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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:04 am 
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Large carriers may be preferred, but costs and sustainability are another matter if one does not have an annual defence budget as big as the US DoD.

UK Defence Journal

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Why smaller carriers would be bad idea for the Royal Navy
By
George Allison -
April 19, 2018

The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are the largest surface warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy but many often argue for smaller, cheaper carriers but would this be a good idea? We don’t think so, here’s why.

We’re often asked questions along the lines of “Wouldn’t more, smaller and cheaper carriers be good for the Royal Navy?”, so let’s jump into why I believe they wouldn’t be.

“The reason that we have arrived at what we have arrived at is because to do the initial strike package, that deep strike package, we have done really quite detailed calculations and we have come out with the figure of 36 joint strike fighters
, and that is what has driven the size of it, and that is to be able to deliver the weight of effort that you need for these operations that we are planning in the future. That is the thing that has made us arrive at that size of deck and that size of ship, to enable that to happen

(...SNIPPED)

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:53 am 
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Friedman covered some of the trade offs of smaller carriers in his US Carriers book. During the Carter years his administration looked at "Midway sized" carriers to cut costs. But the Midway's were unable to operate F-14's and couldn't stow their hummers in the hangar. So the new design had to allow for the taller hangar. This then set the required beam for stability reasons. The length of the angled deck is determined by physics - how much distance needed to stop a given mass at landing speeds. The wider hull with the limited displacement shortened the length of the machinery spaces and the fuel/ordinance stowage space, if one kept to the limited displacement. Since the electronics (radars, etc.) are already at a minimum, no savings there. When all was said and done, they had a ship that, with 6 months of marine growth on the hull, could make only 23 knots, which limits the ability to launch in low-wind conditions. It had only two elevators and two catapults. It carried half of the airgoup of a Nimitz with only 2 days of on board fuel and ordinance as opposed to the 7 to 9 days of a Nimitz. However, the construction cost was 90% of the price of a Nimitz and the operating cost was about 80%. So for 80-90% of the cost, you got half the bang for a quarter of the time. The US Navy told Carter, thanks - but NO THANKS! Even the Midway herself (after the time Friedman's book was published) had to be blistered to restore stability, which significantly raised displacement, so even the Midway was no longer "Midway sized".


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:39 pm 
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There is one difference: also the Queen Elizabeth class has no catapults, but is designed for F-35B STOVL variant. But anyway: now they are there now and it is too late to argue about the size. The Royal Navy will likely have problems regarding the operating costs, therefore it could be that only one will be in service.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 3:06 am 
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As Maxim says the carrier's size is likely to be academic. I suspect they will never reach their full capability and the decision not to fit catapults and arrestor wires shows that the Conservatives would rather they had never been built.

They are lumbered with the more expensive and less effective F-35B instead of the F-35C. Crowsnest comes as a kit so that A/S helicopters have to be sacrificed to use it. Apparently it takes 12 hours to convert a Merlin.

As to the future, the 7th Astute class submarine is in danger of being abandoned and apparently the amphibious ships are also being hunted. Without them the carrier's role is less defined and it may be that one or both will soon be up for sale.

It is clear that the UK government has no strategic overview at all. At a time when Europe is in more danger of a conventional war than at any time since WWII (quite something when you think of how close the Cold War came to getting hot at times!) the UK is cutting its armed forces, particularly the navy. It is the navy that keeps the enemy at arm's length and without it we are naked.

We should do one of two things:

a) Accept that we are a tiny nation and the empire has gone, which means getting rid of the navy (and nuclear weapons so beloved by this government) and becoming a neutral and inoffensive nation like most of Scandinavia.

b) Puff out our chest and fund the ships and aircraft and personnel needed to assert our place at the top table.

I am in favour of the former option. Brexit is the slide to a long overdue retirement for the UK. We are not able to keep up with the "great powers" and we should give up trying. Having two aircraft carriers and no aircraft (will the RN ever get their full complement of F-35s?) to fly from them, a small number of escorts and a tiny force of Royal Marines looks like what it is: a desperate attempt to seem important without actually paying what is needed to be important.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:53 am 
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Steel is cheap and air is free.

It's been proven time and time again that trying to make a small carrier isn't economical (CVE stopgaps for very narrow mission profiles aside). I can't believe this argument is still being had, but then again politicians see short term bottom line only.

