Scenarios to justify the Navy case for new carriers

uk 75

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27 September 2006
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Whoever takes over Government in June will have to wrestle with the argument
for building two or one new carriers for the RN amongst numerous other defence issues.

It may be just me but the Navy seems always to fall back on the good old Falklands Task
Force as justification for these ships. I find this hard to swallow as if the Argentinians somehow
managed to get on to the Falklands they would presumably now have Mount Pleasant Air base
to use as a base for swarms of aircraft.

The other argument seems to rest on intervening in a foreign counry without US support, perhaps
to rescue British nationals (something which HMG is usually too pennypinching to actually do).

Looking at enemy fleets in being it is hard to find a navy that we would not be better tackling with our nuclear submarines rather than a dozen or so as yet untried JSF aircraft with yet to be allocated armaments. The main threat from the Russian Navy is mainly submarines. The Chinese Navy has some nice surface ships for the RN to torpedo or sub-harpoon, as do the Indians and the Japanese.
After that we get down to the Latin Americans and various Euro fleets.

I think the RN is going to have a hard time persuading the politicos. For me the most telling argument as it was to Denis Healey in the 60s is the need to build the hunter killer fleet up to reasonable numbers. These rather than carriers are the RN's best capital ships, especially when armed with cruise missiles as well.

Don't get me wrong I love carriers. However, the Queen Elizabeths are even uglier than poor old CVA 01. They are designed around an aircraft that is unlikely to enter service (the VSTOL JSF).

I need persuading...

UK 75
The 1998 Strategic Defence Review, from which the CVFs emerged, presented the metrics by which mobile prevailed over fixed, as base for Expeditionary work. Context was former Yugoslavia and Gulf 1. We would have been in trouble for Gulf 1 if the nearby sane Qatars had chosen to be difficult. The over-arching SDR assumption was that UK would always be in a Coalition.

So the A to the Q, "what is it for", is that you never can tell what lies to the other side of the hill. Unspoken, is that a UK and/or Euro Interest could arise (in energy, or food security) where US chooses not to put its boys in harm's way - say, an isolationist Republican Pres. - we're all right, Jack. Might access to head-of-the-Gulf oil be a case? Iran+Iraq+Kuwait all disrupted concurrently, ARAMCO's output cornered by US, littoral Princedoms uninterested in helping us?

So, no change there today. So: are you - yes, you - prepared to pay your taxpayer's share of acquisition (is it £10Bn?), then ongoing annual, for what is an insurance policy. Easy, isn't it, to say, no, I'll self-insure (worry about it on the day it happens). Or, France (Spain, Italy) can do the base, why don't we do victuals, or Intel, or...something else supportive of our team, like, say, Netherlands does now. UK as team Member, not apparent Captain.

Be glad you're not PM. If you put the money there, then, as you will not be elected by promising to increase our taxes, you must take the money from somewhere else. Don't just say: from welfare scroungers and/or the super-rich. Not enough yield; better men have tried.

CVF size was not simply to operate lots of (to be) F-35, but to be a discrete, coherent all-arms base. So, not really an RN, but a National asset. CVS, which did the Yugo job, was an Atlantic ASW platform adapted to project Force on N.Norway. So, days at sea with some boots; not weeks with many. I daresay you would be told that to try to do a job with half-a-cake, some new CVS/LPHs, would cost much the same as 2xCVF.
uk 75 said:
Don't get me wrong I love carriers. However, the Queen Elizabeths are even uglier than poor old CVA 01. They are designed around an aircraft that is unlikely to enter service (the VSTOL JSF).

I need persuading...

UK 75

Well there's your first mistake.
The current governemnts use of Uk military assets for Kosova, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and Afghanistan again have proved that the original mandate for cancelling the Carrier fleet and assuming the RAF could provide the air cover has ploved to be completly wrong.

