The Royal Navy with CVA01

EwenS

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The timescale was probably impossible to meet. Key points:-
Design ready - Jan 1966 achieved.
Tender period - Jan-Jun 1966. I’ll come back to this
Order - end of Sept 1966
Lay down - Sept 1967
Launch -Sept 1969
Acceptance - June 1972
Fully operational June 1973
The above timetable shows that the ship was to be built in 4¾ years, which is the time allowed between laying down and acceptance.

In view of the time overruns of other ships built for the Royal Navy in the 1970s completing CVA.01 on schedule would be a positive miracle.
Based on the historical position I agree the build schedule seems optimistic. Particularly in view of the industrial strife in the shipbuilding industry at the time. There was also massive reorganisation and consolidation in the industry as a result of the 1966 Geddes Report.

Now in this alternative history we have at least one, possibly up to three, very large high value / high skill contracts being awarded from 1966 beyond the capabilities of all bar one individual company. With more work in the yards, particularly on the Clyde, from these contracts who knows if it might have led to greater stability in the industry, less strikes, and shorter build times.

Strikes in the UK


The other problem of course is the budget for this project, particularly in view of the prevailing U.K. inflation rates. Does that lead to elongation of the programme to allow the money to become available.

1652200769703.png
 
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NOMISYRRUC

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Had F4K come in closer to predicted cost instead of being nearly three times that.....
It's another one where I can't remember the source (or in this case I didn't write the name of the book down when I took the notes) that that projected R&D cost of the Spey Phantom was £50 million (including £25 million of the engines) and that the actual cost was £100 million (including £50 million for the engines).

The higher production cost was a combination of it being a non-standard aircraft, the devaluation of Sterling in 1967 and the relatively small number of aircraft built. The non-standard wasn't just that it had Spey engines instead of J79s and the modifications to the airframe. It also had some British built avionics (including the radar) and some of the airframe was built in Britain.

With hindsight it looks as if it would have been better if the British Phantoms had been built under licence in the UK by Hawker Siddeley, which was the sister design firm for the aircraft. Westland's long line of licence-built Sikorsky helicopters is a precedent for this. The R&D cost would have been exactly the same. I think the production cost would be the same and it would save a lot of Dollars which would ease the Country's balance of payments problems. And on the subject of Dollars the Sterling devaluation of 1967 wouldn't have pushed the cost up.

Alternatively, in 1962 make the RAF buy a development of the P.1127 (which becomes the "our timeline" Harrier) instead of the P.1154RAF and have Hawker Siddeley design a twin-Spey CTOL fighter instead of the P.1154RN which would replace the Sea Vixen in the RN and then the Lightning in the RAF. (I have an RAF policy document from 1964 which says that the intention was to replace the Lightining with the RN version of the P.1154.) The £120 million spent on the P.1154 and R&D of the Spey-Phantom in the "real world" would have gone along way to covering the R&D costs. I also think that the production cost would be about the same. Starting the project in 1962 should give enough time to get it into service in 1969. As it's a new aircraft rather than a modification of an existing aircraft it might have lower take-off and landing speeds which in turn might make it possible for the aircraft to operate from Hermes and Victorious. Finally, British naval aircraft tended to fold into smaller packages than their American contemporaries so this aircraft might consume less space on the hangar and flight deck than the Phantom which in turn would allow more aircraft to be carried.
Had F8U-III won instead of F4, it might further alter the landscape here.
Is that the Spey-powered version?

If it is, my guess is that the R&D programme would have suffered from the same delays and cost escalation problems that they Spey-Phantom had. It's got the same engine so it's reasonable to expect that it would double from £25 million to £50 million.

My other guess is that the production cost would be several times the estimate too which is due to the reasons that I've already given for the Spey-Phantom, i.e. it's a non-standard aircraft, the sterling devaluation and the relatively small number of aircraft built.

Edit. No it isn't the Spey-powered version. Serves me right for not doing a quick search on the internet.
 
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zen

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So I'll agree that for 175 RAF and 140 FAA F4 it would've made sense to license production for Spey F4.
And the case actually improves if P1154 is canned and another 175 F4 are ordered for MRI mission (70 F4 actually did serve this before Jaguar).

So as to alternative from UK, the strongest cases are BAC Type 583, Type 590 and HSA (Brough) NGTA P.141.

F8U-III was the scaled up F8 using J75, comparable to say, Gyron, Olympus, Conway or Medway.
 

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The other problem of course is the budget for this project, particularly in view of the prevailing U.K. inflation rates. Does that lead to elongation of the programme to allow the money to become available.
I don't know, but these are some calculations that I did.

According to Leo Marriott in Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers 1945-1990 the estimated cost of CVA.01 was £70 million in 1966, but Hobbs said that the estimated cost was £60 million.

Using the Bank of England inflation calculator...
  • £60 million in 1966 was £84.44 in 1972
  • £70 million in 1966 was £98.52 in 1972
1972 was the year when CVA.01 was scheduled to be completed.

