British Sea Power

At the launch of the gigantic HMS Queen Elizabeth back in July there was much talk about being an “Island Nation” and “Projecting Power” across the globe.

Gavin Williamson, the (brand-new) Defence Secretary, said: “Today marks the start of a hugely significant chapter for the Royal Navy, and indeed the nation, as the future flagship is commissioned into Her Majesty’s fleet. Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future. For the next half a century both carriers will advance our interests around the globe.”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:

“In hoisting the White Ensign from HMS Queen Elizabeth today, Britain has confirmed her place among the world’s great maritime powers in the most majestic and muscular terms. The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will sit at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy, capable of projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land and in cyberspace, and offering our nation military and political choice in an uncertain world.”

The aircraft carrier and her yet-to-be-completed sister, HMS Prince of Wales, are the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy, costing an eye-watering £6.2bn.

The famously aircraft-free carrier has had a troublesome launch, and the £6.2 billion ignores the costs of ‘arming’ the ships.

The UK has begun a £9.1bn programme to buy 48 of the F-35s by 2025 from US giant Lockheed Martin.

But the Commons defence select committee said there had been an “unacceptable lack of transparency” over the jets, with one estimate suggesting each plane would cost more than £150m.

Yet as there’s much chuckling about the leaky boat we should be also asking ourselves: what exactly are ‘our interests around the globe’?

The reality is they are designed to give support for more British wars.

HMS Queen Elizabeth  and HMS Prince of Wales will be deployed in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean, where they will facilitate possible intervention in Iran, North Korea and Syria in tandem with the USA, with whom there has been extensive ‘joint operations’.

Aside from the crippling costs and designs flaw and lack of fixed-wing fighter planes, these giant ships emerge at a time when British foreign policy still hasn’t recovered from the moral shambles of the Iraq war and allying ourselves with a sociopathic American leader who couldn’t say “Special Relationship” without drinking from his Sippy Cup is criminally stupid.

But it gets worse – amongst all the pomp and ceremony – the ingratiating and endless Royal cap-doffing – this is little more than 21C Gunship Diplomacy, presumably to support the burgeoning jam exports.

More than that ‘our’ (sic) obsession with Imperial Power speaks to failure, not strength.

Even Max Hastings, here fulminating over at the Daily Mail thunders: “HMS QE and its half-built sister, Prince of Wales, are giant embarrassments. They are symbols of almost everything that is wrong with British defence policy.”

He continues: “Some of us said from the outset that the new carriers reflected delusions of grandeur, and that the F-35s looked like becoming much too pricey for Britain’s status as a medium-sized nation. How much smarter it would have been to build a couple of cheap ’n’ cheerful naval platforms from which to launch drones and low-tech aircraft. For that, one could almost have welded steel plates on top of tanker hulls, to create acceptable flight decks. What the Navy urgently needed was a large flotilla of small, simple ships to guard our shoreline and look after our interests overseas in regard to piracy, illegal immigration, terrorism and so on.”

I don’t think that would have quite the same effect.

So who is to blame for the shambles?

Max is in no doubt: “There were still enough sensible people in the Ministry of Defence to prevent this lunacy coming to pass, but for one misfortune: in 2007, Gordon Brown became Labour prime minister. In case you failed to notice, he was, and remains, a Scot.”

I might have known the bloody Scots would be to blame.

“Because of ballooning costs, her sister carrier, Prince of Wales, would almost certainly have been cancelled, but the canny Scots ensured that penalty clauses meant it would cost less to complete than abandon the ship.”

Bloody Jocks.

Still, it gets worse.

The Times reports today: “Britain has no major warships on operations anywhere in the world for the first time in living memory.”

Oh? What happened to “majestic and muscular”? terms. Whatever happened to “projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land”?

The Times explains “the absence of any of the Royal Navy’s 19 frigates and destroyers overseas was a “strategic embarrassment for the country and a strategic embarrassment for defence”, according to a senior serving military officer.

All six Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth because of a combination of mechanical problems, routine maintenance, a shortage of manpower and the need to give sailors leave over Christmas.

In fact as the Financial Times reports that the armed focus are facing a serious staffing crisis as result of a chronic misjudgement of the requirements to crew these ships whilst at sea:

“The navy is struggling to find sailors to crew many of its latest vessels — including its two new £6.2bn aircraft carriers, the biggest ships it has built. Navy officials say the two carriers are placing serious strain on personnel resources. The 70,000-ton Queen Elizabeth, which will be the navy’s new flagship, is due to be commissioned for service this year, though the date has been repeatedly pushed back. It is expected to have about 700 crew, though it has berths for more than double that number. There are still not enough sailors to crew the second of the two carriers, the Prince of Wales, which is due to be fully commissioned in 2020. Specialist crew are also urgently needed for the new fleet of Astute-class submarines.”

