The failure of the independent British carrier program.

RogerRanger

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This is the long sordid story of the independent British carrier program, how it failed and how it has left Britain far worse of than it was before.

The 'super-carrier program' isn't a new thing for Britain. We had plans for the Malta class during and after WW2, but scrapped it because we thought the smaller audacious-class aircraft carrier's would be cheap, shocker, they weren't. Then again the early 1960's the first plan to build 2 super-carriers also called the Queen Elizabeth class was also put forward and scrapped because it was too expensive. So the British ended up scrapped the fleet carrier program for 30 years, building light carriers since the end of WW2.

In 1998 in a new world after the cold war and funds from the Army/Air force cuts being made available the Blair government restarted the desire of Britain to build an independent carrier group. Things went forward with a plan for 2 carriers, 12 new AAW destroyers, 16 new frigates, 20 plus new long-range MPA, 8 SSN's, 7 new replenishment ships, new 5th generate carrier aircraft and 10,000 trained crew and support workers. After the financial crash in 2008 the program was stopped for 2 years and then restarted in 2010 by the Cameron government, leading to 6 of the destroyers being scrapped and the remaining destroyers armaments being limited to save money, the new frigate program was delayed by 10 years, the work on the SSN's was slowed right now, the carriers were slowed right down, the MPA the Nimrod was scrapped, the numbers of F-35's was less and less. Also the British scrapped their existing carrier program in 2010 meaning they couldn't train to operate on the new carriers until they got them. The replenishment ships ended up being built in Korea and not Britain.

Its fair to say at this point that the British carrier program was too ambitious, wasn't built into defence policy like the Trident nuclear program is and that the total components of a carrier group wasn't fully understood. That the British would have been better off with a less ambitious program, with light carriers, more less capable escorts. With the focus on the best aircraft and not the best ships. That crew training is the more important thing and losing that was a disaster for the program. The British have now got a totally lob sided navy, with no ASuW capabilities, very few aircraft, under powered advanced AAW ships, no new modern frigates, not enough SSN's and foreign build replenishment ships, and not enough training crew and support workers to independently operate and maintain the fleet and aircraft.

The total failure of the independent British carrier program has left Britain strategically useless, totally dependent on the Americans and unable to operate independently in any diplomatic, military and economic sense of the word. And it could go as a warning to countries like Russia and Turkey who are also looking to build their own carrier program, that you should limit your ambitions and focus not on the carriers size or its escorts, but it aircraft and crew. Even the Americans have had to limit their ambitions in operating their carrier and amphibious groups. The P-8 is about half as good as the Nimrod was planned to be, the American SSN's aren't as capable as the Astute class, the Americans have moved from advanced AAW escorts to more smaller ships as escorts. If the British had been competent enough to maintain the programs scope and pace throughout, it would have changed Britain's strategic position in the world and made it the only independent naval power apart from the US. With bases in the pacific, Persian Gulf, Singapore, Indian Ocean, Caribbean and South Atlantic.

I wrote this today because I keep getting pro-Brexit types telling me Britain is a global power and then having to explain to them how and why we aren't. So now I can just link to this thread I made and as a warning to other nations, like Russia. One thing I will say of the British navy now is that we have the best SSN's in the world, the best AAW ships and we will have the best ASW frigates. So we clearly have the capabilities to build a great navy, it was just incompetently executed.
 
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Lordimperator

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I was talking about the F-35 carrier aircraft, not a new carrier.
Ohh, beg ur pardon. I still remember in 2000s my Angkasa Magazine depicted the soon to be QE class with catobar config, with f35 and AEW plane (https://images.app.goo.gl/bcMnbQk23BcsEYY4A). Its make me wondering why they left the idea using Catobar. Would like to hear your opinion about that.
 

RogerRanger

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Ohh, beg ur pardon. I still remember in 2000s my Angkasa Magazine depicted the soon to be QE class with catobar config, with f35 and AEW plane (https://images.app.goo.gl/bcMnbQk23BcsEYY4A). Its make me wondering why they left the idea using Catobar. Would like to hear your opinion about that.
Me too. I wanted CATOBAR as well back in 2010. Basically the first choice was conventional power or nuclear power, they went with conventional power. After that it was waiting for the development of electro-magnets catapults, which weren't operation in the mid 2000's, early 2010's. So they continued with STOVL carriers. Also the British light carriers were STOVL, so all the crews and pilots were trained in that. The Cameron government wanted to convert the carriers to CATOBAR, but it would have cost too much money, however the carriers are designed to operate as CATOBAR carriers, they can be refurbished and converted into CATOBAR, but that won't happen.

In the image you linked to they basically say what I said. 'Unfortunately, the Royal Navy became too ambitious after its success in SDR1998. It should have stuck it to the original £2.2 billion budget and been realistic about what this could buy, rather than getting overly ambitious and reaching for two huge and very expensive aircraft carriers which it is struggling to man, escort, and provide an air group for. In recent years the Australian, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Turkish navies have all purchased versatile helicopter capable amphibious ships (LHD/LHA) with a displacement in the region of 20,000-30,000 tons for a cost of under £1 billion each, most of which are potentially able to operate F-35B’s.'

Though I personally totally disagree with the conclusion of that article. I think the British were right to build the carriers, the problem was the stopping of the carrier program by the Brown government, this delay added 2 billion to the cost of the carriers and delayed the building of other ships too. In hide sight you would say just build light carriers because we are getting so few F-35's though. I am also not a fan of the LHA and LHD in terms of carriers. They are slow and not designed to operate as carriers. They are a half measure.
 
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Lordimperator

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think the British were right to build the carrier
Ofcourse, to protect and mantain British interests overseas.
years the Australian, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Turkish navies have all purchased versatile helicopter capable amphibious ships (LHD/LHA) with a displacement in the region of 20,000-30,000 tons for a cost of under £1 billion each, most of which are potentially able to operate F-35B’s.'
Minus spanish and turkish, which turkish being out fom the f35 programmes and spanish used their sea harrier.
The nations minus france, they doesn't have interest to be protected overseas as much as Brit and France, and with the budget they had, they opt to the smaller carrier.
 

RogerRanger

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Ofcourse, to protect and mantain British interests overseas.
Minus spanish and turkish, which turkish being out fom the f35 programmes and spanish used their sea harrier.
The nations minus france, they doesn't have interest to be protected overseas as much as Brit and France, and with the budget they had, they opt to the smaller carrier.
Good point.
 

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