Mid-1970s editions of Jane's Fighting Ships say that the estimated cost of Invincible in 1973 was £70 million. According to Marriot the actual cost of Invincible was £184.5 million in 1980 and Ark Royal cost £220 million in 1985.

Again using the Bank of England inflation calculator:
  • £60 million in 1966 was £91.85 million in 1973.
  • £70 million in 1966 was £107.16 million in 1973.
Therefore, CVA.01 cost 53% more than Invincible at 1973 prices (if we believe Hobbs) or 79% more than Invincible at 1973 prices (if we believe Marriott). Both of which seem far too good to be true and I subscribe to the theory that "steel is cheap and air is free" theory for the costs of post-World War II warships.

According to the Bank of England inflation calculator:
  • £60 million in 1973 was £156.29 in 1980 which is £28.21 million or 15.29% less than the actual cost of Invincible
  • £60 million in 1973 was £216.77 in 1985 which is almost spot on for the cost of Ark Royal
Using Marriott's estimate of £70 million for the cost CVA.01, the cost of 3 ships of this type built instead of the Invincible class might have been:
  • £279.14 for the ship built instead of Invincible at 1980 prices
  • £337.90 for the ship built instead of Illustrious at 1982 prices
  • £387.16 for the ship built instead of Ark Royal at 1985 prices
That assumes that CVA.01, 02 and 03 took the same length of time to build as Invincible, Illustrious and Ark Royal.
 

uk 75

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154. Had they shown more it might have made it harder for the RN to get F4s since Defence Secretary Thorneycroft was keen on a joint service UK procurement.
Most sources suggest the twin engined RN version was even less feasible than the RAF one.
Hawker seemed determined to build single engine simple fighters so I see a BAC VG type as the only "real life" alternative to F4. And thanks to France AFVG M might have been. I like the AFVG and wish that it had not founded on the usual political chicanery between France and Britain.
 

zen

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So the logic behind RAF procurement of P.1154RN is to get FMICW radar and missile system then still ongoing and ironically got a shot in the arm with the AFVG after P.1154 was cancelled.

An irony here then if AFVG goes forward because of FAA need for a navalised fighter, MRCA never happens and RAF Strike is solved by heavy fuel tanks on a variant of the AFVG. And......AdA finally get their heavy fighter!
 

NOMISYRRUC

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154.
From National Archives file AIR 20/11465/68706.
32. The present authorised purchase of Lightnings is sufficient to back this force until 1972/73. By the mid-1970s, a replacement will be required which could be either a variable geometry aircraft for joint use by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy or a derivative of the P.1154. Whichever aircraft is finally ordered this minimum force of 10 squadrons must be replaced on a one-for-one basis and the overall U.E. should thus remain as 120 aircraft.
It was part of a report called The Future Shape and Size of the Royal Air Force - Part I - The Front Line. The covering loose minute was dated 2nd January 1964 and signed by Air Vice-Marshall D.F. Spottswood.

I presumed that they meant a derivative of the P.1154RN and not the P.1154RAF.
 

EwenS

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The other problem of course is the budget for this project, particularly in view of the prevailing U.K. inflation rates. Does that lead to elongation of the programme to allow the money to become available.
I don't know, but these are some calculations that I did.

According to Leo Marriott in Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers 1945-1990 the estimated cost of CVA.01 was £70 million in 1966, but Hobbs said that the estimated cost was £60 million.

Using the Bank of England inflation calculator...
  • £60 million in 1966 was £84.44 in 1972
  • £70 million in 1966 was £98.52 in 1972
1972 was the year when CVA.01 was scheduled to be completed.

Mid-1970s editions of Jane's Fighting Ships say that the estimated cost of Invincible in 1973 was £70 million. According to Marriot the actual cost of Invincible was £184.5 million in 1980 and Ark Royal cost £220 million in 1985.

Again using the Bank of England inflation calculator:
  • £60 million in 1966 was £91.85 million in 1973.
  • £70 million in 1966 was £107.16 million in 1973.
Therefore, CVA.01 cost 53% more than Invincible at 1973 prices (if we believe Hobbs) or 79% more than Invincible at 1973 prices (if we believe Marriott). Both of which seem far too good to be true and I subscribe to the theory that "steel is cheap and air is free" theory for the costs of post-World War II warships.

According to the Bank of England inflation calculator:
  • £60 million in 1973 was £156.29 in 1980 which is £28.21 million or 15.29% less than the actual cost of Invincible
  • £60 million in 1973 was £216.77 in 1985 which is almost spot on for the cost of Ark Royal
Using Marriott's estimate of £70 million for the cost CVA.01, the cost of 3 ships of this type built instead of the Invincible class might have been:
  • £279.14 for the ship built instead of Invincible at 1980 prices
  • £337.90 for the ship built instead of Illustrious at 1982 prices
  • £387.16 for the ship built instead of Ark Royal at 1985 prices
That assumes that CVA.01, 02 and 03 took the same length of time to build as Invincible, Illustrious and Ark Royal.
The effects of inflation in the 1970s is horrendous. But is general inflation, from the BoE data, the same as for technology businesses/products? Look at the costs of the Ikara Leander conversions.

