• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

What if UK postponed the decomissioning of the Ark Royal class, would it change the outcome of the Falklands?

helmutkohl

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
664
Reaction score
993
the Falklands war occurred in 82
Ark Royal (or another ship of the same class?) was decommissioned in 79

What if they had opted to delay the decommissioning by a few years
but then the Falkland war occurred anyways

Would the Ark Royal have been sent?
would it have contributed differently than the Invincible?
and how would its impact affect the future of the RN?
 
Last edited:

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
Ark Royal was the wrong ship, that it lasted until 1978 is kind of "red herring" here.
Better to bet on sistership HMS Eagle which was in far better shape but was retired earlier (d'oh !)
So, behold; an excellent reading and a fantastic TL

HMS EAGLE IN THE FALKLANDS


Spoiler: Argentina lose even worse than OTL

Cheers !
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
Somewhere in that thread is my little self (under cover because AH.com moderators are despotic morons) explaining why Eagle retirement was accelerated in 1972.
It was a matter of the ship running aground a day of October 1970 - that in turn damaged one of the propeller transmissions, the ships vibrated more and this was too complex repairing; so just like the Victorious fire in 1967, this was used as a pretext to throw Eagle under a bus definitively. A sad story, really.
 

helmutkohl

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
664
Reaction score
993
Ark Royal was the wrong ship, that it lasted until 1978 is kind of "red herring" here.
Better to bet on sistership HMS Eagle which was in far better shape but was retired earlier (d'oh !)
So, behold; an excellent reading and a fantastic TL

HMS EAGLE IN THE FALKLANDS


Spoiler: Argentina lose even worse than OTL

Cheers !
thanks!
ive also wondered what if Foch/Clemenceau was in charge of the situation too! (assuming Falklnads was a French island rather than UK)
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
At some point there would be the issue of South Atlantic and its weather being so atrocious, CATOBAR carriers might have very hard times launching and recovering aircraft. Although Eagle is doing well in that story, so probably a moot point.
Crusaders chasing Skyhawks and battling Mirages, now that would be something !
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
2,002
Reaction score
460
From what I've read and comprehend, the fixed wing assets of Ark Royal or Eagle would have equated to more bombs and rockets to be brought on target by Buccaneers and Phantom II's...but saying this, I've also heard that Buccaneers/Phantom II's wouldn't have been able to operate safely in the atrocious weather of the South Atlantic, where as the Sea Harrier could and did.
Probably most importantly would have been the Fairey Gannet AEW.3, providing critical AEW to the Task Force.

Regards
Pioneer
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
From what I've read and comprehend, the fixed wing assets of Ark Royal or Eagle would have equated to more bombs and rockets to be brought on target by Buccaneers and Phantom II's...but saying this, I've also heard that Buccaneers/Phantom II's wouldn't have been able to operate safely in the atrocious weather of the South Atlantic, where as the Sea Harrier could and did.
Probably most importantly would have been the Fairey Gannet AEW.3, providing critical AEW to the Task Force.

Regards
Pioneer
But if you can't operate Buccs and Phantoms due to the weather, are you going to be able to safely operate Gannets?
 

Thorvic

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Messages
642
Reaction score
130
Well if Eagle had refitted for Phantoms and they repaired the grounding damage then she would have been possible in the Falklands Conflict.
The simple matter is however that if Ark or Eagle were still in service then its unlikely they would have invaded in the first place.
Their own fleet would be exposed to Martel attack from Buccaneers, as well as SSN attacks so they couldn't protect the islands.

Phantoms with Gannet would have have been able to provide a far more capable CAP. TV guided Martel would enable Radar, Command posts and AA missiles to be eliminated before strikes with rockets and 1000lb bombs by Buccaneers & Phantoms.

The other factor is that the larger more capable airgroup makes the war a whole lot more serious as the Argentine mainland can be struck so airbases, ports and command centre's become valid Targets and bring the war home :(
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
368
Reaction score
377
The continued availability of a CTOL carrier with Phantoms and Buccaneers likely would have resulting in the war being averted all together. The generals were after a PR win based on their assumption the UK wasn't interested or capable in retaking the islands, primarily because they had retired their last CTOL carrier and in the act of selling one of the replacement Invincible Class.
 

helmutkohl

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
664
Reaction score
993
Well if Eagle had refitted for Phantoms and they repaired the grounding damage then she would have been possible in the Falklands Conflict.
The simple matter is however that if Ark or Eagle were still in service then its unlikely they would have invaded in the first place.
Their own fleet would be exposed to Martel attack from Buccaneers, as well as SSN attacks so they couldn't protect the islands.

