VTOL aircraft for new carriers

transcript of the release by Hammond

"In my message to the Department just before the Easter Break, I brought you up to date on the progress being made on the PR12 budget and the equipment plan.

Before, we can finalise that process, we need to address one specific aspect of the plan – the Carrier-Strike programme.

I am announcing to Parliament today significant changes to the programme and I wanted to let you know what was behind those decisions.

As you know, the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review committed us to building our future Carrier Strike capability based around the new Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers and the new Joint Strike Fighter.

The strategic decisions in the SDSR was that this capability should be based on the carrier variant of the JSF, rather than the STOVL variant, with the one carrier, initially, converted to operate with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System or ‘cats and traps’.

It was envisaged at the time that this would add about £1bn to the cost of the programme but result in decreased through life-costs, and with the first carrier having initial operating capability with its jets around 2020.

These decisions were difficult and finely balanced – taking into account cost, risk, capability and availability – and, based on the information available at the time, they were the right decisions.

But if the facts change, we should retain the flexibility to change our minds –to adjust the programme to make sure we have the most effective solution.

As the programme has matured, and more detailed analysis has been carried out by suppliers, it has become clear that the conversion to ‘cats and traps’ will cost about double what was originally estimated – and would not be delivered until 2023 at the earliest.

That is unacceptable.

The cost growth distorts the equipment budget crowding out other important investment in the Armed Forces.

And the delay extends the time period when our Armed Forces lack a carrier-strike capability.

The most cost effective route to deliver Carrier Strike by 2020 is now to switch to the STOVL variant of the Joint Strike Fighter.

We will complete the build of both carriers with ski-jumps, in the STOVL configuration – giving us the ability to provide continuous carrier availability throughout the life of the ships.

Although the range of the STOVL variant is lower, it is a 5th generation stealth aircraft – with a range significantly greater than the Harrier - and represents a step change in the UK’s combat air capability.

The STOVL variant has been significantly de-risked since the SDSR, and flight trials from American ships have taken place, with a US Marine Corps initial operating capability date of 2014 declared.

On the basis of the latest information, we can plan to start flight trials with STOVL JSF off the HMS Queen Elizabeth from 2018.

The STOVL variant will also allow us to simultaneously operate helicopters and jets from the QE Class thereby increasing our amphibious capability as part of the concept of Carrier-enabled Power Projection.

The weapons payload envisaged for the UK JSF fleet remains unchanged – either variant can accommodate it.

Setting aside the decision made in the SDSR is difficult, but it is right in the light of the facts in front of us.

There will be criticism of the Government – and of the Department.

But I am clear that it is the right decision for the long-term that matters – not any short-term discomfort that comes.

The CDS and Chiefs of Staff have confirmed to me that they believe this represents the best way ahead for our Armed Forces.

Our principle allies – the US and France – are comfortable with the choice we have made.

This decision now paves the way to finalise the work we have been doing on the Defence budget and equipment programme and I expect to be able make an announcement on that in the very near future."

Who gives a shit what France think? Did we inform them so that they are aware of exactly what they should surrender to?
There are other threads, but since this is the shortest, I'll comment here - that's not a u-turn, it's a donut


Book Reviewer
At the risk of being labelled one of ' the usual suspects', and to allow people to make up their own minds there's a piece on the MoD website :

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that plans to deliver Carrier Strike capability will now be executed using a different type of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet than was planned.

The MOD will move away from the Carrier Variant (CV) JSF and our Armed Forces will instead operate the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant JSF.

Even with this change in JSF jet type, the MOD's plan to deliver Carrier Strike in 2020, as a key part of Future Force 2020, is still on schedule.

Speaking to the House of Commons this morning, Mr Hammond outlined the reasons this decision has been made. They included:

• sticking with the Carrier Variant would delay Carrier Strike by at least three years to 2023 at the earliest;

• the cost of fitting catapults and arrestor gear ('cats and traps') to the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers to operate CV aircraft has doubled from around £1bn to £2bn; and

• the STOVL aircraft offers the UK the ability to have an aircraft carrier available continuously. Although no decision on budgeting for crew and support costs will be taken until the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015, the second carrier would be able to provide capability while the first vessel is in maintenance.