First ship - Leander 1970-73 £7.6 million.
Fourth ship - Aurora - 1974-76 £15.6 million
Final ship - Dido - 1975-78 £23 million

And the Exocet Leanders rose from £13.8 million to £47.7million between 1973 and 1982. Those kind of price rises eventually saw the cancellation of the Seawolf conversions cancelled in the early 1980s.
 

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The effects of inflation in the 1970s is horrendous. But is general inflation, from the BoE data, the same as for technology businesses/products?
No it isn't, but it's the best that I can do and does provide a rough guide.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Look at the costs of the Ikara Leander conversions.

First ship - Leander 1970-73 £7.6 million.
Fourth ship - Aurora - 1974-76 £15.6 million
Final ship - Dido - 1975-78 £23 million

And the Exocet Leanders rose from £13.8 million to £47.7million between 1973 and 1982. Those kind of price rises eventually saw the cancellation of the Seawolf conversions cancelled in the early 1980s.
And the projected conversion of Juno into an Exocet Leander wasn't carried out either.

Here's one I did earlier.

Cost of Leander Modernisations.png

And another one.

Cost of Type 21, 22 and 42.png
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Look at the costs of the Ikara Leander conversions.

First ship - Leander 1970-73 £7.6 million.
Fourth ship - Aurora - 1974-76 £15.6 million
Final ship - Dido - 1975-78 £23 million

And the Exocet Leanders rose from £13.8 million to £47.7million between 1973 and 1982. Those kind of price rises eventually saw the cancellation of the Seawolf conversions cancelled in the early 1980s.
This is a different version of the Leander refits list.
Cost of Leander Modernisations in Type order.png
 

uk 75

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154.
From National Archives file AIR 20/11465/68706.
32. The present authorised purchase of Lightnings is sufficient to back this force until 1972/73. By the mid-1970s, a replacement will be required which could be either a variable geometry aircraft for joint use by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy or a derivative of the P.1154. Whichever aircraft is finally ordered this minimum force of 10 squadrons must be replaced on a one-for-one basis and the overall U.E. should thus remain as 120 aircraft.
It was part of a report called The Future Shape and Size of the Royal Air Force - Part I - The Front Line. The covering loose minute was dated 2nd January 1964 and signed by Air Vice-Marshall D.F. Spottswood.

I presumed that they meant a derivative of the P.1154RN and not the P.1154RAF.
By 1964 only the RAF version of 1154 still existed and was to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez. The RAF were considering improvements to radar and armament if it had entered service. The joint use VG started life before 1154 but emerges as AFVG.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154.
From National Archives file AIR 20/11465/68706.
32. The present authorised purchase of Lightnings is sufficient to back this force until 1972/73. By the mid-1970s, a replacement will be required which could be either a variable geometry aircraft for joint use by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy or a derivative of the P.1154. Whichever aircraft is finally ordered this minimum force of 10 squadrons must be replaced on a one-for-one basis and the overall U.E. should thus remain as 120 aircraft.
It was part of a report called The Future Shape and Size of the Royal Air Force - Part I - The Front Line. The covering loose minute was dated 2nd January 1964 and signed by Air Vice-Marshall D.F. Spottswood.

I presumed that they meant a derivative of the P.1154RN and not the P.1154RAF.
By 1964 only the RAF version of 1154 still existed and was to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez. The RAF were considering improvements to radar and armament if it had entered service. The joint use VG started life before 1154 but emerges as AFVG.
I was under the impression that the RN didn't withdraw from the P.1154 until February 1964. In any case developing an interceptor from the RAF version sounds like reinventing the P.1154RN to me.

FWIW the 8 P.1154RAF squadrons (with 12 aircraft each) planned in the document and Plan P in March 1964 were to be deployed as follows.
  • 2 squadrons in RAF Germany replacing the 2 Hunter FR squadrons
  • 2 squadrons in Transport Command
  • 2 squadrons in AFME
  • 2 squadrons in FEAF
Though Spottswood thought that the minimum requirement was 10 squadrons (and that 12 could be justified) which would be deployed as follows:
  • 4 squadrons in RAF Germany
  • 2 squadrons in Transport Command
  • 2 squadrons in AFME
  • 2 squadrons in FEAF
So the RAF version of P.1154 wasn't just to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez.
 

zen

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154.
From National Archives file AIR 20/11465/68706.
32. The present authorised purchase of Lightnings is sufficient to back this force until 1972/73. By the mid-1970s, a replacement will be required which could be either a variable geometry aircraft for joint use by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy or a derivative of the P.1154. Whichever aircraft is finally ordered this minimum force of 10 squadrons must be replaced on a one-for-one basis and the overall U.E. should thus remain as 120 aircraft.
It was part of a report called The Future Shape and Size of the Royal Air Force - Part I - The Front Line. The covering loose minute was dated 2nd January 1964 and signed by Air Vice-Marshall D.F. Spottswood.

