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Conservative Government flies Navy in 1970

uk 75

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In 1970 the Conservatives returned to power promising to look again at the 1966 decision to abandon fixed wing carrier aviation in the Royal Navy after 1972.

Here is a possible glimpse at what might have been.

The Government is briefed by the RN on the state of its current carriers.

Ark Royal has just completed a refit to operate Phantoms but Eagle is in better material condition
and could be kept in service longer after a refit.

Hermes is due for conversion to a Commando Carrier, but at present retains her fixed wing capability.

The new Defence Secretary, Lord Carrington, asks the RN the following questions:

Is it worth keeping Eagle after a refit, with Ark Royal in reserve to provide spares? Or should Ark be kept?

If Hermes were to be retained as a fixed wing carrier into the late 70s, what should her aircraft fit be?

Should the new Command Cruisers go ahead, but with an equal emphasis on Commando LPH role?
Bulwark and Albion to continue in service longer than planned if Hermes not converted.

Is UK industry able to build a pair of updated Hermes class carriers to replace Ark/Eagle and Hermes by 1981? The ships would be declared to NATO Saclant, who is keen to have a fixed wing RN capability retained, as long as 2 Command Cruisers with ASW helos are also available.

Recalling how dire things were in the 70s, this is probably a non-starter but it is the first opportunity after 1963 to save the RN's carrier fleet.

The key seems to be to find a decent air group for poor old Hermes. This was the very thing that helped the RAF and Denis Healey kill off CVA 01. However, by 1970 NATO needed Britain to keep its fixed wing aviation. Keeping Hermes would take some of the pressure off Ark/Eagle and allow the two ships to soldier on until abut 1982..
 

zen

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Is it worth keeping Eagle after a refit, with Ark Royal in reserve to provide spares? Or should Ark be kept?
Conversion to 'phantomise' HMS Eagle is a very minor effort and cost Minister. Arguably with the Type 984 radar and ADA (or was it already ADAWS I forget) she is the better choice than HMS Ark Royal.


If Hermes were to be retained as a fixed wing carrier into the late 70s, what should her aircraft fit be?
I think it was envisioned she become a pure strike/attack carrier, leaving the airdefence mission to some other carrier.


Is UK industry able to build a pair of updated Hermes class carriers to replace Ark/Eagle and Hermes by 1981?
UK industry was upto building the Invincibles so yes, as long as we're not talking of building something like CVA-01.


Recalling how dire things were in the 70s, this is probably a non-starter but it is the first opportunity after 1963 to save the RN's carrier fleet.
First moment was likely 1950-51. Second 1956. Third was probably between '60 and '63.


The short answer is:-
F8 Crusader
Vickers Type 583
Mirage G
Jaguar.
And possibly some derivative of the A7 Corsair.


Outside possibilities are the Mirage F.2, F1 and SAAB Viggen. The last being somewhat problematic.


Of these the VG solutions fit the equipment that will fit a ship of such size for a reasonable level of operations. That is to say they will launch at good weights (achieving range/endurance levels desirable) and recover at good weights (rather than ditching weapons prior to recovery).
 

Thorvic

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Yeap Eagle would likely get her refit and her Phantom airgroup for 899 sqdn. I suspect she would be the main carrier and Ark Royal would soldier on as a back up and eventual source of spares.
Given a renewed Carrier fleet without the threat disposal hanging over them then we would probably have seen a witch in thinking again where the FAA has some influence on the Aircraft programs rather than being dismissed. If they were to keep Hermes as a Strike Carrier then i suppose the Jaguar M would be seen as the preferred solution at the time although its possible the French may have moved us to consider the Super Etendard as they selected.
Regarding the eventual replacements, and the failure of the CVA-01 program, then you could see some possible interest in the CVV or the original French CdG proposals, alternately we have have designed something more suitable ourselves.With a new design are they better able to make use of the newer technology and better performance of Carrier aircraft
The interesting one to consider given a firm commitment rather than a stay of execution is the impact on future Aircraft designs as interest in Carrier capable aircraft stopped in 1966, By 1970 the Panavia Tornado was probably too far along to be considered for naval use, although they may have applied the capability in developing the ADV variant as a Phantom replacement. They would need a Gannet replacement, but would it be a home grown solution or off the shelf such as a Hawkeye or possibly even the AEW Viking. Do we see the F-18 Hornet as an Phantom/Buccaneer replacement instead of something home grown ?
Taking this forward the EFA program comes under a different light, given a common interest in the Navak capability does the EFA stay as a group of 5 or would the UK join with France to develop a Rafale type whilst German/Italy/Spain take the EJ-90 forward instead ?
 

zen

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Jaguar has a number of issues as the French found out. Solve-able if there is money and a commitment that can't be backed out of easily.
Ideally the RB.199 option with the larger wing would give a sort of less agile F/A-18 analogue, in a "don't take it too seriously that its like the Hornet" sort of way.


