Alternatives to CVF

Purpletrouble

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CVF was always going to replace the LPH role. I was briefed on that as far back as 2003? when I first worked with the program. The only vague notion was LHDs as replacements for the Albions.

The idea was for a flexible ship able to do anything albeit largely dominated by the strike case. Hermes in 82 was often mentioned and there was a big picture of this in one of the offices. Note how Ark Royal operated in 2003.

It seems to have been the media and enthusiast world that really went down the simplistic “strike carrier” route, not helped by the politicians (civil and uniformed!), and excerbated by the brief CATOBAR excursion led by the ill informed Fox et al, rapidly restored. The RN had a more nuanced view and much of it did (and does) resent the (over) concentration of resource on them. The lack of afloat support and even airframes was described as “(evidence) this bloody project was completely ill conceived and unfunded” by a submariner I know.

If you go back to early CVF videos you’ll see Chinooks, Apaches on humanitarian and peace keeping missions. Hence why interoperability was there from the outset.

The problem has throughout been that SDR98 was, finances wise, fiction. What was proposed as a force structure and the replacement kit require could not be acquired for the stated costs. Hence the endless cuts to get programs within cost (T45) or cut entirely.

All of this has been done with political and financial considerations driving the decisions, and hence the structure, which appeared balanced is now very distorted. The RN which was expected to be a globally deployed force able to concentrate when needed, is now very increasingly built around just one pillar.

As an alternative - the Italian/Spanish ships seem just as suited to the expected UK deployable fast jet force and are better designed for multi-role ops. Yes “air is free, steel is cheap” but the difference between their and CVF costs would have say funded additional surface ships.

I think the loss of littoral capability, which these ships are far better suited to, is far more damaging than the gain of a large airfield from which relatively little can be done that host nation facilities cant provide, and having been part of maritime ops- host nation access is vital anyway, including for air bridge of people and kit plus sustainment logistics.
 

Archibald

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As an alternative - the Italian/Spanish ships seem just as suited to the expected UK deployable fast jet force and are better designed for multi-role ops.

Brilliantly said, very interesting post. Let me add my little opinion, for what's it worth.

I'm more and more convinced that the aircraft carrier is presently re-inventing itself from very large ambious ships (30 000 to 50 000 tons).
With the help of
- the last AV-8B Harrier II (F-18 radar & AMRAAMs into that airframe - Spanish and Italian navies, and USMC, say "thank you")
- the F-35B, which adds stealth and supersonic to the above
- the V-22 Osprey, which does the same for "transport" but also ASW, COD, assault, and many other roles.

I mean, present situation of CATOBAR carriers is NOT encouraging for wannabee candidates
- Nimitz and Ford are formidable, but insanely expensive
- Charles de Gaulle is a loner and a notable exception to the rule (although France will carry on, no matter what)
- China has just entered the game, but just like the USN, has colossal means for colossal ships
- Russia is hesitating (incidentally, they never build a CATOBAR !)

Everyone else is out.

Hence the Spanish, Italians, USMC, followed by Japan and South Korea - and observed by many others - are trying a "third way".
They started from Zumwalt SCS (Garibaldi, Asturias - some others), what I call "small Harrier carriers".
Yet they won't replace them with similar ships, larger.
The Spanish navy has retired Asturias five years ago, Garibaldi won't last forever either, and guess what replaced them ?
- Juan Carlos
- Cavour
Ultra-large amphibious ships with Harriers, F-35B, and eventually Ospreys, on the deck.

Then USMC is gently asked by the USN to help solving the lack of supercarriers by turning some of the larger amphibious into "escort carriers" by packing them with F-35B.

Interesting times. Maybe France should consider growing Mistrals to the size of Italian or USMC amphibious (40 000 tons average), and then put EMALs on them to launch Rafale M... and tadaaaam, two aircraft carriers at far lower cost... than CdG, Q.E, or nuclear 75 000 tons monsters...
 
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1Big Rich

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Then USMC is gently asked by the USN to help solving the lack of supercarriers by turning some of the larger amphibious into "escort carriers" by packing them with F-35B.

Excellent point. Many are labeling the big-deck amphibious ships as CVL if outfitted with mostly fixed wing,, but you're right in that CVE is a better description,

Regards,
 

Trident

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As an alternative - the Italian/Spanish ships seem just as suited to the expected UK deployable fast jet force and are better designed for multi-role ops. Yes “air is free, steel is cheap” but the difference between their and CVF costs would have say funded additional surface ships.

This is something which has always baffled me about CVF. Sortie rate is stated as the chief reason why the ships absolutely had to be as large as they are, but that (along with stealth) implies operations against a peer adversary which can supply a sufficiently large target set. This scenario is hard to reconcile with lack of fixed wing AEW and the poor payload/range of the F-35B (the other models are in fact excellent in this regard) however. And even if we give the sortie rate argument the benefit of the doubt, does one CVF really generate more sorties than two Cavours?

