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

NOMISYRRUC

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So, I wonder about the following whatif...

Whatif "escort cruiser with Harriers on deck" circa 1964-68 become a poor's man "Plan B" to
a) P.1154 on CVA-01 (the horror, the horror)
b) Phantoms on CVA-01 / Eagle & Ark Royal / the last Centaurs (none of these tree carriers being a satisfying answer)

Fundamentally, Harriers-on-Invincibles replaced Phantoms-on-large-carriers because "NATO ASW" become far more important than "East of Suez"

So in a sense, not only CVA-01 doomed the British carrier fleet, but East of suez" agony and death was perhaps a larger nail in the coffin. The economy was the death knell, too.
Whatever the main cause, Phantoms on large carriers were doomed: future belongued to "Harriers on small ships".
Well, instead of waiting for Invincibles-and-SHARs after 1975;
how about
"P.1127 / Harrier Mk.1 on Escort cruiser" right from 1966 ?"
I found @Riain's proposal to build 2 CVA.01s (with 6 Olympus gas turbines driving 3 shafts) instead of the 3 Invincibles appealing.

The pros and cons are discussed here...

I'm a believer in the steel is cheap & air is free theory (which says that hulls & machinery are a small portion of the total cost of a warships and weapons & electronics are the major portion) so I don't believe that it would have been prohibitively expensive to build.

Finding the larger crews would be the problem. However, changing to gas turbines would reduce the manning requirements and so would reducing the size of the air groups to the same size as Ark Royal in the 1970s. It could be brought up to full strength in an emergency by breaking up the training squadron, which is how they brought Hermes and Invincible's Sea Harrier squadrons up to full strength for the Falklands. Those measures don't fill all the gap, but they do reduce its size.
 
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uk 75

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The ASW carrier/cruiser requirement replaced the earlier fixed wing aircraft (Gannet/Seamew).
The Wessex was the first helo adopted. It seems to have been hoped to get a Chinook ASW variant (no plans of this exist?). Things settle down when the SH3 Seaking is chosen.
In typical RN fashion this choice cannot operate from any of its destroyers/frigates (ohCanada why?) until the Type 22 batch 2 in the 80s.
Doubtless influenced by Jean D'Arc and Andrea Doria plus an attachment to cruisers as "impressive" warships the RN tries for a decade to design one. Invincible is not ordered until the early 70s.
Ironically under pressure from NATO in the late 70s the RN finally does the obvious thing and puts ASW Seakings on Bulwark and Hermes.
The Tiger conversions made some sense in that like the USN the RN saw cruisers as ideal "command" ships (Little Rock in 6th Fleet).
The gun armament was also welcome in a fleet where everything else was 4.5" or smaller.
Mainly, however, after the fiasco of scrapping Swiftsure and Superb after costly conversions, the three nearly brand new Tigers could not be disposed of so soon.
The sensible solution would have been to build replacements for Bulwark and Albion to a modernised design able to act as Commando and ASW ships.
My line up in 1980 would thus have been:
Eagle with Ark Royal as backup
2 LPH/CVS new builds in late 60s/early 70s
The CVV design mentioned above would ideally have been laid down during the mid to late 70s with the first ship replacing Ark Royal in 1984.
No Invincibles no Harriers
Oh and the Falklands.. An SSN would have been sent as the first incident (the scrap merchants) with two more en route.. They would have made short work of the Argentine invasion fleet.
 

EwenS

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Oh and the Falklands.. An SSN would have been sent as the first incident (the scrap merchants) with two more en route.. They would have made short work of the Argentine invasion fleet.
Even that is too late.

Argentinian scrapmen land on South Georgia and raise the flag on 19 March 1982.

HMS Spartan, the nearest nuclear boat, was on Exercise Springtrain off Lisbon mid-March after trailing a Soviet sub prior to that. Ordered to Gibraltar to store for a 75 day patrol, take on Mk 8 torpedoes from Oracle and stock up on as many spare parts as she could lay her hands on, and recalling stray crew on leave in Lisbon. She sailed 1 April (one source says 30 March). Her departure from Gib was noted in the press. Charged south at 28-29 knots and arrived in MEZ on 11 April, the first vessel to get there.

Splendid was recalled to Faslane on 29 March, breaking off from trailing a new Soviet Victor III sub, leaving it to the RAF, and after spending 18 hours re-storing, sailed on 2 April arriving off the Falklands on the 14th.

Superb had arrived at Gib on 26th March expecting to re-store and join Exercise Springtrain. Instead she was hurriedly sailed north to locate and track a Soviet Victor II sub that had penetrated an exercise area in the North Atlantic.

Conqueror was ordered to store for the South Atlantic in the early hours of 1 April. She sailed from Faslane pm 4 April and arrived 16 April.

Those were the subs that were most immediately available.

Courageous was the next to be identified to go south but she was in dry dock for essential maintenance after a 302 day deployment. On completion she sailed south arriving 28 May.

Meantime, Valiant was en route back to Faslane, needing to restore after 2 months at sea. After that she headed south arriving 15 May.

The only other nuclear boats available were Sceptre (sent north on NATO business as the USN couldn’t plug the gap if she had been withdrawn) and Warspite (in refit, which was completed in a hurry on 21 April for her work up to begin).

Add to that the slow diesel boat Onyx which only arrived on 30th May.

So the Falklands are 10 days from Gib and 12 days from Faslane plus time to re-store etc. Any decision to send a boat south really needs to have been taken no later than the beginning of March before Argentinian plans progress too far.
 

uk 75

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Ewen S thanks for clarifying things. The sooner the better in my book.
We were entitled under the UN Charter to deploy SSNs to patrol the waters around the Falklands.
 

JFC Fuller

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I found @Riain's proposal to build 2 CVA.01s (with 6 Olympus gas turbines driving 3 shafts) instead of the 3 Invincibles appealing.

The pros and cons are discussed here...

I'm a believer in the steel is cheap & air is free theory (which says that hulls & machinery are a small portion of the total cost of a warships and weapons & electronics are the major portion) so I don't believe that it would have been prohibitively expensive to build.

Finding the larger crews would be the problem. However, changing to gas turbines would reduce the manning requirements and so would reducing the size of the air groups to the same size as Ark Royal in the 1970s. It could be brought up to full strength in an emergency by breaking up the training squadron, which is how they brought Hermes and Invincible's Sea Harrier squadrons up to full strength for the Falklands. Those measures don't fill all the gap, but they do reduce its size.

I suggested exactly this back in 2012, a pair of Olympus TM3B per shaft would have been more than sufficient to provide the 45,000SHP per shaft CVA-01 was designed with. It is known that Westland undertook helicopter AEW studies in c.1966 and Elliot Brothers studied a potential radar for such an application, both apparently at the behest of the RN, so that capability was probably viable. That just leaves solving any potential issues with the P.1154.