Navalising Tornado seems a more substantial concept, even its not that big an engineering effort.


Suspect there is a choice between the sort of carrier airpower desired. Colonial wars and Police Actions or something closer to 'worst case cracking' capability where we're back to reviving OR346 in way.


And so that turns back to the carrier itself. Handling Jaguars and Gannets is within the abilities of something like Hermes to Clemenceau.
Whereas, if we're talking navalised Tornado of some form, we're looking at something between CdeG, CVA-01 revived and CVV.


Considering the way the French handled the negotiations for a common European aircraft, its not certain we'd see UK-France collaboration. If that did happen, its plausible we'd see Germany opt for licensed build F/A-18s or F16s.


Its also possible to just continue using the F4, re-engine it, change the radar, change the avionics and so on. In essence extending its utility for decades, deferring the cost of an 'all new' aircraft and its systems.


AEW depends on the carrier and that depends on the aircraft that deliver a certain level of airpower.
Adopt Jaguar or Etendard, and we're likely going to have to knock up something as the carrier designed around such is'nt necessarily going to cope with the Hawkeye.
Adopt Tornado, or carry on with the F4 and the carrier for them will handle Hawkeye well enough.
 

Thorvic

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[quote]Its also possible to just continue using the F4, re-engine it, change the radar, change the avionics and so on. In essence extending its utility for decades, deferring the cost of an 'all new' aircraft and its systems.
[/quote]
More likely to look at the F-4HL or the F-4FVS as the Phantom was pretty useless off the Ark Royal due to being unsuitable for the smaller deck operations.
Given it is the 70's then going with the Navalised ADV is the most lileky routem and no doubt they would do a Strike version to replace the buccaneers by fitting the IDS systems into a Navalised ADV airframe (Doubt they would navalise the IDS version to keep it common with the other partners)
 

Archibald

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The best site of the French aeronavale projects and prototypes (english version there) http://www.ffaa.net/version-english.htm
French version http://www.ffaa.net/menus/menu_projets.htm
http://www.ffaa.net/projects/jaguar/jaguar_fr.htm
This website is valuable because it has informations, not only on french aircrafts, but also on their foreign competitors - A7, A4, F-18 that were all considered at some point or another.

Hope this help.
 

uk 75

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The Secretary of State has minuted as follows:

1. Cabinet agreed that Eagle should replace Ark Royal as soon as phantomisation and other
refit work can be completed. Ark will then be used to maintain Eagle's readiness. It is hoped that Eagle will serve until at least 1980.

2. Cabinet accepted the kind offer of the US Administration to provide training and leasing of F8 Crusaders in sufficient numbers to operate on Hermes replacing the Sea Vixens as soon as possible. Hermes will continue to operate the Buccaneer S2 and Gannet, plus a small number of helicopters. It is hoped that Hermes will be able to serve until at least 1982.

3. Cabinet agreed that Albion should be retained to ensure that the UK can deploy at least one Commando Carrier (LPH), with Bulwark, until 1980.

Unfortunately the next heading "Carrier forces in the 80s" produced no such agreement.

1. The Royal Navy prefers an updated austere version of CVA 01, able to operate Phantoms and Buccaneers initially and then either a Maritime Tornado or similar US aircraft. The Treasury points out that only one such carrier could be built by 1981, and Industry could not promise to meet this date. The costs of such vessels were prohibitive.
2. NATO has confirmed that given a choice it would prefer the UK to concentrate on ASW and Amphibious support to the NATO Strike Fleet and urges the development of the CCH Command Cruiser design. NATO also notes that the Harrier has demonstrated its capabilities with the US Marines.
3. Cabinet admitted to disliking both options and urged the Secretary of State to look again at the moderate carrier force based on a modern version of Hermes. It recognised the problem of finding suitable aircraft for this platform and that it might also be unable to enter service before 1981.
 

zen

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If memory serves there smaller than CVA-01 and CVV studies of this period, though larger than Hermes.
 