Needless to say this vainglorious and extortionate exercise in self-delusion is an obscenity without a purpose as people die of cold homeless on the streets of Britain.

 

 

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  1. James Brown says:

    Don’t worry. HMS Pinafore is on standby.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    It’s odd when we’re just talking about “Our Finest Hour” that the British Navy is celebrating one of the most effective ways of killing pilots even in peacetime against a windier sky on top a wavier sea.

  3. Bert Logan says:

    Ahhh – nice to be blamed, nice to be charged, nice to see the mess.

    But only if you’re a BritNat can it seem good.

  4. Nick McBain says:

    Just a wee added thought. A hypersonic one, mind.

    nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/britain-admits-russian-missiles-can-blow-its-new-aircraft-20407

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-military-aircraft-carrier-assets-vulnerable-hms-queen-elizabeth-russia-china-cheap-missile

  5. Jamsie says:

    At lease the taxpayer can see something tangible for the money spent.
    Why haven’t you mentioned the £178m wasted by the SNP on an IT system to distribute money to farmers that does not work and will never work.
    Or maybe the other similar projects costing £90m which have now been scrapped.
    Perhaps you might look at the £800k in legal fees trying to defend the indefensible.
    How many homeless or poor Scots would this have helped.
    And there is more, much more profligate waste caused by this set of political pygmies.

    1. J Galt says:

      Or abandoned NHS IT systems costing Billions or the grand Great Western Railway electrification scheme, years late, billions over budget and with large sections to Bristol, Oxford and Swansea abandoned – a complete shambles compared to Scottish electrification. Throwing Tens of Billions at a set of French and Chinese shysters to build an un-needed Nuclear Power Station.

      Yes the Scottish Government are pygmies compared to the GIANTS OF WASTE in Whitehall and Westminster!

    2. Bill Ramsay says:

      Tangible?
      I suppose so,
      A multi million stage prop for the on going “ Great British” morality tale.
      A 24/7 Floating Military Tattoo, more like.

    3. Calum McIntosh says:

      Governments request and procure IT systems, some times implementations go well, some times they don’t and additional work has to be done, i.e. scope changes or supporting people to use the new system effectively.

      Regardless of outcome, Government is being advised to to procure these systems on the basis of public benefit.

      Whereas, these war ships are vanity projects of a decayed power clutching at straws while others look on with amusement!

    4. hamish says:

      Tell us Jamsie why Scotland should contribute to this Imperial Folly ?

      1. Jamsie says:

        Because Scotland remains part of the UK mibees.
        And looks to be destined to be for some considerable time.
        Despite what the natsies think.
        And possibly as Scotland benefited from the construction of the ship is another.
        On the one hand the tartan tories are shouting that shipyards on the Clyde should get their share of building ships for the Royal Navy then others of the same ilk are saying Scotland should not help pay for these ships.
        Can you see the obvious contradiction?
        Do you see it with the EU as well?
        The problem is that indy supporters want their cake and to be able to eat it.
        Thank Christ the majority of Scots see right through this and realise being part of the UK and the Barnet Formula is the reason Scotland is where it is.
        The SNP crippled the farming community, would give away our fishing rights about to be repatriated and have shown in terms of police, fire service, education, the health service and local government that they are totally incompetent.
        Fiscally they depend on others paying the bills and the largesse of the UK that they squander on ideological projects which have little or no effect on peoples lives.
        And to constantly repeat the mantra about free bus fares, free prescriptions and free tuition fees is an entirely mendacious position.
        Just like the freeze on the council tax.
        They were all announced without any budget scrutiny and clearly were not affordable which is why we are all paying more for these things which are at best of dubious benefit and at worst simply a waste of money.
        Target those in need should be the mantra.

        1. J Galt says:

          I notice you didn’t feel able to counter my argument that Westminster and Whitehall’s “waste” far outstrips the SG’s.

          1. Jamsie says:

            No just could not be arsed!
            Flippant argument with no real point as I was referring to this wonderfully incompetent administration.
            For the UK you would multiply by 12 or more and still it would not compare.