It is a tantalising concept, an all gas turbine 50,000 ton carrier in the 1970s. The air wing could be AEW and ASW Sea Kings supporting multirole P.1154s or, for even more technical risk via some added variable geometry, Vickers Type 583Vs.
 

uk 75

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I still lean to the US CVV solution with a combined steam and gas turbine powerplant.
In addition to the Phantom/Buccaneer airwing it could have operated S3 Vikings in the ASW/COD role and even as an AEW type.
A 50,000 ton VSTOL carrier sounds awfully like CVF Queen Elizabeth.
While P1154 seems to have been beyond the state of the art in the 1960s, an evolved P1127 like the P1179 proposed for the 70s might have been a better substitute for F4s and Bucs than the SHar.
Seaking ASW, COD and AEW seem reasonable.
The key to getting such a ship designed and built in the 70s lies in the famous Future Fleet Working Group discussions of 1966.
A more robust attitude to the Government by the Admirals might have sold the idea with NATO support.
Healey was rightly sceptical of "East of Suez" when the main threat came from the Soviets in Europe. The RN could have realised the importance of NATO sooner.
 

timmymagic

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It is a tantalising concept, an all gas turbine 50,000 ton carrier in the 1970s. The air wing could be AEW and ASW Sea Kings supporting multirole P.1154s or, for even more technical risk via some added variable geometry, Vickers Type 583Vs.
How about a bit of love for the Britten Norman Defender AEW...perfectly doable in the 70's...

Islanders had landed on and taken off Hermes with ease, with the turbine engines it would be even easier.

 

NOMISYRRUC

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I suggested exactly this back in 2012, a pair of Olympus TM3B per shaft would have been more than sufficient to provide the 45,000SHP per shaft CVA-01 was designed with. It is known that Westland undertook helicopter AEW studies in c.1966 and Elliot Brothers studied a potential radar for such an application, both apparently at the behest of the RN, so that capability was probably viable. That just leaves solving any potential issues with the P.1154.

It is a tantalising concept, an all gas turbine 50,000 ton carrier in the 1970s. The air wing could be AEW and ASW Sea Kings supporting multirole P.1154s or, for even more technical risk via some added variable geometry, Vickers Type 583Vs.
That's very interesting.

Is it true that the P.1154RN was to be catapult launched and this was one of the reasons for the many differences between it and the RAF version?

That's an important reason why I think the better way to go in 1962 was licence-built Spey-Phantoms instead of both versions of P.1154 with the RAF deciding upon a mix of P.1127 Harriers & Phantoms later on. Or the RAF decides to develop the P.1127 into the Hunter replacement (which evolves into the Harrier) and a twin-Spey heavy fighter built by Hawker Siddeley to replace the Lightning and Sea Vixen which is effectively the proposed Spey powered version of P.1154RN.

Or to summarise why build a VTOL fighter when you can buy an American CTOL fighter with new engines or develop a CTOL fighter of your own? The alternatives involve less technical risk so they're less likely to go over time and budget.

Your version of the GT-CVA.01 would be operating a mix of multi-role P.1154s or Vickers Type 583s for the fighter, strike & reconnaissance roles and helicopters for AEW, ASW & COD. From that I infer that it wouldn't have cats & traps like the modern Queen Elizabeth class.

That leads me onto my second point which is why build aircraft carriers that are that large and not fit it with steam catapults and arrester gear? I know that they'd cost more, but as far as I'm concerned that's a false economy.

A GT-CVA.01 with cats & traps could operate Phantoms & Buccaneers until replacement aircraft could be afforded, which would probably be Hornets.

The money spent on the AEW Nimrod would have paid for 3 CVA.01s worth of Greyhounds & Hawkeyes several times over and in the meantime Gannets would have been no worse than the shore-based Shackletons operated by 8 Squadron until the Boeing Sentry entered service.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Oh dear. I know that posters here hate "real world" politics intruding on dream scenarios.
The "real world" politics intruding upon my dream scenario is whether it would have been politically acceptable for the RAF & RN to buy an American fighter in 1962 even if it was built under licence in the UK with British engines & British avionics.

Another bit of "real world" politics was that the politicians of the day thought that buying one aircraft for both services would be cheaper. That was an idea which would have worked had both services wanted similar aircraft.

That's why my alternative to buying Spey-Phantom in 1962 is for the RAF to buy a developed P.1127 to replace the Hunter (which in common with the real world evolves via the Kestrel into the Harrier) or failing that the P.1150. Meanwhile, a twin-Spey CTOL interceptor called the Spectre is developed by Hawker Siddeley to replace the Sea Vixen in the RN and then the Lightning in the RAF.

One of the advantages of the Spectre over the Phantom might be making better use of the Spey engines since the aircraft could be designed around the engine.

Another advantage of being a clean sheet of paper aircraft is that it might be possible to give it slower take-off and landing speeds than the Phantom so it could operate from the existing carriers that were capable of operating the Buccaneer.

A final advantage was that British naval aircraft folded into smaller packages than their American equivalents. The BS.100 and Spey versions of the P.1154 had folded wingspans of 22 feet which was less than the 27 feet of the Phantom. An all Royal Navy aircraft might do even better than the compromise aircraft of the real world and have a folded wingspan of less than 20 feet like the Buccaneer and Gannet.

The Kestrel and Harrier were built in the real world so that part of the proposal doesn't involve spending more money. About £120 million was spent in the real world developing the P.1154 and Spey-Phantom which would go along way towards developing a British equivalent to the Phantom.

The real world Spey-Phantom cost more to build than the J79-Phantom on account of it being a non-standard aircraft because of the modifications required to make it operate from British aircraft carriers & the Spey engines plus some of the avionics & some of the airframe was built in the UK. Therefore, I think the Spectre (and Phantoms built in the UK) would not cost more to build than the American-built Spey-Phantom. The British-built Phantom and Spectre also have the advantage of not being as badly affected by the Sterling devaluation, but that could not have been foreseen in 1962.

I think it's reasonable to say that had Spey-Phantom would have come into service 2 years earlier than the real world had it been started in 1962 instead of 1964. The Spectre being a new aircraft requires more effort and more technical risk so its unlikely to be in service any earlier than the real world Spey-Phantom. On the other hand I think it would have taken less time to develop and cost lest to develop than the P.1154 with BS.100 engines.
1962 is a bad year to pick for changing UK procurement...
It was ever thus.
 
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uk 75

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NOMISYRRUC First of all thank you for Plan P which I heard about years ago from a friend doing research at the
PRO as the NAO was then called. The 1975 Orbat is very close to my wishlist (posted in Whatifmodelers back in 2002!)
The VSTOL Andover replacement would have been the HS/Dornier 131/129 Hybrid which might have saved the Germans having
to develop the 231 and the UK the 141, Bae 146 always reminds me of it. The long range transport would have been the 4-5 C5 Galaxy looked at right up until
1970. Some nice oddities. Buying 681 meant keeping Beverleys, Hasting and Argosies going too long. No wonder Healey bought Hercs! Crane and air transportable helicopters became Chinook and Puma.

I like your F4/Buccaneer fleet for RAF and RN. Although it requires Ark and Eagle to be decent ships and a CVV style successor it gives the UK a decent force from the
60s through to the late 80s when FA18 arrives.

Hawker later Hawker Siddeley built two fine planes: Hunter and Hawk. They were clean single engine simple avionics planes.

Letting UK Industry build anything more complicated than that needed the discipline imposed by multinational programmes:
Jaguar and Tornado were much better aircraft than all singing/dancing UK types would have been.