I presumed that they meant a derivative of the P.1154RN and not the P.1154RAF.
By 1964 only the RAF version of 1154 still existed and was to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez. The RAF were considering improvements to radar and armament if it had entered service. The joint use VG started life before 1154 but emerges as AFVG.
The FMICW radar effort was still live after P.1154RN cancellation, likely because it was thought this would be required to deliver such capability.
'64 is also when Type 583 was offered again to both services.
 

uk 75

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I noticed mention above that the RAF expressed interest in using the P1154RN to replace Lightning.
I suspect this was probably a marker by an officer writing a paper in 1964.
I have never come across any other reference to RAF interest in the RN variant of the 1154.
From National Archives file AIR 20/11465/68706.
32. The present authorised purchase of Lightnings is sufficient to back this force until 1972/73. By the mid-1970s, a replacement will be required which could be either a variable geometry aircraft for joint use by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy or a derivative of the P.1154. Whichever aircraft is finally ordered this minimum force of 10 squadrons must be replaced on a one-for-one basis and the overall U.E. should thus remain as 120 aircraft.
It was part of a report called The Future Shape and Size of the Royal Air Force - Part I - The Front Line. The covering loose minute was dated 2nd January 1964 and signed by Air Vice-Marshall D.F. Spottswood.

I presumed that they meant a derivative of the P.1154RN and not the P.1154RAF.
By 1964 only the RAF version of 1154 still existed and was to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez. The RAF were considering improvements to radar and armament if it had entered service. The joint use VG started life before 1154 but emerges as AFVG.
I was under the impression that the RN didn't withdraw from the P.1154 until February 1964. In any case developing an interceptor from the RAF version sounds like reinventing the P.1154RN to me.

FWIW the 8 P.1154RAF squadrons (with 12 aircraft each) planned in the document and Plan P in March 1964 were to be deployed as follows.
  • 2 squadrons in RAF Germany replacing the 2 Hunter FR squadrons
  • 2 squadrons in Transport Command
  • 2 squadrons in AFME
  • 2 squadrons in FEAF
Though Spottswood thought that the minimum requirement was 10 squadrons (and that 12 could be justified) which would be deployed as follows:
  • 4 squadrons in RAF Germany
  • 2 squadrons in Transport Command
  • 2 squadrons in AFME
  • 2 squadrons in FEAF
So the RAF version of P.1154 wasn't just to have a fighter role against low capability opponents East of Suez.
The primary role of the P1154 in all theatres was Fighter Ground Attack (FGA) replacing the Hunter FGA9. It could carry two Red Top AA missiles (a bit like Jaguar and Buccaneer later carried a pair of Sidewinders).
Where Lightnings were present these were expected to be the interceptor but P1154 also served in 38 Group (the 2 Transport Command Squadrons in UK) which supported foreign interventions by the UK Strategic Reserve.
I would be surprised if the RAF wanted to have the two engined monstrosity that 1154RN had become by 1964 but using its radar would make sense.
 

zen

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I would be surprised if the RAF wanted to have the two engined monstrosity that 1154RN had become by 1964
Everything I've read says the twin Spey offering died after it was revealed RR had cut out supersonic components to deliver on weight. That was a brief interlude.

Bristol's BS.100 was the engine funded.
 

uk 75

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BAC keeps 583 alive as a proposal but by 1966 AFVG takes over as the UK medium sized fighter striker and F4 replacement.
583 covers a range of designs, some with lift engines, some virtually mini TSR2s. They always seem very paper aircraft to me. AFVG at least reached mockup stage by cancellation.
 

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have Hawker Siddeley design a twin-Spey CTOL fighter instead of the P.1154RN which would replace the Sea Vixen in the RN and then the Lightning in the RAF.
Like a Blackburn P.141, except earlier, Hawker and... larger, because two Speys will result in a rather massive airframe.

Note that on the other side of the Channel Breguet (from memory) had 2*Spey fighter projects, can't remember the exact number in the 1100 - 1200 series.
 

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have Hawker Siddeley design a twin-Spey CTOL fighter instead of the P.1154RN which would replace the Sea Vixen in the RN and then the Lightning in the RAF.
Like a Blackburn P.141, except earlier, Hawker and... larger, because two Speys will result in a rather massive airframe.

Note that on the other side of the Channel Breguet (from memory) had 2*Spey fighter projects, can't remember the exact number in the 1100 - 1200 series.
The one that I know of was it's rival to Mirage G. I think it was the Br.121.
 

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The primary role of the P1154 in all theatres was Fighter Ground Attack (FGA) replacing the Hunter FGA9. Where Lightnings were present these were expected to be the interceptor but P1154 also served in 38 Group (the 2 Transport Command Squadrons in UK) which supported foreign interventions by the UK Strategic Reserve.
FWIW I already knew all of the above.
It could carry two Red Top AA missiles (a bit like Jaguar and Buccaneer later carried a pair of Sidewinders).
Except that the P.1154RAF might have been able to carry four Red Tops instead of two.

