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What a carrier-on!

Robert Peston | 09:19 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

When I ask senior military, as I did last night and last week, to construct plausible scenarios in which Britain's giant new supercarriers would be essential for the defence of the realm, these admirals and generals looks slightly embarrassed.

A computer-generated image of a proposed new carrier

 

When pushed, they mention the possibility of two great powers (not Iran) turning into serious enemies of the UK.

I won't mention the names of those countries (though you'll guess which they are), because those same military leaders hastily add: "of course we'd be insane to even think about going to war against them; we should be building permanent enduring alliances with them; and if we did find ourselves at war with them, the carriers would probably be sunk in five minutes".

As for cyber-attack and more conventional terrorism identified yesterday by the government in its national security strategy as the thoroughly modern threats we need to protect ourselves against, the carriers are about as much use as a bazooka would be for killing wasps.

In the end, the leaders of our armed forces - or at least those outside the navy - concede that they don't really need or want these two 65,000-tonne floating monsters, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the joint cost of which was estimated at £3.9bn as recently as July 2008 and is now well over £5bn. If they end up costing less than £3bn each, it will be little short of a miracle - see my note Aircraft carriers' costs soar £1bn for more on this devastating inflation.

But, as you'll doubtless know from the agonised leaks about all of this, the contracts for the carriers were apparently written in such a way that it would have been more expensive to cancel them than to press ahead.

So the military is behaving a bit like a five-year old which originally asked for a bike for its birthday, but on the big day has decided that a Wii would be better. It is putting a brave face on the whole disaster, but can't really hide its disappointment.

In the run-up to the publication of today's defence review, David Cameron was asked by the chiefs to consider negotiating the substitution of frigates for the second carrier. However, when the PM consulted the navy on this apparently sensible option, the navy told him that the available frigate wouldn't do everything it would want it to do.

So under pressure from the navy, Mr Cameron agreed to press ahead with the second carrier.

So we'll end up with these vast floating platforms - each the size of three football pitches - which will carry only helicopters for the first few years. And when the planes for them are ready, the ones on deck will be very expensive American-made Joint Strike Fighters, not European/UK aircraft (Mike Turner, chairman of Babcock, argues that "marinising" the Eurofighter would have been a better bet for British industrial development).

Is there no case for the carriers? Well there is an old-fashioned Keynesian one, that constructing them will safeguard and create vast numbers of British jobs in the private sector. Plainly they provide very valuable work for BAE Systems, Babcock and Thales UK.

But the government can't really make this case with much conviction, since it argues that part of the point of cutting other large lumps of public expenditure is to create economic space for the private sector to flourish.

The one enduring mystery is quite how this astonishing mess was engineered. If ever there was a time and place for a formal investigation - by the National Audit Office - of who decided what and when, well some have argued to me that time is now.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Aircraft carriers are so last century!

    They are far to vulnerable to missiles and undefendable to get close enough to the action to be any use.

    What about aircraft carriers deigned for pilot-less drones?

    Where is our cyber warfare attack division?

    Would it not be better to electronically takeover an enemies weapon systems and use their own weapons to attack them?

    There seems still to be 19 century thinking behind all of this! This is not a defence review it is just cost cutting.

  • Comment number 2.

    Must have formal investigation of who apparently signed everyone up for the carriers hook line and sinker. The costs of cancellation need to consider the inevitable and inexorable rise in the final costs of their completion

  • Comment number 3.

    'But, as you'll doubtless know from the agonised leaks about all of this, the contracts for the carriers were apparently written in such a way that it would have been more expensive to cancel them than to press ahead'

    Can contracts not be made null and void by an Act of Parliament?


  • Comment number 4.

    Got to love this week - already the cats are well amongst the pigeons and it's only Tuesday!

    Well it seems Georgey Boy has chased down the fox in the royal hunt and the defence budget will be dictated by the treasury. I don't care too much about defence cuts, but the people of Plymouth, Portsmouth, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and half of Scotland will be deeply affected as the vast majority of their work comes from MOD related activities.

    So thanks for sending your sons to war for us - here's your reward - a jobless decade!

    Now lets see how the French are getting on - VIVE LA REVOLUTION!
    (all I ask is you credit me with spotting it first)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11570828

    One day until the coalition announces it's plans, 4 days until we (the people) denounce the coalitions plans.

    Lets hope there are no fires to put out as the fire brigade are on strike on Saturday.

    Now stop your fretting and start moving to Hendon where I hear all of this is a distant event in the back of some people's minds....

  • Comment number 5.

    Well ,even if we are to believe that the new lot had good intentions to "do things differently" and "be more open" etc., etc., we now know better. One of the faster captures by the bureacracy.

    Any investigation by the NAO would only be of value if we could rely on the politicians to behave differently in future. I'm not holding my breath.

  • Comment number 6.

    Careful Robert, your prejudices are showing ...

  • Comment number 7.

    It appears universally accepted by most people that the country and its workforce should be engaged in productive work, to end the current recession/depression.

    One could build dams, hydro electric power stations, wind turbines, roads, bridges and all manner of things that would be a benefit to the country.

    But they all cost ‘money’, and where would this money come from?

    As things stand at the moment, the Government has to borrow it.
    But then there is the problem of paying it back and paying interest on it.
    And seeing as the country is mired in debt, to borrow more would likely send us into a compound debt trap.

    So in the current debt based monetary system, we’re stuck.

    If on the other hand we decided to create our own money, rather than allowing banks to create from nothing and lend it to us, we’d have a chance of turning things around.

    I have come to the conclusion that the way to prevent what is likely to be the second great depression is to get the hell off this debt based monetary system.

    Clip the fractional reserve wings of the banks, and create our own money and spend it on productive work.

    For example, if the BOE creates £X billion gives to the government, who then builds a rather large dam and a hydro electric power station, people are in work, we get some electricity. And we also own it when it’s finished.

    And it’s the ‘also owning it when it’s finished’ that’s the important bit.

    We have in the past, and are currently selling off infrastructure to pay interest, on money created from nothing by banks. We are a sovereign nation, we don’t need them to create money and lend it to us, we can create it ourselves and spend it on what we want.

    Up to press all our efforts and forthcoming sacrifices are to keep one industry afloat, and that is the fractional reserve banking industry. There is no God given rule which means that it has to be this way.

  • Comment number 8.

    5bn for a pair of aircraft carriers sounds a lot.

    Then again, how many billions did we just hand over to the banks without questions asked?

    At least this 5bn is creating real jobs for people in areas that have unemployment problems, unlike the banking bailout.

  • Comment number 9.

    They'll defend us against the French! History show that they gave us far more trouble than any other nation over the last thousand years!

    ( with apologies to Sir Humphrey Appleby )

  • Comment number 10.


    No significant actions can be taken to end this recession/depression, until such time as control of the creation of money rests with the Government, and the Government utilises the same in creating productive employment.

    Up to press no one in the media has mentioned the proposed act of parliament introduced by Douglas Carswell to rest back control of the creation of money from private banks, why?

    http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/

  • Comment number 11.

    The order for the carriers was obvious placed in response to lobbying by the industrial military complex, not strategic thinking about Britain's real defence needs. The military, in this case the navy, wanted new toys, which must of course be the biggest and the best, and industry wanted the order, and between them they wielded sufficient power over the government to get what they wanted.

    This is a continuing story. The new government will prove just as vulnerable, and possibly even more so, given the Tory Party's tendency to pander to patriotism.

    The sudden discovery of the need to spend money combating Cyber terrorism is probably a case in point. Like the Millenium Bug scam, it exploits the abysmal lack of technical knowledge of most of our politicians, civil servants and journalists and members of the general public.

    The need to harden defence and other essential communication systems against attack is obvious, and since WW 2 the technology to do so has become extremely effective. The use of interconnected networks, AKA internet technology, was pioneered by the US military over 30 years ago to overcome jamming, or denial of service in modern jargon, and the development of very powerful encryption are two examples of this technology.

    It is surprising that even underdeveloped countries like the Ukraine and Iran should still be using notoriously poor commercial software for sensitive systems, when even open source software, which is free, is much more secure. It would be scandalous if any British defence systems are realy still vulnerable to cyber attack.

    The problems of banks and other commercial operations, where access via the public internet is an essential requirement, are different. Here better policing of the public internet is needed, and this is only possible through international collaboration.