But a UK national type is tempting......
 

NOMISYRRUC

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The long range transport would have been the 4-5 C5 Galaxy looked at right up until 1970.
Yes it was. I have some other documents that show 15 were planned by 1977 to replace the Britannias.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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First of all thank you for Plan P which I heard about years ago from a friend doing research at the PRO as the NAO was then called.
How did you know it was Plan P? I didn't mention it in the post.

There's a gap of 7 years in my notes between the 1957 version of Plan L and Plan P which was in 1964 and it's going to be a long time before I'll have another chance visit the National Archives. Does your friend have any information on Plans M, N and O?
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Buying 681 meant keeping Beverleys, Hasting and Argosies going too long. No wonder Healey bought Hercs!
It's not directly to do with the OP (Opening Post) but I thought that if the RAF decided that it didn't want to replace the Hunters with a VTOL ground attack aircraft and instead that it wanted a CTOL strike-fighter in the Phantom class there wouldn't have been a requirement for a VTOL medium transport because there was no VTOL ground attack aircraft for it to support.

So instead of the HS.681 as we know it the RAF would have gone for a HS.681 with four Medways and without the lift engines or the BAC Filton proposal for a modified Hercules with Tyne engines.

This is going even further back, but as you've mentioned the Beverley & Hastings I find it hard to believe that the RAF & British aircraft industry introduced the Beverley around the same time that the USAF & American aircraft industry introduced the C-130A Hercules.

The Bristol Theseus & RR Eagle turboprops were around when development of what became the Beverley began so I don't understand why the specification that produced the Beverley wasn't for a four-turboprop aircraft in the Hercules class. This aircraft which I'm calling the Bradford (because it's the name of a town in Yorkshire that begins with the letter-B) would have a Mk 1 version with Eagle or Proteus engines built instead of the Beverley and a Mk 2 version with Orion or Tyne engines built instead of the Argossy. A Bradford Mk 3 with Tyne engines would be built in the late 1960s to replace the Mk 1s and surviving Hastings.

This aircraft could pick up some export orders from the Commonwealth air forces. The RAAF might buy it instead of its C-130As & Es that it bought in the 1950s & 1960s and the RNZAF might buy it instead of the C-130Hs that it bought in the 1960s. They might like the more powerful engines and both services contributed to the Far East Air Force so operating the same aircraft as the RAF might have logistical advantages. The SAAF might buy 16 instead of the 7 C-130Bs and 9 Transalls that it purchased in the real world and the British Government might be willing to sell them because they're not combat aircraft. Last (and least because it's the least plausible) is that the RCAF might buy some in the 1960s instead of the C-130s it bought in the real world.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Oh well, if you say so... no problem, really.
For what it's worth I think it would have been an error on the scale of the French plan to replace Arromanches, Clemenceau, Foch & Jeanne d' Arc with 4 PH.75 class nuclear powered helicopter carriers that was around in the 1970s. This was abandoned in 1980 when it was decided to build 2 nuclear powered CTOL carriers to replace Clemenceau & Foch.

As we both know (and you probably know the fine details better than me) only one ship ended up being built, but in spite of its faults Charles de Gaulle is better value for money for the French taxpayer than the single PH.75 that would have eventually been built.
 

NOMISYRRUC

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Can't help thinking about the Tigers being scrapped long before 1960.
The Tigers were completed because it was (incorrectly) thought that they'd be completed sooner than new ships with the same armament and be less expensive than new ships with the same armament (which they were wrong about too).

So if the Tigers aren't completed you get 3 new cruisers with the same armament plus a Type 984 radar, a Comprehensive Display System and Direct Plot Transmission. The extra electronics make them more expensive to build than the Tigers and the larger crew needed to operate them mean they're more expensive to operate but they do put 2½ times more Type 984 radars to sea in 1961 so I think that the Admiralty would consider it a price that was well worth paying and would do everything it could to keep them in service for the duration of the 1960s.

I'm unsure whether the Admiralty/MoD (Navy) would want to convert them into helicopter cruisers. They would have larger hulls to accommodate the Type 984 radar and extra electronics which might translate into a hangar and flight deck that could take 6 Sea King helicopters and they didn't know that the conversions would go over time and over cost. On the other hand the fleet would loose the services of their Type 984 radars for the two years that each conversion was expected to take and the Admiralty might consider that unacceptable.
 

Hood

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I have often wondered how much reality was reflected in the post-war Lettered Plans and whether they were ever actually used for setting long-term costings and procurement policy. The actual MoS/MoA orders and RAF UE requirements often never quite tally up, which makes me suspect these were at best an official wishlist before the fiscal and industrial factors stepped in.

They are useful documents though to keep track of the Air Staff's thoughts, and I applaud your idea to make Excel versions for legibility.

The Beverley was of course began as the Hercules-powered GAL.60 Universal Freighter, first flown in 1950. It took the RAF two years to decide to order it and further orders came in batches until 1956. The first production aircraft did not fly until 1955. As usual the laggardly official process and production delays within the industry meant the cutting edge was soon less so (same with Sea Hawk and Sea Vixen etc.). The Bev was a capable aircraft though, no mistaking that. Turboprops were still brand-new tech in 1955 (Britannia troubles etc.) and piston-powered still looked the best choice for reliability out in the sticks.
 

JFC Fuller

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I have often wondered how much reality was reflected in the post-war Lettered Plans and whether they were ever actually used for setting long-term costings and procurement policy. The actual MoS/MoA orders and RAF UE requirements often never quite tally up, which makes me suspect these were at best an official wishlist before the fiscal and industrial factors stepped in.

The Lettered Plan squadron patterns would probably have been required to underpin the long-term costings in addition to things like manpower provision through the annual Parliamentary Vote A. I also suspect that there were nuances to the way numbers were used at the time that has made life harder for historians. For instance, the 1963 costings covered a ten year period and for the P.1154 they included the following:

RAF: 151 aircraft including 26 trainers
RN: 128 aircraft including 25 trainers

However, there is a note that states that the RAF would require an additional 41 aircraft and the RN an additional 37 aircraft outside of the ten year period covered by the costings (e.g. after 1973), that produces a total requirement for 357 aircraft. As such, I wonder whether confusion is caused by some plan numbers only being for ten year costing periods rather than for full programmes. Either way, the number of P.1154s included in the 1963 costings seem adequate to provide 8 squadrons at 12UE as outlined in the 1964 Plan P, with sufficient leftovers for an OCU and further procurement to cover attrition.

The F-4 eventually became a default joint aircraft meeting both the RAF Hunter FGA.9/FR.10 (GOR.345) and RN Sea Vixen replacement (AW.406) requirements. It therefore seems logical to conclude that had the early Vickers variable geometry studies (c.1960) been taken forward as the basis for a next generation aircraft instead of the Hawker Siddeley V/STOL solution, with some earlier requirements convergence (e.g. getting the RAF on board with a two-seater sooner), a capable all British aircraft could have been produced to meet both requirements and the need for a mid-1970s Lightning successor. Those three requirements together would have produced a 500-550 aircraft production run excluding exports (though including the RN aircraft ultimately not required due to carrier retirement), as @NOMISYRRUC points out, plenty of R&D money was spent on the P.1154, Spey Phantom and Jaguar that could have contributed to such a programme.
 