        2. Terence callachan says:

          So Jamsie writes 250 words about why Scotland should contribute to the billions and billions of pounds wasted on war ships by saying ….because we benefit from them !!
          What an ass

  6. Clive Scott says:

    Jamsie, what the taxpayer can see is an already obsolete rusting hulk that will never be deployed in anger as the navy does not have, and will never be able to afford, the fleet that needs to support one carrier, never mind two. The best it can be used for is a “goodwill”visit to a friendly country where there is no danger of it being shot at. Fur coat and nae knickers. Even if UKOK could afford the carriers + support fleet why would we want to give the lunatics in Westminster the means to become involved in aggression against impoverished nations far away?

  7. Aaron says:

    Aircraft carriers are offensive weapon systems (in every sense of the word). They are for projecting power, better known as murdering poor foreigners for geopolitical advantage. As a defensive system they have no value whatsoever when compared to a conventional airfield.

    Military fanboys will object that we have to prepare to fight the Chinese or the Russians or someone else who actually knows what they’re doing rather than an underdeveloped country with 50 year old weapons and a raft of trade sanctions against them. I hope they’re wrong, but even if they’re not, an aircraft carrier is unlikely to last for very long in a high-tech confrontation. Both the Chinese and Russians have developed relatively cheap hypersonic anti-ship missiles for which there is virtually no defence when used en masse. They have effectively made aircraft carriers obsolete.

    The Lightening F35B is a horrendously complex and expensive aircraft. Serious doubts remain as to whether it’s fit for purpose. The reason behind the decision to deploy a single engine VTOL aircraft on such an enormous platform is anyone’s guess, particularly when there are much cheaper alternatives with proven performance and safety.

    For defensive purposes, the UK already has a large and formidable fleet of high performance land based aircraft – the Eurofighter Typhoon.

    TLDR: Scotland doesn’t need aircraft carriers. Carriers are for murdering poor people. Carriers suck. F35 sucks.

    1. Rentaghost says:

      The reason for the F-35, and in particular the F-35B is due in part to the American’s inability to learn from McNamara and the F-111 debacle in the 60s and once again try and build a single platform for several different roles. The UK used the BAE Replica program to convince the US that they had already worked out the fundamentals of low radar observability on an airworthy platform in order to get in at the ground floor and get BAE as one of the two major sub contractors under Lockheed Martin.

      The reason for the B version was because it was originally expected to have the F-35 in general service before the new QE carriers. In other words, they were expected to operate off of the Invincible class carriers. The RN already had 30 odd years of single engine experience with the Sea Harrier, so that wasn’t considered an issue. The B version became basically bullet proof because the US Marines wanted to retain their organic fixed wing air wing from smaller carrier decks vis a vis the USN super carriers, and the fact that the other European powers, as well as allies like Australia all operated smaller decks , too short for a CTOL aircraft and thus requiring the B version – so guaranteed export orders.

      Why the RN decided it wanted bigger decks than the 20,000 tonne Invincibles. Some of it is undoubtedly prestige, of course. 65% of the tonnage of the USN super carriers is not to be sniffed at, much larger than even the French CdG as well. However there were sound technical benefits – at least on paper:

      Firstly, while the combination of smaller decks and V/STOL aircraft allowed nations less wealthy than the US to field a workable air group over it’s fleet, logistically the smaller decks were very inefficient for all the mundane stuff: the general movement of aircraft to and from the hanger and airdeck, allowing for the far more efficient use of the space and a higher sortie rate than could be managed on the cramped smaller vessels.

      Secondly, the lifespan of the Carrier is expected to be longer than that of the aircraft it is currently slated to carry. There is no guarantee that the F-35 successor will be capable of short take off and vertical landing (at least at the time, in the late 90s when this was all proposed, the idea of something like the BAE Taranis unmanned autonomous aircraft wasn’t even science fiction). Therefore it was felt necessary to future proof the carrier – to make it big enough to retrofit with a catapult and arrestor wire to allow operation of conventional aircraft. Even with cat and traps, a 20,000 tonne ship simply wouldn’t be able to operate such aircraft – a 65,000 tonne ship can – both because it has the bigger flight deck and because it has the machinery space to accommodate the large power demands of catapulting and recovering a jet fighter.

      It is undoubtedly correct to question UK foreign policy, both in it’s goals and execution. Certainly the UK is guilty of not taking a holistic view of what it’s foreign policy should be, definitely from a moral point of view but also (possibly more grubby) from the financial point of view – what does the UK get out from what it puts in? How does that advance UK goals, what even are UK goals? It’s something an independent Scotland, shorn of it’s imperial delusions (an almost nervous tic where the UK sends in troops everywhere, for little material reason) *should* be better at.

      Having said that, for the purpose it was bought for – power projection in support of US led coalitions – the QE carrier/F-35B combination makes technical sense, even as it makes less and less financial sense.