The RAF just dosent have the legs to deploy its strike aircaft in support of our ground and naval forces without a great deal of hassle. Without our strategically placed bases we are reliant on friendly states and allies to allow over flights, basing and support. Operations for Iraq proved that despite alliances these gauranttes can not be relied on (Europe and middle east opposed overflights of RAF aircraft for Iraq war which left the RAF stuck in Cyprus after taling the long way round via Gib, Turkey changed its mind and effectively ejected the forces who had been based there since the first war. Saudi airspace and facilities were denied to the US/UK and only Kuwait and Bahrain allowed basing once Jordan/Isreali were bribed to turn a blind eye. Following the war you'll note that the CVF program was quickly approved , as upto that point it looked as if it would stay in limbo as just a project without a build comitment.

The spin the Army and the RAF are doing in the press is all a bit dirty as they don't want to see their slice of the cake being used to pay for the carriers, but the carriers are there to support UK forces where ever they deploy embarking various aircraft types that may be required not just posy great white elephants as flagships of the RN that some try to make out.

The Carriers are there to serve our interests globally, without complete reliance of our some what fickle allies. SSN's are no good as they are a pure stealthy first strike system, they are only really a major threat to shipping and land attack capability id limited as once the first slavo of cruise missiles are fired they then have to return to friendly waters to surface and rearm !!!!. Carrier aircraft can stay on station and be replemished at sea.

Don't forget the carriers are dependant on the F-35B, currently its the still the preferrred option and the Carrier design is currently optomised to using this aircraft in the STOVL role, as this is foreseen as the most suitable option to meet the requirement in 2015. However the aircraft have not yet been ordered only the first three and final decisions are awaiting the sucess of the F-35B flight program to assess if this is a viable options in terms of cost, capability and performance. Should it fail to meet those requirements then expect EMALS and arrestor gear to be ordered for the carriers followed by a CTOL carrier aircraft of some version (F-35C, F-18E/F, Rafale, Sea Typhoon, Sea Gripen.....)

Thanks for the interesting and informative replies.

I think I understand the argument in favour of mobile airbases, though the scenarios
do rather come into the wars of choice and intervention/East of Suez category which
a hard-up country like Britain (again parallels with 1967 and 1975) cannot necessarily
afford rather than self-defence/general war scenarios.

I think my main quibble with the CVF (part from its hideous appearance) is the aircraft
loading. Given that only one of the ships is likely to be available in most cases we are talking about
a smallish number of fighter/attacker planes and helos. The helos can be deployed from much
cheaper platforms so we are really talking JSFs or F18s (the latter seems to be getting more likely,
but the Press may be giving Lockheed Martin a hard time). A squadron or so of these planes when
we already have shedloads (literally) of EF2000s already bought and paid for.

I shall continue to read and learn.

UK 75
Speaking of the Falklands:

Argentina launches naval campaign to isolate Falkland Islands

Argentina has launched a naval campaign to isolate the Falkland Islands that has seen it detain Spanish fishing vessels on suspicion of breaking the country’s “blockade” of the seas around the British territories.

By Fergus MacErlean

8:28PM GMT 05 Dec 2011

Argentine patrol vessels have boarded 12 Spanish boats, operating under fishing licences issued by the Falkland Islands, for operating “illegally” in disputed waters in recent weeks.

Argentine patrol commanders carrying out interceptions near the South American coast told Spanish captains they were in violation of Argentina’s “legal” blockade of sea channels to the Falklands.

The warning has been backed up in a letter to Aetinape, the Spanish fishing vessels association from the Argentine embassy in Madrid warning boats in the area that “Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and adjoining maritime spaces are an integral part of the Argentine territory.”

The confrontation strategy targetting foreign boats marks an escalation of tensions in seas that Duke of Cambridge, a Flight Lieutenant with the RAF, is set to patrol during a tour of duty last year.

The Duke is to be deployed to the Falklands next February as part of a routine training duties. Commanders would face the dilemma of despatching the Royal to take part in an operations to monitor or contain the Argentine challenge.

President Cristina Kirchner has adopted a steadily more beligerent stance towards Britain’s South Atlantic possessions.

A newly formed gathering of South American nations meeting in Venezeula backed Argentina’s sovereignty demands at the weekend.