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NOMISYRRUC

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The Lettered Plan squadron patterns would probably have been required to underpin the long-term costings in addition to things like manpower provision through the annual Parliamentary Vote A. I also suspect that there were nuances to the way numbers were used at the time that has made life harder for historians. For instance, the 1963 costings covered a ten year period and for the P.1154 they included the following:

RAF: 151 aircraft including 26 trainers
RN: 128 aircraft including 25 trainers

However, there is a note that states that the RAF would require an additional 41 aircraft and the RN an additional 37 aircraft outside of the ten year period covered by the costings (e.g. after 1973), that produces a total requirement for 357 aircraft. As such, I wonder whether confusion is caused by some plan numbers only being for ten year costing periods rather than for full programmes. Either way, the number of P.1154s included in the 1963 costings seem adequate to provide 8 squadrons at 12UE as outlined in the 1964 Plan P, with sufficient leftovers for an OCU and further procurement to cover attrition.
151 P.1154 RAF to March 1973 plus 41 subsequently = 192. Does your information include when they were to be delivered?

This is the table of the Air Ministry Requirements and Aircraft Programme in the March 1964 version of Plan P.

It shows that there was a total requirement for 162 P.1154s at the time. The current aircraft programme was for them to be delivered between April 1970 and March 1975. The first 16 to delivered in 1970-71, with a total of 108 delivered by the end of March 1943 and the last 8 delivered 1974-75.

Plan P March 1964 Air Ministry Requirements & Production Programme.png
 

NOMISYRRUC

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The Lettered Plan squadron patterns would probably have been required to underpin the long-term costings in addition to things like manpower provision through the annual Parliamentary Vote A. I also suspect that there were nuances to the way numbers were used at the time that has made life harder for historians. For instance, the 1963 costings covered a ten year period and for the P.1154 they included the following:

RAF: 151 aircraft including 26 trainers
RN: 128 aircraft including 25 trainers

However, there is a note that states that the RAF would require an additional 41 aircraft and the RN an additional 37 aircraft outside of the ten year period covered by the costings (e.g. after 1973), that produces a total requirement for 357 aircraft. As such, I wonder whether confusion is caused by some plan numbers only being for ten year costing periods rather than for full programmes. Either way, the number of P.1154s included in the 1963 costings seem adequate to provide 8 squadrons at 12UE as outlined in the 1964 Plan P, with sufficient leftovers for an OCU and further procurement to cover attrition.
At the time the RAF thought there was a minimum requirement for at least 10 FGA squadrons and could be argued as 12.

This is an extract from National Archives File AIR.20/11465/68706 The Future Size and Shape of the Royal Air Force.

The Fighter/Ground Attack/Reconnaissance Force

The scale of land force intervention in limited war is indicated in para. 10 above. It must be accepted that a Brigade Group is unlikely to be able to fulfil its task without close support from the air amounting to the effort of at least two squadrons. Indeed the Army have recently calculated their requirements for air reconnaissance and close support strike effort (quite apart from the type of deep penetration reconnaissance and interdiction sorties which would be flown by the TSR2) in the opening stages of a limited war against a Brigade Group threat, and of non-nuclear operations in Europe. Although these figures have not yet been approved by the Chiefs of Staff, and the basis of calculations is purely statistical and related only to the dimensions of the enemy threat and not to any appreciation of what might, realistically, be provided, they to nevertheless more than bear out this contention. Certainly they demonstrate that present plans, based on Defence Review Costings, for an F/GA/R order of battle in the 1970s are quite inadequate. These plans call for the following:-

FGA Force Projected.png

The force planned for No. 38 Group is sufficient only to support the spearhead Brigade Group of the Strategic Reserve. However, should a limited war operation require this ground force to be reinforced by the second, or even more, by the third Brigade Group of the Strategic Reserve, these two squadrons would certainly require reinforcement. But present plans do not provide for this air reinforcement or, alternatively, for the replacement forces used for such a purpose, e.g. the replacement of squadrons from AFME, where we could not afford to reduce our "presence" for any appreciable length of time.

Moreover, in the context of war in Europe, even allowing for the effort of the combined air forces of 2 ATAF, the United Kingdom contribution of two F/GA/R squadrons is clearly inadequate. A further two squadrons are required to provide a realistic contribution to 2 ATAF and meet the need to balance the ground forces in NORTHAG. Moreover, the provision of these squadrons would help to mitigate any political objections resulting from the proposed redeployment of the TSR2s from Germany. Even with this increase on present plans, this force together with 72 TSR2s will provide SACEUR with half the number of aircraft at present assigned to him.

The concept of mutual reinforcement, upon which alone depends the prospect of keeping the front line within dimensions acceptable both militarily and economically, leads to another powerful reason for the provision of two additional squadrons in Germany. The most serious limited war operation in which we would likely to become involved in the Seventies would be in the Far East. The planned two resident F/GA/R squadrons with a detachment in Hong Kong, would only barely be sufficient to support, in co-operation with Australia and New Zealand air forces, troops already in the theatre. Thus any further army reinforcements flow to the Far East would be without adequate close air support unless we could call on two squadrons from Germany - and, unless we had at least four squadrons resident there, this would be extremely difficult.

Revised Order of Battle - F/GA/R. Thus, it is clear on all counts that our minimum requirements for F/GA/R squadrons, far from being the eight squadrons currently planned, is at least ten - and could indeed be argued as twelve on the basis of the effort of two squadrons to support each Brigade Group of the Strategic Reserve. If we are prepared to take the risk that we would not reinforce the Far East by more than two Brigade Groups, then our absolute F/GA/R order of battle should be:-

FGA Force Minimum Requirement.png

These aircraft will require V/STOL characteristics, to enable them to disperse on the ground and to improve their chances of survival, response time and flexibility of operation, in the possible conditions of warfare both within and outside Europe envisaged in the period under consideration.
 
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aprc54

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I suggested exactly this back in 2012, a pair of Olympus TM3B per shaft would have been more than sufficient to provide the 45,000SHP per shaft CVA-01 was designed with. It is known that Westland undertook helicopter AEW studies in c.1966 and Elliot Brothers studied a potential radar for such an application, both apparently at the behest of the RN, so that capability was probably viable. That just leaves solving any potential issues with the P.1154.

It is a tantalising concept, an all gas turbine 50,000 ton carrier in the 1970s. The air wing could be AEW and ASW Sea Kings supporting multirole P.1154s or, for even more technical risk via some added variable geometry, Vickers Type 583Vs.
That's very interesting.

Is it true that the P.1154RN was to be catapult launched and this was one of the reasons for the many differences between it and the RAF version?

That's an important reason why I think the better way to go in 1962 was licence-built Spey-Phantoms instead of both versions of P.1154 with the RAF deciding upon a mix of P.1127 Harriers & Phantoms later on. Or the RAF decides to develop the P.1127 into the Hunter replacement (which evolves into the Harrier) and a twin-Spey heavy fighter built by Hawker Siddeley to replace the Lightning and Sea Vixen which is effectively the proposed Spey powered version of P.1154RN.

