The Centaur carrier fleet - a better fate...

Archibald

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Yeah, sure, but the French history of the Crusader is hardly encouraging. 22 lost out of 42 bought, and the type was already obsolescent within a decade, 1974.
I would pick a "Buccaneer ADV" any time, any day. Particularly with the radar and missiles of the Sea Harrier FA2 (earlier on: Phantom / AIM-7). What I mean is, the SHAR proved that, you can be subsonic and with little range, yet provided with the correct missiles and radar, you can do a pretty decent job.
 

SSgtC

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Yeah, sure, but the French history of the Crusader is hardly encouraging. 22 lost out of 42 bought, and the type was already obsolescent within a decade, 1974.
I would pick a "Buccaneer ADV" any time, any day. Particularly with the radar and missiles of the Sea Harrier FA2 (earlier on: Phantom / AIM-7). What I mean is, the SHAR proved that, you can be subsonic and with little range, yet provided with the correct missiles and radar, you can do a pretty decent job.
Kinda. The FAA was flying against a less than first tier opponent. I don't think they'd look as good against the Soviets.
 

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The more I read and research the more I lament the loss of the super tiger . One often sees a lost opportunity but rarely a golden lost opportunity.I
The crusaders were nice but I honestly think the super tiger would have been a better choice.
 

Archibald

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I often think the Super Tiger was much more compact because it never got the J57, which was a massive engine. The Crusader had it its entire life, the Skylancer ancestor Skyray, too. It probably drove weight and dimensions upward... by contrast the Tiger had a J65. This bring it closer from a J52 Skyhawk.

Just my 2 cts, of course.

Those three aircraft - Crusader, Skylancer, Super Tiger - were equally good. Shame only one saw production; USN truly had an embarrassment of riches there !

I often wonder if Vought proposed a J79 Crusader in the late 50's, long before the V-1000 ?
 

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Better fate for me is 8 planned Centaur-class aircraft carrier 8 completed between 1944 and 1960. Last four carriers completed like ASW Carriers and Landing Troops.
 

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None of them were ever intended to complete in 1944, having only been ordered in 1943. No sooner had they been ordered than 4 were indefinitely postponed, and sources vary as to whether more than 4 were ever formally laid down. Some materials, no more than 100-200 tons, might have been gathered by the builders of a couple of the other ships before the postponement took place. For those that were laid down, the original schedule when they were ordered did not foresee any completing before late 1946 / early 1947. For those that weren’t laid down the slips were too valuable to the builders for merchant shipbuilding to have them tied up for long periods.

So given Britain’s financial plight in 1945, it is hard to see how the outcome for these ships could really have been any better than historical.
 

Archibald

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Bringing back this oldie not to hijack the other thread.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at 1945-75 troubled era... and having to pick between the following hodgepodge of "carriers" (broad sense of the word)
- Colossus / Majestic (16)
- Centaurs (4)
- Illustrious & derivatives (6, but too differente between them)
- Audacious (Ark & Eagle, plus the third one cancelled)
- Malta (paper only)
- CVA-01 (paper only)
- Invincibles (saved the day)

What would have been the best path to keep a balanced carrier force until the end of Cold War ?

My personal take
- 3 Audacious
- 4 Centaurs
They should be the core of the fleet. Everything else is shit, too small or too old or worn out.
How long could that fleet be stretched ? could some Centaurs survive in the 1980's ?
 

