Saturday, 18 November 2017
logo
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
        



dv-header-dday
     |      View our Twitter page at twitter.com/defenceredbox     |     

defencenews

There was a hint today from UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox that there could be a radical change to the new aircraft carriers already under construction.

When the design was first unveiled, some play was made of the fact that they were "adaptable" - i.e. while the principal plan was to operate STOVL aircraft (F-35B replacing Harriers) the design could allow for catapults and arrester wires to be installed instead.

Writing in The Times, Dr Fox criticised "the decision  to order aircraft carriers that are not fully interoperable with our two closest allies - the United States and France. Neither the French Rafale nor the US Navy's planned version of the Joint Strike Fighter could land or take off from our carriers.

"The design of the carriers also meant that the variant of JSF as planned is the most expensive."

Although he goes on to say that "getting the carriers right would take longer and is likely to cost more", there are clear seeds there. After all, the F-35C - US Navy variant - is cheaper, has a longer range and greater "throw weight". This could justify a reduction in numbers on the basis of greater capability, and although time is money - as today's National Audit Office Major Projects Report clearly shows - there wouldn't be too much gnashing of teeth if delay in bringing the new carriers into service could be sold as being on the basis of capability and flexibility  not just expedience.

Then there's the politics. On November 2nd French President Sarkozy meets Prime Minister David Cameron at Portsmouth. Sarkozy is about to order more Rafales, a decision that is causing great scandal in Paris as he's accused of giving a "sweetener" to Serge Dassault to buy Le Parisien newspaper which would then back Sarkozy in the run-ip to the 2012 Presidentail elections. France also has its defence budget problems. It needs a second carrier to augment the small, under powered Charles de Gaulle. Bear in mind that France pitched in a nine figure sum at the design stage of the new UK carriers, so they have good visibility of its technical spec.  

How convenient would be the ability for maritime Rafales to hitch a ride on a UK carrier instead? And what a driver for the much-mooted improved Anglo-French defence co-operation.

And again today, US Secretary of State Clinton is reported to be concerned about defence cuts and says "Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contribution." How valuable would it be for Cameron to call Clinton and say "well, we've taken it to heart and we're going to make our carriers more interoperable with yours - and remember that our new strategic tanker aircraft use probe and drogue like the US Navy do, so we can keep backing you up with logistics as we have over Afghanistan so far". Added to which France is in the market for strategic tankers, so some kind of joint force would be another warm fuzzy for Britfrogs to push the way of the cousins.

Last straw in the wind? Recently a dozen UK Forces personnel have been undergoing training on cat and trap operations over in the USA.... 

 

To clarify : In the 6 years 2005 - 2010 31 Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel underwent training as pilots, landing safety officers or weapons ssytems officers on US carriers. The tempo is picking up : in the 3 years 2011-2013, which of course is right in the middle of  the UK carrier build programme, a further 51 will be trained.

In answer to a Parliamentary question, Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever said : "The current design of the proposed "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carriers is also configured for the Short-Takeoff and Vertical Landing aircraft variant of the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) but this carrier design could be adapted for the operation of catapult-assisted take-off aircraft. If this option is chosen, the training plan would be altered."

In other words, are we already training the trainers?

Comments 

 
+1 #1 mike 2010-10-15 13:13
Perhaps I am clutching at straws but the one part of his article that stood out for me was 'getting the carriers right would take longer and IS likely to cost more' The IS suggesting that it is going to be done.
Also no reasonable explanation has ever been forthcoming from the MOD as to why these dozen pilots are being trained for cat and trap.
If those skills are not to be used in the future it would seem a pointless exercise as well as a complete waste of more defence sector money.
Quote
 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Cookies
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.