As for whether they should exist at all in the greater role of the UK in the world, that's a bigger can of worms. The problem with retreating into neutrality is it's all well and good and cosy up until you have no choice but to do whatever other countries say or else. But I do think the UK can afford them, or if it can't it's due to severe resource mismanagement not overall lack of economic clout.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:49 am 
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Steel is cheap, but are the coasts for operation and maintenance also the same for a much larger ship? It is for sure one thing to built ships, but another to operate them. Britain in the last two decades decommissioned many not so old ships to save on the operating costs.

It would be interesting to compare the size of the GDP with the size of the military (and the navies) of different countries. UK's spending is down to 1.8% of the GDP, which is a reasonable amount (compared to the crazy 3.3% of the US, Russia with 5.4% or even Saudi Arabia with 9.8%).

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 2:28 pm 
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Last edited by carr on Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:32 am 
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The Royal Navy was in the 1980s already a navy specialised on ASW - at time of much higher defence spending (and infamous cuts in the social system).

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 2:49 am 
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carr wrote:
Admiral John Byng wrote:
We should do one of two things:

a) getting rid of the navy

b) fund the ships and aircraft and personnel needed


An observation and then a third option:

Observation: From far across the sea, it appears that the UK has prioritized social programs over defense. I suspect you would have enough funds for the Navy you want if you cut back on social programs.

Third Option: Accept being too small (too poorly funded) to establish and operate a full featured, full capability navy and, instead, become a niche navy for the US. For example, the US Navy lacks MCM and ASW. The UK could concentrate on filling those gaps as its contribution to a joint naval force. This would be an insult to the pride of many citizens (see the observation if you don't like feeling this way) but would allow Britain to remain a useful, contributing naval force. The drawback, of course, is that you then become dependent on the US to take the lead in fighting your wars, however, the US has always stood with Britain and always will so, pride aside, it's not much of a risk.


As Maxim says the RN was de facto the ASW arm of NATO in the GIUK gap. That was partly the reason that so many ships were lost in the Falklands war as they were ill equipped to deal with air attacks.

The problem with being a "niche" navy is the same: fewer ships which would be able to undertake general patrol and war fighting duties.

I suspect that politicians have no interest in how wars are fought and they just imagine that if they decide to act the the navy can do what is asked of it. In the past this was the case and that is why Admiral Lewin pressed Margaret Thatcher to send a task force in 1982.

Today such an operation would be much more difficult - impossible probably. Even when the F-35s arrive and the carriers are operational, the navy will probably have so few ships that the UK will be unable to act independently.

While Russia is committing blatant acts of murder and conducting chemical warfare on our soil, the government does not see the need to provide more money for the security of the UK, (a duty that is always the first priority it claims!).

As for the US, it would be better if the UK kept on friendly terms but slightly apart. The US is not always as wise or as benign as we would like. Brexit seems to be pushing us away from Europe and towards the US, but the US has a history of using us when it suits them and otherwise ignoring us. I don't blame them, it is natural that such a large and important nation should behave in this way but it is not in our best interests to get too cosy with it.

In response to your comment that "the US has always stood with Britain" I would point out that we decided to go to war in 1939, the US was FORCED into war in 1941.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:57 am 
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Last edited by carr on Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:14 am 
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carr, Britain was not alone except in Europe as the British Empire was backing her.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:45 am 
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carr wrote:
Being a formal "part" of the USN would also tie the UK and US even tighter together which would address some of your political concerns. Backed by a treaty formalizing the arrangement, the US would be bound to defend the UK's interests.

There is such a treaty in existence since 69 years, called NATO ;) What would be new?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:49 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:53 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:36 am 
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The question exactly is why the NATO was not involved in the Falkland war according to Article 5 of the treaty - it could have be considered as an attack on a member state. But likely Thatcher did not want that, but wanted to demonstrate Britain's power and the ability to act alone. According to the treaty it would have been possible that the NATO would be forced to help Britain (as after 9/11 the terror attack was declared to be an attack on a member state and so the NATO got active in Afghanistan).