The STOVL aircraft has made significant progress since the SDSR was published over 18 months ago and the US Marine Corps has conducted successful STOVL flights from their ships.

The UK will receive the first STOVL aircraft this summer and, as HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive for sea trials in early 2017, UK STOVL flight trials will begin off the carrier from 2018.

"Carrier Strike with 'cats and traps' using the Carrier Variant jet no longer represents the best way of delivering Carrier Strike andI am not prepared to tolerate a three-year further delay to reintroducing our Carrier Strike capability."
Philip Hammond

The SDSR stated that we wanted to develop joint maritime task groups with our allies. Through the adoption of the STOVL aircraft, the UK will benefit from full interoperability with the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy - both of which operate the STOVL aircraft.

Mr Hammond said:

"The 2010 SDSR decision on carriers was right at the time, but the facts have changed and therefore so too must our approach. This Government will not blindly pursue projects and ignore cost growth and delays.

"This announcement means we remain on course to deliver Carrier Strike in 2020 as a key part of our Future Force 2020."

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said:

"Our Armed Forces have a successful history of operating short take-off and vertical landing aircraft and our pilots are already flying trials in this variant of the Joint Strike Fighter alongside our US allies.

"These stealth aircraft will be the most advanced fast jets our Armed Forces have ever operated and I know they will do so with the greatest skill and professionalism."

...and for those on DII ( no, not you at the back )



Book Reviewer
Which bit of your post is different to the one posted 5 minutes before it?
The bit with the video of SofS talking to his people - which you won't have been able to view? :)

Yeah fair cop....at least I can spell doughnut correctly....whether they are for Dunkin' or not...

Pigshyt said:
You just get the MoD to draw up the contract
...or indeed offer the work to a company that has historically thought it could charge WTF it liked because MoD would cough up, having foolishly allowed said company to become a monopoly supplier ....

You should be heartily cheering the fact that somebody has apparentely found sufficient spine to tell BAes where to get off.

Anyway, I'm going to scratch my head. Here's a link to a post elsewhere from me that may be of interest:


Interesting. Surely if the build was slowed for political reasons, then it can be speeded back up?

Also I understand that there is nothing to stop Illustrious being retained post 2014 (until QE comes along). Even in a LPH role, having more than one flat top gives a margin of safety in case of accidents or other unexpected things (Lusty recently sustained some damage on exercise). Things do crop up - like this possible deployment to Somalia.

Mach Two

Perhaps this would be better discussed on the "No cats and flaps ...... back to F35B" thread?

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[TD="class: alt2"]We don't have any to embark. The UK doesn't operate Harriers.

I have noticed that. But other countries do, and their jets could be embarked. There was also talk at one time of an RN Hornet squadron - why not an RN AV8B squadron?

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[TD="class: alt2"]If F35B is chosen, the RN and RAF pilots need to be worked up on that, not a type we no longer have.

What about the guys flying the F/A18? The UK has never operated that, and I think the idea for RN guys to fly them was to build CTOL experience. If the future is not CTOL, but V/STOL, then perhaps training on AV8B will be more suitable for a future transition of F35B? An RN AV8B squadron has other attractions too (such as giving us back a task force capability this decade). The politicians (the PM mostly) looked into the crystal ball with closed eyes, and saw nothing unexpected this decade.

The Americans want to UK to have a decent carrier capability - seeing us as a very important ally.

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[TD="class: alt2"]Carrier crews will need to be worked-up once the new carrier is being introduced to service. Quite a way to go yet.

Hmm! I am not sure the Officers quoted here would agree:

The lack of adequately training personnel could delay the carrier coming into service by another three or four years, the Navy commander has said.

Another officer has told The Telegraph that the loss of carrier deck handling skills could prove "disastrous" with fatal accidents caused by inexperienced ratings.

Or indeed the First Sea Lord: Loss of Carrier Strike Capability Top Concern of Royal Navy Chief

F35B or F35C, we still have to get there. Current policy does not answer several key questions?