Phantoms with Gannet would have have been able to provide a far more capable CAP. TV guided Martel would enable Radar, Command posts and AA missiles to be eliminated before strikes with rockets and 1000lb bombs by Buccaneers & Phantoms.

The other factor is that the larger more capable airgroup makes the war a whole lot more serious as the Argentine mainland can be struck so airbases, ports and command centre's become valid Targets and bring the war home :(
how much more modifications would Eagle need to operate the Phantoms?
I saw a video of htem being tested on the Eagle in 69
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-EzDxZPQCY


in any case if what you and Volko are saying is correct

Argentina took advantage of the retiring of the CTOL carriers and went in, thinking the VTOL ones wouldnt be effective.
But had they postponed the retirement, they would have not invaded in the first place yes?

So assuming say they postponed it to the mid 80s, would Argentina still be willing to invade? say 84 or 85 ish?
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
Well if Eagle had refitted for Phantoms and they repaired the grounding damage then she would have been possible in the Falklands Conflict.
The simple matter is however that if Ark or Eagle were still in service then its unlikely they would have invaded in the first place.
Their own fleet would be exposed to Martel attack from Buccaneers, as well as SSN attacks so they couldn't protect the islands.

Phantoms with Gannet would have have been able to provide a far more capable CAP. TV guided Martel would enable Radar, Command posts and AA missiles to be eliminated before strikes with rockets and 1000lb bombs by Buccaneers & Phantoms.

The other factor is that the larger more capable airgroup makes the war a whole lot more serious as the Argentine mainland can be struck so airbases, ports and command centre's become valid Targets and bring the war home :(
how much more modifications would Eagle need to operate the Phantoms?

To bring her flight deck up to Ark Royal spec:-

Second long BS4 catapult (only her waist catapult was 199ft long. The bow catapult was only 151ft)

New arrester gear (only one wire was upgraded for Phantoms for the trials).

Removal of after 4.5” guns to create additional accommodation space.

Creation of additional flight deck area.

Addition of water cooled jet blast deflectors to take the heat of the Phantom reheated Spey engines.

What she was given for those Phantom trials was the bare minimum necessary to carry them out. Not enough for regular ops.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
What is really insane is that ARK ROYAL was given the above upgrades but not EAGLE which was in MUCH BETTER MATERIAL SHAPE.
First time I red that at AH.com I shook my head in disbelief. There are still questions about that decision taken circa 1967 by the british military and government. Was it sabotage to finish the carrier fleet for good ? or just plain siliness ?
 

swerve

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Jul 11, 2006
Messages
13
Reaction score
7
The continued availability of a CTOL carrier with Phantoms and Buccaneers likely would have resulting in the war being averted all together. The generals were after a PR win based on their assumption the UK wasn't interested or capable in retaking the islands, primarily because they had retired their last CTOL carrier and in the act of selling one of the replacement Invincible Class.
IIRC the planned retirement of the ice patrol ship was also a factor, along with such things as the British government's shelving of the Shackleton plan for reviving the economy of the Falklands & the downgrading of the citizenship of the islanders (e.g. removal of their right to live in the UK).

It was a combination of both reduced capabilities & Argentinean perception of British actions signalling a lack of interest in the islanders.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
Note that the Argies had a far better plan than the one they fought - waiting longer, in a better climate, Invincible sale to RAAN, things like that. But the whole plan was rushed and botched for a host of reasons - popular pressure and discontent, inter-service rivalries between the Army, Navy and Air Force, internal tensions in the Junta...
 

JFC Fuller

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
2,543
Reaction score
1,044
What is really insane is that ARK ROYAL was given the above upgrades but not EAGLE which was in MUCH BETTER MATERIAL SHAPE.
First time I red that at AH.com I shook my head in disbelief. There are still questions about that decision taken circa 1967 by the british military and government. Was it sabotage to finish the carrier fleet for good ? or just plain siliness ?