  • Comment number 12.

    7. At 10:11am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:

    "One could build dams, hydro electric power stations, wind turbines, roads, bridges and all manner of things that would be a benefit to the country.

    But they all cost ‘money’, and where would this money come from?"


    ...but do they Dempster? - I mean they cost time, effort and resources - but what is money really?

    It's time we re-visted what we take for granted.

  • Comment number 13.

    7. At 10:11am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:
    For example, if the BOE creates £X billion gives to the government, who then builds a rather large dam and a hydro electric power station, people are in work, we get some electricity. And we also own it when it’s finished.

    It can do that anyway, now, today. It doesn't need to do away with private banks. All is has to is spend in the way you suggest while the resources are sitting there unutilised.

    If the Govt is not there acting to advance public purpose, of which full employment must come top of the list, what's the point of it ?

  • Comment number 14.

    What is concerning is that the Tories are actually cutting defence and policing - the two areas the Tories never, ever cut - even under Thatcher she knew that you need these two forced employees (police and army can't strike) - to cover for the strikers and to beat the protesters / freedom fighters / insurgents.....whatever they call us when we object to their draconian cuts.

    The point being, if they do this to defence - god help the traditional areas of Tory gusto in cutting (social welfare) - I mean I told you these cuts would be bad - but maybe even I underestimated them.

    In addition to this - as someone has pointed out above - this isn't a defence review at all - I mean if cyberattack came near the top of the list - is it a goodd idea to up the tuition fees of students so that less go to University and do a BSC in order to be later trained for the secret services to protect our country? - Doh!

    You see the lies can be easily harpooned by a simple bit of logic - the Government has started contradicting itself already and it's obvious.

    Lets see how the French are doing....
    http://www.channel4.com/news/petrol-runs-dry-as-french-protests-escalate

  • Comment number 15.

    I have no idea why the renewal of existing 'light'(escort) carriers was not an option. The work in the small scale of giving air cover to a fleet and also supporting ground operations and can kick most of lesser nations airfoces into touch. Some Admiral somewhere dreamed this up and really wanted to steam around the globe on par with the yanks.

  • Comment number 16.

    Here! Here!

    These carriers are a joke! The people supporting and protecting their existence are a joke! We need platforms - ships not behemoths to be knocked out at first strike ala HMS Sheffield/Atlantic Conveyor.

    I guess it is what to expect from people who have so little managerial or fianancial experience running either the Government or the Armed services. If they run a war this way no wonder we were routed from Iraq and look to follow the same pattern in Afghanistan. Utterly pathetic - talk about "lions led by donkeys".

    That said for the price of these carriers the Navy could have had 40 armed containerships with Helicopter carrying ability defended by exocet and Phalanx weaponry at less than £200 milion each. The catch the platforms would have been built in Korea!

  • Comment number 17.

    One argument, I suppose, is that this is the Ministry of DEFENCE not the Ministry of WAR any more, so what use are these Carriers in the Defnce of Britain?

    There needs to be a serious inquiry into how these contracts were written when the penalty for cancelling is greater than the penalty for increasing costs!

    As for countering Cyber Terrorism surely the cheapest way to start is teaching civil servants how to keep hold of memory sticks

  • Comment number 18.

    I think perhaps you asked the wrong question. Whilst they may be less useful in defending the realm they do have numerous benefits for supporting our ground forces when operating away from the UK.

    For example, setting aside land locked Afghanistan, carrier aircraft have been key to both war fighting and humanitarian operations throughout the later part of the 20th century and the early part of this one.

    We are far more likely in the future to be called upon to provide the type of military operations we did in the Balkans and Sierra Leone than another Afghan conflict. In conjunction with the amphibious support ships Ocean, Albion and Bulwark and protected by any surface fleet that are left these carriers will enable the UK to land, support and extract a sizable ground force. This force would not be linked to beach landings as all provide sizable platforms for helicopter insertion.

    History shows us that when we allow our armed forces to be weakened for economic reasons we tend to rue the decision. We’re an island and require a strong Navy.

  • Comment number 19.

    We're in competition with either the French aircraft carriers (if we cosy up with Europe) or the Americans, And what we're getting isn't going to look very good compared to either.

    There's something badly wrong with the MoD procurement system, maybe even criminal, that allowed this to happen. And it includes the sort of high-level strategic thinking that the politicians get involved in.

    Sending an army to Afghanistan and keeping it there: that's a dumb move. Why should it work any better now than it has in the past? Has there been any strategic thinking?

  • Comment number 20.

    Well, the bankers have ruined our money system, bankrupted us and now we can't afford to defend ourselves. All so those greedy fatcats in London can buy toy Ferraris!

    Look, bankers are at the top of the list of threats to Britain. Even the evil Al Qaeda haven't done as much harm to us as those little fiends in "The City". This is the “war on bankers” – and we must see absolute surrender before a penny of bonus is ever paid again.

    The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

  • Comment number 21.

    #11 stanblogger

    The military in the UK use Windows (they use older versions as these are deemed more stable :)
    That new carrier support vessel uses windows for its tactical systems (fortunately they haven't taken delivery of working weapons so they have to rely on a big old fashioned gun with a person in control)


    Just unplug the mission critical systems from the internet ?

    Commercial businesses should not be connecting lathes and milling machines to the internet, the software they run (SCADA) was not designed to be secure, neither is Profibus (another networking standard).
    It's probably not a good idea to connect your nuclear power station to the internet either as Iran have shown that those systems aren't secure either.

  • Comment number 22.

    The carriers are essential if the UK is to continue to engage in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan and to be able to do it without the backing of neighbouring nations, or to create an alternative front. The JSF is a joint British and American aircraft, that's why it is called the Joint Strike Fighter. This would give the UK back it's ability to properly support it's forces in a range of situations, such as the Falklands, or Sierra Leone or a prospective strike on Iran.

    None of these situations is wanted, but they need to be able to be carried out. Scrapping what's left of our maritime strike capability is crazy and taking Harriers out of service is going to leave our troops without much needed support. This idea of the peace dividend is misguided. There may be no imminent threat but NATO is weak and divided the EU can not be relied upon to have a defence policy so it is vital that the British government continues to spend on defence and keeping it's forces up to date and fully capable. Scrapping equipment now is a massive mistake. Running two carriers is desirable but one may have to do. A combination or a nasalised Eurofighter and the Joint Strike fighter who'd give the Navy a credible strike force and be an essential weapon in the defence if the UK and it's interests.

    The generals and admirals look embarrassed as they are constantly having to argue against armchair critics with limited knowledge who say all of this equipment is worthless. It is not. Reports of getting rid of heavy armour such as the Challenger 2 MBT again need to be considered next time the government decides to invade a country like Iraq. Are they saying that we will supply only infantry, with no support from armour and no close air support from the RAF or the Navy? If they are they are asking the infantry to go on suicide missions.

    Howev

  • Comment number 23.

    Careful Robert, your prejudices are showing ...

    -------------------------------------------------------

    This made me smile, and true enough, Mr Pestron may have a little bit of a gripe against military spending. I'm not saying he's wrong mind.

    The big problem I see these days is that fundamentally its far easier to destroy than to construct (even more so than in the past). These modern ships are so large and expensive and complex they take years of blood sweat and treasure to build. Then they can be destroyed as easily as ever. Given this trend I'd go for more numerous, cheaper alternatives. Alternatives that could be built far quicker.

    Having said that I'm not really sure what the future of conflict is going to look like. I mean in WW2 Britain had 900 odd ships (USA similar number, more by the end) now the UK has 80 or so and the US 280. Of those most are support or small ships. It's hard to see how we (or even the US) could return to the WW2 levels of military hardware (assuming there would be a reason to), ships are just too expensive and difficult to build.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 14. At 10:41am on 19 Oct 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    > I mean if cyberattack came near the top of the list - is it a goodd
    > idea to up the tuition fees of students

    It's mad to put "cyber attack" higher than "banker attack" on the list. There is no hacker on the planet who has done as much harm as (say) Sir Greedie.

    The list of threats is all wrong - our top people are boneheads.

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh really Robert don't you read your own headlines...
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11571093

    Maybe thats what we need our carriers for and if you know the reasons for the first conflict then you will know carriers have a some what daunting deterrent value especially when its parked up on your aggressors coast.