It seems that four Cavours (or three plus more escorts and supply ships, as you suggest) operating something less gold-plated like P.1216 would have served the stated aims of CVF far better than two 65k ton monstrosities with exquisite F-35s. Offers the added flexibility of being able to operate in more places at the same time when the high sortie rate is not needed, too. Alternatively, if you're going to insist on high-intensity warfare capability, do it right and put up EMALS/AAG, E-2D and Rafale M or F-35C.
 
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Purpletrouble

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As an alternative - the Italian/Spanish ships seem just as suited to the expected UK deployable fast jet force and are better designed for multi-role ops. Yes “air is free, steel is cheap” but the difference between their and CVF costs would have say funded additional surface ships.

This is something which has always baffled me about CVF. Sortie rate is stated as the chief reason why the ships absolutely had to be as large as they are, but that (along with stealth) implies operations against a peer adversary which can supply a sufficiently large target set. This scenario is hard to reconcile with lack of fixed wing AEW and the poor payload/range of the F-35B (the other models are in fact excellent in this regard) however. And even if we give the sortie rate argument the benefit of the doubt, does one CVF really generate more sorties than two Cavour?

It seems that four Cavours (or three plus more escorts and supply ships, as you suggest) operating something less-gold plated like P.1216 would have served the stated aims of CVF far better than two 65k ton monstrosities with exquisite F-35s. Offers the added flexibility of being able to operate in more places at the same time when the high sortie rate is not needed, too. Alternatively, if you're going to insist on high-intensity warfare capability, do it right and put up EMALS/AAG, E-2D and Rafale M or F-35C.
The size is predicated on the airwing size and SGR yes, and is of course the size required for CATOBAR. It makes STOVL takeoff/recovery (rolling with additional bringback) better but smaller could still have achieved the reqmt.

Its pure size really - I think they looked at airframe numbers from 1991, the Balkans and it is for that 36-48 jets plus attachments. in some ways a real desire to refight the Falklands better (no other conflict requiring carriers...)

Since then UK fast jet deployments have been more like <12 partly by cost partly by pure smart weapons.


It was commented to me both ships magazine storage could take something like 2/3rds of all UK air weapons. (My reply, why? didn’t get an answer!)

I absolutely believe it is a superb STOVL platform and yes it’ll kick the arse out of SGR for the 30k ships. But is that reason to go to 65+ ?

Disagree on F35B range- it exceeds the requirement and I really would not put much store by paper comparisons vs how fast jets are used.

P1216 looks awesome concept but sorry, F35B was and is the only next gen STOVL.

I think 2 smaller ships with the savings on surface combatants would have been a better bet.Better still not have built Albion/Bulwark (or done it 10 years earlier avoiding a gap with predecessors) to give the opportunity to combine into multi role ships would have been better. 2 LHD/A with 6-12 F35B capacity and the rest helos would be fine for the UK. CVF with dozens is a solution looking for a problem.

I know they’ve ditched more optimised LPH mods to PoW, that seems to suggest they can’t run both at the same time, so strike comes first for the available hull.

The multi-role intent seems to have disappeared over time, I think there is a strong element of hubris, and perhaps a misplaced sense of trying to have a driving rationale for them and the RN. Certainly everything seems subverted now for CEPP - which was not the line or atmosphere 10-20 years ago.
The multi-role intent seems to have disappeared over time, I think there is a strong element of hubris, and perhaps a misplaced sense of trying to have a driving rationale for them and the RN. Certainly everything seems subverted now for CEPP - which was not the line or atmosphere 10-20 years ago.

I am afraid to me the current ships are both white elephants and cuckoos. The RN will continue to pay a heavy price (and this is what CVA cancellation saved).
 

helmutkohl

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rather than make a new topic about it..

what if the CVF/QE class was built as a CATOBAR carrier instead of STOVL?
they came nearly close to going that route, before realizing it was too expensive to convert it.
but what if they had made this decision much earlier?

- how different would the air wing be?
- would it improve cross country cooperation with France and US?
- how would it affect financial and human resources (costs to buy and operate, staffing differences, etc)
- would overall capabilities change?
 

Archibald

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Rafale would have a chance - they briefly discussed the matter before going back to F-35B and ski jump.

Too late to rescue PA2, however, which is quite a bit sad. Sarkozy dumped it in 2008 and it is one of the few, if only, decisions where I agree with the tiny agressive a$$hole.

Main issue: unlike Clem' & Foch, would have resulted in two totally different carriers, nuclear and non-nuclear: something unaffordable to present French Navy (three Mistrals plus a very troubled Frigates procurement process = no way).
 