It was a matter of timing:

1959: Five new carriers proposed for construction over the next twenty years. I assume to replace the existing ships in the sequence Centaur, Victorious, Ark Royal, Hermes, Eagle. The 1959-60 ten year construction programme included three 45,000 ton carriers laying down 1964/65, 1965/66 and 1966/67 to complete in 1970/71, 1971/72 and 1972/73 respectively. I assume the Hermes and Eagle replacements would have been laid down sometime in the mid-1970s.

1962: New construction plan reduced to four ships. Centaur subsequently goes without replacement.

1963: Over two cabinet meetings in July 1963 the plan is revised to a fleet of three ships with CVA-01 to replace Ark Royal in 1971-2 and Victorious to be decommissioned without replacement. Hermes and Eagle would run on until c.1980.

1966: During the 1966 Defence Review CVA-01 was cancelled but it was decided to maintain two existing carriers until the late 1970s, Ark Royal and Eagle were both to receive refits to operate Phantoms to provide this force. Ark Royal went first because she was due a refit (starting 1966), Eagle had just completed one. Eagle was intended to begin her refit in 1970.

1968: Following the devaluation of sterling, another Defence review accelerated the retirement of the fixed wing carrier fleet to 1972. Eagle's refit was therefore cancelled but Ark Royal's was well underway.

1970: The Conservative Party won the 1970 General Election, one of their policies was the retention of a carrier capability. Ark Royal had completed her Phantom refit but Eagle's had been cancelled in 1968 so the former ship was retained.

We have a great existing thread covering RN carrier fleet changes in the 1960s here.
 
Last edited:

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
2,002
Reaction score
460
From what I've read and comprehend, the fixed wing assets of Ark Royal or Eagle would have equated to more bombs and rockets to be brought on target by Buccaneers and Phantom II's...but saying this, I've also heard that Buccaneers/Phantom II's wouldn't have been able to operate safely in the atrocious weather of the South Atlantic, where as the Sea Harrier could and did.
Probably most importantly would have been the Fairey Gannet AEW.3, providing critical AEW to the Task Force.

Regards
Pioneer
But if you can't operate Buccs and Phantoms due to the weather, are you going to be able to safely operate Gannets?
A good and valid point my friend.
I'm under the impression that the flying characteristics of the Gannet allowed it to operate when the faster Buccs and Phantom II's couldn't....

Regards
Pioneer
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
2,002
Reaction score
460
The continued availability of a CTOL carrier with Phantoms and Buccaneers likely would have resulting in the war being averted all together. The generals were after a PR win based on their assumption the UK wasn't interested or capable in retaking the islands, primarily because they had retired their last CTOL carrier and in the act of selling one of the replacement Invincible Class.
IIRC the planned retirement of the ice patrol ship was also a factor, along with such things as the British government's shelving of the Shackleton plan for reviving the economy of the Falklands & the downgrading of the citizenship of the islanders (e.g. removal of their right to live in the UK).

It was a combination of both reduced capabilities & Argentinean perception of British actions signalling a lack of interest in the islanders.
I concur with your analogy. I too am under the belief it sent a clear signal to the Argentine regime.

Regards
Pioneer
 

Zoo Tycoon

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
552
Reaction score
753
The simple matter is however that if Ark or Eagle were still in service then its unlikely they would have invaded in the first place.

Although I’m having trouble finding the source, I remember reading that a few weeks prior to the invasion, the Argentine air attaché in London took a few days holiday in Scotland. On the way he dropped into Cairnryan where Ark Royal was being scrapped. This was to give an “eyes on” evaluation that the scrapping had progressed to such a stage there was absolutely no possibility that it could be reversed. This was despite contemporary media articles clearly showing, the flight deck had been removed. I think this level of concern probably validates the above assessment that had Ark Royal and/or Eagle been available there would have been no invasion in 82......but it was just a matter of time.

Also, several of the Shar pilots also ex F4/Buc community, are on public record as saying check conditions were frequently in excess of safe operation for these types.
 
