Useful web links about the looming decision on aircraft carriers ‘cats and traps’ and F35B or C

Apr 30, 2012   //   by NavyLookout   //   Articles  //  6 Comments

As we await the the decision by government on whether the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers currently building will be fitted with ‘cats and traps’, there is much debate and discussion about the issue. Here are a selection of some of the most informative online articles on this complex and politically charged argument.

Cameron ‘to change his mind’ on the one thing he got right in Defence

By Lewis Page, writing on ‘The Register’ – IT and technology website
Lewis Page is a controversial ex-RN officer who is a devastating critic of the shambles across UK defence procurement. In this article he highlights the vested interests of BAE Systems and the RAF who he suggests are fundamentally against the fitting of cats & traps and want to force the RN to buy F35B

‘Cats and Traps’: Launching the Carrier Debate in the Right Direction?

By Dr Lee Willett, Senior Research Fellow, Maritime Studies, RUSI
The Royal United Services Institute is the leading UK independent think tank engaged in defence and security research. RUSI have sometimes been accused of being too close to government to be objective but they are home to a cross-section of opinion and they are generally scholarly. This article decisively concludes cats and traps are the best solution.

F35-The Jet That Ate the Pentagon

US Website foreign
Arguing the F35 is so insanely expensive and so flawed the programme should be cancelled. Ouch!

Alarm over new navy jet costs

By Mike Powell, Portsmouth News defence correspondent
Highlighting US government audit which shows the F35 programme is already $15bn over budget

Rear Admiral Chris Parry Speaking on BFBS TV about the Carrier Project

Chris Parry is a retired RN aviator who served in the Falklands War and worked in strategic planning within the MoD. In this interview he recommends the RN lease 2 squadrons of F-18 Super Hornets, 1 for training and 1 to serve on a US Carrier to keep naval aviation skills alive and show solidarity with the US. (Note no mention of the French!)

Reversion to the F-35B would be wrong for Britain
A Critical Decision for Carrier Configuration. – ‘Angled Deck’ or ‘Ramp’ for our Queen Elizabeth class Carriers.

Sharkey Ward, writing on his own Blog ‘Sharkey’s World’.
Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward is an experienced RN Sea Harrier pilot who flew 60 sorties in the Falklands War. A fierce critic of the RAF and a doughty defender of carrier air power. He’s upset a lot of people in his time but most of what he says makes sense.

Of Jets and Carriers… Again

By Nick Childs, naval author writing for RUSI
Providing a more general background to the carrier debate.

Cameron’s warplane shot down as cost of converting aircraft carriers to fly them trebles

The Daily Mail website
One of many press reports that prematurely announced that govt had chosen F35B. The Daily Mail is often slightly hysterical in its reporting style but at least it attempts some sort of coverage of naval and defence issues. On the carrier issue we can rely on the mainstream media to focus on the political embarrassment for the government if they do a ‘U-turn’ and revert to F35B, rather than the actual long-term impact on the capabilities of a of the carriers.

The QE class carrier debacle is clouding real maritime security issues

Defence Management website
Makes the important point that the issues around the carriers may have distracted from other debates about the size and balance of the RN’s future fleet.
(We remain every bit as concerned about the size of the submarine force and the decline in frigate and destroyer numbers!)


“We do not have to choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong defence”

Jul 18, 2011   //   by NavyLookout   //   Articles, blog  //  3 Comments
Liam Fox

Defence Secretary Liam Fox - Image via Wikipedia

“We do not have to choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong defence, Indeed, in the longer-term one provides for the other.” It’s hard to believe it, but this is Defence Secretary Liam Fox, (quoting the US defence Secretary) speaking this week at RUSI (Royal United Services Institute). This depressing speech was for an RAF audience and was at times hypocritical and disingenuous. This government blatantly has chosen so-called ‘fiscal discipline’ over strong defence and Fox won’t find anyone outside his government who would agree that our defences have not been significantly weakened. The defence review is simply cost-driven disarmament and no one can dispute UK defences, in particular the Royal Navy are in even worse shape as result. The sudden axing of our small but significant carrier air power assets, 4 frigates, and 5000 sailors has simply made the UK even more vulnerable and the Navy more over-stretched than before. Fox talks as if the October 2010 SSDR (Strategic Defence and Security Review) was some sort of triumph for modernisation. This is nauseatingly dishonest to claim that despite huge budget cuts, everything is fine. We all understand the UK needs to reduce pubic spending but if the government was straight with us and admitted they’ve decided our spending priorities will not allow us to be  a first rank world power anymore then at least they would be able to retain some respect and credibility.

Fox claimed the absurdly expensive Typhoon aircraft “have come of age” in Libya, Despite the fact that RAF operations are vastly more costly, less flexible and effective than Harrier/carrier operations would have been (using Governments own data). With its vast PR machine and Battle of Britain mythology, it would have taken enormous courage to even consider disbanding the RAF or reducing it to a UK airspace defence role only (most of its functions could be absorbed by the Army and Navy saving a lot of money and improving effectiveness on the frontline). There is a huge political uproar when the government attempts to close RAF bases but when a few frigates get axed no one seems to notice much. Unsurprisingly Fox confirmed the RAF has a bright future despite serious question marks about its competence, performance and value for money. Subtly implying that the RAF is the sole arbiter of air power, naval aviation gets absolutely no mention, despite the aircraft carrier programme supposedly being a central part of future defence policy.

Apache Attack Helicopter Takes Off from HMS Ocean by Defence Images, on Flickr

Apache attack helicopter takes off from HMS Ocean –  Defence Images via Flickr

With UK forces running at maximum capacity, Fox states that the Libya operation will go on as long as it takes. With huge understatement he admits that it will “increase the pressure on both personnel and equipment” However no significant  extra funding or equipment will be made available and SDR cuts will continue without respite. HMS Ocean continues to provide a platform for 5 Army Air Cops Apache helicopters attacking targets in Libya. Very useful, but a pale imitation of what the Harriers could do. HMS Ocean is being worked hard but with typical disregard for people, the MoD has refused to give her ships company additional operational allowance. HMS Illustrious will need to complete quick post-refit sea trials and work up in order that HMS Ocean in relieved on station to get home for well deserved rest and long-awaited refit.

Fox rounded off his speech by having the cheek to mention that “too many European nations in NATO were trying to get a free ride off the US when it came to their own security” While this maybe true, he is no position to preach to others about not spending enough on defence!