  8. Nick McBain says:

    Overblown and hugely expensive, as befits a major world power. Defenceless v a single Zircon missile. Oh. The Humanity. My cousin was on RFA Sir Galahad. It wasn’t very nice. Ouch

    nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/britain-admits-russian-missiles-can-blow-its-new-aircraft-20407

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zircon_(missile)

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-military-aircraft-carrier-assets-vulnerable-hms-queen-elizabeth-russia-china-cheap-missile

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/04/falklands-war-pictures/rfa-sir-galahad-seen-ablaze-argentine-air-raid-june-8-bluff

  9. James Mills says:

    Since the departure of the royal ‘yacht’ might we not bequeath one ( or both ) of these white elephants to Liz and her ever expanding family – but only on condition that she pays for their upkeep .

  10. Rentaghost says:

    The reason for the F-35, and in particular the F-35B is due in part to the American’s inability to learn from McNamara and the F-111 debacle in the 60s and once again try and build a single platform for several different roles. The UK used the BAE Replica program to convince the US that they had already worked out the fundamentals of low radar observability on an airworthy platform in order to get in at the ground floor and get BAE as one of the two major sub contractors under Lockheed Martin.

    The reason for the B version was because it was originally expected to have the F-35 in general service before the new QE carriers. In other words, they were expected to operate off of the Invincible class carriers. The RN already had 30 odd years of single engine experience with the Sea Harrier, so that wasn’t considered an issue. The B version became basically bullet proof because the US Marines wanted to retain their organic fixed wing air wing from smaller carrier decks vis a vis the USN super carriers, and the fact that the other European powers, as well as allies like Australia all operated smaller decks , too short for a CTOL aircraft and thus requiring the B version – so guaranteed export orders.

    Why the RN decided it wanted bigger decks than the 20,000 tonne Invincibles. Some of it is undoubtedly prestige, of course. 65% of the tonnage of the USN super carriers is not to be sniffed at, much larger than even the French CdG as well. However there were sound technical benefits – at least on paper:

    Firstly, while the combination of smaller decks and V/STOL aircraft allowed nations less wealthy than the US to field a workable air group over it’s fleet, logistically the smaller decks were very inefficient for all the mundane stuff: the general movement of aircraft to and from the hanger and airdeck, allowing for the far more efficient use of the space and a higher sortie rate than could be managed on the cramped smaller vessels.

    Secondly, the lifespan of the Carrier is expected to be longer than that of the aircraft it is currently slated to carry. There is no guarantee that the F-35 successor will be capable of short take off and vertical landing (at least at the time, in the late 90s when this was all proposed, the idea of something like the BAE Taranis unmanned autonomous aircraft wasn’t even science fiction). Therefore it was felt necessary to future proof the carrier – to make it big enough to retrofit with a catapult and arrestor wire to allow operation of conventional aircraft. Even with cat and traps, a 20,000 tonne ship simply wouldn’t be able to operate such aircraft – a 65,000 tonne ship can – both because it has the bigger flight deck and because it has the machinery space to accommodate the large power demands of catapulting and recovering a jet fighter.

    Worth noting that missiles have been making Carriers obsolete for decades, just as they have tanks. Fact is that carriers don’t operate in isolation and any notional Chinese or Russian missile platform still has to navigate the myriad defences of the carrier group. Any missile launched from an aircraft is in danger of being shot down by the carrier air group before it can launch, likewise any shipborne missile has to survive the RN submarines that would be prowling about in advance of the carrier group. Any missile that does get launched has to survive two or three different rings of interceptor missiles, some like ASTER that can track hypersonic missiles, before hitting the escorts inner ring of gun defences and chaff. The new generation of missiles is as big a threat as any blue water navy has faced since they started launching aircraft from ships, but it by no means takes carriers out of the game.
    It is undoubtedly correct to question UK foreign policy, both in it’s goals and execution. Certainly the UK is guilty of not taking a holistic view of what it’s foreign policy should be, definitely from a moral point of view but also (possibly more grubby) from the financial point of view – what does the UK get out from what it puts in? How does that advance UK goals, what even are UK goals? It’s something an independent Scotland, shorn of it’s imperial delusions (an almost nervous tic where the UK sends in troops everywhere, for little material reason) *should* be better at.

    Having said that, for the purpose it was bought for – power projection in support of US led coalitions – the QE carrier/F-35B combination makes technical sense, even as it makes less and less financial sense.

  11. J Galt says:

    HMS Queen Sitting Duck and HMS Prince of Sitting Ducks!

  12. Calum McIntosh says:

    Stikes me there has been little or no press or bbc investigation into the strategy behind these boats, be it their use, manning or procurement.