I have a vague memory from one of my trips to the National Archives in the late 1990s or early 2000s where I saw a file about the P.1154RAF. The file contained drawings that showed the various combinations of stores that could be carried on the four wing pylons. If my hazy memory is correct there was one drawing of it carrying four 1,000lb bombs (one per pylon) and another of it carrying four Red Tops (also one per pylon).
I would be surprised if the RAF wanted to have the two engined monstrosity that 1154RN had become by 1964 but using its radar would make sense.
I don't know either way. My assumption was that as the P.1154RAF was the FGA/FR version and the P.1154RN was the interceptor version the latter would be the logical choice for the P.1154 variant to replace the RAF's Lightning interceptors. My assumption could easily be wrong.
 

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Discussion of floating, not fluttering CVAs must be in context with other things on the mind of Centralised MoD wef 1/4/64: no Cabinet-level sole-Service Ministers. So after 17/10/64 Healey tried to use (whiz-kid-McNamara's) Functional Costing to determine Biggest Bang for his Buck, coral atoll fixed bases (RAF) or mobile sovereign bases (RN), for the function of prompt AW support to India. Platforms, not as end-in-themselves, but as means-to-an-end. Issues included:
- US AW could not be deployed off-Main Base, where custodials could sustain Presidential Release Authorisation;
- everybody assumed runways would be nuked on Day 1, so VTOL was key to survival: >30 active FRG projects, alone, plus UK's/US';
- UK's AW industry might arm the 5 SSBNs by 1974-ish, maybe, but little or less else;
- UK was heading for penury, again (outgoing Chancellor left a Note for incoming: "sorry, mate, no dosh").

RR had its dead-weight lift engines and much FRG money to develop them, but faced destitution when BS.100 25/3/63 won P.1154/RN and RAF: deflected-thrust Twin Spey received little attention. RR+Napier then had in round numbers...little, nay less (many paper berths for Spey, but only 24 Trident 1s firm); ex-Bristol+ASM+DHEngines+Blackburn engines then had...lots. BSEL's owners' Boards (Bristol and HSGrp) briefly thought of a hostile Bid for RR-on-toast, but chose to wait for the Receiver's windfall deal.

All changed overnight, 27/2/64 when RN in a single bound was freed from P.1154, MoA Authorised to negotiate F-4B/supersonic Spey (funded 1/7/64, soon to be F-4J as F-4K). CVA had one set of machinery then Approved, but all knew 3 or 4 CVAs were needed (if Strike Carriers were to continue to do what they were then doing): none would need Spey/Phantoms. But Ark/Eagle/Victorious would, till CVAs arrived. The reason, as presented to Ministers, which they chose not to attempt to refute, was the bolter case with slam reheat. RN did not, in 1964, contemplate reheat in normal landing onto hefty wires. RN in 1964 had no experience of reheat. RR carried the assertion that Spey would slam to max in half-a second, as J79 could not, so F-4J would splash off Ark Small, as F-4K would not.

RAF, freed from P.1154 2/65, chose not to urge F-4M/J79, as Ministers would see such non-RN-commonality as silly. With that business volume swamping BSEL's post-TSR.2, RR bought them, 10/66: it wasn't AFVG's M45G that they wanted, but was to kill UK-in-JT9D/A300.
F-4M-for-RAFG came with US AW: existing Red Beards would arm NEAF/FEAF, deferring WE177A to a post-SSBN timeframe: all lapsing when the money issue sank East-of-Suez UK subsidy to our prospering Oriental Allies.
 

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If the Royal Navy had ordered the CVA01 as planned and it had entered.service in the early 1970s it would have changed the shape of the fleet substantially.
Of the remaining aircraft carriers, only Hermes was modern enough to serve without refit.
It was planned that Eagle would be the other Phantom equipped carrier. But both she and Ark Royal were in poor condition and would probably have been sacrificed to keep CVA01.
Just as Ark Royal served alone from 1972 to 1979 CVA01 would have had to do the same.
This is not quite correct.

Ark Royal was indeed in poor condition - she had propulsion issues which were never addressed, even in her historic 1966-70 Phantomization refit (work having been focused on flight deck changes and equipping her for Phantom operations).

Eagle had already been thoroughly refitted and modernized from 1959-64... including a complete overhaul of her propulsion plant (no new boilers, but almost everything else replaced).

In 1965 Eagle was by far the better platform (new catapults & full angle deck, 984 radar, aft lower hangar refitted into workshops/accommodation, etc. and the wardroom relocated to 4 deck, anteroom in the liftwell - much better than Ark's abomination on 6 deck) and far more reliable, with little or no feedwater problems that plagued Ark, or other irritating day to day problems.

By the late 1960s, fully Phantomizing Eagle was estimated to cost no more than £5 million and take 6 months. However, by the time Ark completed her Phantomization the decision had been made to wind down the RN's fixed-wing carrier capability, so Eagle never got that quick & cheap work done.

