CVF and Carrier Strike thread

MOD Post - This is a merge of several CVF/F35 threads. Forum rules apply


From The Grauniad: (Richard Norton-Taylor)

Britain's troubled and increasingly expensive plan to equip the navy with new aircraft carriers has been plunged into fresh turmoil as ministers consider reversing their earlier decision to change the type of plane that should fly from them, it has emerged.

The government announced in last autumn's strategic defence review that it had decided to buy the "cats and flaps" (catapults and arrester gear) version of the US joint strike fighter. This would have a "longer range and greater payload ... the critical requirement for precision-strike operations in the future", the government stated.

Moreover, the government added, it will be cheaper. It would also enable French planes to land on British carriers, and vice versa, inkeeping with the new UK-French defence spirit of co-operation.

Now, in an extraordinary volte-face, the Ministry of Defence says the "cats and flaps" planes may well be cheaper but it would be too expensive to redesign a carrier – more than £1bn – to accommodate them. The ministry is thus faced with the prospect of renegotiating a deal with the US, reverting to its original plan – namely buying the short take-off and vertical landing version of the aircraft, even though it is acknowledged to be less effective and more expensive .

The latest chapter in the troubled saga of Britain's future aircraft carriers – whose own estimated costs have soared – was raised on Thursday in a letter to the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, from Jim Murphy, his Labour opposite number.

Murphy referred to "worrying suggestions" that the government was about to change its mind about the kind of aircraft to buy from the US. "It is vital that there is now clarity on the government's plans for this vital area of the defence equipment programme," he wrote.

Murphy said the decision in the defence review to scrap the Harrier fleet meant the UK would have no carrier aircraft capability until 2020 – and then only one carrier would be operational.

Defence officials said that the government was "re-assessing" its earlier decision because, they indicated, of pressures on the defence budget.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first carrier, will be mothballed immediately it is launched in 2016, according to existing plans. The second, HMS Prince of Wales, will be able to put to sea by 2020, but it is not known how many planes will be able to fly from it – nor what kind.

The two carriers, originally priced at £3.5bn, are now estimated to cost £6.2bn. According to the Commons public accounts committee, the cost is likely to icrease to as much as £12bn.

The government, which originally said it wanted more than 100 joint strike fighters, says that it will have just six operational ones by 2020. The unit cost of the joint strike fighter, made by Lockheed Martin, has soared because of production problems and delays caused by US defence budget cuts. Britain's BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce have big stakes in a future deal adapting the joint strike fighter for British forces.

A spokesperson for the MoD said: "We are currently finalising the 2012-13 budget and balancing the equipment plan. As part of this process, we are reviewing all programmes, including elements of the carrier strike programme, to validate costs and ensure risks are properly managed. The defence secretary expects to announce the outcome of this process to parliament before Easter."
How bloody embarrassing!
Wouldn't read too much into it. The Grun is turning into a left wing version of the Daily Mail. Not long ago they were comparing Tory cuts to the Holocaust.

Best of all, they got the boot in with gusto to the government's work experience scheme, comparing it to slavery. Very soon after, they posted ads for their own scheme for black people to gain work experience as unpaid interns.

Seems the Guardian believes that slavery is OK so long as all of your slaves are black.
I think JBM has a point - this is not another Harrie thread but a sad reflection of the state of thinking within the MoD. And if they're thinking like this for the Senior Service, heaven help us on Land.
I swear the MOD procument stratagy makes me want to gouge my eyes out, with a spoon!

I don't know if it is true, but if it is I wouldn't be surprised in any way.

£12b for 2 carriers? How much does a Nimitiz Class cost? Could we buy a second hand one? Or would that mean we would have to double the amount of people in the Navy just to man that one ship.

You couldn't make it up, could you? The obvious area to save wedge is on the aircraft themselves - buy the FA-18 to equip HMS Pow/Ark Royal/whatever it is this week; 24 airframes i.e. what the RAAF have leased should cover it and use the USN training pipeline to train the crews. Job jobbed.
You couldn't make it up, could you? The obvious area to save wedge is on the aircraft themselves - buy the FA-18 to equip HMS Pow/Ark Royal/whatever it is this week; 24 airframes i.e. what the RAAF have leased should cover it and use the USN training pipeline to train the crews. Job jobbed.
Thats far too ******* sensible though isn't it?

I'll wait and see what the 'Thin Pinstriped Line' has to say on this matter before commenting on the story, there's always more to a story than the newspapers like to say, especially with the chuffing Guardian.
At some point we have to admit to ourselves that we've based our entire future plans for the RN round a single aircraft which appears to now be priced at roughly the same kind of level as unicorn tears or Pippa Middleton's CFT knickers and which has it's own future based entirely on the US' plans (as I can't see the UK being able to fund the STOVL type alone if the US decide not to proceed with it).

I really don't see how we can continue along this road any more. We're making multi billion pound decisions that are entirely dependant on the US' military budget not being cut too far.

It might well be time to decide to buy 50 odd F/A-18 instead and throw the cash saved into developing our own next generation UAVs to replace them with in 20 years. Otherwise we may end up with the two biggest helicopter carriers in history if the F-35B falls through.
Yep, the F-35C is now the vulnerable to being cancelled version after the recent US cuts announcements.

USAF 'need' the F-35A to replace it's ancient and falling aprt fleet of F-16's and F-15's
USMC and assorted Allies have to have the F-35B, especially the USMC for it's large number of Amphibs built around organic fast air.

The F-35C is USN, (and belatedly UK) only and the USN already has a functional strike plane and fighter in the form of teh F-18E/F
Extremely interesting - if true, (and that is a large IF) then it demonstrates that PR12 was really rather brutal for the RN.

Couple of thoughts here - firstly, it shows that the RN has considered, even if only to show demonstrative costs, how much it would cost to go back to the old STOVL plans. Clearly it shows some fairly rigorous staffwork being considered on the costings front, which in turn implies a level of attention being paid to CVF that I'd thought beyond scrutiny in the post SDSR environment.

Secondly, my gut instinct is that PR12 has been fairly unpleasant for a lot of people, and that there will be a drip feed of things coming out soon. The fact that an announcement is intended is intriguing - usually these are dimissed as ill founded rumour. Clearly something is going to be announced, although what it is is less clear.

Additionally, its worth considering that this is one report which has been leaked. if its been leaked its because someone has an agenda to follow. My view here would be its possible that at some stage in the planning round, someone chose to ask for a cost breakdown, and really dig into this. Now, its equally possible that this is for an option that has since been discounted (e.g. the delete red arrows, scrap trooping the colour type options). Equally it could be a last minute thing. What matters is what the document is, and the context in which it was written.

Another point - the STOVL / CTOL switch was something that was high profile, and led to some fairly wide ranging assumptions on RN FW aviation. In itself, I would argue that it will not impact heavily on the generation of seedcorn capability in the back end of the decade - but it would mean reassigning RN personnel off the USN FW plot, and onto the USMC plot again. There will also be a need to consider how to regenerate the STOVL skills lost over the next few years if the measure is taken. This means an interesting and robust discussion with the USN, who may be less than impressed!

I am genuinely somewhat perplexed by this story, and can't help but wonder where its come from.
How many F/A 18s could we buy with the money allocated to buy the 100 JSF? How much more/less would it cost to maintain these?

Surely having many more slightly less capable aircraft is far better? Surely any conflict where we would need the F35s enhanced capabilities compared to a super hornet would be a nuclear one?

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