View Full Version : Improved CVF ???

06-08-2009, 16:51
Another CVF Change of Plan Rumor
As if the CVF wasn't controversial enough due to cost, it looks like a major design decision is being made regarding the CVF almost certain to raise the cost considerably more, not to mention substantially influence the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. While the US is looking to scrap the F-22 and move up the schedule for the F-35B for the Marines, the Royal Navy may be moving from the F-35 VSTOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter to the catapult variant known as the F-35C.

In a significant about turn the MoD has indicated that it will ditch the jump-jet version of Joint Strike Fighter in favour of the conventional model, as the planes for its two new aircraft carriers.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt from senior defence officials that an announcement will be made this autumn.

The move, welcomed by many defence analysts and the Royal Navy, will mean that the MoD has wasted £500 million of taxpayers' money paid to Rolls Royce to develop the highly complex engine to allow vertical take-off similar to the Harrier jump jet.
Ahh we get to the heart of global politics of defense alliances in a nutshell. Every year for several years President Bush unsuccessfully tried to cancel the second engine, the Rolls Royce alternative, for the F-35. Every year Congress came through and funded the engine. President Obama is on the verge of potentially finally not funding the alternative Rolls Royce engine, and because of this, the MoD has no intention at all to pay for the alternative engine itself, thus has more flexibility to make decisions regarding the CVF.

But if the Queen Elizabeth class is going to use catapults, what does that mean? Well, it sounds like EMALS may be an option.

The decision also comes with some risk as the Navy will be reliant on the Americans developing a new electro-magnetic catapult to launch the fighters off the carrier.

"This is a real risk because the new catapult design is a major undertaking. It is not just a widget," said a defence aviation source. "If it breaks then the planes can't fly and the carrier is useless.

"Also the UK has no serving experts in this area of carrier flying so it's a real step in the dark."

In an official statement the MoD said: “To maximise the flexibility that the carriers will offer over their service life, they are being built to an adaptable design that can operate both Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) and Carrier Variant (CV) type aircraft.”

It added that the STOVL or “B” variant of the JSF remains “our prefered solution”.

It is very difficult to tell what is happening with the MoD in this decision, because other than assuming the MoD will choose the least expensive option (cost vs capability, MoD chooses less money every time), I am not sure which option is the least expensive option.

As things stand right now, the British are looking to buy 150 F-35Bs, but just changing those into F-35Cs would produce a savings of over $3.7 billion US based on estimates of the F-35B costing £105 million and the F-35C costing £90 million. Then there is the suggestion that if the CVF has F-35Cs the greater range and payload will allow the British to buy fewer than 150 Joint Strike Fighters, further increasing the savings. Clearly some of the money would then be spent adding EMALS to the CVF design, but this plan still produces a clear savings when viewed only from a hardware perspective.

In the end though, I don't think this is going to save any money at all, in fact I would suggest this ends up costing the British a lot more money than they anticipate. First, the British haven't built an aircraft carrier able to catapult aircraft off the deck in 50 years, when HMS Hermes (now known as INS Viraat) was completed. Second, EMALS is hardly a foregone conclusion, that program has a huge cloud of unanswered questions right now. Third, the human factor of training and experience is not insignificant, indeed building up the training and skill sets needed for conventional air operations off an aircraft carriers for two aircraft carriers is a lot easier said than done. Finally, it is never a good idea to change the designs once construction already begins.

I do not think it is difficult to see why the MoD might be making this decision though. In virtually every discussion one of the primary factors driving aircraft carriers as power projection platforms is the ability to operate aircraft at very long range, and that ultimately leads down the road towards long range unmanned combat aircraft systems, all of which will almost certainly be conventionally launched from aircraft carriers throughout the lifetime of the CVF.

This is an important point, and may be what is driving the MoD decision process here. The CVF will almost be obsolete by the time it is launched in the middle of next decade in its expected role as a power projection platform against a peer competitor unless it has conventional launch capabilities. I am a huge fan of amphibious ships like the LHA and LHD, but VSTOL has shorter range and without catapults will not be able to launch the much needed long range unmanned aircraft systems that is needed to allow aircraft carriers to stay well off shore for operations.

In other words, in the 21st century defensive trends suggest Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) is an expeditionary capability while Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) is a power projection capability, and it is determined this way primarily due to the range and payload capacity of the aircraft that are launched via those methods. I think someone in the MoD has finally realized that the enormous investment the CVF represents simply makes no sense whatsoever without a Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR), because investing that much money into just two aircraft carriers that cannot be power projection capable vessels against potential peers is a terrible idea.

As this is a rumor, albeit a well reported rumor, it will be something to keep an eye on. In the end, probably a smart decision, although the smartest decision would probably be for the MoD to buy 0 CVFs and build a surface combatant and nuclear submarine fleet big enough to protect the interests of Great Britain. That is probably asking too much though.

07-08-2009, 02:35
There is nothing in the DOD's press release's/web-site's that states the F-22 is going to the Boneyard. The production numbers were stopped at 122 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.

I'm not sure as to why this article inferr's the Royal Navy cannot build a carriers with a catapult after so many years of not building a large carrier's. I would think there nothing the Royal Navy cannot build considering the ship building experience that service has. If the royal navy can save money by buying the F-35C then so be it, let's not try to predict what the MOD is thinking and may do or may not do....NO real value it stirring the pot!

The article states the 21st century unmanned aircraft taking off from a Large deck carriers. Last I heard these aircraft not even off the drawing boards, let alone in the testing phase here in the US, and it would several years more for the actual flight deck testing would even take place.

Not every country that has a Navy is looking to fight with unmanned aircraft today, nor could some of those country afford the price tag that comes with that type of aircraft.


