Eerily enough, what with the current debate on carriers, I was only the other day party to a high-level discussion, in a country with a remarkably similar situation to that in which we unfortunately, and of no fault of anybody, find ourselves. It went something like this: Head of Defence Force (HDF): Minister, weve got a bit of an issue with our aircraft carriers. Fact is we cannot really afford them but weve got huge presentational issues if we do not bring them in to service. Minister: Look General, the PM is having enough problems at the moment, what with the jobs tsar going rogue, and the Shambolympics looking increasingly like an unmanageable security risk and massively over budget to boot. This is the last thing he needs what would you suggest, bearing in mind that he needs a bout of good news pretty damn sharply? HDF: Well minister, Ive had some of my sharpest minds on this, including the best of the bright young innovative officers from the latest staff cohort. We think weve got a plan that may work. Minister: Well come on HDF, out with it. HDF: I suggest we send the first ship out to conduct sea trial in the Indian Ocean. Well man it with a mix of regulars, reservists and RFA-types in order to prove that exciting One Navy concept I briefed you on a few weeks ago, and keep manning down to a minimum in order to prove our leaner, but more effective, manning approach. Well appoint a female Captain, and ensure the crew reflects the true range of diversity that exists across the Service. By doing this well ensure that we tick the Stainwall diversity box, thereby guaranteeing a Top 10 place amongst the nations perversity employers; show the flag in an area where we need to develop trade links; and finally, and most importantly, it will give us an opportunity to test out our military reach in an area of current interest. Minister: Sounds interesting HDF, but how will we project this reach and for what reason? HDF: Minister, its quite simple really. We allow the carrier to conduct sea-trials without its normal escorts (thereby further reinforcing our innovative way of delivering capability) and advertise its presence with a centrally-led media ops campaign, which will be carefully targeted at the Horn of Africa. Concurrently we will despatch one of our top Foreign Office types to Somalia to strike a deal with the local pirate warlords, a deal in which we will allow them to board and take the carrier in return for a large sum of cash, and assurances that no injuries will occur when we re-take the vessel. As part of the deal well supply the warlords with the wherewithal to scupper the ship just before it is boarded. Minister: Brilliant so far. But who will we use to re-take the ship. Didnt I sign off some savage cuts to the SF only last year? HDF: You did Minister, but now weve turned recruiting, selection, and training over to one of our preferred civilian partners, we use these forces far more effectively, with a Platoon- always available within the month and a multiple always at high readiness. Well simply arrange for them to board at the dead of night, accompanied by a full media crew, just after the female captain has made a pre-arranged attempt to break out and overpower the pirates. Win-win all round. Crew rescued, demonstrated our military reach, highlighted the bravery of our female cohort, and although the ship couldnt be saved weve prevented it falling into hostile hands. Minister: HDF, youve played an absolute blinder. Great news story for the PM and well manage to remove the carriers from our defence programme in a way that will negate those all-so-boring presentational issues. Rest assured, HDF, that once you retire next year theyll be a top consultancy place for you on the replacement armoured vehicle programme its people like you that will prevent any future horlicks of this nature. HDF: Minister, I seek only to serve my nation, no more, no less. Anyway, whats the overall package look like?