So it would be very likely that, if CVA-01 had been given the go-ahead, Eagle would have been fully Phantomized in the late 1960s (after Hermes came out of refit), with Victorious being taken out of service upon completion of this work, and Ark would have been taken out of service as soon as CVA-01 commissioned (probably a few months before, to provide much of CVA-01's crew).

CVA-02 would almost certainly have then been build, with Eagle likewise providing CVA-02's core crew before leaving service - unless circumstances required that CVA-03 actually be built, with Eagle remaining in service until that ship completed.

A completely separate issue was the planned modernization of Hermes to operate Phantoms - I have strong doubts as to the chances that would actually work, and expect that nothing more than her historic 1964-66 refit to operate Buccaneers would have been done.

Attached is a copy of a 1961 lecture on the work that had been performed on UK aircraft carriers up to that date, and a table of equipment changes for Eagle's modernization.
 

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uk 75

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Black Bat thank you for sorting this out. I tend to gloss things over to get discussion going and you have added valuable info.
Having Eagle as well as CVA01 in the 70s would have made it easier to keep one ship at sea at all times. How often two could have deployed given budget and crew problems is a bit doubtful.
I think Hermes would still have been converted to an LPH unless the UK chose to remain East of Suez.
Using Hermes as the Buccaneer carrier while CVA or Eagle just shipped Phantoms might then have been valuable.
God forbid but a Tory government might have joined Australia and New Zealand in Vietnam and the RN might have been on the Yankee Station as it had been in Korea. Too much alt history I know but.
 

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I have a suspicion it's possible that the UK might use CVA-01 to interfere with events in Somalia and Ethiopia. As it might Darfur.
Also a possible training deployment to the South Atlantic.....just to make the point to a certain South American state.

Events in the Eastern Mediterranean might see a deployment.
And possibly a bit of revenge bombing in Libya during the 80's.

Assuming history flows fairly close to our timeline, CVA-01 and CVA-02 would really start shining during the Yugoslavian breakup and subsequent wars. As they would during the liberation of Kuwait.

Sierra Leon would see a brief sortie.

Major deployments might be as per history in the handover of Hong Kong, and a swansong supporting the RAN with East Timor.
 

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If the Royal Navy had ordered the CVA01 as planned and it had entered.service in the early 1970s it would have changed the shape of the fleet substantially.
Of the remaining aircraft carriers, only Hermes was modern enough to serve without refit.
It was planned that Eagle would be the other Phantom equipped carrier. But both she and Ark Royal were in poor condition and would probably have been sacrificed to keep CVA01.
Just as Ark Royal served alone from 1972 to 1979 CVA01 would have had to do the same.
This is not quite correct.

Ark Royal was indeed in poor condition - she had propulsion issues which were never addressed, even in her historic 1966-70 Phantomization refit (work having been focused on flight deck changes and equipping her for Phantom operations).

Eagle had already been thoroughly refitted and modernized from 1959-64... including a complete overhaul of her propulsion plant (no new boilers, but almost everything else replaced).

In 1965 Eagle was by far the better platform (new catapults & full angle deck, 984 radar, aft lower hangar refitted into workshops/accommodation, etc. and the wardroom relocated to 4 deck, anteroom in the liftwell - much better than Ark's abomination on 6 deck) and far more reliable, with little or no feedwater problems that plagued Ark, or other irritating day to day problems.

By the late 1960s, fully Phantomizing Eagle was estimated to cost no more than £5 million and take 6 months. However, by the time Ark completed her Phantomization the decision had been made to wind down the RN's fixed-wing carrier capability, so Eagle never got that quick & cheap work done.

So it would be very likely that, if CVA-01 had been given the go-ahead, Eagle would have been fully Phantomized in the late 1960s (after Hermes came out of refit), with Victorious being taken out of service upon completion of this work, and Ark would have been taken out of service as soon as CVA-01 commissioned (probably a few months before, to provide much of CVA-01's crew).

CVA-02 would almost certainly have then been build, with Eagle likewise providing CVA-02's core crew before leaving service - unless circumstances required that CVA-03 actually be built, with Eagle remaining in service until that ship completed.

A completely separate issue was the planned modernization of Hermes to operate Phantoms - I have strong doubts as to the chances that would actually work, and expect that nothing more than her historic 1964-66 refit to operate Buccaneers would have been done.

Attached is a copy of a 1961 lecture on the work that had been performed on UK aircraft carriers up to that date, and a table of equipment changes for Eagle's modernization.

My understanding is that Eagle got axed because of a minor grounding happened in October 1970. It permanently damaged a propeller shaft causing some vibrations; and considering the economic harships UK suffered during these two decades (1970 was only the middle of the horror) Eagle was axed and Ark soldiered on - against any logic, for sure.

Ark agonized until 1978 OTL. Let's suppose we reverse their fates, how long could Eagle last, into the 1980's ? could it last until the end of Cold War ?
 