uk 75

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To be fair to the RN they had to adjust to both seismic changes in the type of aircraft to be carried and the sclerotic state of the British economy and industry.
Just as it gets used to decent US supplied aircraft on its carriers the war ends and it is back to dealing with domestic industry.
While we praise such innovations as the angle deck we draw a veil over the bonkers idea of a rubber flight deck and planes with no undercarriage!
Early jet aircraft like the Attacker and Vampire are not much bigger than wartime designs and the available mixture of carriers is determined by what the shipyards have on the stocks and what the budget will stand.
The years until 1957 are ones in which the carrier fleet still has a role in a global war. The arrival of the H Bomb forces the RN to use "East of Suez" to preserve its carrier force.
Coupled with diminishing budgets and the ending of conscription the number of carriers needed falls year on year.
By 1962 the RN has a Hodgepodge of carriers. The big Four are Ark Royal, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious. Of the remaining four, Bulwark and Albion have become Commando ships, Centaur is expected to join them and Leviathan is in Portsmouth harbour unfinished.
1962 seals the fate of the carrier force. The RN takes the nuclear deterrent from the RAF and gains both a role and a burden.
In the nuclear age, HMS Dreadnought rather than HMS Eagle symbolises the future of the RN.
Prior to 1962 the RN was looking at replacing all of the big 4. By 1964 it struggled to justify and design a single ship. CVA01 was killed with poetic justice by the RAF pointing out that its planes could deploy globally with flight refueling faster than a single carrier East of Suez.
The 1966 Future Fleet paper replaced conventional carriers with a fleet focussed on the NATO ASW role with a secondary Commando Ship function.
The Command Cruiser as the large surface ship was called at first morphed into a more carrier like Through Deck Cruiser. Initially 6 ships were planned (replacing the Tiger class and HMS Belfast! as well as Bulwark and Albion) but eventually three struggled into service as Anti Submarine Carriers (CVS).
Would this sorry saga have been different if instead of the big 4 and the Centaurs the RN had had a more coherent line up of say 4 Audacious class instead of its tired Illustrious class and delayed Ark and Eagle or even 6 common standard Centaurs?
I doubt it. The role changes and budgetary/crewing issues described above remain. In particular the collapse of the economy in 1964 to 8 would have ended East of Suez and with it the need for the carriers.
A Conservative government in 1970 could not resurrect Eagle despite an election pledge to do so because of crew and budget shortages. It was not helped by the fact that crews preferred serving in newer frigates and destroyers.
Would a force of 4 Centaurs have survived? We know the answer. By 1974 Centaur and Albion have gone, Hermes has been converted and Bulwark only survives because HMS Invincible takes so long to build.
More by luck than judgement the RN opts early to develop Harrier (Roy Mason in 1974?) as an anti snooper to fend off Bears and Badgers. The rest is history.
The difficulty with alt history scenarios is how much you can change before it becomes fantasy. HMS Ticonderoga anyone?
 

zen

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So much to unpack and frankly not enough energy for the task.

UK industry not that bad. Aircraft competitive to alternatives.
Delay in advanced aircraft imposed by government not industry.

Navy vital. Broken Backed Role serious and not defeated by H-Bomb.
Arguably Strike North remained/remains valid.
Carriers massively improved by angled deck.

Finance forces (false) choice due to compound costs forced by disparate fleet or disparate ages and capabilites.
Greater coherence and commonality would delay 'choices'.

Piling strain on one or two carriers accelerated the end.
Had there been 3-4 Audacious class carriers, strain is lessened per CV.

Centaurs impose a different choice, and a different outcome. Either aircraft different or replacement carriers spiral to CVA-01 earlier.

Adoption of Harrier P.1154 seriously studied in analysis of alternatives down to 15,000tons.
 

uk 75

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Leaving aside the political and economic judgements and so as not use too much energy let's examine your equipment conclusions.
Three Audacious class were laid down by 1944.
With 4 Illustrious and 2 Implacable class fleet carriers left over from the war it is in my view understandable that a government strapped for cash was keen to retain then rather than building new ships. Hence only 2 Audacious class ships survived.
By some slight of hand we might be able to finish three Audacious class and have all in service by 1957 instead of the conversions of the I class ships.
They would have had all the problems of Ark/Eagle in our timeline and possibly new ones caused by materials used and conversion/overhaul cycles for example.
Pressure to order CVA01 to replace them in the 1970s would still have appeared but might have been countered by conversions for Phantom instead. Not sure about this. They would have been hard worked ships and the RN might have been reluctant to release them for conversion.
Ah I forgot. Sorry we have a great aircraft industry so the brilliant Sea Vixen and Scimitar get replaced from 1968 by the very brilliant BAC Cutlass VG fighter/attacker and the HS Buccaneer S3 so that expensive Phantomisation might not be needed.
But this force still has to cope with the tedious political/economic events I summarised above. Initially the Wilson government plans to dispose of them after withdrawal from East of Suez "sometime in the 70s".
The Heath government in 1970 pledges to keep them in service. It soon becomes clear that RN recruiting is so bad that only one ship can be kept in service with one in reserve. The third ship is too big and expensive to convert to a Commando Ship so is offered for sale.
By 1974 the UK economy is tanking big time. The Wilson/Callaghan governments grasp the nettle and scrap the carrier force in favour of the two converted Tiger class cruisers (ordered way back in 1962 to provide Seaking ASW support to the Carriers) and order the Command Cruisers (cancelled by the Heath government to pay for the Carrier force).
By 1979 the RN has sold one Audacious CV to Australia and scrapped the other (too overworked even for India).
The incoming Thatcher administration focuses on renewing the nuclear deterrent. John Nott's first decision is to cancel the two Command Cruisers (only one had been laid down) and scrap Blake and Tiger.
HMS Bristol and her sister ships HMS Exeter, HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry (ordered in 1966 to replace the replacement carriers being sought by the RN) as AA/ASW destroyers become the RN's largest surface combat vessels.
(I throw this in because Healey nearly did order them to give work to shipyards after CVA01 was cancelled)
 