Last edited:

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
So the issue with weather conditions is, that when you have greater range/endurance and tanking for your aircraft, then you're not tied to keeping your carrier so close to your targets.
Which in turn means a greater flexibility to seek out more amenable weather.
Sea Harrier range/radius and endurance was fairly short. Forcing the carriers to stay relatively close to the Falklands.
Phantom II and Buccaneer however had much greater range/endurance, and tanking, while it took up available slots in available aircraft, it does extend this mightily.

Plucking figures out of my faulty memory...wasn't SHar about 250nm ROA (radius of action) with a heavy bomb load?
While Phantom II was over 500nm, and Buccaneer over 850nm.
With tanking Buccaneer raids could start when the carrier was 1,000nm from it's targets.
Granted weather systems can be BIG and even 1,000nm looks small in comparison, but actual weather that precludes flight operations is less than the total weather system.
Much less.
 

Zoo Tycoon

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
552
Reaction score
753
Ah but that’s inherently going to give longer transit times. Assets spending hours in transit are not in the operational area which further disperses a small force. It also empties fuel bunkers which in turn leads to more frequent carrier at sea replenishment. These are time consuming, halt flying operations which is yet more operational down time. Furthermore more frequent interactions with fleet tankers increase the risk of detection.

A late friend of mine and former Sea Fury/Sea Hawk pilot told me when they were in the Med they had to stop flying to have a rest, whereas in the Northern latitudes of the North Atlantic flying could be so infrequent maintaining the whole squadrons flying currency was a very real problem.

All that said I think there’s very good reason to be afraid of an Audacious class carrier but everyone underestimated just how potent the Shar/small carrier could be.
 

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
Good point Zoo Tycoon.
My counter is compared to Black Buck raids, running long range strike from a carrier is going to burn a lot less aviation fuel and take up less staff, and take less time.
One Black Buck raid likely burned more fuel than the entire SHar fleet.

Let's also add in the near real world example of Ark Royal's last hurrah, the East Coast rampage.
One CV in exercise was judged to have caused massive damage to US facilities along the East Coast before finally being found.
 

Zoo Tycoon

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
552
Reaction score
753
Most of the US east coast is at Med type latitudes or a little further south. By comparison the Falklands is more comparable to Labrador/Greenland latitudes, right at the polar zone convergence..... where winter storms are born..... beyond the roaring forties, ie the furious fifties.
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
IIRC fog was another problem around the Falklands. It would have shut down flying operations on a fixed wing carrier with pilots unable to see the landing sight. On the other hand Invincible and Hermes were able to continue recovering SHARs and helicopters by dropping a string of flares over the side to guide them back at low speeds to within visual distance of the deck for a safe landing.

Around 2011 an RAF VC-10 with a pair of Typhoons in tow had to divert to Chile as fog prevented them landing at Mount Pleasant.
 

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
Legend has it it was so foggy one SHar landed at one end of Hermes and the deck crew didn't realise......

But generally while such weather systems do have zones that proscribe flight operations, those zones are much less in size than the system. Meaning operations can be conducted outside those zones.
With greater radii of action, Ark Royal 's or Eagle's airgroup would have much more ability to operate than a CTOL carrier with aircraft of RoA like the SHar.
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
Ark Royal was the wrong ship, that it lasted until 1978 is kind of "red herring" here.
Better to bet on sistership HMS Eagle which was in far better shape but was retired earlier (d'oh !)
So, behold; an excellent reading and a fantastic TL

HMS EAGLE IN THE FALKLANDS


Spoiler: Argentina lose even worse than OTL

Cheers !

Flasheart is currently posting a story only version of that thread...
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
This is a recent [Alternatehstory.com] Alternativehistory.com thread that plausibly has 2 CVA.01s built although I think the author could plausibly have had a third CVA.01 built.

 
Last edited:

Dilandu

I'm dissatisfied, which means, I exist.
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
1,287
Reaction score
797
Website
fonzeppelin.livejournal.com
My counter is compared to Black Buck raids, running long range strike from a carrier is going to burn a lot less aviation fuel and take up less staff, and take less time.
One Black Buck raid likely burned more fuel than the entire SHar fleet.