  • Comment number 26.

    As the infamous wartime propaganda broadcaster 'Lord Haw Haw'would say 'Where is the Ark Royal'.
    Simple answer the Tory's have scrapped it.
    If they think a financial black hole is a disaster wait till there are some four or five million unemployed in the country.

  • Comment number 27.

    13. At 10:34am on 19 Oct 2010, MetalGasket wrote:

    "If the Govt is not there acting to advance public purpose, of which full employment must come top of the list, what's the point of it ? "

    Ah full employment - the unobtainable dream of the Capitalist economy.

    Does anyone else realise that we could have 0 unemployment if we didn't need to 'encourage' those in work to stay there (and work for less) by having the spectre of an army of unemployed to step in and replace them?

    ....I mean what else do you think the unemployed exist for?

    Lets see how the French are getting on....

    http://online.wsj.com/video/french-truckers-join-protests/42A8DB8F-7C82-4880-A801-8C25CFF898EA.html

    All this and they're only getting an increased retirement age by 2 years! - They're are putting us to shame - we must set the record straight on Saturday.

    You don't have to pay an (above inflation) increased rail fare and get to London - there will be a protest in an area near you.

    http://www.righttowork.org.uk/

    TO THE STREETS - losers and collaborators can stay and home and watch with fear on the telly - before turning over to X-factor and distracting themselves with some dudgery and forlorn hope of 'making it big' at the hands of the great exploiter himself.

  • Comment number 28.


    > Is there no case for the carriers? Well there is an old-fashioned
    > Keynesian one, that constructing them will safeguard and create vast
    > numbers of British jobs in the private sector. Plainly they provide
    > very valuable work for BAE Systems, Babcock and Thales UK.

    What about Cammel Laird's in Birkenhead? How come we're not getting a slice
    of the action?

  • Comment number 29.

    Another so 20th Century idea is that an atmospheric atomic detonation can wipe out electronic functionality. For how long? Don't know.

    Drones are only useful for fighting ill equipped terrorists as the same missiles that can knock them out are the ones that can sink an aircraft carrier.

    What is certian is that there will be war as much so as that the balances of powers will change along with alliances.

    When the last great war was underway Super Powers were as yet not understood by comparison their influence is well understood. So all we need are one or two long range nuclear missiles? I think the options speak for themselves. Who was it who coined the phrase... "Better red than dead"

    Even as junior school children in the sixties we all had that little corner of dread in our hearts that was the nuclear attack.

    Other axiomatic facts are that soldiers gain and hold ground, ships keep lanes open and aircraft bring that precision that remote electronics never seem quite able to deliver. If they are not used their deterrant is at least immeasurable.

    Now how does a government decide where the enemy will be in the next twenty years. I think without aircraft carriers it could be any one who wants to take a pop without engaging in fullout war. The Americans were pissed off with us in the last war and out inability to decide to become the 51st State or a fully integrated part of Europe irks them to day too.

    Perhaps mini carriers are an answer.

    Too much too soon methinks

  • Comment number 30.

    As a non Labour voting Scot I am quite sure that Gordon Brown set up the carrier contract to ensure Scotland - and particularly Glasow - would vote Labour in the May election.

    My logic for believing this is quite straightforward. Most importantly, the design of the new carrier is very badly flawed in that they're not nuclear powered, do not have an angled flight deck and aren't equipped with either a catapult or arrestor gear. In other words they are limited to using VSTOL and/or helicopters but couldn't carry a conventional jet and will be limited in range due to their dependence on needing a refuelling tanker or access to dockside refuelling facilities.

    In other words, if we really needed these carriers they would have been properly designed. In fact though they are just a job creation exercise and Brown couldn't have really cared less what they were or weren't capable of.

    Indeed, politically the only error he made was ensuring the contracts can't be broken. If they had been then both carriers would have been cancelled and the boost to Labour would have been huge. Not surprisingly though he couldn't even get that right.

  • Comment number 31.

    With that title I was hoping for a comedy blog post and I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. It's like Carry on MoD. I mean really, can someone explain to me what benefit these two carriers will provide us that the current Invincible class carriers can't do already? It's a floating airstrip! Any tech upgrades could have been carried out on the existing carriers. Should never have been procured in the first place.

    And I'm sorry - Keynesian logic?! What a load of nonsense. £5 billion to prop just how many jobs exactly?? £1.4 billion put into the Future Jobs Fund secured several times more jobs in less than a year with the money going directly to the employment of the individual and not to line the pocket of some defence conglomerate. Granted not a perfect scheme but significantly more important for the creation of jobs, and for more cost effective.

    To be honest I would sooner see the reduction of a British standing army to a fraction of the size with high specialisation in, ta dah, technical warfare. One insanely competent man on a laptop can be far more devasting than a flotilla of warships, trident submarines, and tens of thousands of soldiers. Every single defence analyst over the last 10 years has highlighted that future warfare is dominated by counter-insurgency/anti-terrorism, which requires small, highly specialised personnel to combat.

    The only countries able to engage in systematic, full scale warfare are the US, Russia, and China - why are we even bothering trying to keep up?

    If we have to build these carriers, can we not sell them immediately? The Saudis? They love to buy unwanted toys and I'm sure the Saudi royal family has a spare £5bn in their back pocket.

    Or do what Russia does and sell them to Iran. For giggles of course.

  • Comment number 32.

    Falklands, Persian Gulf, Countless other disasters natrual and otherwise. It's always the likes of Peston and co who spout there learned opinions about how contracts were handled etc.... When it comes to whatever government of the day not being prepared for all eventualities, Peston and his like will be the first to point the finger.

  • Comment number 33.

    Mmm... I understand we don't actually have any aircraft to put on these things. Is that right ?

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps the Government should 'conscript' whoever drew up the contract whilst 'demobbing' those who didn't read the small print!

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry Robert- your 'experts' are talking nonsense. The first 'scenario' where the carriers are absolutely vital is if the Argentinians ever have a serious go at taking back the Falklands again. Britain has defence obligations to a number of nations, most notably Belize (when I was 6 months old my father was deployed there along with a squadron of Harriers and 2000 troops after Guatamala deployed tanks and 40,000 men on the border). Belize has only 1 runway capable of deploying fast jets so a repeat operation would be very dependent on carriers. Most air-ops in the former Yugoslavia were carrier based because our NATO ally Greece wouldn't let us use their airspace. Many airops against Afghanistan were carrier based because we couldn't trust Pakistani bases and many air ops against Iraq were carrier based because the Saudi's and Kuwaitis weren't terribly obliging either.

    Even the highly, highly likely "scenario" of having to get 2000 British nationals out of a West African nation suffering meltdown would be much easier with some air cover overhead and something big and capable of carrying 20 Chinooks floating a few miles offshore. The 'doves' can even consider how many lives have been saved by Royal Navy amphibious assault ships after natural disasters too. If (or rather when) you get a repeat of the Asian Tsunami or Haiti earthquake a carrier is a very useful asset for getting aid in and the wounded out.

    If 'cyber warfare' is so all powerful why does China have several thousand tanks and several million infantry? Waving your laptop at a column of T-80 tanks won't do a lot to stop them. Its worth pointing out that the majority of North Korean weapons are the same types used by Russia at the end of WW2. 'Cyber attacks' won't stop T34 tanks which still have valve radios! Nor does 'cyber warfare' do much to stop a Taliban fighter in a cave with an AK47. A 500lb bomb on the other hand does.

    I think the acid test for 'do we need these carriers' is to ask a squaddie if he'd be happy trying to land on the Falklands with no air cover.

  • Comment number 36.

    Sorry Robert - don't just try listening to the Army. Aircraft carriers allow a nation to project sea, air and land power where-ever and when-ever it needs to without having to rely on local allies. They provide a far more secure base for anti-terrorist operations than can be provided on land, and can be deployed far more rapidly than it is possible to negotiate base usage agreements.

    Britain still has global commitments and responsibilities. Even in recent years, HMS Ocean (a helicopter cariier) was used as a base for a rescue mission in Western Africa, whilst the Falklands could never have been retaken without carriers and aircraft under British control.