Abraham Gubler

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In the 1970s Vought were offering refurbished and upgraded F-8 Crusaders at bargain prices. The F-8Js were refurbed F-8Es with new wings, engines and avionics. The new wing had BLC like the French Crusaders so would have no problems flying from HMS Hermes. They would have to serve for over 10 years so leasing would be as costly as buying.
 

JFC Fuller

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The Nott review decided that there was not even enough money to drag some Lightnings out of storage to raise a third squadron (proposed 1979). By 1980 there should have been 20 SSN's- there were actually 12 (original build rate was for 1 per year, by the mid 70s it was one every two years). The 1974/5 Defence White Paper stripped 9 frigates and destroyers out of the long term programme and reduced the frigate and destroyer fleet by 1 seventh whilst the SSK fleet sank by 25%. Whilst admire the the desire to maintain a barely credible CTOL carrier force it just does not seem viable.
 

uk 75

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Abraham

I am being far less ambitious. It is 1970 and Nixon/Kissinger are keen to show NATO Europe
that the US of A still loves it despite Vietnam. For "lease" read give. There were plenty of
F8s knocking around, and we are only talking 20 or so.

Sealord

In my "what-if" the 1970 Tory Government does not go in for Barbernomics and avoids much of the
problems of it real life counterpart (after all this is "what-if").
However, even if the 70s go South there is plenty of wriggle room for the RN.
First up, lose awful Blake and Tiger conversions. The Seakings can move across to the flttops or even some of the newer RFAs built in the period. Their gunnery is no longer necessary with Bucs around.
Second, convert fewer surface ships to Exocet, again less necessary with Carriers.
Thirdly, no awful and expensive Sea Harrier.

I envisage the two 70s carriers (Illustrious and Ark Royal) being built instead of the CCH Invincibles but being as austere as possible. Like Hermes they can always become ASW/Commando carriers.
However, they would draw on the US CVV programme to have a modern steam plant and catapults. A variant of Jaguar and Tornado like the numerous sketches in the Buttler books could be developed both as a Jaguar/Phantom replacement and as a multi role naval combat aircraft. If all else fails we can go in with the French and develop the Super Etendard and later the Rafale.

Such a programme would be cheaper and require less manpower than the bodging the navy had to do in the 70s. The resulting two ships would have more capability and come in at roughly the same cost as the three Invincibles.

But, this is fun, not holy writ..
 

zen

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I think the CVV concept is a bit large, and if anything likely to be more expensive than CVA-01.


What can be done is one of the smaller CATOBAR CV studies around 40,000tons or so and essentialy replicate the level of capability provided by Eagle and Ark Royal in a more efficient package. It would be of note that such vessels should be cheaper to run, and be able to operate aircraft like the Buccaneer and F4. While they might handle some form of lightweight Sea Wolf system, Sea Dart requires too much and would have to go on attendant AAW vessels.
So greater emphasis on the AAW attendants. Key question here is can this be met with Type 42?


Such a vessel is also within the capacity of the extent shipyards and ought to be maintainable from the then existing facilities. Its once you start pushing the size of the CV up beyond a certain limit that it forces the use of a far smaller range of facilities mostly civilian. Below a certain set of dimensions and its supportable from military facilities.


Sea Jaguar with the uprated Adours is going to be a bit marginal, especially once you factor in the increased deadweight resulting from proper navalisation. So the stronger case is for the increased fuselage size and RB.199's as well as the bigger wing. Virtually a new plane though leveraging a lot out of the existent Jaguar.
That said the avionics would divide between lifting a great deal from the RAF Jaguar but with the addition of the Blue Fox AI set, which integrates with Sea Eagle.


This would imply variant 5 of the P.69 aimed at OR.396 issued first draft July 1970. Albeit perhaps with more fuel volume. Could this take advantage of the development of 'fly-by-wire' (a bit of well known shorthand so don't type reams over the proper terminology)?


Sea Tornado, has greater margins to spare, but ideally needs more powerful variants of the RB.199. That said bar Hornet the Airforces Tornado gets cleared for among the widest variety of weapons and other equipment.
 

shedofdread

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I haven't posted in this area before due to my lack of historical knowledge but this talk of Sea Tornado intrigues me. Was it ever actually studied? Would it be sufficient to store the A/C with the wings fully aft? If not, I'd imagine integrating wing fold with sweep to be a not insignificant task. Also, as I believe the Tornado to lack the range of the Buccaneer, how would this issue be addressed? A fuselage plug (Tornado 2000) style to give more volume?