uk 75

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Now to answer the original question.
Taking 1962 as the starting point.
Ark Royal or Eagle is the only Fleet Carrier able to take Phantoms.
Victorious is too old even if she doesn't have her famous fire. Sell rather than scrap though she is probably too big for the usual customers.
That leaves 4 Centaur class.
Well, if we assume a British aircraft industry working with its customers (sorry a bit far fetched I know) the BAC Cutlass and HS Buccaneer S3 would be able to operate from this size of ship.
The famous 1957 Hermes size vessel then becomes a more useful ship.
So getting out the boardduster we erase the Audacious and I class ships in the 1957 Defence Review and instead order four CVs to enter service by 1967 replacing the four Centaurs.
Configured both for the NATO Striking Fleet and East of Suez the ships resemble Hermes in equipment fit and airgroup.
With industry and RN working together we have our new "Big 4" and a new family of carrier aircraft to enter service in the late 60s.
With either 4 original Centaurs or 4 1957 carriers we still have to contend with the events of 1966 to 1968.
As long as Cutlass and Buc3 have replaced Phantom part of Healey's dilemma is solved. But both are expensive and complex aircraft. In real life Buc1 was pretty bad and P1154 could never have worked so it's a big leap of faith to get these two aircraft.
Without the Cutlass or something similar its back to the P1127. Or perhaps a Buc with radar and AAMs. An AEW Buc would be handy too.
After 1966 the budget and crew shortages start to be the main killers.
But 4 Centaur/Hermes type ships are equivalent to Ark, Hermes, Bulwark, Blake so stand a pretty good chance of surviving till 1979.
But if you have 4 Centaurs or better yet 4 1957 carriers with either a Cutlass/Buc airgroup or just Seakings plus some P1127 there will have been no 1966 Fleet Working Group and no Command Cruisers (no Blake CLH conversions either thank goodness!).
By 1979 the need for replacements for all (Centaurs) or some (1957 ship) will have been discussed.
The Callaghan Government did its best for the RN despite the ever worsening economy. But as with the Invincibles it is hard to see more than two or three new light carriers being ordered.
Instead of Invincible, Hermes, Bulwark and Illustrious in build the infamous Nott Review would have taken the knife to our 4 Centaurs/1957 ships.
Unlike the brand new Invincibles and Hermes he might have found it easier to axe a pair of older ships or even more.
Would any have survived till 1982?
YES. Just as he intended to retain two CVS (Lusty and Ark).
 

GK Dundas

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The real advantages that the Centaurs/Hermes class had over the Invincibles was the simple fact that they were designed as carriers as opposed to the Invincible class which were from the outset designed as cruisers.
They simply couldn't be enlarged or expanded to the degree that a carrier could be.
I suppose that's what you get when you try and shoehorn a carrier into a cruiser hull. Even a large one.
I seem to recall reading somewhere that what Invincible really needed was sponsons that way you would actually be able to expand the very cramped hanger deck.
Hermes could not only carry more aircraft and could operate them more effectively and had better flag facilities.
 

Archibald

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Very much what I had in mind. But as Zen and Uk75 noted, there were so many economic-political-financial crisis in GB between 1960 and 1985, the RN budget suffered immensely.

In a sense, the RN was lucky the Sea Harrier saved its ass, allowing the Invincibles to happen while keeping a fast jet / fixed wing force.

In passing I want to ask - does a Centaur class carrier offers any advantages when discussing Sea Harriers and only Sea Harriers ? For example, how many could Hermes fly, compared to Invincible ?

It often blew my mind to think that Nott in 1981 not only intended to get ride of old Hermes (to India) but also of the brand new Invincible (!) - to Australia.

What was the point in putting HMS Invincible in RN service only to dump it at the first occasion ?
 