    Indeed, just as the Argentinian dictatorship took the 1981 UK Defence Review as an open invitation to invade, I suspect the Falkland will be in Argentina's hands within 5 years as Britain will be powerless to stop an invasion until the new carriers are in service.

    The flexibility and capability to present military force anywhere in the world that carriers give are exactly what we need to face the current range of threats. That is why the US, France, China, Spain, Italy, Russia and now India all see carrier forces as essential to national security.

    What we don't need is small number of impossibly high tech pieces of equipment, which may be "state of the art" but probably don't work - be they tanks, helicopters, planes or warships. Rugged and reliable is what we need today - enough quality but simplicity to be reliable but reasonable quantities.

    And the question that really needs asking is how can France afford bigger armed forces than the UK? The answer lies in how much of the defence, and every other departmental, budget goes on civil servants and making profits for consultants and suppliers as we try to "let the market work" rather than admit that the objectives of public service and corporate profit will never sit easily together.

    Keeping the carriers good, scrapping HMS Ark Royal (and presumably also HMS Illustrious) bad, use the Eurofighter on the carriers - yes, scrap the joint strike fighter even if it does upset our American masters.

    Steven

  • Comment number 37.

    Whenever we put troops on the ground they become an invading army and become liable to increasing losses and an escalation of conflict. That even happened in Northern Ireland!
    If we had provided continued air support to the Kurds in the first Iraq war they would have finished off Saddam.
    We should use air support to help "friendly" armies and only put marines or assault troops in to rescue or achieve specific short missions, such as hostage release or destroying a nuclear facility.
    Invest in air and navy and leave our main army to defend our shores (NATO). Their secondary role should be civil defence support. Flood rescue, emergency infrastructure repair, etc. That is exactly what many need to train for if NATO is attacked. The engineers have always been front line fighting units. Fixing bridges, roads, power stations, etc, often under fire.
    That means invest in air and sea for "foreign" policy support. The idea that a pompous little nation like us English can support our armies properly on foreign soil is daft, no matter how good those troops are. We did it during our empire days by using the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Aussies, Canadians, Indians, Gurkhas, Kiwis, ...., who our, also pompous, English officers tended to get shot!

  • Comment number 38.

    These carriers are only being built because Gordon Brown wanted to have something for the Scottish shipbuilding industry.

    As only one is ever going to be operational, for what it is now going to cost we could have bought one of the new Ford-class carriers from the USA.

  • Comment number 39.

    19. At 10:55am on 19 Oct 2010, WolfBaginski wrote:
    We're in competition with either the French aircraft carriers (if we cosy up with Europe) or the Americans, And what we're getting isn't going to look very good compared to either.



    You mean French aircraft carrier singular. They only have one:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_aircraft_carrier_Charles_de_Gaulle_(R91) and its not that impressive. In fact the French are seriously considering buying a Queen Elizabeth class carrier to complement their one current deck. Its been a long time since any British yard has sold a ship that large.

  • Comment number 40.

    13. At 10:34am on 19 Oct 2010, MetalGasket wrote:
    7. At 10:11am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:
    For example, if the BOE creates £X billion gives to the government, who then builds a rather large dam and a hydro electric power station, people are in work, we get some electricity. And we also own it when it’s finished.

    'It can do that anyway, now, today. It doesn't need to do away with private banks. All is has to is spend in the way you suggest while the resources are sitting there unutilised'


    Well there by hangs the problem Mr Gasket it can't, unless of course it borrows the money, or alternatively gets the BOE to QE it.
    Too much money gives rise to high inflation, if the Government creates money from nothing, whilst allowing the banks to do the same thing at the same time, you'd have an awful lot of money slushing around.

    And people wouldn't thank you for it.

  • Comment number 41.

    23. At 11:00am on 19 Oct 2010, prophet_samuel wrote:

    "The big problem I see these days is that fundamentally its far easier to destroy than to construct (even more so than in the past). These modern ships are so large and expensive and complex they take years of blood sweat and treasure to build. Then they can be destroyed as easily as ever. Given this trend I'd go for more numerous, cheaper alternatives. Alternatives that could be built far quicker.

    Having said that I'm not really sure what the future of conflict is going to look like. I mean in WW2 Britain had 900 odd ships (USA similar number, more by the end) now the UK has 80 or so and the US 280. Of those most are support or small ships. It's hard to see how we (or even the US) could return to the WW2 levels of military hardware (assuming there would be a reason to), ships are just too expensive and difficult to build."



    You slightly contradict yourself there... while its true that Britain has less and smaller ships than WW2 their offensive capacity is far greater. A modern frigate had the firepower of a WW2 heavy cruiser and can engage a target hundreds of miles out. A type 45 destroyer can carry 8 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. What do you think 8 Harpoons would do the Bismarck? Thats just one destroyer's worth of firepower.

    Bigger ships can be bigger targets but they're proportionally harder to sink... compare Sheffield (one exocet) to Atlantic Conveyor (still floating after 3 hits) and fortunately the world learnt a big lesson in the Falklands and anti-missile defences are light years ahead of what they were.

  • Comment number 42.

    DibbySpot does make an interesting case that carriers are probably out of date, as they can be easily targeted and sunk. If that is true then cheaper more diverse craft may be the solution but still navy and air are key and keep our troops out. A problem is the old generals, admirals and air chiefs seem stuck in WWII. Global politics has changed. 911 was a wake up call but will their be worse to come if we continue this ineffective "war on terror".

  • Comment number 43.

    20 and 25

    So we have two targets for a fight already.

    One of the carriers can sail around the Falklands, while the other is docked at Canary Warf, pointing all guns at the 'bonus pot'...first one to put a hand in it....

    I like it.

  • Comment number 44.

    11. At 10:26am on 19 Oct 2010, stanblogger wrote:

    > open source software, which is free, is much more secure.

    Maybe. Maybe not. I've fitted two big security patches in as many weeks,
    on Linux. There is no panacea. If you use computers to automate things,
    you run risks. And you run risks if you don't.

    As the man said - there is no silver bullet.

  • Comment number 45.

    Over the years many people have said the era of the Aircraft carrier is over, and they've almost invariably been proved wrong.

    Aircraft carriers aren't only there for total cold war style conflicts. They are an essential tool for projecting power and influence around the globe. There was a major push to dispense of carriers in the 70's, and in early 1972 the previous HMS Ark Royal helped to avert a crisis between British Honduras, and a hostile and posturing Guatemalan military. The mere presence of British Jets over the territory was enough to nullify the threat. And let's not forget the Falklands conflict, which surprised the government at the time, while they were in the middle of reducing the Royal Navy's carrier force. Had the previous Ark Royal not been decommissioned in '78, we may well have seen far fewer british casualties, particularly in terms of ships, if the task force had access to the Phantoms and Buccaneers embarked on her. Sure, we might not see an immediate threat where their use will be required right now, but the ability to maintain that capability is important.

    The idea to broker for one of the carriers to be renogiated as frigates on the face of it seems a good idea. However, there is no point in having a capability, if you're going to lose that capability every time a ship goes into refit, gets damaged etc. Also generally, when carriers are required, one tends to not be enough.

    I would like to concur with the previous statement, that Robert's prejudices are showing...

    We should all be looking at the bigger picture and be thankful that all those shipbuilders in scotland can rely on a wage for a bit longer.

  • Comment number 46.

    "At 10:41am on 19 Oct 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    What is concerning is that the Tories are actually cutting defence.."

    Take a look at recent history. In 1992, whilst serving in the Royal Marines, a Conservative activist knocked on my door to "remind" me as a serviceman a vote for Labour would be voting myself out of a job. Within weeks of the election they won, the rumours started and sure enough they cut about 40% of my branch with many compulsory redundancies. They savaged the Army at the same time. I vowed never to vote Tory again.

    They went on to cut back service medicine and close military hospitals. Haslar remained as a tri service / NHS jointly run hospital and died gradually over the next 10 years. I survived the cut backs but my wife chose redundancy over working in NHS hospitals as a Navy Nurse where she was given the worst shifts by a Sister who did not want “outsiders” on her ward. Like me she had served in the first Gulf War and deserved better. When the press cry out about our servicemen being in NHS hospitals they need to remember why...

    The Tories like you to think they won’t cutback defence, but actions show them to be about as trustworthy as Nick Clegg on tuition fees...

  • Comment number 47.

