British Conservative Government U-Turn on aircraft carriers?

I'm a proud, avid follower and support of (Our) Britain's HM Armed Forces. Now, I maybe jumping the gun with this question, which relates to the potential outcome of a decision by our current conservative government that remains to be seen. The question of "Do we, or don't we" convert the new HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft Carriers.

To elaborate further I would like to make note of the current conversion costs for HMS QE being banded about, some 1.8 billions pounds sterling. Which I believe encompasses the costs of carrier re-design, production of materials and the installation of traps and Catapults which will be of the new electromagnetic type; Which I've heard figures of around 500 million pounds for this new technology.

I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the Conservatives wish to or are considering reverting back to the F-35B (a heavier, shorter range, less payload, more expensive) VTOL version of the F-35 Lightening II aircraft (in comparison to the F-35C Carrier Variant) which yes, in the short term will save some 1.something billion which would have been plunged into the CATOBAR carrier alterations as stated above.

But... here's the but.... besides the above mentioned cost factors in the short term, it would appear that in the long term we will ultimately be left with; Two VTOL based aircraft carrier's with more expensive, less effective/capable aircraft and no in-interoperability with "allies" which was a key factor for the Conservatives "re-think" of the Labour government lead plans. Last but not least, the fact that the current progress of the VTOL F-35B is now lagging behind that of the carrier variant F-35C, which a real potential of either being scrapped, severely delayed and or a huge (further) leap in costs to Britain which is the second largest contributor to the JSF project, behind that of the USA.

Another point I would like to raise is relating to Thales, the company who won the design contract and came up with the design plans for the CVF carriers. In several promotional videos for CVF Thales has made an effort to point out that the CVF carrier is easily adaptable from ski jump to angled flight decks, to which one would surely think such solid designs were drawn up during the early stages. So why, why is BAE/UK Government/Thales/Babcock/MOD stating such vast quantities of money will be required for the re-design to an angled flight deck when the designs were/likely included during the earlier design stages.

I understand the argument that if we revert back to the B type aircraft we are likely to have 2 operational carriers sooner than later. But politicians in this case are evidently going about their usual of a 5 year (one parliament term) mentality and saving in the short to cost us more in the future. It could easily be possible to convert P.O.W to angled flight decks as planned. Purchase a small quantity of F-35B's (say 12) to give us some projection at sea to place onto QE and convert QE at a later date when funds are and will be available and to purchase the F-35C to fill up both carriers once in CATOBAR config. Why think short term when in the long term it will be more costly, less value to the tax payer and a lower standard in aircraft and carrier.

So to anyone with some good knowledge or history of the above mentioned would care to put forward some ideas/opinions or answers please feel free. What do you think?

To Summerise;

1) Do we or don't we Convert?

2) F-35 B or C

3) Why are re-design's being carried our for angled flight decks with significantly high costs for the project when Thales said it was part of the CVF's future proofing.

If you can take time to answer/discuss or bring light to any of the other above mentioned issues I have raised then please feel free...... And Thank you.

6 Answers

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  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    I never saw the point of new carrier for VTOL carriers, we already had these carriers proven and still do as I understand Illustrious will remain in service as a heli carrier. Building these 2 CVF carriers as STOVL will tie us into F35B's.

    The problem we have is the aircraft and carrier decision is linked which it should not be. We should have CATOBAR capability and then invite tender for the aircraft. One of the delays is the EMAL system. The US have this in test (youtube EMAL) but the UK have to wait for BAe and partners to develop this (7 years and several billion pounts). The US believe the system will cost 400-500 million.

    BAe remain part of the problem. They have a vested interest in the F35, it looks like the F35C is going to take longer to be operational, the risk is for BAe with CATOBAR is it gives the F18 Hornet and the Rafale or even a future Sea Gripen a chance to complete all of which would be much cheaper than the F35B or C. Although less capable, still highly capable aircraft.

    Which brings me to one further point. During world war 2 we used the Spitfire to go after the 109's and the lower spec Hurricanes to go after bombers. The point is you don't need to use the highest spec/cost aircraft all of the time. I believe France mission costs over Libya were some what less than the UK as they were also able us the Mirage on low risk targets which has a reduced operational cost when compared to the Rafale. The UK will be forced to fly the F35B on every mission at a very high cost if we go with VTOL or STOVL.

    Totally agree with comment on the redesign. Thales did state that it would be easy to covert these carriers.

    Don't forget that BAe is awash with ex- UK top brass and heavily influence the UK decision making.

    1)We should go with CATOBAR.

    2)Some F35B's and F35C's (B's could be used on illustrious in the future too). But UK should consider a mix of aircraft for carrier ops (I would like to see a Sea Gripen in the future but more likely the F18 Super Hornet would be a the choice)

    3)I Don't know why the redesign is so high, it should be much lover given Thales sales pitch. Looks like manipulation to ensure tie in to F35B.

    The UK is no longer thinking clearly on this issue and ultimately it could cost UK service mens lives at worst or large amounts of tax payer money at best.

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  • Lisa
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    The UK Royal Navy has no aircraft carriers. The Through Deck Cruisers of the Illustrious Class now carry Harrier GR7's and helicopters. The Navy has no Sea Harriers. The last of the Sea Harriers went to the Indian Navy, with HMS Hermes. Comparing the size of the Royal Navy TDC with the nuclear powered USN Fleet Carriers is not a like for like comparison. The USN Carrier Groups, of which there are 5 at the moment is a complete armada, self sufficient and self protecting, even down to nuclear powered hunter killer submarines. It could be argued that when fitted with cruise missiles these subs make the CBG obsolete as it is so vulnerable to attack from small, high powered, fast attach suicide boats. The Aegis Cruisers of USN CBG are amongst the most advanced cruisers in the world, being able to track and destroy many sub sea, sea and air targets at the same time. The US uses its CBG to extend its political will around the world. The Royal Navy are hoping to take delivery of two large aircraft carriers in 2012 or thereabouts. Currently they could not operate because the rest of the surface fleet is unable to protect them. They could only operate in conjunction with USN CBG's. Nothing changes. In 1936 the Admiralty could not afford to upgrade the deck armour on HMS Hood, and look what happened to her.

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  • 8 years ago

    You seem to know more about this subject, then those that sit on their fat backsides, who are blessed with making a decision on matters they have no knowledge of.

    Very interesting in what you have stated.

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  • 8 years ago

    The 35B has a poor pay load, and not even the Marine Corps. can be sure that production will continue. The tail hook of the 35C was not picking the arrester wire up during recent trials, it appears the hook needs to be further back. I believe our government cancelled the 35B order in November 2011. We can only co-operate with the Americans and French if we use the 35C. There is no spare capacity in the engines for steam catapults ( we chose not to go nuclear ), and the electromagnetic design remains unproven. The cost of the whole project is begining to overwhelm even the Americans, and for the first time the US Navy has agreed to use single seat/single engine jet aircraft on it's carriers. The F22 twin engine aircraft ( Raptor ) was I believe superceded by the F35 on the grounds of cost. If GCHQ is reading this, I got all my information from the internet, and I am as puzzled as the next enthusiast as to what is going on . My understanding is we are building the carriers because it will be cheaper than paying cancellation charges, due to the contract between BAE and the previous government

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  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    You are trying to put common sense into a government decision.To really analyse this you would have to look at corruption,bribes and the politics.When looking at government decisions forget loyalty,patriotism ,common sense and look at greed,selfishness and corruption.

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  • 8 years ago

    Instead of paying $230 million for those crappy F35's, the UK should produce it's own fighter jets which would bring more jobs to UK and most probably cost less.

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