Archibald

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I often dream of a mixed Centaur / Invincible fleet in the 1980's - loaded with Sea Harriers and nothing else.

But the harsh reality is that even three OTL Invincibles never were at sea at the same time; not enough sailors, SHARS, and... RN budget. So adding a pile of old Centaurs on top of them won't improve the situation - manwpower, RN budget, SHAR small fleet... and Nott himself (although the Falklands at least screwed him away).

I often think one of the most logical post-WWII RN carriers scenario would be gradual deflation of a "3-Audacious & 4-Centaur fleet" this until 1980 - and gradual introduction of SHARs and Invincibles along a pair of surviving Centaurs. Enough to keep the RN carrier force alive and kicking until Cold War ends in 1991.

As a bonus, keep Hermes with catapults = keep Buccs S.2 along SHARs - even after RN Phantoms are passed to the RAF.

But even that scenario is impossible against the string of 1960-1980 RN crisis (and GB at large).
 

uk 75

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The 1966 Fleet Working Party and the 1981 Nott Review both focussed RN and RAF resources on the North Atlantic at the expense of global capabilities (tthough not commitments out of the NATO area).
Healey and Nott as Defence Secretaries are accused of hating aircraft carriers and wanting to rely on nuclear submarines.
In 1966 the Polaris nuclear deterrent was being built and in 1981 the UK had begun work on replacing it with Trident missiles and Vanguard class submarines.
At the same time the nuclear hunter killer or fleet submarines offered both a high capability against the main threat from the USSR with the bonus that they could deploy silent and deadly to crises around the globe.
Airpower had also changed since the 1950s with the growing availability of inflight refueling. RAF Victors could detect all Soviet units Healey claimed..What he did not add was that the SSNs (US or UK) were now the main means of sinking them.
Nott inherited.a situation in 1981 where the commitment to maintain an Army and Air Force in Germany had become the most expensive and critical role of the UK in NATO after Polaris. The battle of rhe North Atlantic would be fought to bring US and Canadian reinforcements to Europe before the Soviets captured their key objectives or nuclear war began.
Both Healey and Nott understood the use of carrier airpower but faced with other compelling needs they gave them low.priority.
Whether the RN needed to react as extremely as Varyl Begg to the words "aircraft carrier" is debatable.
Just as the RN insistence on the F4 rather than smaller and cheaper alternatives killed its old big 4 carriers, its desire for modern gas turbine powered comfortable warships instead of steam boilered big crowded carriers determined the shape of the RN surface fleet in the 1970s and 80s.
As usual in Britain there is plenty of blame to go round..Shipyards built shoddy and often defective vessels at higher cost. The RN constantly increased its wishlist. The Treasury imposed ill thought out budget changes.
Despite all the things I have mentioned the UK deployed the best NATO carrier force outside the US until 1979 when Ark retired..
The Command Cruisers vindicated their designers..Most of their careers were spent operating the crucial big ASW helicopters. The Sea Harrier bonus hit the headlines in 1982 and again in the Adriatic during the Yugoslav war but in other conflicts the mobile RAF carried out most of the air operations in two Gulf Wars and ill fated interventions in Afghanistan and Libya from land airbases (wirh decent hotels wherever possible).
Looking back over the years since 1962.the Falklands was the only occasion where the lack of traditional fixed wing carriers might have been critical. Even then it was an SSN that kept the opposing fleet in port.
 

Archibald

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Just asking in passing: could a SHAR provide air cover to a Bucc S.2 ? or would the latter leave it behind in the dust, particularly at low level ?
 

Archibald

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In fact I'm pondering a Janus RN carrier fleet:
- Invincible / Sea Kings / SHAR / NATO ASW (on one hand)
- Centaur / Buccaneer / Gannet AEW long range naval strike force (on the other).
Of course with the Phantoms gone to the RAF there would be no air cover... except perhaps with SHARs guided by Gannet AEW (or alternately: Sea King AEW).
Could SHARs assume Centaurs air defense and Bucc S.2 escort ?
 

uk 75

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Buccaneers were primarily tasked from 1966 (after the confrontation with Indonesia ended) with attacking the growing number of Soviet surface ships.
As is well known initial Buccaneers were designed to lob a Red Beard nuclear bomb on to a Sverdlov class cruiser.
By 1966 they were joined by SSN armed with torpedos (they were supposed to get anti ship missiles but it was not until 1982 that Sub Harpoon was shipped).
Ark Royal's Buccaneers had both the new WE177 and the disappointing Martel.ASM.
It was not until the late 80s that RAF Bucs and RN SHars got the decent Sea Eagle missile and Nimrods Harpoons.
As far as I know Buc strikes never relied on air cover. Soviet ships did not get air cover until Yak36 arrived in the 70s..
Suez 1956 was not repeated until the bombing of Port Stanley airport in 1982.
 