    You've got to remember that the leaders of the army and RAF have a vested interest in protecting their own arms of the military from cuts, and so will underplay the importance of having two (if somewhat expensive) aircraft carriers.

    Aircraft carriers are essentially mobile military airstrips. They enable Britain to put a military presence (soldiers, light vehicles, and strike aircraft) anywhere in the world at very, very short notice. Unlike France, which only has one aircraft carrier, having two aircraft carriers enables the government to have this capability at all times as one aircraft carrier can always be at sea.

    Basically, if the government really wants to re-shape the military as a rapid response strikeforce (or some such buzz word), then the requirement for two carriers is essential. Making one, or both carriers capable of

    The cost overruns, requirement creep and woeful contractual situation all have to be squarely laid at the feet of the MOD. If I recall correctly, Thales UK "won" the contract, but BAE was given responsibility to project manage the building of the Thales UK design even though BAE had just been heavily criticised for its project management of the Nimrod upgrade, Type 45 overruns, and the massive Astute class submarine delays. And then to cap it all KBR (Halliburton) were brought in to manage the "project integration". Pork Barrel anyone? (Just how many layers of management does the MOD think is needed?)

  • Comment number 48.

    @ 3. At 09:50am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:

    > Can contracts not be made null and void by an Act of Parliament?

    Of course. We should pay the vendors for the inconvenience caused, and tell them we'll pass an act if they pipe up.

    If they don't like it they can go to Switzerland, with the bankers.

  • Comment number 49.

    No you have all got it wrong.Ken Clark is going to use them as prisons.Hope he puts them near Margate or along the south coast would be spiffing.

  • Comment number 50.

    It's time this country had a sensible, grown up discussion about how we see our role in the world, and what military resources and hardware we actually need to carry out that role effectively.

    At the moment the 'debate' seems to consist of the military brass screaming like spolit children for new toys, and then planting scare stories about increased terrorist threats if they don't get their way.

    How an aircraft carrier will stop someone setting off a bomb on an underground train or hijacking an aeroplane I don't know.


  • Comment number 51.

    We could always put a squad of kids on each carrier and they could run up and down the deck pretending to be aeroplanes. It would at least stop them hanging around outside the offie every night.

  • Comment number 52.

    Why is the substitution of frigates for a carrier a sensible option ?.

    It would appear in my limited knowledge its actually frigates that are redundant apart from if you measure your navy on the number of ships it has and not their capabilities.

    2 carriers with escort group would appear to me to cover far more possible scenarios no matter how remote a possibility than having many ships of an obsolete design.

  • Comment number 53.

    Robert exaggerates, against a superpower the carriers would not last even 5 minutes! However, against less-than-major powers aircraft carriers continue, in my opinion, to have a hugely important role. But against such opposition the aircraft they carry need not be the world-beating behemoths at present in mind. Smaller aircraft, without every bell and whistle imaginable, and with, say, 90% of the performance of the monsters are appropriate. Such aircraft do not need huge aircraft carriers. This is to say the construction of the two is a mistake. We should have smaller ones (and at least 3 in order to have a viable force) with smaller crews. Forget not the merits of (comparative) simplicity: less cost, greater reliability, less maintenance and maintenance staff required, less down-time, the ability to have more for the same cost and hence the ability to deploy more widely; also they themselves present smaller and less attractive targets, and any loss (except for the poor casualties) is not so devastating.
    Second point: should there be no carrier without operational aircraft for 10 years, the government had better negotiate the future of the Falkland Islands with Argentina pdq.

  • Comment number 54.

    At 09:50am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:

    'But, as you'll doubtless know from the agonised leaks about all of this, the contracts for the carriers were apparently written in such a way that it would have been more expensive to cancel them than to press ahead'

    Can contracts not be made null and void by an Act of Parliament?

    You want the British Government to welsh on its debts and refuse to honour it's signed contracts? Although it might be possible politically, it's open to legal challenge in the courts (which the government is 99% likely to lose.) And even if by a miracle the government escapes legal sanction, the UK defence industry will be devastated, BAE will never dare work for the British government again since the govt will be more untrustworthy than a banana republic.

  • Comment number 55.

    "30. At 11:07am on 19 Oct 2010, Wee-Scamp wrote:
    As a non Labour voting Scot I am quite sure that Gordon Brown set up the carrier contract to ensure Scotland - and particularly Glasow - would vote Labour in the May election.

    My logic for believing this is quite straightforward. Most importantly, the design of the new carrier is very badly flawed in that they're not nuclear powered, do not have an angled flight deck and aren't equipped with either a catapult or arrestor gear. In other words they are limited to using VSTOL and/or helicopters but couldn't carry a conventional jet and will be limited in range due to their dependence on needing a refuelling tanker or access to dockside refuelling facilities"


    What 'conventional Jet'? Eurofighter isn't suitable for a carrier, Tornado is decrepit (and also not suitable for a carrier). Even with an angled deck and a catapult (something the QE class can be fitted with BTW) we'd be buying foreign aircraft with a very limited choice to choose from... basically the only suitable one would be the F-18, a 1970's design (Russian and French alternatives suffer from gross flaws I can list if you want)

    In the same way the current generation of carriers were designed for harrier, the next generation is designed for the F35 joint strike fighter which is a hell of a weapon. Even better for once the MOD had negotiated a rather sweet deal: 15% of the production run for 4% of the costs.

    Even your point about them not being nuclear powered isn't quite right... the ship itself if nuclear powered could run forever but its crew and planes can't. Even nuclear powered carriers need frequent resupply at sea (food and jet fuel)

    Personally I'd have favoured something more like a WW2 escort carrier (and more of them) or better still something like the old Russian Kiev class:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev_class_aircraft_carrier
    which is effectively a heavy cruiser armed with an impressive range of anti-ship weapons but which can also carry a squadron of VTOL fighters. The choice of F35 is spot on however.

  • Comment number 56.

    Dibbyspot - you say it's like lions led by donkeys - I think that's unfair...unless it was a particularly stupid donkey

    Thanks blackadder...

  • Comment number 57.

    Only the UK could plan for aircraft carriers without planes!

  • Comment number 58.

    I think John, from Hendon has been watching too many sci-fi movies.

  • Comment number 59.

    Surely the Navy and RAF are becoming ends in themselves. We need a reasonable and flexible army, with ships and planes to support them. A single service would have a better chance of finding the right answers.

  • Comment number 60.

    If the contracts have been written as you suggest then the entire procurement team associated with the purchase of these carriers needs to be sacked. Secondly the contracts should be renegotiated, clearly with a view to ensuring that no losses are incurred by the companies involved (though that would need to be on an "open book" basis). If the companies involved are not prepared to reconsider (at this time of national crisis) then their position in the governments suitable vendors listings should be reviewed.

  • Comment number 61.

    37. At 11:17am on 19 Oct 2010, Ken Thompson wrote:

    "If we had provided continued air support to the Kurds in the first Iraq war they would have finished off Saddam."

    Hahahahaha. With what? Did you see the size of the army the US and UK deployed (with full air support) to take out Saddam in 2003. The Kurds didn't have 1% of that force.

    And as for "The idea that a pompous little nation like us English can support our armies properly on foreign soil is daft, no matter how good those troops are. We did it during our empire days by using the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Aussies, Canadians, Indians, Gurkhas, Kiwis, ...., who our, also pompous, English officers tended to get shot!"

    Its just offensive and spectacularly stupid too. I can post with absolute certainty that you've never served much less deployed to a combat zone. Clearly you've got all your military experience from bad hollywood war movies if you think officers like this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._Jones
    are 'pompous' and use the foreigners as cannon fodder. In WW2 an officer had a 1/16 chance of dying in battle compared to 1/50 (overall) for a private. Our officers, whether English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish or Aussie, lead from the front.

  • Comment number 62.

    11. At 10:26am on 19 Oct 2010, stanblogger wrote:

    "The military, in this case the navy, wanted new toys, which must of course be the biggest and the best, and industry wanted the order, and between them they wielded sufficient power over the government to get what they wanted".


    Cobblers! What an armchair Admiral you are. If you had even a rudimentary knowledge of the true situation you wouldn’t be writing such rot. A/c's have a useful life of around 25 years, which is why it's 25-30 years since we last built any. At just 20,000t, our current "Toys" would struggle to cope with the tasks we're likely to ask of them over the next 25-30 years.