Argentina’s claim over the Falklands was backed by a newly formed block of South American and Caribbean countries, CELAC, on Saturday with unanimous approval. Mrs Kirchner used the last UN General Assembly meeting to put Argentina’s claims of sovereignty over the Falklands on a par with Palestinian claims to statehood.

But it is the Falklands economic lifeline that has been most affected by Argentinian manoeurving.

It announced permits were required by all ships using Argentine waters en route to the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, all of which are UK controlled.

Argentina declared vessels were “operating illegally” in the South Atlantic if they did not request permission to enter Argentine waters. The authorities declared their willingness “to put an end to all those illegal fishing activities”.

The vessels, from Galicia, were boarded as they were making their way across the huge Rio de la Plata estuary, which separates Argentina and Uruguay, before off-loading their catches in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Mrs Kirchner, 58, has also threatened to suspend a vital Falklands air link — the only one off the islands — which was established in a 1999 deal between the UK and Argentina unless Britain entered into talks leading to sovereignty negotiations.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain had lodged an official complaint about the Argentine action. “We are aware that Argentina has recently challenged vessels transiting between the Falklands and the port of Montevideo,” the spokesman said. “The UK has protested to Argentina. We consider that it is not compliant with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mike Summers, a member of the Falkland Islands legislative assembly, said Argentina was trying to cut the Islands off from the South American mainland. “The Falkland Islands Government has no doubt about its right to issue licenses to foreign companies to fish in its waters,” he said. “There have been other difficulties in recent months with Falklands flagged vessels seeking to use South American ports; Argentina seeks to prevail on its neighbours to implement its foreign policy for it, by denying access to their ports for vessels doing business in the Falklands.”
Grey Havoc said:
I wouldn't say that this is any great surprise; Via our rivials at

The old Soviet Union may have been just as familiar with Canada's Arctic waters as Canadians.

Sections of Cold-War-era nautical charts obtained by The Canadian Press suggest that Russian mariners have for decades possessed detailed and accurate knowledge of crucial internal waterways such as the Northwest Passage.

Those charts, which may offer the first documentary proof of the widely held belief that Soviet nuclear submarines routinely patrolled the Canadian Arctic during the Cold War, are still in use by Russian vessels. In some places, they are preferred to current Canadian charts.

There is the possible benefit of a carrier acting as a refueling station to act as a support for (re)asserting Canadian Sovereignty. Britain has so far shown some indications of working with Denmark against this. However, the overall situation is 'heating up'. It is expected that Denmark, Russia, various other countries and possibly the United States will challenge Commonwealth claims to the arctic shelf in these areas.
Triton said:
Thanks for the article, Grey Havoc. Is there a chance of a second war in the Falklands Islands?

I would say things may get out of control, very quickly, because the current British government won't react strongly enough:

Nuclear submarine should be sent to Falklands to show British anger at boat ban decision

A nuclear submarine should be sent to the Falkland Islands to illustrate Britain’s anger at a decision by South American countries to ban boats bearing the island's flag, the former head of the Royal Navy said.

By Andrew Hough

3:45PM GMT 21 Dec 2011

Lord West, the former the former First Sea Lord, said Britain should also undertake military exercises in response to the “aggressive” decision by the Mercosur bloc to close ports to ships flying the “illegal” flag.

The Foreign Office also condemned the decision by the bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, as tensions over the long-disputed territory erupted into the open on Wednesday.

Ministers warned Argentina that “no one should be in any doubt about the British Government’s commitment to support” the area, which involves a vast swathe of potentially mineral-rich South Atlantic waters.

Ambassadors throughout the region were ordered to raise the issue as a “matter of urgency” as anger mounted over the unjust decision to “intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands”.

The South Atlantic islands are a powerful Argentine national symbol and the government often reiterates its sovereignty claim over the South Atlantic archipelago since the brief, but bloody war, in 1982.

Britain has repeatedly said that its sovereignty over the three groups of islands, whose inhabitants are overwhelmingly of British descent, is not up for negotiation.

The dispute has escalated recently after British companies began exploring for oil in waters surrounding the islands, which lie 400 nautical miles from the Argentine coast.

FCO sources said on Wedneday night that officials were examining the announcement’s practical impact, as it was similar to statements issued by the Union of South American Nations last year.