uk 75

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The Royal Navy could have made life easier for itself by:.
ordering the 1957 Hermes size carrier to replace its big 4 carriers (Ark, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious). Entering service in the 1960s they could have served into the 90s.like Foch/Clem.
Go with the Crusader to replace Sea Vixen and pair with Buccaneer S2.
Replace both types with AFVG or BAC 583 in the 70s.
Trouble is the Admirals hanker after their own USS Forrestal and that is how they end up with CVA01 and F4 instead.
Escort Cruisers with Seadart and Seaking Helos could have been then ordered in the 60s and delivered in the 70s.
At its high water mark in 1975 the RN would have had 4 1957 ships and 4 Escort Cruisers. These numbers might have shrunk to two each by 1982.
 

Archibald

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Ah sure, the Yak-38 Forger was such a piece of junk, even a Bucc S.2 with old Sidewinders had a fighting chance in air combat against it. Just fly straight for 2 minutes at full throttle and at wave tops, and the Forger will run out of gas...
 

Archibald

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The Royal Navy could have made life easier for itself by:.
ordering the 1957 Hermes size carrier to replace its big 4 carriers (Ark, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious). Entering service in the 1960s they could have served into the 90s.like Foch/Clem.
Go with the Crusader to replace Sea Vixen and pair with Buccaneer S2.
Replace both types with AFVG or BAC 583 in the 70s.
Trouble is the Admirals hanker after their own USS Forrestal and that is how they end up with CVA01 and F4 instead.
Escort Cruisers with Seadart and Seaking Helos could have been then ordered in the 60s and delivered in the 70s.
At its high water mark in 1975 the RN would have had 4 1957 ships and 4 Escort Cruisers. These numbers might have shrunk to two each by 1982.

What is truly remarquable are the 1954-56 carriers studies: circa 1956 was a 45 000 tons ship evenly matching that enlarged, third Clemenceau (that never was unfortunately): PA.58 Verdun.
And since the Clems borrowed the Audacious short length BS-5 catapults...
 

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Threading the needle between one kind of collapse and another is no mean feat in this subject.
But it's not impossible. Just very unlikely.
 

kaiserd

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An aspect not really 100 percent dealt with above is what would the alternative history Audacious carrier really be for versus the actual needs of the time and what was actually kept and put into service, given other higher priorities and limited budgets, crew availability, etc.

The only apparent advantage over the Invincibles would have been the ability to carry the Buccaneer (both classes appear limited to Sea Harrier only as a fighter complement). The Gannet would, for example, been absolutely ancient and worn out by a theoretical 1982 Falklands scenario. Plus given the weather etc. in that conflict and potential wear and tear it appears highly unlikely that steam-catapult reliant aircraft could have maintained the same operation tempo or availability as their real world equivalents did.

Such a carrier force would still have been absolutely reliant on US carrier (or land based) support if ever to engage main units of the Soviet surface fleet; it’s not so much the YAK-38 you have to worry about, it’s all those heavy long range anti-ship missiles shooting at you that are the problem.

The only apparent point of motivation for such a retention of carrier based Buccaneers is to mirror the French and retain a still essentially 2nd/ 3rd rate carrier capability for a “modern” version of “colonial policing” versus countries with almost no ability to shoot back, and that may not even be effective/ survivable against many potential lesser opponents (like Argentina) that have just started investigating in modern anti-ship missiles and a tiny proportion of the costs of the associated carrier fleet. As has the Royal Navy with Exocet armed ships (plus the Nuclear subs referenced above). And by the time any Sea Eagles would be available the naval Buccaneers and (especially) the carriers would be more or less worn out anyway versus a reducing (and about to collapse) threat; plus that’s a capability the Sea Harriers on the Invincibles also had anyway.

The limited additional capability versus the more urgent real world needs doesn’t appear justified. It appears more a thought exercise to somehow justify the RN retaining conventional carriers for its own sake than an especially justifiable or realistic scenario for doing so.
 

zen

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Ok this thread is veering off into Audacious territory. There was a thread to handle that topic.