Mainly, it would be much less complicated, requiring no multi-stage refueling on aging bombers with multiple failure points.
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
If Albion was run on as a commando carrier Eagle could be Phantomised 1971-73 instead of converting Hermes to a commando carrier. The refit would include repairing the damage received in the grounding of October 1970. The OTL refit of Hermes cost £25 million IIRC.
  • OTL 20 Sea Harriers (12 Hermes and 8 Invincible) with 2 Sidewinders = 20 missiles
  • TTL 24 Phantoms (12 Ark Royal and 12 Eagle) with 4 Skyflash and 4 Sidewinders = 96 missiles plus (AFAIK) better radars, more range and faster (so more interceptions) plus 8 Gannets for AEW.
  • OTL Hermes had a Type 965 radar and Invincible had a Type 1022.
  • TTL Eagle has a Type 984M radar and Ark Royal has 2 Type 965s all other things being equal so does anyone know whether a Type 984M is better than a Type 1022? Also does anyone know whether there were significant differences in the performance of Eagle's ADA and Invincible's ADAWS?
  • OTL no dedicated strike aircraft the Sea Harriers have to do it until the RAF Harriers arrive.
  • TTL 28 Buccaneers (14 Ark Royal and 14 Eagle) which IIRC includes 8 (4 per ship) configured as tankers.
I wouldn't like to be at the receiving end of the above.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,222
Reaction score
2,013
The sale of HMS Invincible to Australia was only to take place after HMS Illustrious had entered service in 1982. HMS Hermes would only be sold when HMS Ark Royal arrived.
The RN would continue to only have two carriers available, just different ones.
Retaining Invincible still did not mean the RN had three carriers available as one was usually in refit.
Even if the RN had not had carrier airpower, it is likely that the threat of a blockade of Argentine ports by RN SSNs coupled with the UK Labour Party's commitment to remove US bases would have forced the US to put strong pressure on Galtieri to withdraw in order to avoid this and keep Mrs T in power.
It might also have insisted on some kind of agreement between UK and Argentina in the long term. Ms Kirkpatrick was a strong supporter of this line, but Messrs Schultz and Weinberger realised the UK's importance to NATO.
Even more tantalising is the argument that if the UK had sent SSNs south earlier no invasion could have taken place.
 

Hood

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,118
The trouble with these Ark Royal at the Battle of the Falklands scenarios is that they often miss the vital detail.

Ark Royal would probably have been refitted as a CVS to operate Sea Harriers if the decision had been made to keep her active beyond 1980. Running until 1983 was possible if increased unreliability and shortages of spares was accepted.

Keeping the CVA air wing was problematic, the Phantoms were already being modified for transfer to the RAF as early as 1978, so were the Buccs and reducing these transfers would create a fight with the RAF who was still anxiously waiting for Tornado MRCA and ADV.
As a compromise the CVA air wing could have been Phantoms, Sea Harriers and Sea Kings. 809 NAS (Bucc) and 849 NAS (Gannet) squadrons had to be cut to save manpower. Gannet seemed doomed, Rolls-Royce might have been able to keep their Mamba repair shop open but Westland's airframe modernisation line was long closed.

So that removes the AEW coverage and the Buccaneers - of course the impressive efforts made to bolster the RN and RAF during May-June (like the formation of 809 Sqn) might have seen some RAF Buccs made carrier-ready and flown out to Ark by any remaining FAA Bucc-qualified pilots.
Given the foggy conditions operations would have been impossible during those few days, even so the outcome is still likely to favour the FAA in either scenario, a mixed Sea Harrier/Phantom CAP would have been pretty formidable, although its likely the Sea Harriers would have largely been used for ground attack in this case (and saving precious AIM-9Ls for the Phantoms).

There were also fears the government might cancel Sea Harrier had the CVA carried on, in the longer-term that could have posed far more problems to the RN and serious disrupted its efforts to move strike and AEW to shore-based aircraft.

