Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Carriers for the RN!

Finally, after a decade since the "White Paper" determining the need was issued, the British Ministry of Defense has finally signed the contract for two new fleet carriers. These will be the first new capital ships built in decades for the RN, and greatly increase it's capability on the world stage.

Of course, there are still problems ahead, as Richard Beedall over at Navy Matters notes. Not the least the much delayed JSF, which may not be in service when the Queen Elizabeth is commissioned. No F-35s mean no airgroups, or, more specifically, a much reduced one(consisting of harrier jets).

Somewhat more alarming is the lack of escorts, which will be dramatically limited when the QE enters service. While a Daring class destroyer will be significantly more capable than it's predecessor's, the numbers of hulls are sometimes just as important as the capabilities of the hulls. The USAF has discovered this with the C-17 airlifters, and the USN is attempt to rectify the problem with the "low tech" LCS program, which has not been a very successful program.

The final bit is fuel costs. During WW2 Nazi capital ships stayed in port quite a bit do to the drain of fuel a sortie would have created. Today fuel costs are one of the biggest line-item expenses militaries face. So much so that Congress has mandated that the next USN CG be nuclear powered. In theory, the USN will be able to do much more with it's CVNs and possible CGNs, while the RN carriers may end up being in port for long periods of time, with competency suffering.

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