Or to summarise why build a VTOL fighter when you can buy an American CTOL fighter with new engines or develop a CTOL fighter of your own? The alternatives involve less technical risk so they're less likely to go over time and budget.

Your version of the GT-CVA.01 would be operating a mix of multi-role P.1154s or Vickers Type 583s for the fighter, strike & reconnaissance roles and helicopters for AEW, ASW & COD. From that I infer that it wouldn't have cats & traps like the modern Queen Elizabeth class.

That leads me onto my second point which is why build aircraft carriers that are that large and not fit it with steam catapults and arrester gear? I know that they'd cost more, but as far as I'm concerned that's a false economy.

A GT-CVA.01 with cats & traps could operate Phantoms & Buccaneers until replacement aircraft could be afforded, which would probably be Hornets.

The money spent on the AEW Nimrod would have paid for 3 CVA.01s worth of Greyhounds & Hawkeyes several times over and in the meantime Gannets would have been no worse than the shore-based Shackletons operated by 8 Squadron until the Boeing Sentry entered service.
This is believed to be the final RN Spey Engined P1154 proposed layout in February 1964.
 

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zen

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I have often wondered how much reality was reflected in the post-war Lettered Plans and whether they were ever actually used for setting long-term costings and procurement policy. The actual MoS/MoA orders and RAF UE requirements often never quite tally up, which makes me suspect these were at best an official wishlist before the fiscal and industrial factors stepped in.

The Lettered Plan squadron patterns would probably have been required to underpin the long-term costings in addition to things like manpower provision through the annual Parliamentary Vote A. I also suspect that there were nuances to the way numbers were used at the time that has made life harder for historians. For instance, the 1963 costings covered a ten year period and for the P.1154 they included the following:

RAF: 151 aircraft including 26 trainers
RN: 128 aircraft including 25 trainers

However, there is a note that states that the RAF would require an additional 41 aircraft and the RN an additional 37 aircraft outside of the ten year period covered by the costings (e.g. after 1973), that produces a total requirement for 357 aircraft. As such, I wonder whether confusion is caused by some plan numbers only being for ten year costing periods rather than for full programmes. Either way, the number of P.1154s included in the 1963 costings seem adequate to provide 8 squadrons at 12UE as outlined in the 1964 Plan P, with sufficient leftovers for an OCU and further procurement to cover attrition.

The F-4 eventually became a default joint aircraft meeting both the RAF Hunter FGA.9/FR.10 (GOR.345) and RN Sea Vixen replacement (AW.406) requirements. It therefore seems logical to conclude that had the early Vickers variable geometry studies (c.1960) been taken forward as the basis for a next generation aircraft instead of the Hawker Siddeley V/STOL solution, with some earlier requirements convergence (e.g. getting the RAF on board with a two-seater sooner), a capable all British aircraft could have been produced to meet both requirements and the need for a mid-1970s Lightning successor. Those three requirements together would have produced a 500-550 aircraft production run excluding exports (though including the RN aircraft ultimately not required due to carrier retirement), as @NOMISYRRUC points out, plenty of R&D money was spent on the P.1154, Spey Phantom and Jaguar that could have contributed to such a programme.
Based on the efforts on a new AI radar and missile seekers, this does seem plausible.
Effectively an ADV Tornado earlier with performance closer to a Tomcat.
When we consider the mixture of political belief that NMBR.3 'winner' was going to be both cheaper and sell more (to NATO mostly). We can see why P1154 was favoured.

But an alternative and potentially quicker and cheaper to IOC is the DH.127.
 
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Volkodav

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Another thought, what if Dassault partnered with RR and a British airframer to make the Mirage IIIV a more viable option, especially as a carrier based version? Supersonic performance, VSTOL/STOVL, BVR etc. Not perfect but maybe enough to keep the carriers viable.
 

A Tentative Fleet Plan

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Another thought, what if Dassault partnered with RR and a British airframer to make the Mirage IIIV a more viable option, especially as a carrier based version? Supersonic performance, VSTOL/STOVL, BVR etc. Not perfect but maybe enough to keep the carriers viable.
You're essentially describing the BAC P.39, a development of the Mirage IIIV which was also proposed for NMBR.3, and in 1963 a modified version, sans all but two lift-jets, was proposed to the Royal Navy.
 

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This is believed to be the final RN Spey Engined P1154 proposed layout in February 1964.
Where did you find that?

I noticed that it had different dimensions to the other versions of the Spey powered P.1154 RN that I've found in books and on the internet. (e.g. https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/hawker-siddeley-p-1154.5875/)

The dimensions of this version are:
60ft 6in (52ft 0in folded) Length​
33ft 0in (22ft 0in folded) Span​
300sqft Wing Area​
42.0 Degrees Sweepback​
17ft 2in Tread​
The dimensions of this version I was thinking of (on Pages 20 & 111 of Modern Combat Aircraft 13: Harrier by Bill Gunston) are:
58ft 6in (50ft 11in folded) Length​
36ft 0in (22ft 0in folded) Span​
350sqft Wing Area​
42.8 Degree Sweepback (the drawing isn't clear, it could be 42.6 degrees)​
16ft 2in Tread (the drawing didn't show the number of feet clearly)​
It's peculiar that the undercarriage tread is 1ft narrower in spite of the folded wingspan being the same.

These are the dimensions of the F-4B Phantom II from the Standard Aircraft Characteristics of 1st July 1967
58.2ft Length - It's nose didn't fold, but the F-4Ks did so it could fit the 54ft long lifts of British aircraft carriers.​
38.4ft (27.6ft folded) Span​
530sqft Wing Area​
45.0 Degrees Sweepback (25% chord)​
18.2ft Tread​
I thought a CTOL version of the P.1154 (without the thrust vectoring nozzles and a straight-through jet pipe) would have the wing roots at the bottom of the fuselage instead of the top which would allow a narrower undercarriage tread, which in turn would allow for a narrower folded wingspan. That's important because the hangars of contemporary British aircraft carriers were 62 to 65 feet wide. If it can be reduced to less than 20 feet (like the Buccaneer and Gannet) it would allow three-abreast stowage. I've measured your drawing and it looks like the tail plane is 14 feet wide which is half-a-foot short of the 13ft 6in which was the maximum allowed for four-abreast stowage on an Illustrious class aircraft carrier.
 
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The maximum width requirements come from Page 140 of Freidman's British Carrier Aviation in which he said that the maximum width requirements at the end of 1936 were 18ft 0in for three-abreast and 13ft 6in for four-abreast with minimum clearances of 2 feet between aircraft and 15 inches at the hangar sides.
 

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Thank you for posting all the background to the RAF 1154 purchase. 4 rather than 2 Squadrons in Germany always struck me as more realistic.
 

