The Next HMS Warrior Pt 2
What 2 major capabilities do we provide that most if not all of the NATO allied navies (except the USN of course) do not currently have ?
* Strike Carrier with fixed wing aircraft (only France has this capability)
* Major amphibious group including the Royal Marines (although France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands have amphibious capabilities, they are all smaller)
All three of these major ‘capabilities’ are actually ’systems of systems’ in that they facilitate the provision of multiple different effects as required by the ‘war fighter’ or in support of diplomacy.
So, if they are all expensive, which one should be cut ? Although I have made many arguments about why fixed wing air is good, and why the CV(F) would provide a great capability (flying Sea Gripens ?) I am also of the opinion that if money can still be saved by NOT building these carriers then they should be cut.
A Carrierless Royal Navy
For the record, I am not anti-carrier, but instead for the deployment of new technology, which often matures and then becomes obsolete very quickly. I’d like to think myself as being equally vocal in favor of manned carrier airpower if this was 1940 instead of 2010.
So we can join Think Defence in proposing the cancellation of the 65,000 ton HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales CVFs. Not only are they relics of the past, overly expensive, but thanks to advances in technology quite common in the history of warfare, they are no longer needed. Recall also that even the current two light carriers in service since the 1980s with the RN, with a third in reserve, were never in full service, “one is deployed, one in maintenance/training, and one in major overhaul“. Since 2006 all have been lacking a dedicated strike fighter with the retirement of the last Sea Harrier. The question remains then, why build aircraft carriers at all if even these smaller, less crew intensive, less costly warships with fewer aircraft are not kept fully functioning?
It is conceivable then that if carriers are not so required on a regular basis, Britain might be the first of the traditional major powers to do without large, or even smaller decks altogether. The risk is minimal if you consider the Navy’s track record in introducing new technologies to the fleet. As HMS Warrior, the first modern battleship was deployed, it not only outclassed every known and potential enemy vessel, but also made the Royal Navy’s sizable fleet of wooden hull ships of the line obsolete, forcing her to start from scratch.
The New Warrior
The same occurred with the HMS Dreadnought in the early 1900s, on up to the CVA-01 cancellation in 1966, the last time the Navy attempted to build large decks aircraft carriers. With each event and new weapon, critics cried impending disaster, but instead we see a pattern of revolutions in war at sea, often coming in at the right moment, to change history. With the cancellation of new carriers, and the retirement of older ships in their due course, we don’t see an ending of the old Royal Navy, but the birth of a New Navy, better equipped for a new era of sea power:
The work horses of the RN (or any ocean going Navy) are the frigates and destroyers…Type 45 is our primary air defence ship class…
The sunk costs are done and dusted, the building of the hulls is apparently now a very efficient process, so I would like to see at least two added to the build as an outcome of having no carriers, for a grand total of 8 – the current buy of 6 is just not enough…T45’s should be fitted with Phalanx mounts as T42’s are retired (preferably with SeaRam) and fitted with 8 x Harpoon’s as T23’s are retired.
Though Think Defence doesn’t declare this specifically, it seems the writer is insinuating the Type 45 class now entering service, not even fully functional, or the surface combatant forces as a whole as Britain’s new HMS Warrior. The point of the Daring class destroyers as being Britain’s “primary air defence ship class” is well taken, and we see this a prime opportunity to lead the way in casting off the tyranny of manned naval airpower, and the increasingly prohibitive cost for all navies, including the mighty USN of deploying attack aircraft carriers. Here is what Geoffrey Till writing at the US Naval War College has to say about the Darings:
With its Samson radar, a single Daring will be able to monitor all takeoffs and landings from every major airport within two hundred miles of Portsmouth, including London Heathrow and Gatwick. Able to engage twelve air targets simultaneously, a Type 45 could single-handedly protect London from air attack. The design, moreover, is spacious, with all the growth potential anticipated by Adam Ingram in 2003…The vessel’s highly sophisticated Samson radar system would allow it to grow into a highly effective ballistic missile–defense role; given the proliferation of missiles around the world, this seems a likely requirement.
Protecting London from air attack, Battle of Britain style is an apt description. With its embedded phased array radar, and long range interceptor missile, you wouldn’t have to wait up to an hour to launch and position naval interceptor aircraft, or even the minutes of an airborne patrol. For the missiles the reaction time would be seconds, and such a capability is deathly required in this new push button age, recalling the loss of HMS Sheffield in 1982. Also, for the CVFs to perform the same mission, you are required to deploy a significant portion of your total fleet. For the Type 45 to perform the same function, you just need one ship.
If the guided missile is the new threat at sea, and all evidence points to this fact, then logically the best counter is a guided missile warship. HMS Daring and her kin are stellar examples of this capability. It is the missile which has forced the manned fighter bomber into heavier and costly self-defense measures, ensuring their numbers sink even as the craft themselves increase in individual capabilities. While many thousands of missiles are produced by countries annually, numbers of traditional military aircraft are now counted in the hundreds per decade. Clearly it is time for the missile firing warship to take its place alongside other revolutionary weapons, from HMS Warrior onward, and what better fleet to take this first bold step than the consistently progressive Royal Navy?
The Future British Battle Fleet
The cancellation of the CVF’s would mean the 3 Invincibles would be retired without replacement. This would leave the Navy with 1 aging assault carrier, 6 new missile destroyers, a score of old frigates, and about 6 Astute nuclear submarines. From here she has the core of a modern, 21st century fleet, the Navy of the Future.
Fitting the Type 45s with Tomahawk cruise missiles would greatly enhance the power projection capability of the surface fleet, as it has already with the submarine force. The weapon’s range of 1000 nm would place the ships safely out of attack range of land-based air and most missile threats, unlike the carrier and its small snub fighters, whose range has actually decreased since the Cold War! Each of the dozen subs and destroyers would be like 12 light carriers, without the expense of escorts (they escort themselves!) or the monumental effort of starting a decades-long aircraft program, for so few weapons produced.
Savings can be funneled into replacing the aging HMS Ocean, a very useful platform in wartime and peace, perhaps even a second such vessel being beneficial and now affordable. The plans to produce large C-1 and C-2 frigates should be canceled in favor of light auxiliary cruisers, corvettes, and patrol vessels, probably based on the excellent and affordable River class, certainly off the shelf. The capabilities of auxiliary ships should not be underestimated considering, along with a few land based fighters, the HMS Clyde has been the primary naval defense of the Falklands Islands. Appearance and armament aside, the effectiveness of this vessel is in what she represents, meaning the quick vengeance of the Royal Navy prepared for future threats, not just clinging to past glory.