How will we maintain and develop carrier related skills this decade?

What will we do if we need to provide a task group with air defence beyond the range of ship based sensors and weapons, or if ROE demand positive ID before things can be engaged?

How will we make up for the shortfall in maritime force projection, given that SSN numbers will decline this decade, so there will be less TLAM shooters, and Apache is limited in sped, range, and payload, and available only in limited numbers?

These were (and still are) the issues discussed on the Decision to axe Harrier is "bonkers" thread.

In late 2009 I remember listening to a briefing by the Fleet Air Arm Command Warrant Officer, who emphasised the need to have more jets embarked as sea for longer periods, to build up both individual and corporate experience. Sometimes the whole ship aspects are forgotten about - but they are key to safe and efficient aviation operations.

A lot of things have to come together, not just the chockheads being confident and experienced in handling jets on a moving deck, but also the OOW keeping the ship on the right course and speed and understanding the movement limitations ship and aircraft place upon each other, the watchkeepers in the Ship Control Centre keeping the deck trim and flashing up power when needed, operators and maintainers of various sensors, communications, and landing aids, the Cdr(Air) et al running things, etc.

I am very reluctant to post an article by a politician who was described as a failure by those she was/is meant to represent (as their MP), but here we go:

'The government only has itself to blame for any carrier strike U-turn'
I wonder if the cost issue is the only one, or if training and skills (and current capabilities this decade) come into it? Issues which, of course, were discussed at length both on PPRuNe as well as on here and other places?
Now firmly convinced we will never see any version of JSF & have severe doubts that the carriers will ever enter service (with the RN).
With the caveat that its a politician speking and therefor not trustworthy....

He does say both carriers will be operational which is a big step forward.

My intial reaction was that somebody needs to make their mind up but on reflection I think I prefer a government that isn't afraid to change a decision if they doubt they made the right one in the first place.
He does say both carriers will be operational which is a big step forward.
With the caveat that its a politician speking and therefor not trustworthy....
... I think I prefer a government that isn't afraid to change a decision...
Cut'n'paste, your words, different slant.


The CDS and Chiefs of Staff have confirmed to me that they believe this represents the best way ahead for our Armed Forces.

It seems it's what our Lords & Masters in the Armed Forces want so who are we to question the decision?

Personally I'm amazed someone in the MoD has decided NOT to spend more money but LESS!
The CDS and Chiefs of Staff have confirmed to me that they believe this represents the best way ahead for our Armed Forces.
Ach, you can drive a coach and horses through a statement like that. Given a choice of 'it's this or nothing' or 'it's this but very much less' then it's bound to get backing.

The very fact that he had to say that, rather than have the decision and announcement come from the government and the government alone, shows he's looking for all the justification he can find.

I thought bestiality was illegal in this country, but what we're seeing here is a major goat-****.
The CDS and Chiefs of Staff have confirmed to me that they believe this represents the best way ahead for our Armed Forces.

It seems it's what our Lords & Masters in the Armed Forces want so who are we to question the decision?

Personally I'm amazed someone in the MoD has decided NOT to spend more money but LESS!
Pity they made the saving by cutting capabilities though.
Latest update on F-35 test and evaluation program (sic). Of interest, the UK's first production F-35 II Lightning (STOL Variant) made its first flight on April 13th.


Eight years is not much time to recreate the carrier capability - assuming that the test, evaluation and training programme runs to schedule, and to budget!
It doesnt, what cost money is the indecisions to fix a design.

1, Design and price a carrier with a ramp
2, Change the design to a catapult and an arrestor system
3, Claim that the engineering difference between the two is so insignificant that any internet warrior can claim to be a procurement expert and bag a supplier.

It has **** all to do with Big Arrogant Expensive SYSTEMS - if it were technically possible to create a cats and traps redundant carrier when you have designed a STOVL based system without an increase in cost then you would have one. The fact is, the difference between the two is so huge technically (and therefore costly) the government indecision which historically is hidden in public owned entities highllights what a waste of money the UK has lived with. Now if only we can privatise the NHS and welfare state.

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