Just a thought on defence

Yet another defence review…..and there are those over on the left telling us that the two carriers must be scrapped.


There\’s a reason you have two: big ships like that are such complex beasts that you\’ve nearly always got one in dock somewhere, being repaired, upgraded, outfitted.

You\’d also rather like to make sure that if you\’ve got a proper shooting war that one lucky torpedo doesn\’t take down the Navy\’s entire offensive capability. Heck, the Navy\’s entire defensive capability come to that.

The bigger question of course is whether we need any carriers at all. If we do, we need two, if we don\’t, well….

Which brings us to this liberal intervention thing. I realise that Iraq and Afghanistan are, err, controversial.

But what about Sierra Leone and Liberia? You can of course take the view that neither were any of our business. But looking back at them as having happened they do seem to have made the world a better place.

And yes, doing either or both of them depended upon our having carriers to do them with.

So, without carriers (of some sort) we\’d not be able to do such liberal interventions in the future. Is being able to do that worth 1% of a year\’s government spending spread over a number of years?

Anyone who is against the carrier program care to answer that specific question?

10 thoughts on “Just a thought on defence”

  1. On the left, the real threat comes from the right.

    At least one of the Shadow Defence Secretary’s colleagues was clearly unconvinced of the need for
    new aircraft carriers, despite Dr Fox recently confirming his party’s belief in them during a key speech in Parliament. Douglas
    Carswell MP, writing on his internet blog, highlighted his belief, in a somewhat vague fashion that showed little knowledge of what carriers are all about or capable of. Pressing on regardless, Carswell suggested that alternative naval investments could achieve similar results to shiny new carriers: “Can’t we have ships that are missile platforms, without the need for that expensive Top Gun middle bit? Might smaller, faster, lightly-manned ships be less vulnerable and present less of a target to Silkworm missiles and
    USS Cole-type attackers? No need to build an entire navy around them just to keep them safe? Just asking. Tell me why I’m wrong.” Many who posted feedback on his page patiently explained the virtues of carrier strike that are so beloved of navies around the
    world busy investing in…er…carriers. It is strange that Carswell’s blog on the carriers has been removed from his site archive. Did
    Dr Fox have a word with him?

  2. Liberia?


    The carriers are a matter of resources really (cost will massively overrun) and I don’t see Trident replacement and the carriers being affordable, or least the public aren’t willing to pay for them, which is much the same thing. Perhaps there should be a public subscription like there used to be for Spitfires?

  3. Very simply- the carriers are indeed desirable, for straightforward defense, for the interventions you mention, for emergency disaster relief and for other things. Indeed a navy to match th US would be desirable.
    Trouble is we’re skint. That means doing without good things so that we can buy the essentials.
    Roll on the day when we can again afford such things- but wishing won’t make it so.

  4. Two carriers £5bn. Trident £50bn.

    Imagine the navy we could have if we scrapped trident.

    Tim adds: Err, no. You’re not comparing like with like. £50 billion for Trident (which is a very, very high estimate indeed) isw the total cost of the system over its entire lifetime. £5 billion for tha carriers is just to build them: doesn’t even get you the planes let alone any operational budget.

  5. I think the (unspoken) plan might be to rely on the French who are far too commonsensical and concerned with their own National Interest to not have the capability.

    Thus major operations would need to be agreed by a foreign sphincter power (France or the EU*). Kipper, meet Mr Needle and Mrs Thread.

    The French would LOVE the British Army to be reliant on it. Centuries of conflict finally results in their winning due to the quisling, the treasonous Fabians and the International Brotherhood of Useful Idiots (UK Charter).

    I do suspect that our “Whale Sandwich” of a Defence Secretary is a Charter member.

    * I consider the EU to be a foreign power. Grief, they can’t even assert that some strange woman, lying in a pond…

  6. This sort of misses the fact we already have carriers.

    As best as I can tell the only reason we went for bigger new ones is that we decided we had to have supersonic carrier aircraft but couldn’t make up our mind what aircraft we want to fly off the boats – the design leaves open the chance to install catapults but we have sunk a fair chunk of dosh into the F-35.

    Harriers have proven themselves again and again and again, the V/STOL being handy in Afghanistan for operating where the runways were in a bad state. Supersonic is a luxury we haven’t needed. Stealthy is a luxury we wouldn’t likely need for liberal interventionism.

    Either some more Harriers or something very similar with more power and more payload but still able to fit on the existing carriers would do the job.(A Harrier scaled up a bit to give more room for a larger engine and with folding wings so it still fits on the lifts.) It would also have export potential for those Navies that currently operate the Harrier but cannot afford the F-35B.

    Alternatively stick with the new carriers and turn the old ones into helicopter boats, and go for a cheaper jump jet instead of the F-35B.

  7. £5 billion for tha carriers is just to build them: doesn’t even get you the planes let alone any operational budget.

    Or the budget needed for the area air defense destroyers, ASW frigates, tankers+stores ships, SSNs etc you need to accompany a carrier everywhere it goes. We will barely have enough of any of those to escort the carriers, never mind to all the other tasks we need the navy to do (anti-piracy/terrorism/smuggling etc) at the same time.

    For the likes of our intervention in Sierra Leone, the new carriers are overkill. For a real war, are they survivable in a world of supersonic cruise missiles, ASBMs and AIP subs? Are there enough missions in between to justify the expense?

    Imagine the navy we could have if we scrapped trident.

    Imagine the navy we’d need (and the army and air force) if we scrapped trident. So long as we have trident we don’t need to worry about a war with another major world power.

  8. Aside from all the normal arguments for the carriers (which I support) I suspect that those who want to halve the proposed carrier fleet think this will bring about 50% savings.

    On a project of this size I would guess that at least 50% of the costs are for pre-production and infrastructure; in other words – fixed regardless of how many ships are built. Expect any savings to realistically be in the region of about 25% for a less than 50% capapbility. Indeed one could argue that to get better value for money we should buy three or even four carriers.

    I’m no defence expert but my preference in this uncertain world would be to build three or even four carriers plus the associated escorts, upgrade the Royal Marines’ amphibious capabilities and then look at something more flexible than the expensive, single purpose SSBNs of the Trident fleet.

  9. look at something more flexible than the expensive, single purpose SSBNs of the Trident fleet.

    My guess is that you don’t want the actual SSBNs doing anything else, i.e. you want them hiding away in deep ocean somewhere, not coming close to shore. However, you could build more of the same class but fitted with multiple tomahawks in each trident tube and/or SBS gear, like the US Ohio SSGNs conversions.

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