    What are they for?

    Russia offered the view, they’d be good for target practice.

    I assume the lack of attention to these boats has occured because to attack them is to attack the uk establishment’s view of itself in the world, thereby undermining the uk.

    Two white elephants!

  13. Hamish says:

    We could put the entire House of Windsor on board and tell them to sail off to the Antipodes !

  14. Aaron Carr says:

    Hi Bella, I understand you’ve had issues with the board and that you now seem to have to manually approve comments. Only issue is that we don’t get a message that the post has gone to moderation, and might wonder whether the post has failed. I note the repeat post to this article. If not too problematic might be a good idea to fix this. Best wishes, Aaron

    1. Issues with the board? Not sure what you mean?
      Moderating comments manually as we’ve been flooded with pro trolls, as have other pro-indy sites.
      It comes with the territory, we won’t be undermined, we’re working the system for the New Year.
      all the best
      Ed

  15. Willie says:

    In rhe vernacular I think the Royal Navy can best be described as a ” burst ba”.

    And it’s not just the fighting equipment that’s burst since recent reports have confirmed that the new £125 million state of the art Super-Mess at Faslane is just that, a super mess.

    Seems that the MOD are having to mount fire patrols because the new building needs millions of fire safety repairs due to some kind of Grenfell type fire deficiency.

    And that’s a new building in the heart of our nuclear defence submarine Base.

    The shambles it seems just doesn’t stop.

    God bless all who sail in the good ship Austerity to pay this. Their sacrifice does surely go in vain, and we shall certainly forget them.

  16. Willie says:

    With the time it takes for posts to dissappear into cyber space, sometimes to return much later in bulk, or not at all, the flow of comment is disrupted.

    Moreover, there now has to be a concern about censorship.

    Whether Bella is compromised in some way I don’t know but something has changed, and I suspect the intended result is reduced readership and comment conversation.

    1. There’s no censorship. Readership is up.
      Keep calm and carry on!

      1. Willie says:

        Will do Ed.

        Keep up the good work. It’s great to hear that readership is up. Very much appreciated.

  17. Clive Scott says:

    Anybody know what battles Princess Anne took part in to be awarded the chestful of medals she is wearing?

    1. J Galt says:

      The tussles with her first husband got a bit fraught at times, maybe they’re for that – mind you I think he probably came off worst!

    2. Terry callachan says:

      Princess Anne took part in as many wars to earn her medals as these warships will, which will be precisely zero, in fact princess Anne would be a better bet as an effectual battle destroyer than these new ships

  18. Kenny Smith says:

    I can’t get away with the canny Scots bullshit. Built by companies all domiciled in London. Although Govan did most of the build huge sections were built all over the UK then joined up at Rosyth. Put together by workers from all over the UK and beyond. Plenty people in Westminster and Whitehall done all right out it too, but it was our fault!!! I totally agree they were not needed the only good thing was that it employed a lot of people over a decent period of time.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “the only good thing was that it employed a lot of people over a decent period of time.”

      We could employ vastly more people for far longer in shipbuilding if decision makers (and the politicians) here actually knew what they were doing with our money, e.g.:

      – £6.2bn for 2 carrier boats (minus planes) built over 4-5 years?

      Or

      – £6.2bn for 442 ferries(1) built over 30-40 years?

      Swords to ploughshares; Scotland and the world needs and will pay for ferries, we do not need carriers.

      Note: (1) Pentland Ferries new 100 car/450 passenger/16kn ferry costs £14m

      1. Jamsie says:

        And where was it built?
        Not here.
        Why do you think that is?

        1. Alf Baird says:

          “Why do you think that is?”

          Because UK trade unions and UK civil servants work against the Scottish interest. They have no allegiance to Scotland.

  19. w.b.robertson says:

    re Anne`s medals…when I served her mother it was widely accepted that, provided you had the right pedigree and had attended the right school, you would collect a gong for fighting in the Naaffi queue.

    1. J Galt says:

      Frankly it was Captain Philips who deserved a medal!

  20. SleepingDog says:

    If you’re serious about defending the British mainland, a middle-aged Welsh woman armed with a pitchfork seems a better bet than the Royal Navy, at least according to the entertaining BBC Scotland history series Invasion! with Sam Willis:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09hr5bh
    although it coyly neglects to consider one obvious reason for British fear of invasion: the karmic retribution of having done to us what we done so many times to others (maybe in series 2?). Interestingly, the show relates how British historians seem to have just missed out any events that cast aspersions on Britannia’s ability to rule the waves, protect its shore-dwelling citizens and put up a non-hidey defence.

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