Centaurs are really problematic because they can in Hermes form operate reasonably potent aircraft and could have remained useful as such into the 80's.
But....they are a bit too small.

Their natural successor the lighter of the Medium Fleet Carrier studies, sadly too late to get going. Was more aiming at GP carrier capability. Let down by limitations on propulsion/size preventing a GP airwing of sufficient size.
Only the 3 plant study coild meet that and so instead of a 28,000ton Carrier, they were looking at a 35,000ton that frankly was going to actually be more like a 45,000ton ship. Then the effort drifts into the doldrums and CVA-01 begins.

Get propulsion sorted to 55,000shp per unit and get this done for Malta during the war. Ideally a research effort funding facilities pre-war.
Then second batch Super Centaurs can effectively tote modernised Victorious levels of capability on modernised Centaurs propulsion. A cost saving.

Chop batch 1, refocus on batch 2, and make these the AH Centaur class actually laid down.
Replace Illustriouses post war.

None of that avoids OR.346, and the need to future proof the next generation of carriers in the 60's. In light of A5 Vigilante and TFX.
 

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Addendum.
Targeting is not trivial.

East Coast Rampage, the swan song of Ark Royal. Shook USN at how one carrier could mount repeatedly successfull strikes on US infrastructure before finally being caught.
 

uk 75

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Although it is difficult to get them built the 1957 carriers with an airgroup of AFVG and Buccaneer S2 plus Gannet AEW would have been more effective than Hermes and Illustrious at keeping the Argentine Air Force at bay and striking targets on the Falklands.
The RAF were still flying Shack AEWs in 1982 so keeping a handful of AEW and COD Gannets would have been well within the capability.
Even the two seater F8 variant proposed for the RN would have been useful.
That said. The three Invincible CVS were much easier to operate and more useful in the main N Atlantic ASW role.
 

Archibald

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Short list of my scenarios here (this is my RN carrier sandbox, after all LMAO)

Scenario 1
Three Audacious and four Centaurs, plus Victorious.
That one is the absolute best case with the old carriers.
- Maltas are paper, the other four Centaurs too.
- Everything else (Victorious half sisterships, Colossus, Majestic) is crap.

Scenario 2 OTL
Two Audacious and four Centaurs, plus Victorious. We all know that story !
What could be improved there, when deflating that old seven-carrier fleet until, say, 1985 ? see below.

Scenario 2A - OTL optimized a bit
Two Audacious and four Centaurs - handled better, plus Victorious
-Two Audacious
-Victorious
-Two Centaurs to Hermes standard (attack carrier: Centaur = Hermes)
-Two Centaurs as Commando carriers (Albion and Bulwark were twins)

Scenario 2B
Two Audacious and four Centaurs - no Victorious - otherwise same as Scenario 2A.
Hence:
-Two Audacious
-Two Centaurs to Hermes standard (attack carrier: Centaur = Hermes)
-Two Centaurs as Commando carriers (Albion and Bulwark twins)

Now that's a much more balanced fleet than OTL, starting from the same resources and hulls.

Basically its scenario 3 except Victorious huge and ruinous modernization is replaced by Centaur being brought to same standard as Hermes: that other massive rebuild finished in 1959: max attack carrier, can do Buccaneer S.2 but Phantoms are a bridge too far).

Scenario 2C
Variants of OTL (with or without Victorious)
- 2C-1 Eagle gets its Phantomization swapped and before Ark: and survives instead, past 1978. Ark gets axed in 1972. Hermes still converted as commando carrier 1971-73.
- 2C-2 Eagle gets in Phantomization in place of Hermes Commando Carrier 1971-73, and survives instead of Ark, scrapped 1972.

.........

Scenario 3

Hermes, the last carrier standing post 1978, keeps just one catapult and saves the day in the Falklands with Buccaneers and, most importantly: Gannet AEW 3.
 
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Archibald

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Next step: fitting Through-deck-cruisers / Invincibles and CVA-01 into the above... wish me good luck !
 

uk 75

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My rule of thumb for the UK carrier force has the following markers.
1962 four fixed wing and two commando ships.
1966 to 1972 two fixed wing and two commando ships.
1972 to 1980 one fixed wing carrier if Conservatives elected (plus one as source of parts or being refitted) and two commando ships.
1980 to 1991 three (two if no Falklands War) carriers with only one in service, sometimes two if refits allow.
These numbers are the maximum the UK can afford and crew.
I have deliberately left out classes of carrier.
So in the period 1972 to 80
the fixed wing carrier in service instead of Ark Royal might have been CVA01, Eagle, the 1957 carrier, Hermes, Centaur or?
 