Therefore I still do not see any difference. It is already now normal that inside the NATO there is a certain specialisation, e.g. many smaller navies contribute mainly to MCM. E.g. currently the SNMCMG1 has a Belgian commander and consists of Belgian, Dutch, German, and Norwegian ships. Many of the member states, especially the smaller ones, have not the ability to defend themselves alone and are depend on the NATO for its defence (it was anyway always unrealistic that a small country could defend itself successfully against a major power).

/edit: The other question would be for sure, what would be the consequences for Britain: would it be forced to help the USA only in case of an attack or always? The US were not attacked with military means since 1945, but were involved in many wars - in many of which it was legally the aggressor.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 3:07 am 
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maxim wrote:
The question exactly is why the NATO was not involved in the Falkland war according to Article 5 of the treaty - it could have be considered as an attack on a member state. But likely Thatcher did not want that, but wanted to demonstrate Britain's power and the ability to act alone. According to the treaty it would have been possible that the NATO would be forced to help Britain (as after 9/11 the terror attack was declared to be an attack on a member state and so the NATO got active in Afghanistan).

Therefore I still do not see any difference. It is already now normal that inside the NATO there is a certain specialisation, e.g. many smaller navies contribute mainly to MCM. E.g. currently the SNMCMG1 has a Belgian commander and consists of Belgian, Dutch, German, and Norwegian ships. Many of the member states, especially the smaller ones, have not the ability to defend themselves alone and are depend on the NATO for its defence (it was anyway always unrealistic that a small country could defend itself successfully against a major power).

/edit: The other question would be for sure, what would be the consequences for Britain: would it be forced to help the USA only in case of an attack or always? The US were not attacked with military means since 1945, but were involved in many wars - in many of which it was legally the aggressor.


NATO is made up of so many different countries that unity is hard to achieve. Spain was hostile to the UK and supportive of Argentina during the Falklands War. A lot of the other nations were indifferent.

The US was more supportive but was friendly with both countries so Reagan sat on the fence for a long time. Caspar Weinberger did supply the latest model of Sidewinder which helped the Harriers to fight the Mirages and Skyhawks.

The UK could not sign such a treaty with the US. It would be surrendering our right to a separate foreign policy. Although the US has been, mostly, a counterbalance to the Soviet Union and now Russia and China, it has also behaved like a bully on occasion. It is not alone in that, the UK started a war with China in the 19th century over the right to sell opium. All empires (or to use a modern term: superpowers) get into the habit of telling other nations how they should behave.

The new RN carriers are ironically, exactly what is needed at this time if the UK is to stand up to Russian aggression. However, given that the government have not even withdrawn the England team from the World Cup, it is not clear to me that they really understand what is happening and they obviously see words as more effective (or at least cheaper) than action.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 3:48 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 3:57 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:40 pm 
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I do wonder how much more capability the RN and UK in general would have by allowing the more non-British systems and design.

The Type 45s certainly have some impressive capabilities, but what if the Type 45 was built in the UK, with AEGIS and Mk41 instead, saving the development and integration costs of a low production number of systems? Is there reason to not switch over to a 127mm gun from wither the US or Italy?

SeaCeptor is looking very appealing right now - no reason that could have have carried on for integration with Artisan and AEGIS, but there are so many British versions of systems and weapons that I feel the UK could have much more capability if some of those items were let go. PAAMS was a joint venture - but a joint venture that only produced 10 systems - six of them British - no economy of scale there. I am not admonishing the performance of the system - just the economic affordability and future supportability of it.


A good example of the over-reach for pride is all the money put into various programs and overlong support to Nimrod. Excellent birds in their time - but did the UK need a Nimrod AEW when AWACS was already there? did the older Nimrods need to keep flying when economic replacements were at hand in other platforms? These strike me as pride decisions - trying to keep every capability in-house, and in the end they did go to the other viable alternatives out there but only after much of the Crown's money had already been thrown into a black hole.

I don't advocate buying everything from overseas - and the UK certainly already does a good job in some areas - but having domestic full capability in everything is simply untenable in an economic sense for a 'Medium Plus' size military force.

The UK is not a superpower - and that's not a bad thing - it tends to mean less trouble comes looking for you - but is is an economic reality.

I believe the UK defence budget could go farther with a broader consideration of the origin of certain capabilities, and allowing the defence development dollars to be focused on decidedly British items and what is done well (and is exportable) within the UK.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:22 pm 
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