EwenS

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rather than make a new topic about it..

what if the CVF/QE class was built as a CATOBAR carrier instead of STOVL?
they came nearly close to going that route, before realizing it was too expensive to convert it.
but what if they had made this decision much earlier?

- how different would the air wing be?
- would it improve cross country cooperation with France and US?
- how would it affect financial and human resources (costs to buy and operate, staffing differences, etc)
- would overall capabilities change?
The CATOBAR v STOVL routes were extensively investigated between 1997 and 2002 before the latter was chosen. It was revisited in 2010, when the QE was already under construction, when it was concluded that it would be too expensive to convert. There is a history of its development here.

Long story short. If you go the CATOBAR route the ship becomes more expensive as you have the additional costs of providing, manning and maintaining the catapults and arrester gear and all that takes up space leading to effects elsewhere in the design. On the other hand the aircraft in theory should be cheaper or offer more capability in terms of range

Add to that, that flying conventional aircraft off a carrier requires continuous practice to maintain the necessary skills. More aircrew time and need for a ship to be available to do it. The French for example rely on the USN to qualify their pilots for carrier operations since the Charles De Gaulle isn’t always available.

Way back in the early Harrier days it was noted that it is easier to stop and land than it is to land and stop. Some of the RAF Harrier pilots involved in the Falklands War carried out their very first deck landings on a ship when they landed on the Atlantic Conveyor on their way south from Ascension Is. That level of inexperience would not have been possible with conventional aircraft. By all accounts F-35B is even easier to land.

With no F-35B the RAF would probably have gone for a different aircraft. So there would have been additional cost in having an aircraft fleet dedicated to the carrier role rather than what we have, a single type able to swing between both land and sea operation.

CATOBAR would have opened up the field to other aircraft types. F-18 or Rafale (my personal favourite if this route had been chosen and if the French could have been persuaded to buy the same type of carrier in the same timescale) or F-35C. In theory a conventional aircraft should have been cheaper. But I’m not sure that would hold true if you have to add in the cost of a supply network for a completely new extra type of fighter/strike.

CATOBAR would have opened up the possibility of the E-2C/D for the AEW role however. That would offer more capability that Merlin with Crowsnest.

Then you have the whole problem of inter service rivalry. Would the RAF have been willing to have a resurgent FAA that would be the likely result of having to have pilots dedicated to the carrier role? I suspect that they would have fought that tooth and nail, as evidenced by past history.
 

uk 75

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The limited numbers of F35B available for the UK is a serious problem. But it is easier to fly aboard additional planes for a large platform like CVF than deploy two smaller ships with possible engine problems like the old Invincibles.
It was rare for more than one Invincible to be seaworthy. This lesson has forced the RN to focus its efforts on a smaller number of larger ships.
 

zen

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Funding for the 'joint JSF fleet of F35B was 'won' by the RAF with the cut of the FAA Sea Harrier fleet. From then on the pool of aircraft was RAF owned and budgeted even if some were piloted by FAA.

Examination of alternatives came up against this and related hurdles.
Typhoon was only expensively an option and Rafale would be FAA only and too expensive for the RN.

So funding CATOBAR was worse because mission specific aircraft and training is needed.

Whereas F35B for carrier operations is just a modest extra course tacked onto RAF based training.

So to opt for CATOBAR CV and airwing is a major decision best taken back in the early 2000's.

Obviously cross decking with MN and USN is integral to such an option.
But STOVL is integrated with USMC and more fundamentally the RAF.
 

helmutkohl

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Funding for the 'joint JSF fleet of F35B was 'won' by the RAF with the cut of the FAA Sea Harrier fleet. From then on the pool of aircraft was RAF owned and budgeted even if some were piloted by FAA.

Examination of alternatives came up against this and related hurdles.
Typhoon was only expensively an option and Rafale would be FAA only and too expensive for the RN.

So funding CATOBAR was worse because mission specific aircraft and training is needed.

Whereas F35B for carrier operations is just a modest extra course tacked onto RAF based training.

So to opt for CATOBAR CV and airwing is a major decision best taken back in the early 2000's.

Obviously cross decking with MN and USN is integral to such an option.
But STOVL is integrated with USMC and more fundamentally the RAF.
do you think the RAF would not be interested in operating the F-35C (perhaps as a tornado replacement)?
 

zen

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do you think the RAF would not be interested in operating the F-35C (perhaps as a tornado replacement)?
Well....
At the time (late 90's early 2000's, FOAS was a live program. So No, not at that time. The manned element of FOAS was oriented towards a more LO design than JSF and centered on delivery of at least one Storm Shadow missile from an internal bay.

And now we have Tempest, so now No.
 
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