    These new A/c's will be 65,000t, so only a little bigger than the 1955-1980 Ark Royal. If we were building them "Biggest" as you say, they'd probably be upwards of 120,000tons. Take the time to check out where our new A/c's stand and you'll see they're actually mid-sized.
    Yes, of course industry wanted the order - why wouldn't they? Quite frankly it makes a refreshing change to see such a large scale project actually being undertaken in the UK, so I'm all for UK industry benefitting from it. Just a shame we couldn’t get 40 Typhoons on each one as well.

    As for the Royal Navy "Getting what they wanted". The Falklands conflict took place a couple of years before I joined the forces. With only 20 Harriers facing 200-300 Argentine aircraft, HMS Invincible only just coped with the war demands put on her and that was back in 1982! How would things be if we had to react to such an event again in, say, 2018 with 40+ year old kit? Would they cope with the new weapons systems and tactics deployed against it?

    I believe we need vessels like the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales. The £5-6b spent to build them and their lifetime running costs are reasonable value when you divide the total spend by the number of years of service we get from them. Plus they would at least be used at some time...

    ...However, if you were to ask me about the £20-40b for Trident...that would garner a very different response...!

  • Comment number 63.

    What's that quote? "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"?

    Similar with defence. Yes, current conflict profiles are concentrated on Iraq, Afghanistan and countering terrorism.

    But we shouldn't become so blinkered that we forget the need for more "traditional" defence capability.

    For example, in 1982 no one foresaw the the Falklands War. In fact, if the Argentine Military Junta of the time had waited a year or two, The UK would not have had the Naval capability to mount the campaign. Also, given the sabre-rattling of recent years by current enemies and allies alike, for example Russia, I would not like this country to be caught with its pants down because we are too focused on the here and now.
    Procuring vessels and aircraft takes years, if not decades - we wouldn't be able to cobble together a defensive capability in a few months if a new threat emerged.
    As to the use of cyber warfare. IEDs and AK47's don't use computers. We as a national are far more vulnerable to cyber attack than most of our potential enemies.

  • Comment number 64.

    It's not surprising that the Army and Airforce chiefs dont want a carrier, they want to protect their own services capabilities first and foremost, this doesnt however translate to the UK not needing carriers.

    The ability to project power currently revolves around airpower, ground ops and naval ops require air defence against opposition air power, close air support for ground ops and strike against opposition naval elements that threaten friendly ships. These capabilities can only be provided by unmanned ordanance (surface to air missiles and surface fired ground/ship strike missiles, and if there is little to no opposition air superiority over the combat area, UCAVs) or manned aircraft.

    UCAVs seem nice and cheap but they are not effective against an opposition that has decent air defence or electronic warfare capability (the ability to jam / disrupt the datalink that controls the UCAVs for example renders teh UCAV far less effective). I do not believe that UCAVs will (for the immediate to medium future) be viable to replace manned aircraft in all roles, as force multipliers (flying sensors and bomb bays to augment manned strike packages certainly) I vbelieve they work and could be viable.

    The navy tried relying on missiles during the falklands conflict, first line of defence was the sea dart and second line was the sea harrier with ship cannons and short ranged missiles as last layer of defence. This didn't work out that brillantly for the ships we lost.

    No carriers means no air defence for the fleet, it means no power projection, it means no capability to retake the Falklands in the event of a 2nd invasion.

    It means no operations carried out by the British forces without foreign consent and active assistance to replace capability that our govt's are throwing away blindly (US, France, or other powers).

    The air and army chief need to understand, their services become meaningless beyond our borders without an effective navy. To defend just the UK mainland and immediate islands (assuming we hand over all overseas possesions to who ever wants them) we dont need what they DO want.

    The govt is wrong to cut the MoD budget, it has been over tasked and under budgetted for decades, the situation only got worse after the end of the cold war and we are now paying (and will contionue to pay) for misguided decisions made in the past. There are areas surelky where savings can be made allowing the MoD to free up budget for hardware and improving conditions for serving personnel and their families. Procurement methodology and more control over contracts with the suppliers for example.

    As for cyber threats, this isnt the realm of the military, but the responsibility of other govt agencies and the police, I believe that the politicians mention it simply to give the impression that they are still concerned about defence and hope that people will be hoodwinked into thinking that 'cyberdefence' is a meaningfull policy (coincidently a lot cheaper to support .. ironic that )

  • Comment number 65.

    12. "they COST time, effort and resources - but what is money really? It's time we re-visted what we take for granted."

    YES! Fuelling my suspicion that we spend most of our economic time on pointless tasks this article strengthens this argument perfectly.

    Money IS time and nothing else. Its time 'solidified'. What we really need is an economics of TIME. Where true efficiency resides. Money is an empty symbol. Bill Gates personal fortune is basically other peoples work time caught in amber and ferreted away (to mix metaphors). He must have a million year's of other peoples effort locked away in his personal bank account.
    We need an economics based purely on TIME TAKEN to do things. Looked at that way it becomes less abstract and we are less likely to spend our time in pointless activities. Cameron and Osbourne are the ultimate nerd government. Zealously pursuing the single goal of a balanced household budget and to hell with reality.

  • Comment number 66.

    51. At 11:39am on 19 Oct 2010, stanilic wrote:

    "We could always put a squad of kids on each carrier and they could run up and down the deck pretending to be aeroplanes. It would at least stop them hanging around outside the offie every night."



    This made me laugh out loud, although I think the kids would prefer we gave them the £5 Billion to spend in the offie....

  • Comment number 67.

    If the tax office gets my details wrong I still have to pay any owned tax because Im dealing with the government. The government NOT the Navy should have sat with the Navy and made the decision to scrap the carriers and purchase ships from the sames companies that we DO need. Those companies should be made to accept the changes in the wider public interest especially given the present economic position the country is in.
    This is frankly a sign of a weak government backing away from a tough decision.

  • Comment number 68.

    Robert, are you not a business editor? This article is largely about defence and political matters and I would have thought is largely out of your remit; from reading it, it is probably ouside your detailed knowledge. However, there must be a real story in the contracts for these carriers and just how the labour government apparently allowed terms so onerous to future cancellation. That is the sort of scandal to which you should turn your attention, probably to good effect given your excellent track record on such matters.

  • Comment number 69.

    52. At 11:42am on 19 Oct 2010, AqualungCumbria wrote:
    Why is the substitution of frigates for a carrier a sensible option ?.

    It would appear in my limited knowledge its actually frigates that are redundant apart from if you measure your navy on the number of ships it has and not their capabilities.

    2 carriers with escort group would appear to me to cover far more possible scenarios no matter how remote a possibility than having many ships of an obsolete design."


    Frigates ARE the escort group. Type 23 frigates (and very similarly armed Type 45 destroyers) are designed to hunt submarines and shoot down attacking aircraft and anti-ship missiles. Without a ring of these around the carriers the carriers are dead meat.

    In addition on their own they're a useful too, not least for intercepting criminally operated ships. The Royal Navy intercepts nearly half the cocaine seized in the world and is vital for protecting merchant ships from Pirates. War with China is hopefully sci-fi but drug runners and pirates aren't.

  • Comment number 70.

    Can't they come up with something a bit more exciting than those 2 tired old cliches they are going to be called? How about HMS Fiscal Prudence or HMS Huge Deficit, definitely names for ships of our times that would send out a message to the world about the UK in the 21st Century. But in truth I am more worried about all the money we are going to waste on the Trident Missle upgrade than a couple of boringly named aircraft carriers. As for Trident who exactly are we aiming these missiles at now? These subs can never be seen as the truly 'independent deterrent' they are hyped up to be, as we will have to rely on American satellites and communications systems if we ever have to launch them. And more importantly if we ever have to launch them it would be bye bye UK and the world as we know it! So why bother? But don't worry Nick Clegg and his Liberal/SDP chums have had nuclear disarmament as as a core belief that underpins all their policy statements for years, so he will not vote for it's renewal, I mean when has he ever gone back on any of his manifesto promises?

  • Comment number 71.

    41. At 11:25am on 19 Oct 2010, Peter_Sym wrote:
    " A type 45 destroyer can carry 8 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. What do you think 8 Harpoons would do the Bismarck?"
    --------
    Bounce off the armour.
    I imagine our carrier commanders would be a bit worried given they have less anti-ship capabilty than a Fairy Swordfish.

