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HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH - UNALLOYED GOOD NEWS?

DEBATE:     It is great news that the Royal Navy is poised to again deploy fixed wing aircraft from a modern and capable aircraft carrier. However, how will the arrival of the new carriers affect current and future naval operations?  A Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is the modern successor to the Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) of the post WWII era. Generally one would expect a carrier to have its own assigned air defence destroyers, ASW frigates (note the plurals) and possibly an SSN in ‘deep field’ along with logistic support. The Royal Navy will, next year, take acceptance of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH. How will the RN deploy a CSG from its very limited resources and what impact will such a deployment have on the rest of the Royal Navy and its tasks? Today it is severely stretched to meet current tasking - RFAs and OPVs have already taken on roles previously carried out by frigates and destroyers. 19 destroyers and frigates we know, translates to roughly 6 – 8 operationally available at any one time - particularly if deployed at a distance from UK. With only 6 SSNs by 2017, three of which are ageing T Class boats, the submarine service would be hard pressed to provide full time support to a CSG in addition to its role in protecting the CASD. The RFA has the two ageing Rover Class, two Wave class tankers and three stores / replenishment vessels with which to deliver logistic support.

With pressures looming in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, in the Indian Ocean and Chinese littoral the ability to deploy a Royal Navy CSG would be a powerful international political tool - but could it be done?

I am sure that deep within the MoD and CinCFleet HQ there are people that have been working on the challenge of squaring this circle. Nevertheless, adding a powerful, sophisticated and high value ship to the Fleet that will, itself, absorb units of the Fleet for support and protection could be seen as less a 'force multiplier' than a 'force reducer'. How will the arrival of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH impact on availability of ships and the ability of the RN to meet all its current commitments?

What do you think??

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7 thoughts on “HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH - UNALLOYED GOOD NEWS?”

  • Sean Campbell

    Unless there is a substantive rethink of the RN's value and purpose under this new Government I fear that the cuts under previous PM, "Flim flam Cam", have gone too deep for the two QE carriers to be effectively manned simultaneously. We need more men. As ever it is our politicians who are to blame for their exclusively short term tactical thinking at the expense of deep thought and following long term strategic aims. Our armed forces deserve so much better. Personally, I have often wondered why some of the £400bn created by Qantitative Easing could not have been used to creative an effective RN supported by a healthy shipbuilding industry geared both to home and export needs. Surely a better investment than just dumped into bond and debt purchases ?

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  • Andy Field

    Whilst it is great that the RN is getting back to fixed wing, I suggest the carriers are too big for what we are now capable of, and will fly the wrong plane. Something between the Illustrious and the QE could have been more suited, or if the QEs, why not with the F-18 Super Hornet, a proven design? As it is, with the current RN there needs to be either more ships and men to form effective carrier and amphibious groups. That's probably not going to happen. So there needs to be a serious re-assessment of GB's role in the world and what the RN has the strength to achieve in contributing to this. This may involve a serious re-think about the type of Army we need as well as what roles best suit the RAF. Political hot potatoes a-plenty.

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  • Timothy Tidey

    The scrapping of fixed wing carriers, the Harriers, the MPA & reducing the escort fleet to just 19 ships along with damagingly low numbers of the skilled personnel necessary to operate them, is probably the dumbest UK armed forces policy for a century.

    As a maritime nation with global interests, we have thrown away the ability to be a credible power, let alone adequately defend our Island. The politicians have betrayed the nation & the dedicated service personnel who serve us.
    If we were to face a serious national threat, we could hardly be in a worse situation to react & recovery could take decades. It seems treasonable to me.

    After a huge & dangerous capability gap there is an urgent & immediate need for a recovery of morale, personnel, support ships, infrastrucure & escorts before we end up with two white elephants(The two QE CVAs) for lack of DDGs & FFGs to allow them to operate effectively.

    After the clear lessons of the FAA in WW2 & the sharing the joint force harriers we need an independently equipped RN FAA, at least 25 frigates & destroyers, & up to 10 light frigates/OPVs with basic armament of at least 76mm cannon, light SAM missiles & an embarked, hangered helicopter for the patrol & policing tasks which tie down our major warships, which has led to even RFA ships being used as stopgaps.

    Regarding funding & "savings", this is a neo-liberal dogma foisted on us as a political choice to ignore raising taxation from those best able to contribute to the nations purse, which has degenerated into the richest paying negligable tax as a %, compared with middle & even lower incomes. It has been sold to us as a necessity without any better option, but is a con. Global finance must not be allowed to leave nations vulnerable to the next bully on the block.

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  • Mark Brady

    HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH - Currently not Good News at all, I fear. And, moreover, that's really not wholly the fault of 'politicians' - there have always been those within the RN who believed that the BRITISH requirement was for an 'adequate' number of aircraft carriers displacing in the order of 20,000 tons. E.g the 1930s ARK ROYAL, the wartime 'Light Fleets' or the late-lamented INVINCIBLE-class. No, such vessels cannot provide the full range of aviation capabilities that a USN super-carrier can - but the hard political, strategic and economic facts for some 70 years prior to June 2016 were that the UK was not in the same league as the USA. But, unfortunately, the service allowed itself to be railroaded by a Naval Aviation community which had never forgotten the humiliating CVA-01 saga.