Archibald

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This is well noted and will be quite useful.

If I applies it to my scenarios... my takes(s) would be:

1962 four fixed wing and two commando ships.

Two Audacious, Victorious+Hermes or Centaur+Hermes, Albion / Bulwark CC.

1966 to 1972 two fixed wing and two commando ships.

Trickier. Screw Victorious (standalone) & Ark Royal (in poor shape)
- keep Eagle +Hermes or +Centaur
- the latter with a Buccaneer strike force
- Phantoms are dumped to the RAF
- Albion & Bulwark remain as CC - Centaur will follow them
- the Invincibles are coming to replace the three above
- introducing some kind of naval Harrier
1972 to 1980 one fixed wing carrier if Conservatives elected (plus one as source of parts or being refitted) and two commando ships.

Eagle again, Hermes, plus three or two Centaurs as Commando Carrier

1980 to 1991 three (two if no Falklands War) carriers with only one in service, sometimes two if refits allow.

Time for the Centaurs to go (all of them, attack or CC), but build only two Invincibles instead of "three, but one dumped to Australia ASAP). Centaurs Commando Carriers are gradually deflated as Invincibles enter service.

Keep Eagle with Phantoms, Buccs, Ganet AEW 3 and SHARs. At worse, transfer the last Phantoms to the RAF and spare Eagle catapults using SHARs for air defense, they can also use Invincibles.
The gist of the idea is a mixed SHAR / Bucc striking force.
 

GK Dundas

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I am working on a something but am still filling in the pieces.
I do have a question ,I've been looking at both Hermes and Centaur as a possible asw carriers.Centaur of course brought up to the same standard.
Bulwark and Albion would be used as Commando carriers.
The thing is I am wondering just how useful would be an improved Gannet in conjunction with Sea Kings ? It just seems like a natural partnership.
 

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I think the biggest problem with the Gannet is the compact size of the airframe. That limits the amount of electronics that can be packed in when compared to a Grumman S-2 Tracker or Lockheed S-3 Viking.

Where do you put all the extra sonobuoys (Gannet carried less than a dozen IIRC), plus MAD gear, diesel sniffers etc.? And do you then need a third operator to man them? And unlike a helicopter it can’t stop and hover to dip a powerful active sonar into the water to prosecute underwater targets.

So the RN took the view in the mid-1950s to move to the helicopter for ASW equipped with that active dipping sonar as the best tool for the job. Only later in the 1980s do they add do they add sonobuoy and MAD gear to the Sea King.
 

zen

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The answer to the future of fixed wing ASW is the same platform as for AEW and COD.
 

Archibald

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Short list of my scenarios here (this is my RN carrier sandbox, after all LMAO)

Scenario 1
Three Audacious and four Centaurs, plus Victorious.
That one is the absolute best case with the old carriers.
- Maltas are paper, the other four Centaurs too.
- Everything else (Victorious half sisterships, Colossus, Majestic) is crap.

Scenario 2 OTL
Two Audacious and four Centaurs, plus Victorious. We all know that story !
What could be improved there, when deflating that old seven-carrier fleet until, say, 1985 ? see below.

Scenario 2A - OTL optimized a bit
Two Audacious and four Centaurs - handled better, plus Victorious
-Two Audacious
-Victorious
-Two Centaurs to Hermes standard (attack carrier: Centaur = Hermes)
-Two Centaurs as Commando carriers (Albion and Bulwark were twins)

Scenario 2B
Two Audacious and four Centaurs - no Victorious - otherwise same as Scenario 2A.
Hence:
-Two Audacious
-Two Centaurs to Hermes standard (attack carrier: Centaur = Hermes)
-Two Centaurs as Commando carriers (Albion and Bulwark twins)

Now that's a much more balanced fleet than OTL, starting from the same resources and hulls.

Basically its scenario 3 except Victorious huge and ruinous modernization is replaced by Centaur being brought to same standard as Hermes: that other massive rebuild finished in 1959: max attack carrier, can do Buccaneer S.2 but Phantoms are a bridge too far).