I don't really buy the argument one carrier would have prevented an invasion, the Argentines had carrier airpower, were operating with shore-based fast jet support, they had diesel subs. An Exocet hitting Ark could well have caused serious damage, she was not invulnerable and if there were no Gannets, just as vulnerable to air attack as the newer RN ships. If anything they should have been more worried about the SSN fleet.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,222
Reaction score
2,013
Ark Royal had been due to retire in 1972 as part of the Labour Government's decision to scrap fixed wing carriers.
The anti-carrier policy of 1966 doomed RN conventional fixed wing carriers. The Invincibles and QEs are dependent on VSTOL aircraft.
Arguably the death was caused by the confusion surrounding RN carrier planning rather than Denis Healey.
In brief, the UK simply had no viable carriers in 1966
Hermes and Victorious could not operate Phantoms. Eagle and Ark Royal were handicapped in various ways covered in other threads. CVA01 was regarded as too complex even by its own designer.
France by contrast had two new carriers and had accepted limited capability types (Crusaders and Etendards) for them.
It was incredible that Ark Royal lasted until 1979 with a decent airgroup. But once Invincible arrived there was only resources in crews and money for her and Hermes.
Hermes was in much better shape than Ark and able to operate the NATO ASW airgroup of Sea Kings and anti-Bear Sea Harriers.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
If Albion was run on as a commando carrier Eagle could be Phantomised 1971-73 instead of converting Hermes to a commando carrier. The refit would include repairing the damage received in the grounding of October 1970. The OTL refit of Hermes cost £25 million IIRC.

We have a winner here ! Now that's interesting... I can see where this going.

Fundamentally, the Centaur fleet of commando carriers needs to be better handled so that Hermes is NOT converted in 1970, freeing that "slot" for Eagle Phantomization.

That's one hell of a POD as it also change fate of Hermes.

------------

There was also Centaur...

Conversion to a "commando carrier" configuration was cancelled in 1966.

Well this begs the question - why did Hermes got a brief stint as commando carrier in the 70's ?
 
Last edited:

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
Well this begs another question: WTH did they converted Hermes into a commando carrier circa 1970-71 when Albion and Bulwark were already doing that job since 10 years or more ?
What was the point in doing that ?

I also note that, had Centaur been converted in 1966, once again that Hermes conversion wouldn't be needed...

And thus Eagle would have had a small "slot" to get its Phantomization. Frack !
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
Ark Royal had been due to retire in 1972 as part of the Labour Government's decision to scrap fixed wing carriers.
The anti-carrier policy of 1966 doomed RN conventional fixed wing carriers. The Invincibles and QEs are dependent on VSTOL aircraft.
Arguably the death was caused by the confusion surrounding RN carrier planning rather than Denis Healey.
In brief, the UK simply had no viable carriers in 1966
Hermes and Victorious could not operate Phantoms. Eagle and Ark Royal were handicapped in various ways covered in other threads. CVA01 was regarded as too complex even by its own designer.
France by contrast had two new carriers and had accepted limited capability types (Crusaders and Etendards) for them.
It was incredible that Ark Royal lasted until 1979 with a decent airgroup. But once Invincible arrived there was only resources in crews and money for her and Hermes.
Hermes was in much better shape than Ark and able to operate the NATO ASW airgroup of Sea Kings and anti-Bear Sea Harriers.

I disagree. The crux of the matter would have been to better handling the Centaur fleet of commando carriers for a smooth transition with the Invincibles... while screwing Ark Royal ASAP and keeping Eagle as long as possible, perhaps up to 1985.

While Phantoms could only safely land on Eagle (and thus were doomed) the elephant in the room was the Buccaneer. That one could (at worse) hang to the Centaur carriers because it was subsonic.
Sea Harriers would replace Phantoms as interceptors and escorts.

Then gradually deflates the Centaurs while introducing the Invincibles with the SHARs.

Considering how long did Hermes last, some Centaurs with Buccaneers on their flight deck could easily last until the end of Cold War.

Even with the Phantoms and Eagle gone, the Buccaneer heavy punch out of a couple or trio of Centaurs would be extremely welcome in the Falklands. Well maybe the Argies wouldn't even attack in this case.