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The UK does come up with an alternative to the 1154 in the form of the AFVG which is developed from the BAC P45.
Designed to operate from Hermes and Foch/Clemenceau this plane is also designed to replace Lightnings in the RAF.
Although a UK/French programme would have been easier without an F4 buy, a UK aircraft of this type was perfectly feasible.
It is essentially the Vickers 583 without lift jets.
I called it the Cutlass and in my alt 75 lineup it replaced Sea Vixens and Buccaneers in 1975. A version for the RAF would replace the Lightnings too. Of course my alt had RAF 1154s working (though more STOL than VSTOL, operating from motorways desert strips etc)
A fixed wing Cutlass would be similar to Jaguar/1154.
 

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A fixed wing Type 583 runs us close to Brough P.141 or the Other Lightning.

Here's one of the critical realisations about how to square the competing needs.
The chief failure in this period was not funding the new generation of compact turbojets actually asked for by government.
Instead they chose the cheap and cheerful option of a scaled down Gyron from DH.
Which might have come good but for the cutting of every aircraft it was intended for bar the Buccaneer S1.
But it seems clear the BE.33 or scaled down RB.106 or AS P.151 was much more on the money.
These are all twin spool, two shaft turbojets not much more than 30 inches diameter and using titanium.
These powerplants have the right characteristics of small size, low weight, high thrust to achieve a compact enough but high performance fighter needed.
 
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Archibald

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Another thought, what if Dassault partnered with RR and a British airframer to make the Mirage IIIV a more viable option, especially as a carrier based version? Supersonic performance, VSTOL/STOVL, BVR etc. Not perfect but maybe enough to keep the carriers viable.
You're essentially describing the BAC P.39, a development of the Mirage IIIV which was also proposed for NMBR.3, and in 1963 a modified version, sans all but two lift-jets, was proposed to the Royal Navy.

Vaguely heard of the P.39, but not of the "deleted most lift jets" variant.
So it was a III-V with 1*TF30 and only 2*RB162 instead of eight ?

Would have been a weird beast. Reminds me of contemporary Soviets STOL / lift-jets Mig-21, MiG-23 and early Su-24 concepts. Which were not exactly successfull.
 

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We do seem to have drifted far off topic.
Turns out we need to massively alter history for Ark to be there and capable enough to make any superior difference from what happened in reality.
I don't think there is much material difference in one slightly bigger old rusty carrier and a handful of Phantoms. You can only fight what is in front of you.

I still say we should have taken the bullet, developed a twin single-seat Spey Vickers 583 VG fighter, maybe twin-seat if you twist my arm and prove its worth it.
Basically the UK had enough R&D dosh for one big push, either Bristol Siddeley V/STOL or Vickers VG; they took the wrong choice. No matter how superlative (or over-hyped) you rate Harrier, the total impact on the British industry was minuscule, a handful of sales to India and then handing over everything else to McDonnell Douglas to finish off the job. VG had Dassault worried (hence the G-series) and more nations might have brought a more conventional fighter than an airshow stunt flying Harrier that sounded cool but not cool enough to make you take a risk the BAe sales rep wasn't shooting bull and part with the readies.
 

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Oh well, if you say so... no problem, really.
For what it's worth I think it would have been an error on the scale of the French plan to replace Arromanches, Clemenceau, Foch & Jeanne d' Arc with 4 PH.75 class nuclear powered helicopter carriers that was around in the 1970s. This was abandoned in 1980 when it was decided to build 2 nuclear powered CTOL carriers to replace Clemenceau & Foch.

As we both know (and you probably know the fine details better than me) only one ship ended up being built, but in spite of its faults Charles de Gaulle is better value for money for the French taxpayer than the single PH.75 that would have eventually been built.

It is a little more complicated than that. PH75 was not to replace Foch and Clemenceau - not before it morphed into PA75 by Président Giscard decree in September 1980.
Only Arromanches and perhaps Jeanne d'Arc (but the latter lasted so long - 2010 ! - I wonder if it wouldn't have survived as floating training school whatever happened).

I readily agree that replacing Foch & Clemenceau with "Harriers on PH75" would have been a major loss of capavbility.

Just like replacing "Eagle and Ark Royal + Phantoms " by "Harriers on Escort cruiser" would be.

The main difference between 1970 France and 1970 Great Britain is - economics (how that time sounds remote nowadays - sigh)

So, a very unacceptable, unthinkable solution for France was quite the only one left to GB. And it ended happening after 1978, incidentally: SHARs on three Invincibles.

I basically suggested not to wait 1978 and charging ahead (with perfect hindsight of course) as soon as Harrier and Escort cruiser are available - that is, some time after 1962.

Admittedly, P.1127 or RAF Harrier mk.1 are no SHAR by any mean; while according to your description, Escort Cruiser might be an Invincible ancestor, it was notheless a very flawed design.

I would say - "Escort cruiser with P.1127 on its deck" while not very good overall - is mostly useful to plant the "SHAR / Invincible concept" into RN minds earlier than 1975 / 1978.
The idea being for that idea to be implemented much faster than OTL, against the (awful) CVA-01 saga and the (equally awful) Audacious / Centaur drawdown of the 70's.
And in passing, if that can screw the Tigers... but we already discussed that point.
 

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I believe that a force of 3 CVA,01 class strike carriers (2 active and one refit/reserve with 2 air groups of Phantoms, Buccaneers and Hawkeyes) could have been afforded until the middle of the 1980s using the money that was spent on the Invincible class, the RAF's maritime force of Buccaneers, Phantoms & Shackletons, the Sea Harrier and the AEW Nimrod.

However, I also think it's more realistic in a situation where the British economy performs better from February 1966 onwards. (Don't ask me to explain how & why it does because I can't.)

In the situation I'm thinking of the February 1966 White Paper concedes that strike carriers are very useful in places other than East of Suez and that the marginal amount of money saved by replacing them with shore based aircraft is not worth the loss of their operational advantages. Therefore, the existing strike carriers would not be retired in 1975 and replaced by shore-based aircraft operated by the RAF. Instead Ark Royal (IV), Eagle & Hermes or Victorious were to be retained until until they could be replaced by 3 ships of the replacement class which would be built half-a-decade later than previously planned.

The replacement class was the GT-powered version of the CVA.01 class already discussed. 3 ships would be built instead of the real world Invincible class. They would be named Indomitable (CVA.01 built instead of Invincible), Implacable (CVA.02 built instead of Illustrious) and Indefatigable (CVA.03 built instead of Ark Royal (V)).

The 1967 decision to withdraw British forces from East of Suez in 1975 would still be made and the 1968 decision to bring the withdrawal forward to the end of 1971 would still be made.

However, to paraphrase Mr Ben, as if by magic the performance of the British economy improved and the improvement in the 1970s and 1980s was big enough to avoid the Mason Defence Review of 1974-75 and for the Knott Defence Review of 1981 to be less severe. (The Knot Review of this version of history would in effect be the Mason Review of the real world postponed for 6-7 years).