Scenario 2C
Variants of OTL (with or without Victorious)
- 2C-1 Eagle gets its Phantomization swapped and before Ark: and survives instead, past 1978. Ark gets axed in 1972. Hermes still converted as commando carrier 1971-73.
- 2C-2 Eagle gets in Phantomization in place of Hermes Commando Carrier 1971-73, and survives instead of Ark, scrapped 1972.

.........

Scenario 3

Hermes, the last carrier standing post 1978, keeps just one catapult and saves the day in the Falklands with Buccaneers and, most importantly: Gannet AEW 3.

New scenario 4
That one.

Implacable and Indefatigable
 

Archibald

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So from all this...

Best scenario 1
- 3 Audacious plus rebuild Implacable and Indefatigable.
Screw their 4 sisterships including Victorious.
4 Centaurs
a) foreign navies
b) commando carriers
No Hermes rebuild either.

Best scenario 2
- 2 Audacious plus rebuild Implacable and Indefatigable.
Screw their 4 sisterships including Victorious.
4 Centaurs
a) foreign navies or
b) commando carriers
No Hermes rebuild either.

In a few words: in the 1950's a massive rebuild of Implacable and Indefatigable. Instead of smallish and dissimilar Victorious and Hermes.
 
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EwenS

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Except I doubt that rebuilding the Implacables generates anything better than Victorious. They are just not that much bigger dimensionally and have even bigger problems to overcome in the reconstruction.
 

Archibald

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As I said in the other thread - I'm just taking notes. My pet peeve is first and foremost spaaaaace, well ahead of... well plenty of other stuff. Including those british carriers impossible conundrums.
 

zen

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Bringing back this oldie not to hijack the other thread.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at 1945-75 troubled era... and having to pick between the following hodgepodge of "carriers" (broad sense of the word)
- Colossus / Majestic (16)
- Centaurs (4)
- Illustrious & derivatives (6, but too differente between them)
- Audacious (Ark & Eagle, plus the third one cancelled)
- Malta (paper only)
- CVA-01 (paper only)
- Invincibles (saved the day)

What would have been the best path to keep a balanced carrier force until the end of Cold War ?

My personal take
- 3 Audacious
- 4 Centaurs
They should be the core of the fleet. Everything else is shit, too small or too old or worn out.
How long could that fleet be stretched ? could some Centaurs survive in the 1980's ?
Ok lets insert some missing paper studies into this.

1952 CV with four Y300 plant

Medium Fleet Carriers:-
28,000-30,000ton twin Y300 plant
35,000-45,000ton triple Y300 plant

Trade Protection CV 'argument' between DNC and DAW. Using hull of Colossus/ Majestic overall dimensions and likely YEAD.1 plant.

30,000ton hybrid Guided Weapon Ship/ Carrier.

CVA-01 studies
1960 Trade off study ranging from 42,000ton to 68,000ton.
1962 Trade off study ranging from 50,000ton to 58,000ton.

Civil Lord of the Admiralty proposal for 40,000ton adaptable CV. Aimed forst at operations with Sea Vixen and Buccaneer. Later conversion to P1154 Harrier.

1964 study ranging down to 15,000ton.
 

H_K

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My rule of thumb for the UK carrier force has the following markers.
1962 four fixed wing and two commando ships.
1966 to 1972 two fixed wing and two commando ships.
1972 to 1980 one fixed wing carrier if Conservatives elected (plus one as source of parts or being refitted) and two commando ships.
1980 to 1991 three (two if no Falklands War) carriers with only one in service, sometimes two if refits allow.

Along those lines, here’s my “3 Centaur” scenario. What would it take to upgrade them to operate Buccaneers?

1962: Ark Royal + Hermes + Centaur + Albion (or Bulwark)

1966-1980s: Hermes + Centaur + Albion (or Bulwark)… 2 in service / 1 in reserve (1 eventually sold to Australia to replace HMAS Melbourne)

Changes vs. OTL:
- Victorious rebuild cancelled early 50s
- Eagle paid off 1960 without modernisation
- Ark Royal paid off 1966 without Phantomization
- Modify Colossus/Majestics as commando carriers (choice of Ocean, Theseus, and Magnificient)
- Spey Twosader instead of Phantoms

For this scenario to work, Centaur + choice of Albion/Bulwark undergo deeper modernization in late 50s to “quasi-Hermes” standard (perhaps without the deck-edge lift).

This maintains 1 large carrier though the mid/late 60s, avoids some expensive modernisations and the F-4K money pit, and leads to a homogenous carrier fleet that is more sustainable in the long run.
 
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