08-08-2009, 08:57
If we are to maintain our Global influence, in whatever capacity, then, quite simply, we need the carriers. If not, then retire to the North Atlantic and disappear. It really is quite that simple. If Governments of whatever colour expect us to keep popping-up and helping sort out their mess, then not only is it easier, but helps to make us look better, if we have the right tools.
And, the simple fact is, no matter how some may try and spin things, we are still a global player. It's a matter of geography, and history, and unless we relocate, and become something else, that cannot be changed.

As for Trident replacement, there is time enough in the years to come to deal with that. It is not necessarily urgent.

Enhanced surface fleet, yes. But that which we currently have can be enhanced, and has a few years left (except the remaining 42s). Any replacements could be of the modular, interchangeable design, similar to the MEKO. But, the type 45 programme should have been completed, and not halved. Never thought I would say this, but, I like them.

As for the topic in hand. I never saw the sense in building a "full size" fully capable carrier and then dumping VSTOL aircraft onboard, given their restrictions (payload, speed, and range). What does seem ridiculous to me is; that we had to come this far, be dumped in a recession, subjected to massive Government financial mismanagement and incompetence, before the obvious was realised.

Of course it would have been much easier to go for off the shelf. Nothing wrong with one of the SU27 and/or MiG29 variants.
But again, too much bureaucracy and not enough considered thought.

But, despite the waste and other side effects, this would be the "better" outcome for a programme that is not likely to get off the ground anyway.

08-08-2009, 10:56
We need a Navy capable of covering all of the tactical elements; surface, sub-surface, air, and amphibious.
As things stand today, we have a reasonably good, if not altogether good, amphibious element. The other three are all lacking in one area or another, particularly ASW, which contrary to popular "modern" opinion is still vitally important.

I was sceptical, if not a bit cynical toward the type 45s, but, after a few visits to the Daring, my mind is changed. They are good, very good. Just need the missiles, and I was assured, they are coming.

The thing about Trident and the IND is that; until everyone else stops wanting these toys, we need to retain them. To drop them, would take us away from the top table, and the rest (Navy) would then become superfluous. It was a situation that was either not considered, or thought relevant at the time we entered the Nuclear team. Now we are stuck with it, at least until there is a suitable multi-national reduction.
It will also bring us into conflict with both the US and France. The French would not be happy being the only Nuclear power in Europe, as it would expose their retention as politically inviable. The reason for the US being unhappy I would think fairly obvious. Plus of course our relationship with them is already shaky, not least because of our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it would hint at a further British retreat from the "old alliance".
The US have now to look more toward the Pacific, again, for obvious reasons, and need reliable allies on the Atlantic side. But if we continue to shake and waver, then they will look for more reliable chums to play with.

Either that, or look for a suitable alternative. One that is at least as efficient and threatening, ideas?

08-08-2009, 15:29
The idea the US is unhappy is a fair statement and is based more on the economic problems facing this country as well as others around the world.

The relationship's that develop in the polictical enviroment is based on matual respect and cooperation between the countries.

All navies around the world have gone through a period of downsizing during hard times, the UK and US are the latest examples. The US when through a period of down sizing after the Vietnam experience, thus the idea's of ADM Zumwalt and the ship's he presented to the DOD at that time. It opens up the debate on the countries future and the weapons,ships,sensors it could or would deploy on the naval ships. Some ideas are not viable for the navy's need's and other's come through with operation excellence.

The idea of smaller and cheaper ships is nice to say but in the application in naval terms it would be a disaster in the making. The cheaper ship requires that each ship or class of ship have a single/dual mission area. Requiring numerous updates on the electronic's used and limit's the amount of expansion in that area because of the size restrictions in the internal volume of the ship. The MEKO was used as an example and we can also used the Perry class and other's as well.

Thus the need for a "large" ship building program to accomidate the various mission areas. Most Naval commanders are not fond of the idea of having a fleet of cheap ships and has been noted. Also taking in consideration is loss of personnel in time battle on these ships and the replacements required the idea of cheap ships will cost the affected country.

Just some thought's.


08-08-2009, 18:07
OHPs are not strictly "Modular". Not in the way that the MEKO type are. MEKOs are also not "cheap", just less expensive. But they are more versatile, which given the current climate, is what we want, if not need.

Unfortunately for us; friendships and alliances go out of the window when economics get involved. I think that by getting rid of our not really IND the US will see us as no longer being fit for purpose. There is already a good bit of thinking in this direction since our undignified departure from Iraq, and the mess that is now, for us, Afghanistan.

It is all very well politicians saying that they will join the US in whatever venture. But they should check our resources first, not after. That way we will not let people down. Our armed forces are not properly resourced, nor equipped, and that makes us look rather foolish, and worse, unreliable.
Nobody, unless they are similarly foolish, wants an ally like that. But, on the plus side for us, we do at least actually get involved (at, currently, great cost and sacrifice), unlike the other European "big guns".

08-08-2009, 19:24
Sorry, but I could not resist posting this picture here - as an ex carrier (fixed wing) man.


08-08-2009, 19:40
I do not see the US or any country for that matter in the area of global crisis dumping one country for another. Rather the idea would be to coordinate those efforts from each country to get the full effect desired in any situation on the globe. Wether or not the countries involved have a sizable navy is not really the point when all countries are working together.

I would agree the MEKO's are a very ship that does have some internal room for growth. The MOD apparently does not see the MEKO's has a plateform for the Royal Navy in it's future. Sadly across the pond the DOD has the same idea to use there own design's to outfit there navy rather than looking a current Naval design's that would fit the Naval needs.

Note: The Carrier with the grass on the flight deck i have seen in all the forums on the web.