    Ever since the two-unit QE class was first proposed in the late-1990s there have been questions concerning the function of such a large carrier within the RN - especially as it would be quite likely that we'd only be able to have one fully-operational at any particular time, and if that unit 'fell over' there'd be no guarantee that the other could take its place in the required timeframe. There has, therefore, always been the fear that the QE-class would be White Elephants - impressive to behold, but of debateable value and consuming a disproportionate amount of human and material resources.

    Currently, however, the Elephant In The Room (sorry about the profusion of elephants!) is 'Brexit'. Assuming that we do actually go down that path, nobody (I repeat, NOBODY) knows where it will lead or what the journey will cost. Let's assume that whoever owns the QE-class 'post-Brexit' (survival of the 'UK' in its present form cannot be guaranteed) will remain a major player in NATO - a pretty safe assumption. That entity might also remain a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council - probably will, provided it retains an SSBN-borne Nuclear Deterrent. But will that entity be able to afford to maintain a meaningful contribution to NATO, an SSBN/SSN Force and an operational 'Carrier Strike' capability employing the QE-class. Good Question - but I wouldn't bet my pension on that entity's Armed Forces being able to do all three, in which case I know which will probably go to the wall. Or, to be more blunt, which will stay alongside the wall. Until we sell them to China.

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  • John Gough

    How about this for a future structure/rotation of ships based on the rule of 3 ships to keep one permanently deployed. Requires only a very modest increase in T31 to 6 ships and a replacement for Argus plus go ahead of 3 SSS, a fourth one would be very useful.

    Ships organised into Maritime Task Groups (MTG), carry out combined roles or detach individual ships as necessary.

    MTG 1 - 1xCV, 1xLPD, 1xT45, 2xT26, 1x LSA 1xSSS, 1xTanker, 1xSSN - role: reaction force/deployed
    MTG 2 - 1xCV, 1xLPD, 1xT45, 2xT26, 1xTanker, 1xSSN - role: UK No SSS as UK based
    MTG 3 - 1xLPHR, 1xLPD, 1x LSA 1xT45, 2xT26, 1xSSS, 1xTanker, 1xSSN - role: reserve
    2xT26. - UK based to cover APTS?
    1xLSA Gulf with MCMs - could this be replaced by commercial STUFT and free LSA back into MTGs?
    3 groups rotate through deployment, UK based/alongside/training and reserve.
    LPHR - replacement for Argus, through deck design, RFA manned?

    MTG 4 1xT45, 2xT31, 1xSSS, 1xTanker - role: ASW Atlantic/Med/deployed
    MTG 5 1xT45, 2xT31, 1xTanker - role: ASW UK
    MTG 4 1xT45, 2xT31, 1xTanker - role: Reserve for above
    You could mix and match T26 with T31 as required.

    5 OPVs cover - Falklands, APTN plus UK

    TAGs - usual 2xF35, 1xMerlin , 1 xCrowsnest flight per carrier
    RN should look to bring additional 9 Merlin into service which I believe are not being converted. This would relieve a pressure on Helo numbers.
    Minimum of 4 front line F35 squadron + 1 reserve, I would like to see at least 1 more to allow for full 2x36 F35 deployment in extreme emergency (ie. Falklands scenario)
    SSS - Fort replacements, build them big in Korea, 40k tonnes plus, big flight decks to allow 5-6 Merlins, maybe a well deck?
    Longer term replace LPDs with LPDHs

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  • keith

    The RN with aircraft carriers are no longer credible; no cruise missiles, no LAWS, no ground to air missiles, no ability to defend against submarines. One jammed phalanx equals a defenceless capital asset.

    The French have all of the above on their carrier.

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  • Roger

    I suspect the RN saw itself being sidelined into a patrol force with very little capability to fight a war and therefore it decided that it needed new aircraft carriers to replace the Invincibles.

    The RAF has, for some reason that is beyond me, a lot of clout with the MoD and have successfully squashed the planned CV-01 and more recently, got rid of the Harriers. They are now in charge of the misbegotten F-35 programme and you can be sure they will make life as difficult as possible for the carriers and their aircrew.

    When the Tornadoes go out of service I would like to see the "fast jet" arm of the RAF scaled down and eventually handed over to the RN. Aircraft carriers are much more useful then fixed airfields as they are inherently more flexible in the type of air operations they can undertake and they can perform a greater variety of missions including sailing to a point where aircraft can be launched against a target that would be otherwise untouchable.

    They are consequently vulnerable to more types of threat than a fixed airfield and so the navy would need more escorts.

    I have a horrible foreboding that the lessons learned in the Falklands will have to be learned all over again when some disaster strikes that the Armed Forces are completely unable to deal with.

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