But the move drew an angry response from Lord West, who commanded HMS Ardent on which 22 crew were killed when it was hit by Argentinian planes in the Falklands conflict. He labelled it "outrageous behaviour".

The peer called for a nuclear submarine to be sent to the region to show Britain's determination to protect the Falklands and said that military exercises would leave Buenos Aires in no doubt about Britain’s attitude to the announcement.

“Far from trying to settle in a grown-up way and having better and better relationships with the Falkland islanders, they are upping the ante and becoming very confrontational,” he told the London Evening Standard.

Roger Spink, president of the Falklands Chamber of Commerce, said they were a small community and felt increasingly under blockade. ''If we were Palestine, the European Union would be up in arms," he told the BBC.

The latest row was sparked after the presidents of the South American countries announced they had reached the agreement to ban ships flying the Falklands flag.

In a communiqué, released at the end of a summit in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, said ships carrying the flag "should not dock in Mercosur ports, and if that were to happen, they should not be accepted in another Mercosur port".

They added that member countries would adopt "all measures that can be put in place to impede the entry to its ports of ships that fly the illegal flag of the Malvinas Islands".

Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner was unrepentant, accusing Britain of plundering her country's resources while also ignoring United Nation’s resolutions.

Mrs Kirchner, who has recently taken over the presidency of the trade bloc, welcomed the announcement as a sign of "immense solidarity".

“The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN security council yet they do not respect a single, not a single resolution,” she said in a speech to the summit.

"Malvinas is not an Argentine cause, it is a global cause, because in the Malvinas they are taking our oil and fishing resources.”

The Mercosur decision is the latest in a series by Latin American regional bodies designed to show solidarity with Argentina, which calls the islands Las Malvinas in the Spanish-speaking world.

Jose Mujica, the Uruguayan president, announced last week that British-flagged civilian ships that supply the islands would be allowed to use its ports, but not military vessels.

Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office Minister, said on Wednesday night: “It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands. Mercosur should take the responsible decision and not do this.

“There can be no justification – legal, moral or political – for efforts to intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands.

“No one should be in any doubt about the British Government’s commitment to support the Falkland Islanders’ right to determine their own political future.”

John Spellar, the shadow foreign minister, added: "While this looks like a bit of a flag-waving gesture, Argentina should be in no doubt of the united determination of all parties in the United Kingdom to protect the Falkland Islanders' right to determine their own future."
'wars of choice' is quite a missleading phrase I think. All wars are wars of choice, you could instead choose to sit it out while your neighbours are trampled over and even decide defeat, occupation and 'special camps' are all acceptable compared to the cost of fighting a war.

Wars at a distance from your country are not that much less threatening, when if you fail to act now, the danger gets progressively closer with each decision not to act. Until it is nextdoor.

Nor do wars at a distance carry the assumption they have no impact if you 'loose' them. There are a limited number of choke points for shipping for example, and if one or two is closed, then the costs of shipping rise, and are passed on to you in your economy. So misery starvation and death can be brought to you by events far from your home turf.

Now if one assumes (and thats one hell of an assumption) that you are at peace with your neighbours and no one is going to rampage over them or you without years of major warning signs going off. Then your chief threats are at a distance.

Lets also raise the matter of the 'visible stick' and the 'invisible stick'. Sure the invisible stick is much more frightening, but its also invisible, the whole point of it is you cannot say where it is and giving the game away tends to make it harder to remain invisible.
So in comes the visible stick, that is the one you wave around in front everyone, and they can see its both visible and dangerous to be hit with.

So if you know the UK has a very limited number of SSNs and they carry a very limited number of Tomahawks, you know that while you cannot see it, it might be out there and it could strike, but only so many targets it can hit.

CVF however is very visible when it is leaving port and on TV reports about it 'operating somewhere'. But it can and will be resupplied and even without that totes a lot of bombs and planes, which can hit a lot more targets.
The beauty of it is, it can sit out there somewhere in the ocean, being both visible and yet not quite as easy to find as some people think. But visibly 'there' as a potent threat of what might be done with it.

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