  • Comment number 72.

    63. At 11:52am on 19 Oct 2010, Penfolduk01 wrote:
    "

    For example, in 1982 no one foresaw the the Falklands War."

    Actually almost everyone except Lord Carrington and John Nott did. Jim Callahan had to send a nuclear sub to the south Atlantic just a few years earlier to deter an argentine invasion and my father took part in a massive exercise on the Shetlands which was a carbon copy of the landings at San Carlos 6 months prior to the invasion. Simply deploying a couple of ships, maybe a squadron of harriers and a full regt of infantry (1200 men rather than the dozen or so Marines on garrison duty) would have prevented the war and saved 1000 lives (ours and theirs)

  • Comment number 73.

    I've got a cunning plan!

    Get the banks to pay for the carriers & call them HMS RBS & HMS Northern Rock. And the banker's themselves could 'adopt' aircraft, with a loan, and rather like the students spend the rest of their lives paying for them!

    Sorted!

  • Comment number 74.

    The carrier issue is laughable (if not you'd cry).

    It was a lunatic decision to order them in the first place, even more so two of them with a contract which effectively prevents cancellation but seemingly allows open ended cost overruns.

    When they finally go into service the Royal Navy will have few surface ships left to protect them so effectively they'll be sitting ducks. The PM should have insisted that the Navy renegotiate the second carrier for destroyers or frigates which would be more flexible and have wider use in projecting British presence.

    If there was ever a time for the Argentines to have another go at the Falklands it's surely when the Ark Royal is decommissioned and the navy loses another 5 surface ships.

  • Comment number 75.

    Cameron baulks too easily. Get a spine man. Breach the contract and compensate by spending the money with the same firms on what we do need, A replacement for Trident, Frigates, Minesweepers, Fishery patrol. It's better to spend the money on something we will need then something we never will.

  • Comment number 76.

    I've an idea .. we can sell them to e.g. Libya, Argentina, or somewhere around Korea for around 10% of the original purchase price and ask them to be 'nice to their neighbours'.

  • Comment number 77.

    @3. At 09:50am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:
    "Can contracts not be made null and void by an Act of Parliament?"
    Contrary to Jacques' response: absolutely not. It would jeopardise possible future careers as Exec/non-Exec directors of those companies involved and would have a detrimental effect on any lobbying/PR or other "government relations" occupations when they decide to quit parliament.
    You can't possibly use morals to justify amendment to laws - politicians usually have a short shelf life and need some sort of convenient revolving door into other areas of employment.
    To copperdolomite: this is tongue in cheek (or downright sarcasm if you prefer) by the way ;-)

  • Comment number 78.

    I dare say our government was put under pressure form the Pentagon to go ahead with these cariers. This is particularly frightening as at present the US armed forces appear to be being run as the military wing of the Israeli government. Seems to be a double case of "why bark when you've got a dog". Is that what we want?

  • Comment number 79.

    The bias of this piece of 'journalism'is apalling.

    What Galls me more is the completely unbalanced and anonymous quoting of 'senior officers'.

    The description of 'admirals' looking slightly embarrassed, in responce to a journalist asking an extremely obvious and by no means original question is extremely doubtful at best. 30+ years of military experience at the top of their fields and we are expected to believe that they offered no defence of what will be (if allowed to reach their potential) extremely versatile tools to project power, influence and humanitarian relief across the globe in a continuation of our proud centuries old naval tradition (which let us not forget is the primary reason the UK is such a successful country).

    By 2020 the UK will be almost exclusively dependent on energy, largely in the form of natural gas arriving by sea. We are a maritime nation and we always will be.

    The greatest future threat has been and always will be the one we never expected. History has proved this time and time again.

  • Comment number 80.

    To everyone an idea of how the UK Government waste money in defence take a look at this little calculation.

    Eurofighter Typhoon Overall Development an Purchase Cost for 250 Aircraft for the RAF = £20 Billion +
    Never been proven in combat and cannot be used on Aircraft Carriers unless significantly modified (adding cost)

    Average Cost Per Plane £80 Million

    F18 Hornet - A Tried and tested fighter plane and is also a Carrier Bourne Aircraft.

    AVERAGE COST £45 Million per plane.

    Why does the UK government spend so much on developing these useless projects when we can buy better equipment from our closest allay????????

    And our sevice personel could have more equipment.

    Cost of 252 Eurofighters = 488+ F18 Hornets - What would you choose??? NO BRAINER!!!

    All the F18's could be manufactured in the UK under License so peoples jobs would still be secure.


  • Comment number 81.

    "59. At 11:48am on 19 Oct 2010, Oliver Gillie wrote:
    Surely the Navy and RAF are becoming ends in themselves. We need a reasonable and flexible army, with ships and planes to support them. A single service would have a better chance of finding the right answers."


    Well that makes two of us who feel that way at least. The US Marine corps manages high grade infantry, armour, fixed and rotary wing aircraft and a serious naval capability all in one force with one lot of top brass and one lot of procurement and weapons requirements. Such a force is designed so that all elements support each other and would be far more useful is we have to do 'Falklands II' than what the RAF, Army and Navy can scrape together.

    Cost savings would be made everywhere starting with producing all the uniforms in one colour, not three and adopting common weapons between all arms of the unit. If I'd been in charge of MOD helicopter procurement we'd have US made blackhawk and seahawk helicopters (made under licence by Westland ideally) ONLY rather than the current mix of Sea Kings/Puma/Merlin & Lynx. The same principle could be extended to just about every vehicle and weapons type.

  • Comment number 82.

    I know - why not get Lord Prescott to carry out a post-implementation review on the previous government's business case to order the aircraft carriers?

  • Comment number 83.

    12. At 10:31am on 19 Oct 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    7. At 10:11am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:

    "One could build dams, hydro electric power stations, wind turbines, roads, bridges and all manner of things that would be a benefit to the country.

    But they all cost ‘money’, and where would this money come from?"


    ...but do they Dempster? - I mean they cost time, effort and resources - but what is money really?

    It's time we re-visted what we take for granted.

    ..............
    Money is of course simply a medium of exchange. Its true to say we dont really need it, we just need to apply our time effort and resources, in exchange for food, roof over our heads etc. But short of bartering or a centrally planned economy and the replacement of capitalism, a debt free money supply is the best interim solution WOTW, to enable us to get away from our debt slavery, and the loss of the country's wealth to the parasites. (the other challenges can follow)
    Its difficult to comprehend how a modern world such as ours, can take a course of action, eroding our nations true wealth, simply to service money based debt (fake wealth) that was created out of thin air and loaned to us by a handfull of the rich on the basis of a crude assumption that the future will always be bigger and grow exponentially! Its time to say no, and we wont pay, before we destroy the country's true wealth in the process. Its all utter madness.

  • Comment number 84.

    Aircraft carriers, like the Royal Navy, is the nation's insurance policy in Foreign Affairs. It is there when you need it the most, even if you do not know when that is.

    Sunk in five minutes? Only if some idiot doesn't give them proper protection against all threats through the use of fighter jets, AWACS, frigates, destroyers and submarines. Although at this rate the government are pretty much walking into that case of having poor protection for the carriers.

    Navalising the Eurofighter? They cost enough already. Do you know how much it would cost to navalise them, Robert Preston? Let's just say you'd spill your coffee. Rather than that, procure F/A-18s from the USA or the Dassault Rafale from France. They would do just as good a job if not better than the Typhoon, they are tried and tested and more cost effective.

    A final case for the aircraft carriers. The big blue wet thing better known as "the sea" surrounds this country, yes?
    As a result, 90 per cent of our trade comes and goes via "the sea", right?
    The same applies to countries that are not islands yet have extensive coastlines, correct? Such as the USA, Russia, China, India, Japan (island nation, yes), France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Australia (another island).

    Those countries also rely heavily on maritime trade like the UK. And they are all building new, sizeable aircraft carriers, to help guard their interests. They are doing it for the same reasons we need to.

    Do you see where I'm coming from? Just in case you don't: other countries have cottoned on to the usefulness of aircraft carriers. They cannot all be wrong. You do not spend that much if you are in doubt of how useful carriers are. Look at the numbers. I dare you to say I am wrong.