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The problem for the UK carrier force was a combination of lack of money and declining crew numbers.
I have read in a number of places that serving on aircraft carriers was less popular than modern frigates and destroyers.
I doubt whether CVA01 could have been afforded or crewed when in the 80s it was hard to deploy more than one Invincible at a time. Having Eagle as well or CVA02 would have taken a more prosperous Britain and better recruitment.
 

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By the late 1960s, fully Phantomizing Eagle was estimated to cost no more than £5 million and take 6 months. However, by the time Ark completed her Phantomization the decision had been made to wind down the RN's fixed-wing carrier capability, so Eagle never got that quick & cheap work done.
I suspect that the refit would have gone way over time and cost. That is if the conversions of Blake and Tiger into helicopter cruisers are anything to go by. Having written that, Ark Royal's refit was completed on time and at cost.

As of February 1966 Ark Royal and Eagle were to be Phantomized and remain in service until 1975. These plans were unaffected by the 1967 decision to withdraw from East of Suez by 1975. However, early in 1968 it was decided to bring the withdrawal forward to the end of 1971. As a result the retirement of Ark Royal and Eagle was brought forward from 1975 to 1972.

This is when the Phantomization of Eagle was cancelled. I don't know (because I haven't seen it written down anywhere) but I suspect that Eagle wasn't Phantomized because she'd only be operating the aircraft for 3 years (1969-72) instead of the 6 years (1969-75) previously planned and it was no longer thought to be cost effective.

I also suspect that Ark Royal's Phantomisation refit would have been abandoned early in 1968 if it had been less far advanced.

The F-4K's that would have equipped Eagle's Phantom squadron were given to the RAF, which formed No. 43 Squadron on them in 1969.
 

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I think Hermes would still have been converted to an LPH unless the UK chose to remain East of Suez.
Perhaps, but if I remember correctly, the conversion cost £25 million, which if my "guesstimates" using the Bank of England inflation calculator are near the mark was 25% of a CVA.01 at 1973 Prices.

We've already concluded that CVA.01 would have been completed behind schedule even if she had been laid down on time. There'd probably be cost escalations too which would be due to inflation if nothing else. Therefore, Lord Carrington might well keep Albion in service instead of converting Hermes to a commando carrier and use the money saved to make a part payment towards the cost of building CVA.01.
 

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As written in Post 67 the plan in early 1968 was to pay Eagle and Ark Royal off in 1972. Eagle went as scheduled, but Ark Royal remained in service until the end of 1978. As far as I know Lord Carrington (who was Secretary of State for Defence 1970-74) gave her the reprieve, but I don't know when. Does anyone know when the decision to reprieve Ark Royal was announced?
 

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There was an article in a 1970 Air Pictorial which covered the new Defence Statement by the recently elected Tories. I will see if it is anywhere online.
 

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My understanding is that Eagle got axed because of a minor grounding happened in October 1970. It permanently damaged a propeller shaft causing some vibrations; and considering the economic hardships UK suffered during these two decades (1970 was only the middle of the horror) Eagle was axed and Ark soldiered on - against any logic, for sure.
She would have been paid off in 1972 even if the grounding hadn't happened.
Ark agonized until 1978 OTL. Let's suppose we reverse their fates, how long could Eagle last, into the 1980's ? could it last until the end of Cold War ?
I recommend this.
Though you might have read it already using one of your aliases.
 

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There was an article in a 1970 Air Pictorial which covered the new Defence Statement by the recently elected Tories. I will see if it is anywhere online.
Is this it, or just a verbal summary of it?

Same as this
As you say Air Pictorial summarises it.

The article contained an unusual model of the "new" Command Cruiser in a photograph which I cant find anywhere.
They're not the same thing. Although they talk the same things.

@TomS has provided a link to the Hansard report on a House of Commons debate that took place on 28th October 1970.

@uk 75 has provided a link to the Hansard report on a House of Commons debate that took place on 19th November 1970.

I've not read the later one yet, but I did a word search of it and it contains the phrase "Ark Royal" 37 times. The first two of which are part of this paragraph.
We have also decided as part of the improvement of the Navy to extend the planned life of the aircraft carrier H.M.S. "Ark Royal", recently refitted at very considerable cost under the last Administration. We intend to retain her in service, flying fixed-wing aircraft, until the late 1970s. During the years ahead her Phantom and Buccaneer aircraft will add greatly to the weapon capability immediately available to our naval forces at sea. Where speed of response is essential, they will complement the support which will be provided by the shore-based aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The aircraft for "Ark Royal" will be provided from total numbers already planned, and will be flown in the main by Royal Navy aircrew, with Royal Air Force aircrew participating as necessary.
I have read the earlier report in full. It only contains the phrase Ark Royal three times, but the first of them is part of this paragraph.
We have also decided to run on H.M.S. "Ark Royal" until the late 1970s, thus contributing a valuable increase to N.A.T.O's maritime strength. This decision will not prejudice the gradual assumption by the Royal Air Force of the responsibility for the provision of fixed-wing air support for the Royal Navy.
The first second report also says that the Government had decided to abandon plans to buy C5s to replace the Britannia.
—one major decision which affects the long-term costs, and that is the decision not to proceed with the idea of purchasing the C5, the American aircraft which could have been the successor to the Britannia, which, sooner or later, will have to be phased out or refurbished.
The Government was also going to form 4 additional squadrons of Jaguars, but there were going to find the aircraft by reducing the order for two-seat Jaguars and increase the number of single-seat aircraft so that the total would still be 200.
Under the exsting understanding with the French, 200 aircraft will be produced for each country. We shall still need 200 Jaguars, but the majority will now be the operational version. The training rôle will be undertaken by a completely different aircraft.
 