Even better: imagine putting AIM-9L on Buccaneers. Same performance overall as a Sea Harrier (by itself a converted attack aircraft, Harrier Mk.3, cough).
If Sea Harriers could face Mirages and kill Skyhawks thanks to the AIM-9L efficiency, no reason Buccaneers should'nt be at least able to chase and kill Skyhawks.
And how about Buccaneers with Blue Vixen and AMRAAMs ? No worse than a SHAR FA.2, really... more weapon load, more range, more endurance, actually.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,222
Reaction score
2,013
The snag with trying to change the fates of the UK carriers available in 1966 is that you have to unpick events further back.
The Centaurs (Albion and Bulwark) are converted to Commando ships because they cannot handle a Buccaneer equipped airgroup. Centaur soldiered on with Sea Vixens but was not needed as a Commando ship.
Hermes could have survived as a Buccaneer carrier if the 1966 decision had not been taken.
Had Eagle not been so useful (she was the sole big carrier available between 1965 and 1970) or had Ark Royal rather than Eagle been the grounding victim, then a Phantomised Eagle might have been the RN 1970s carrier instead of Ark.
A Hermes with only Buccaneers was not an attractive proposition. Sea Vixens were obsolete and she could not operate Phantoms.
The Conservatives in 1970 found the RN had only resources for one fixed wing carrier.
Sea Harrier is developed purely because of the Invincibles.
Originally intended as a class of 6 ASW Command Cruisers, the 3 Invincibles end up taking as long and costing as much as a Centaur.
Once they are selected, however, there are no resources to do much with Hermes and Ark/Eagle.
Had the UK developed a Jaguar sized aircraft with F4 capabilities (see my no VSTOL VG thread) to go with Buccaneer a follow on Centaur instead of the complex CVA01 could have been ordered in the early 60s. Three such ships could have stayed in service into the 90s.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,008
And it probably took some time and persuasion to consider a naval Harrier and an interceptor Harrier after the P.1154 fiasco...
 

pathology_doc

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Jun 7, 2008
Messages
1,007
Reaction score
293
And how about Buccaneers with Blue Vixen and AMRAAMs ? No worse than a SHAR FA.2, really... more weapon load, more range, more endurance, actually.
A Harrier at least has some pretensions to being a dogfighter, and it has a power-weight ratio under optimal conditions greater than 1.

A Buccaneer might make a very good high-speed, low-altitude INTERCEPTOR, or killer of shadow aircraft, but I wouldn't want to try to dogfight in one. Yes, they had a hardpoint wired for a self-defence AIM-9, but that's only intended a weapon of desperation - or a nasty surprise for an attacking fighter careless enough to overshoot. The best you could hope for in terms of interceptor capability is to shoot down a shadowing maritime recon airplane with it.

IIRC in actual history, AMRAAM wasn't really ready until after the Buccaneer's combat career was over, certainly long after the Falklands. The sort of ADV Buccaneer you're talking about has more in common with a Missileer than anything else, and it certainly won't be ready for 1982.
 

Dilandu

I'm dissatisfied, which means, I exist.
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
1,287
Reaction score
797
Website
fonzeppelin.livejournal.com
A Buccaneer might make a very good high-speed, low-altitude INTERCEPTOR, or killer of shadow aircraft, but I wouldn't want to try to dogfight in one. Yes, they had a hardpoint wired for a self-defence AIM-9, but that's only intended a weapon of desperation - or a nasty surprise for an attacking fighter careless enough to overshoot. The best you could hope for in terms of interceptor capability is to shoot down a shadowing maritime recon airplane with it.

Problem is, that it wasn't exactly what Royal Navy needed. The majority of Soviet anti-ship missiles (main threat) were either high-flying supersonic, or low-flying supersonic. There were some low-flying subsonic missiles like P-15 Termit or P-70 Amethist, but the latter was submarine-launched, i.e. hard to anticipate where Buccaneer should be placed.
 

helmutkohl

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
664
Reaction score
993
IIRC fog was another problem around the Falklands. It would have shut down flying operations on a fixed wing carrier with pilots unable to see the landing sight. On the other hand Invincible and Hermes were able to continue recovering SHARs and helicopters by dropping a string of flares over the side to guide them back at low speeds to within visual distance of the deck for a safe landing.

Around 2011 an RAF VC-10 with a pair of Typhoons in tow had to divert to Chile as fog prevented them landing at Mount Pleasant.
one thing I gained from this thread is a greater appreciation for VTOL aircraft, carriers and operation
 
Top