  • Comment number 85.

    Nobody in a uniform (any kind of uniform including doctor, nurses and teachers) should be allowed to spend public money, they just do not understand the brutal reality of life and never will.

    That's what institutionalisation does for you.

    What a mess...

  • Comment number 86.

    #80. I more or less agree but the 'never tested in combat' is a red herring. The Spitfire wasn't tested in combat until 1940. If you only buy weapons other people have used in wars then you're buying a generation behind. The F18 is a decent aircraft but its a 1970's design. In a dogfight between equal pilots Eurofighter V F18 is no contest. In fact in 4 on 4 dogfights (which favour aircraft with 2 crew) Tornado can better an F18 and we're retiring Tornado because its obsolete.

    Most certainly buy the best kit on the market, certainly make as much of it as we can under licence in the UK but don't buy stuff designed before I was born unless there really is nothing better out there.

  • Comment number 87.

    @80. At 12:18pm on 19 Oct 2010, David Cane wrote:
    "Why does the UK government spend so much on developing these useless projects when we can buy better equipment from our closest allay????????"
    I don't know, but look at the number of Chinooks we bought from our closest ally which were grounded: failed to receive their airworthiness certificates without much modification and re-engineering at extra cost. I think the UK can still build reasonable MBTs though. American MBTs use the same armour as ours AFAIK.

  • Comment number 88.

    Well what a surprise, yet another (nulab) cock up. The orders for this were placed for one reason only - to support jobs in Labour areas - this was as blatant as Dame Porter's Jerrymandering at Westminster a few years back, but just cost us all a heck of a lot more.
    Our defence procurement has been an appalling joke for many years under several different governments - I don't know why they bother announcing a new project will cost X Billion and come in to service in 5 years when the reality is ALWAYS not X Billion but XXXXXX Billion and normally so late in service whatever it was meant to be doing is now pointless!
    Hopefully this defence review will recognise that we can no longer afford to pretend to be a world power and should scale back our forces accordingly. We should extricate ourselves as quickly as possible from Afghanistan, and concentrate on protecting our borders. I also think it's time to close all the German bases, I was amazed when I heard the size of the bases still positioned in Germany.

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11571650
    The advantage of state ownership?

  • Comment number 91.

    20. At 10:57am on 19 Oct 2010, Jacques Cartier wrote:

    "Look, bankers are at the top of the list of threats to Britain. Even the evil Al Qaeda haven't done as much harm to us as those little fiends in "The City". This is the “war on bankers” – and we must see absolute surrender before a penny of bonus is ever paid again."

    Now isn't that the truth - throughout history the 'threats' have been incorrectly recognised as foreign invaders - but the reality is the downfall of the west will be Capitalism itself.

    It doesn't take a genius to work out why the Americans are wincing at the proposed defence cuts - I mean without the 51st state on GB they might not be able to implement their own armed forces cuts.

    The only solution to this problem is to stop fighting wars - we cannot afford to run a defence budget in place of social benefits for our people - and despite the media's best efforts - we're not under threat from invasion and we haven't been forced to 'defend ourselves' for fifty years.....and I seem to recall a lot of that defence was down to national call ups and not particularly because we had a 'ready made war machine'.
    I mean as far as I am aware no occupying force in history has managed to successfully invade and oppress any sovereign nation for any length of time - and yet the way some people carry on they seem to forget this. It's a justification to support the arms trade - a 'back door' keynsian boost - shadow boxing enemies which don't really seem to exist!

    ....maybe if the Government didn't set an example of such violence to resolve disputes then we might not see so much repeated on friday and saturday nights in our streets!

  • Comment number 92.

    40. At 11:21am on 19 Oct 2010, Dempster wrote:
    Well there by hangs the problem Mr Gasket it can't, unless of course it borrows the money, or alternatively gets the BOE to QE it.
    Too much money gives rise to high inflation, if the Government creates money from nothing, whilst allowing the banks to do the same thing at the same time, you'd have an awful lot of money slushing around.


    What makes you think we've arrived at the point of 'too much money'?

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    85. At 12:30pm on 19 Oct 2010, Nice One Son wrote:
    Nobody in a uniform (any kind of uniform including doctor, nurses and teachers) should be allowed to spend public money, they just do not understand the brutal reality of life and never will.

    That's what institutionalisation does for you.

    What a mess...





    Is that a joke? I spent my 19th birthday in a uniform in the middle of nowhere (probably Croatia but the border was pretty uncertain) watching two Croats play football with a severed head. I don't know what 'Brutal reality of life' you've experienced but that was mine. My father is an NHS cancer consultant who deployed to two real ones and a couple of almost ones and he can tell a few good stories about 'brutal reality' too... his first hour as a doctor was spent certifying two house fire victims dead. As a result he doesn't like roast pork and is obsessive about smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the house. I'm pretty sure anyone else in a uniform can tell you other stories, although obviously they're not nearly as important as excel spreadsheets and 'what the markets' say.

  • Comment number 95.

    ' At 10:16am on 19 Oct 2010, Sam wrote:

    5bn for a pair of aircraft carriers sounds a lot.

    Then again, how many billions did we just hand over to the banks without questions asked?

    At least this 5bn is creating real jobs for people in areas that have unemployment problems, unlike the banking bailout.'

    And presumably we can look forward to a decent scrap value, especially with the way commodity prices are increasing.

  • Comment number 96.

    85. At 12:30pm on 19 Oct 2010, Nice One Son wrote:
    Nobody in a uniform (any kind of uniform including doctor, nurses and teachers) should be allowed to spend public money, they just do not understand the brutal reality of life and never will.

    That's what institutionalisation does for you.

    What a mess...





    Is that a joke? I spent my 19th birthday in a uniform in the middle of nowhere (probably Croatia but the border was pretty uncertain) watching two Croats play football with a severed head. I don't know what 'Brutal reality of life' you've experienced but that was mine. My father is an NHS cancer consultant who deployed to two real wars and a couple of almost ones and he can tell a few good stories about 'brutal reality' too... his first hour as a doctor was spent certifying two house fire victims dead. As a result he doesn't like roast pork and is obsessive about smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the house. I'm pretty sure anyone else in a uniform can tell you other stories, although obviously they're not nearly as important as excel spreadsheets and 'what the markets' say.

  • Comment number 97.

    Robert, you make it sound all so simple and I am sure it is not. I suspect the Chiefs of the Royal Navy could talk for hours about the need for carriers. Then the Chiefs of the Army and RAF could talk for hours about why carriers are not required but fighters and tanks are. The focus is all army at the moment because everyone you see on tele in Afgan is wearing combats, they are not all army. There are loads of RAF and Navy/Marines fighting and providing support.

    Someone put it to me once quite beautify.

    Q. When there is no specific war (Iraq, Afgan etc) what are the RAF and Army doing?
    A. They are practising for war

    Q. What are the Navy doing?
    A. Providing humanitarian aid
    A. anti piracy duties
    A. anti drugs duties
    A. keeping the shipping lanes of the world open and safe
    A. projecting Britain and its interests around the world
    A. oh and practising for war

    80% of what we eat, wear, play with and sleep on comes into this country by sea.

  • Comment number 98.

    The previous government overdid military intervention in other countries' affairs, but it doesn't follow that critical national interests won't ever call for such an expedition. More fundamentally, the UK is heavily dependent on the freedom of the sea for its economic survival; it must be able to defend that freedom against known and currently unforseen threats. A navy is essential for those contingencies, and a navy without air cover isn't worth its Admirals' gold braid. Once a modern, supersonic anti-ship missile gets within 60 kilometres of a ship, its very difficult to stop it with guns or surface to air missiles. Far better to use aircraft to stop it; better still, to stop it before it gets that close; best of all, to stop it from being fired.

  • Comment number 99.

    Just a small thought - when we put an air base in somewhere not so friendly, dont we need to take lots of men and guns to protect it?
    Using a carrier would save some money in this respect?

    I dont think they are a silly idea in the sense that in 25 years time they may save our bacon (falklands part II)

  • Comment number 100.

    24. At 11:01am on 19 Oct 2010, Jacques Cartier wrote:

    "The list of threats is all wrong - our top people are boneheads."

    We have top people? - I thought this was a clown show.

 

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