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I think Hermes would still have been converted to an LPH unless the UK chose to remain East of Suez.
This is a sentence in the Hansard report that you provided a link to.
H.M.S. "Hermes", the third fixed-wing aircraft carrier, is to be converted to the commando ship rôle to replace H.M.S. "Bulwark".
She was paid off in October 1970 but wasn't taken into dockyard hands until 1st March 1971 and when she re-commissioned on 17th August 1973 replaced Albion rather than Bulwark.
 

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She would have been paid off in 1972 even if the grounding hadn't happened.
Ah yes, I see why (explained earlier in the thread): it hadn't been Phantomized unlike Ark Royal, and now it was too late, so it had to go. Facepalm.

With perfect hindsight, the silly decision was to Phantomize Ark Royal first and Eagle after - and too late, so canned and retired.

This is how you get the worst carrier between the two, limping in service for way too long.

Phantomize Eagle first and then screw Ark Royal by 1972 - things might have been interesting. Asking again, would Eagle make it better to 1978 and eventually beyond ?
(yes, I know about AH.com TL, and no need to fool the idiots to read it: post-1900 is access free even without an account).
 

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Ark Royal was assessed in poor state 1963.
So the choice to Phantomise her first was partly extract the remaining life in the most useful way and partly to force her replacement.
It was at that time taken for granted that Eagle would follow in the process.
No one could conceive in the early 60's when planning the cycles of refit and maintenance that circumstances would actually come to the point Eagle wouldn't and Ark Royal have to soldier on.
 

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Asking again, would Eagle make it better to 1978 and eventually beyond ?
Alone?
Possibly.
As a pair Eagle and Ark Royal, certainly.
In the circumstances of CVA-01 and CVA-02 being built. Very unlikely.
 

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"Alone" indeed - that was what I had I mind.

But just like Hermes, no money nor sailors for it along three Invincibles. Not with Nott (ha ha) at the RN controls. Since they build three Invincibles yet they wanted to dump one to Australia... it clearly shows how old carriers would run into a wall in the early Thatcher era.

Was Nott pre-Falklands plan "two Invincibles and nothing else" ? With Invincible to Australia and Hermes retired or to India, only the Invincible sisterships Illustrious and Ark Royal would remain by 1983 ?

A lot of people must have been amused to see Nott eating his hat over the Falklands. Although the RN sailors bombed to hell by the Argies must not have been amused, TBH.
 

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She would have been paid off in 1972 even if the grounding hadn't happened.
Ah yes, I see why (explained earlier in the thread): it hadn't been Phantomized unlike Ark Royal, and now it was too late, so it had to go. Facepalm.
For some more background information see the third paragraph of this extract from the House of Commons debate of 19th November 1970.
We have also decided as part of the improvement of the Navy to extend the planned life of the aircraft carrier H.M.S. "Ark Royal", recently refitted at very considerable cost under the last Administration. We intend to retain her in service, flying fixed-wing aircraft, until the late 1970s. During the years ahead her Phantom and Buccaneer aircraft will add greatly to the weapon capability immediately available to our naval forces at sea. Where speed of response is essential, they will complement the support which will be provided by the shore-based aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The aircraft for "Ark Royal" will be provided from total numbers already planned, and will be flown in the main by Royal Navy aircrew, with Royal Air Force aircrew participating as necessary.

In the light of what we know about the widespread use in other navies of surface-to-surface missiles—and our own deficiency—the last Government's decision to do away completely with fixed-wing aircraft carriers was, frankly, incomprehensible. Having just spent over £30 million on refitting "Ark Royal" to become one of the most powerful naval ships in the world, their decision seemed to verge on lunacy.

We considered whether we could continue H.M.S. "Eagle" as well. But she would need a very expensive refit to fly Phantoms. Equally significant would be the demands on the Navy's manpower, which would have meant unacceptable penalties. H.M.S. "Hermes", the third fixed-wing aircraft carrier, is to be converted to the commando ship rôle to replace H.M.S. "Bulwark". "Ark Royal" will be available most of the time, and when she is in dock her aircraft will normally be available to operate from shore bases.
Source: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1970/nov/19/defence-policy-1970 which was originally uploaded by @uk 75 in Post 73.
 
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