On a separate note, I've read that during the Falklands War, VTOL recovery allowed SHAR to operate in sea states that conventional A/C couldn't be recovered in. How do we feel a fully conventional FAA would impact on that conflict?

Regards,

S
 

zen

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I think the argment for the Sea Tornado is that while'st the other partners would not be interested in a navalised variant, the ADV effort was a UK based solution. So it would have a slightly longer fusilage and likely more fuel.
The ideal scenario would also see more powerful engines, and this might impact further changes at the rear, though offset by removing the bucket thrust reversers.


Wing at full sweep is the only option, folding would eat into available volumes and be quite an engineering task, too costly.


Range is the key difference between CATOBAR and STOVL aircraft. Buccaneer or Sea Tornado could launch and recovery much further away from their targets than the Harrier. This permits greater safety for the CV being harder to find in a much larger area of ocean and permits the CV to move to where the weather is more equitable for aircraft launch and recovery.
 

zen

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Hmmmm.... additional reading might be the VSS studies.


One of note from thje relevent thread. Would fit facilities that coped with Victorious.


33,000 ton VSS Design-----------------------------Displacement, tons: 32,800 full loadLength, feet (meters): 780 oa (237-7)Beam, feet (meters): 100 (30-5)Draught, feet (meters): 25 (7-6)Aircraft:Approx 50+Catapults: 2 C-13 steamElevators: 2Guns: 2--20mm CIWSMain engines: steam turbines; 100,000 shp; 2 shaftSpeed knots: approx 26+
 

Graeme65

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If the UK were to stick with two fleet carriers then Nimrod AEW may no longer fit. Avoid this and there is a huge pot of R and D to be rescued from the waste bin and spent more effectively.

One thought, if you don't build the the historic Invincible and Illustrious you could use the cost of build to SLEP Ark and Eagle and postpone the issue of replacing them into the 90s. You still have Hermes and or Bulwark to carry helicopters to sea.
 

Archibald

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based on a modern version of Hermes.

one of the smaller CATOBAR CV studies around 40,000tons or so

Considering that PH / PA 75 evolved into the 45 000 tons CdG, I think a modern, 40 000 ton Hermes (and non nuclear) could be interesting to both Great Britain and France.
Could that "modern Hermes" have Hornets on board ?
 

zen

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F4 and Buccaneer to start with, with options for either Sea Tornado, Sea Jaguar or yes some US aircraft. All dependant on a number of factors.


Its a good point on the Nimrod AEW, a great deal of money was spent on this.
 

Graeme65

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I have read that between 1974 and its cancellation in 1986 more than 1 billon pounds were spent on Nimrod AEW. In mid 70s to mid 80s pounds that's a staggering sum. So if different choices have the knock on effect of moving away from the Nimrod development then there is a lot of funds that can be re-allocated. Some would likely go on the RAF buying in to the NATO AWACs force and maintainance of a modest fleet carrier force would mean some kind of AEW for the RN. Perhaps Searchwater in a refurbished Gannet (followed by a small Hawkeye purchase for any follow on carrier programme). Even so there may be funding left over for a Sea Tornado, there were RR plans for a more powerful RB.199 varient.
 

uk 75

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Relations between the Heath Government and the Pompidou Government in France were pretty good.

If a decision were taken along the lines of this thread to retain Eagle and Hermes and build two CVs of an improved Hermes design (or similar), there was considerable scope for Anglo French co-operation.

The competition between the Jaguar M and the Super Etendard might have been run differently. Perhaps Hawker Siddeley (BAe did not yet exist) might have gone in with DB to improve the Etendard and make it more RN friendly? The French might also have seen more milage in the Jaguar M or a joint development of the Mirage ACF (I think this had just replaced the Mirage G in French planning).
Also the Breguet Alize and the Fairey Gannet needed replacing with a similar sized aircraft capable of ASW (for France) and AEW/COD (for both UK and France). Various suitable platforms and systems existed.

Co-operation between the UK and France was not as smooth as the later MRCA, but on the technical side both got on well enough and the political relationship would be okay until Wilson and Giscard arrived ( or may be not in this timeline?).
 
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