Wouldn’t EIGHT Juan Carlos have a higher sortie rate than ONE CVF.
    Also if your ONE CVF is hit its out of action, probably no more sorties.

    Whereas if you lose a smaller carrier or two, you’ve still got several others to fall back on.

  44. September 16, 2009 4:18 pm

    the problem with small carriers is their ability to support operations; you need a certain level of size to be able to support all the workshops which are needed to maintain the operability of modern aircraft – it is not just a case of machine shops, but electronics shops as well. this all takes up space, and the key to the Queen Elizabeth design is their high level of sortie rate – far higher than that which is even aimed to be achieved by most if not all of Britain’s land air bases.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  45. September 16, 2009 4:13 pm

    Mike

    you might want to take a look at this http://amphibiousnecessity.blogspot.com/2009/09/is-there-possibility-for-amphibiosity.html

    its just an idea for what might come along, its possibly a possibility for a carrier; but a definite in my mind for amphibious operations and sea basing.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  46. William permalink
    September 16, 2009 4:12 pm

    “I would have 5 Juan Carlos’s and 5 LPD similar to San Antonio. (2 Darings and a ASW frigate as escorts….)

    This would mean we could have a mini CBG/ARG at sea all the time. Plus we would have a surge capability so the whole of 3 Cde Brigade could be lifted.

    Super. I have had similar thoughts to these. It worries me that there are other people who waste brain power on this stuff!”

    This is what worries me. I’m just a layman with an interest in defence matters. I don’t know what your backgound is.

    But it amazes that the MOD/politicos can’t seem to figure this stuff out. To me its OBVIOUS that MANY smaller carriers are far more flexible/survivable/usefull than just TWO large carriers.

  47. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 16, 2009 3:54 pm

    Anonymous-Yeah, light carriers plus auxiliary carriers. the Brits had these in the South Atlantic but not nearly enough of the latter IMHO. Guess they did the best they could.

  48. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2009 3:53 pm

    “HMS Ocean”

    She is a wondeful ship apart from her speed. 15kts economical cruising isn’t enough. You need to be able to move 500 miles a day.

    Remember most big containers ships these days do 25kts…………..

  49. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2009 3:51 pm

    “Personally for the £6 billion price tag for TWO CVF’s I’d rather TEN Juan Carlos LHD.

    BASIC Juan Carlos LHD is £300 million. Add Sampson radar at £200 million. Add ASTER 30 (120km range) for another £100 million. Total £600 million each. If it goes over budget, reduce the buy to say eight LHD’s.

    Have the Juan Carlos operating as a small flotilla leader/mothership with is Aegis type radar and SAM’s and F35B’s.”

    I would have 5 Juan Carlos’s and 5 LPD similar to San Antonio. (2 Darings and a ASW frigate as escorts….)

    This would mean we could have a mini CBG/ARG at sea all the time. Plus we would have a surge capability so the whole of 3 Cde Brigade could be lifted.

    Super. I have had similar thoughts to these. It worries me that there are other people who waste brain power on this stuff! ;) :)

  50. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 16, 2009 3:28 pm

    “The Typhoon has the capacity to become an F16 style multi-role / swing-role combat aircraft”

    Jed, don’t give me that! The Typhoon costs nearly as much as the Raptor and likewise has no place in the Third World COIN conflict we are currently engaged in. Really the F-16 is too high tech for close air support, flying low on the deck and taking ground fire. Something along the line of a A-10 for the RAF, perhaps the Hawk fighters would work or better still the Brazilian Super Tucano.

    Keep some of of the Typhoons sure, but don’t base your entire force around the high end conventional conflicts. Let it be a balanced force of multiple capabilities.

    Alex-thats right I know you! Woolworth carriers, eh? Sounds intriguing, and perhaps based on the HMS Ocean!

    I like the Juan Carlos too William! Perfect for the type of warfare the RN most often contends with, and for another Falklands, you could send several vessels, ensure some would survive a missile strike, and still have a reserve back home for emergencies.

  51. William permalink
    September 16, 2009 3:23 pm

    Personally for the £6 billion price tag for TWO CVF’s I’d rather TEN Juan Carlos LHD.

    BASIC Juan Carlos LHD is £300 million. Add Sampson radar at £200 million. Add ASTER 30 (120km range) for another £100 million. Total £600 million each. If it goes over budget, reduce the buy to say eight LHD’s.

    Have the Juan Carlos operating as a small flotilla leader/mothership with is Aegis type radar and SAM’s and F35B’s.

  52. William permalink
    September 16, 2009 3:01 pm

    The consensus of opinion that I’ve heard is that George Osborne is engaging in political grandstanding. In that the Typhoon is largely paid for (only the last half of tranche 3 remain to be ordered) and can’t be backed out of because of penalty clauses.

    Additionally on the CVF’s, almost a billion pounds has already been spent and sub-contracts are being issued at a rapid pace, so it will be interesting to see how much money will have been spent by the time the conservatives take power later in 2010. Also BAE Systems will have likely included stiff penalty clauses for cancellation.

    So basically the view is that Osborne is making promises he can’t keep.

    He could pull out of the A400M project though.

  53. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2009 2:43 pm

    A400m is a Euro joke. Not as flexible as the C130x and without the capacity of the C17.

    Our forces loosing out again for political elites Euro obsession.

    I am interested in these Woolworth carriers………….

  54. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2009 2:28 pm

    “The Tomahawk is a ‘cold war’ system too, and if your gonna use it to replace SLBM (which I agree with by the way) then we better buy more Astute class to do the ‘nuke patrols’ !”

    No cruise is no substitute for a ballistic missile system; range, counter measure proof, etc. Plus BAE would probably rob us blind for some super stealthy long range cruise missile program.

    I wasn’t overly surprised to find that Astute despite her size (my she is big!) came sans vertical launch tubes for cruise. This is the same MoD(N) that leased the Rivers without going for flight decks.

    What you say about the Type 23 is true. We have specialised ship but thanks to the “utility of the platform” it can be used for so much more.

  55. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2009 12:56 pm

    Mike

    how did I know you would be on about this? well you should see what they are planning for their finnally if the conservatives get the next election…a sneak peak into a report being written – the Royal Navy will have 4 ‘woolworth carriers’ – wait for the post, another class of about 8 destroyers, and about 24 FSG…however no new OPVs, or FF; Auxilaries will be increased by +2 one-stop, and +3 tanker…not sure how that will work out, put if it comes off could be good.

    and I bet you know who this is

  56. Jed permalink
    September 16, 2009 12:53 pm

    Please give up on the Typhoon as “cold war, central front dog fighter’ meme ! The Typhoon has the capacity to become an F16 style multi-role / swing-role combat aircraft of considerable potential. If they want to save money and jobs, buy the full committed total of Tranche 3 (but make them all 2 seaters with conformal fuel tanks) and retire the Tornado, giving the RAF a ‘single type’ fleet with commensurate savings in logistics.

    I am ex-RN, and did time in the TA, but I don’t fall for this “ex-cold war superfighter” BS and neither should you.

    The above mentioned Type 23 is a ‘cold war’ system, its doing just fine ! The Warrior is a ‘cold war’ system and I would rather be sat in one of them than a Vector……

    The Tomahawk is a ‘cold war’ system too, and if your gonna use it to replace SLBM (which I agree with by the way) then we better buy more Astute class to do the ‘nuke patrols’ !

    What is important is that there is a truly well handled strategic defence review. If the UK politicians want to play on the big stage, cough up the funds, otherwise cut back the operations to fit the budget, and for goodness sake finally give up on the idea that the UK’s armed forces can always “punch above their weight” !

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