This is important because the 1967-68 decisions to withdraw forces from East of Suez didn't mean that the East of Suez commitment had been abandoned. What it actually meant was that the forces would be held on a strategic reserve in the UK and sent abroad as required. To that end...
  • The Army maintained the 3rd Division (with the 5th, 19th & 24th Airportable Brigades) & the 16th Airborne Brigade as said strategic reserve.
  • The RAF maintained a force of 12 fixed-wing transport squadrons to support the Army's strategic reserve. That is 5 strategic transport squadrons (one Belfast, 2 Britannia, one Comet & one VC.10) and 7 tactical transport squadrons (one Andover & 6 Hercules)
  • It also had 3 tanker squadrons operating converted Victor Mk 1 bombers.
  • Several joint Army/RAF reinforcement exercises were conducted in the first half of the 1970s.
  • The Royal Navy retained a residual force of 6 frigates East of Suez.
  • It also sent a squadron to Singapore twice a year. The squadron's flagship was a Tiger class cruiser or County class destroyer and it included a SSN.
  • The altered (rather than abolished) East of Suez mission is also part of the reason why Albion (until it was replaced by Hermes), Bulwark, Fearless & Intrepid were kept in full commission after the end of 1971.
The 1974-75 Defence Review resulted in the end of the East of Suez commitment & the withdrawal of most of the out-of-area forces West of Suez in favour of concentrating on NATO's Central Front & Eastlant Area. As a result...
  • The current Army structure of 3 divisions in Germany and one in the UK were replaced by 4 divisions in Germany.
  • The RAF's fixed-wing transport force was reduced to one VC.10 and 4 Hercules squadrons.
  • The number of tankers squadrons was reduced to 2 with converted Victor Mk 2s replacing the Mk 1s.
  • It also lost the Nimrod squadron at Malta and the Nimrod detachment at Singapore.
  • Fearless & Intrepid ceased to be fully-operation warships. One was in refit/reserve while the other became the Dartmouth training ship which replaced the 3 frigates in the Dartmouth Training Squadron.
  • Bulwark was paid off in 1976, but was brought back into service as an ASW carrier in 1979 only to be paid off again in 1981.
  • Hermes was to have been paid off too, but was retained as an ASW carrier, fitted with a ski jump & had its flagship facilities upgraded.
  • The number of destroyers, frigates and auxiliaries was reduced.
I won't repeat the details of the real world's 1981 Defence Review. Suffice it to say that it was a more extreme version of the Mason Review and few of its measures had been implemented by April 1982. At that time the situation was Hermes & Invincible in commission, Illustrious completing, Ark Royal fitting out, Fearless at Dartmouth, Bulwark & Intrepid in reserve and the heavy repair ship Triumph being broken up.

The healthier state of the British economy in 1981 in this version of history resulted in a less severe Knott Defence Review because HM Treasury was able to give him more money.
  • The force of 3 strike carriers (2 in full-commission and one in refit/reserve) was to be maintained.
  • The 2 commando carriers would be paid off, one Fearless would become the Dartmouth training ship and replace the frigates that formed the Dartmouth Training Squadron.
  • The number of destroyers & frigates would be reduced from 68 to 60 (rather than 60 to 42).
  • There would be a corresponding reduction in the number of auxiliaries (RN & RFA manned).
  • Triumph (which had been in reserve at Chatham since the early 1970s) would be put on the Disposal List.
In common with the real world most of these measures had yet to be implemented by April 1982 when the situation was:
  • Ark Royal (IV) & Eagle in commission, Indomitable refitting, Implacable completing & Indefatigable fitting out.
  • Albion (Hermes wasn't converted to a commando carrier), Bulwark, Fearless & Hermes in full commission.
  • Triumph was in reserve at Chatham for disposal.
  • A few more frigates and a few more auxiliaries would be in commission as well.
  • The RAF would have 12 fixed-wing transport squadrons instead of 5 including one squadron with Belfasts and 2 with Britannias.
  • It would also have a third Victor Mk 2 tanker squadron.
I think the Argentine Government would still invade the Falkland Islands because I think they were that desperate.

It might also help that one of the 2 operational strike carriers would be in the Far East leading the the first of 1982's deployments to Singapore which might make General Galtieri & Co. think the British wouldn't be able to react quickly enough.
 
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A Tentative Fleet Plan

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Another thought, what if Dassault partnered with RR and a British airframer to make the Mirage IIIV a more viable option, especially as a carrier based version? Supersonic performance, VSTOL/STOVL, BVR etc. Not perfect but maybe enough to keep the carriers viable.
You're essentially describing the BAC P.39, a development of the Mirage IIIV which was also proposed for NMBR.3, and in 1963 a modified version, sans all but two lift-jets, was proposed to the Royal Navy.

Vaguely heard of the P.39, but not of the "deleted most lift jets" variant.
So it was a III-V with 1*TF30 and only 2*RB162 instead of eight ?

Would have been a weird beast. Reminds me of contemporary Soviets STOL / lift-jets Mig-21, MiG-23 and early Su-24 concepts. Which were not exactly successfull.
2x RB.162s behind the cockpit, with two RB.153s providing horizontal thrust.
 

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As if removing lift jets wasn't enough screwing of the CoG, let's change the main engine from 1*American big turbofan, to 2*British smallish turbofans...

The 60's were insane.
 

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I believe that a force of 3 CVA,01 class strike carriers (2 active and one refit/reserve with 2 air groups of Phantoms, Buccaneers and Hawkeyes) could have been afforded until the middle of the 1980s using the money that was spent on the Invincible class, the RAF's maritime force of Buccaneers, Phantoms & Shackletons, the Sea Harrier and the AEW Nimrod.

However, I also think it's more realistic in a situation where the British economy performs better from February 1966 onwards. (Don't ask me to explain how & why it does because I can't.)

In the situation I'm thinking of the February 1966 White Paper concedes that strike carriers are very useful in places other than East of Suez and that the marginal amount of money saved by replacing them with shore based aircraft is not worth the loss of their operational advantages. Therefore, the existing strike carriers would not be retired in 1975 and replaced by shore-based aircraft operated by the RAF. Instead Ark Royal (IV), Eagle & Hermes or Victorious were to be retained until until they could be replaced by 3 ships of the replacement class which would be built half-a-decade later than previously planned.

The replacement class was the GT-powered version of the CVA.01 class already discussed. 3 ships would be built instead of the real world Invincible class. They would be named Indomitable (CVA.01 built instead of Invincible), Implacable (CVA.02 built instead of Illustrious) and Indefatigable (CVA.03 built instead of Ark Royal (V)).

The 1967 decision to withdraw British forces from East of Suez in 1975 would still be made and the 1968 decision to bring the withdrawal forward to the end of 1971 would still be made.

However, to paraphrase Mr Ben, as if by magic the performance of the British economy improved and the improvement in the 1970s and 1980s was big enough to avoid the Mason Defence Review of 1974-75 and for the Knott Defence Review of 1981 to be less severe. (The Knot Review of this version of history would in effect be the Mason Review of the real world postponed for 6-7 years).

This is important because the 1967-68 decisions to withdraw forces from East of Suez didn't mean that the East of Suez commitment had been abandoned. What it actually meant was that the forces would be held on a strategic reserve in the UK and sent abroad as required. To that end...
  • The Army maintained the 3rd Division (with the 5th, 19th & 24th Airportable Brigades) & the 16th Airborne Brigade as said strategic reserve.
  • The RAF maintained a force of 12 fixed-wing transport squadrons to support the Army's strategic reserve. That is 5 strategic transport squadrons (one Belfast, 2 Britannia, one Comet & one VC.10) and 7 tactical transport squadrons (one Andover & 6 Hercules)
  • It also had 3 tanker squadrons operating converted Victor Mk 1 bombers.
  • Several joint Army/RAF reinforcement exercises were conducted in the first half of the 1970s.
  • The Royal Navy retained a residual force of 6 frigates East of Suez.
  • It also sent a squadron to Singapore twice a year. The squadron's flagship was a Tiger class cruiser or County class destroyer and it included a SSN.
  • The altered (rather than abolished) East of Suez mission is also part of the reason why Albion (until it was replaced by Hermes), Bulwark, Fearless & Intrepid were kept in full commission after the end of 1971.
The 1974-75 Defence Review resulted in the end of the East of Suez commitment & the withdrawal of most of the out-of-area forces West of Suez in favour of concentrating on NATO's Central Front & Eastlant Area. As a result...
  • The current Army structure of 3 divisions in Germany and one in the UK were replaced by 4 divisions in Germany.
  • The RAF's fixed-wing transport force was reduced to one VC.10 and 4 Hercules squadrons.
  • The number of tankers squadrons was reduced to 2 with converted Victor Mk 2s replacing the Mk 1s.
  • It also lost the Nimrod squadron at Malta and the Nimrod detachment at Singapore.
  • Fearless & Intrepid ceased to be fully-operation warships. One was in refit/reserve while the other became the Dartmouth training ship which replaced the 3 frigates in the Dartmouth Training Squadron.
  • Bulwark was paid off in 1976, but was brought back into service as an ASW carrier in 1979 only to be paid off again in 1981.
  • Hermes was to have been paid off too, but was retained as an ASW carrier, fitted with a ski jump & had its flagship facilities upgraded.
  • The number of destroyers, frigates and auxiliaries was reduced.
I won't repeat the details of the real world's 1981 Defence Review. Suffice it to say that it was a more extreme version of the Mason Review and few of its measures had been implemented by April 1982. At that time the situation was Hermes & Invincible in commission, Illustrious completing, Ark Royal fitting out, Fearless at Dartmouth, Bulwark & Intrepid in reserve and the heavy repair ship Triumph being broken up.

The healthier state of the British economy in 1981 in this version of history resulted in a less severe Knott Defence Review because HM Treasury was able to give him more money.
  • The force of 3 strike carriers (2 in full-commission and one in refit/reserve) was to be maintained.
  • The 2 commando carriers would be paid off, one Fearless would become the Dartmouth training ship and replace the frigates that formed the Dartmouth Training Squadron.
  • The number of destroyers & frigates would be reduced from 68 to 60 (rather than 60 to 42).
  • There would be a corresponding reduction in the number of auxiliaries (RN & RFA manned).
  • Triumph (which had been in reserve at Chatham since the early 1970s) would be put on the Disposal List.
In common with the real world most of these measures had yet to be implemented by April 1982 when the situation was:
  • Ark Royal (IV) & Eagle in commission, Indomitable refitting, Implacable completing & Indefatigable fitting out.
  • Albion (Hermes wasn't converted to a commando carrier), Bulwark, Fearless & Hermes in full commission.
  • Triumph was in reserve at Chatham for disposal.
  • A few more frigates and a few more auxiliaries would be in commission as well.
  • The RAF would have 12 fixed-wing transport squadrons instead of 5 including one squadron with Belfasts and 2 with Britannias.
  • It would also have a third Victor Mk 2 tanker squadron.
I think the Argentine Government would still invade the Falkland Islands because I think they were that desperate.

It might also help that one of the 2 operational strike carriers would be in the Far East leading the the first of 1982's deployments to Singapore which might make General Galtieri & Co. think the British wouldn't be able to react quickly enough.

Nice scenario, I like it. It clearly shows that "SHAR on smallish decks" wasn't a foregone conclusion post-1966 - even with all the economic hardships hitting GB like a volley of Soviet missiles...
 

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It is a little more complicated than that...
I know it is. I was trying to keep it simple.

According to Roger Chesneau in Aircraft Carriers of the World 4 ships were announced in 1975 (although he calls the design PA.75 instead of PH.75) which was later reduced to 2 on grounds of cost and that some 8 years later after the requirement was first announced (he was writing in 1983) the first ship had yet to be laid down. (It never was.)

It might have been me arriving at the conclusion that 4 ships were part of Plan Bleu and were intended to replace Arromanches, Clemenceau, Foch & Jeanne d'Arc... rather than reading it somewhere, which is what I thought I did when I wrote my earlier post.

Chesneau also wrote that PH.75 was still a "live project" and that it had been successively redesigned through to PA.83. He also wrote that the pair of aircraft carriers approved in September 1980 to replace Clemenceau & Foch were designated PA.88 with the names Bretagne & Provence originally designed. The first was scheduled to be begun at Brest in 1986 and be in service in the early 1990s, which turned out to be optimistic.
 

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We do seem to have drifted far off topic.
I agree. Mea culpa.
Turns out we need to massively alter history for Ark to be there and capable enough to make any superior difference from what happened in reality.
In my opinion it has to be changed somewhat, but not massively. Most of the money was there. It had to be spent differently.
I don't think there is much material difference in one slightly bigger old rusty carrier and a handful of Phantoms. You can only fight what is in front of you.
It wouldn't change the result (although it wasn't a foregone conclusion) but it would reduce British losses and increase Argentina's or the Argentines would surrender sooner.

A handful of Phantoms and a handful of Buccaneers with a handful of Gannets to back them up are a lot more potent than a handful of Sea Harriers.
 

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...one slightly bigger old rusty carrier...
I couldn't let that one go. It was a lot more than slightly bigger.

The Audacious class had a standard displacement of 36,800 tons which was double the 18,310 tons of the Centaur class. Both figures are the ships when they were laid down and are from Conway's 1922-46.

The installed horsepower 152,000shp driving 4 shafts is double 76,000ship driving 2 shafts. The aircraft capacity, fixed armament and crew of an Audacious were also about double what a Centaur had.
 
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...one slightly bigger old rusty carrier...
I couldn't let that one go. It was a lot more than slightly bigger.

The Audacious class had a standard displacement of 36,800 tons which was double the 18,310 tons of the Centaur class. Both figures are the ships when they were laid down and are from Conway's 1922-46.

The installed horsepower 152,000shp driving 4 shafts is double 76,000ship driving 2 shafts. The aircraft capacity, fixed armament and crew of an Audacious were also about double what a Centaur had.
This is far far removed from the original post but...

2 Centaurs = 1 Audacious​

Therefore (and subject to slipway availability) it would have been a lot better with hindsight if an additional pair of Audacious class fleet carriers had been laid down 1944-45 and completed in the early 1950s instead of the quartet of Centaur class light fleet carriers.

The 1960s strike carrier fleet would have then been 4 Audacious class plus Victorious or even better the original Eagle (the third Audacious that was cancelled in 1946) suspended until 1950 and then completed instead of rebuilding Victorious with 2 of the earlier light fleet carriers converted into commando carriers.

However, the Admiralty planners drafting the 1944-45 building programme should not be blamed for not doing so because it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to see that far into the future.
 
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