In the SDSR 2015 the UK conservative government under David Cameron, called for a world-wide alliance and a long range defence capability which could be put into place very quickly anywhere in the world. All of this on a relatively low budget compared say, to the United States or even Germany within the European theatre.
What is proposed here, is a relatively low cost solution to the above risk cover and also as a “hearts and minds” machine. Four aircraft carriers with catapult-assisted take-off for aircraft launches. These should carry F35C aircraft which can be launched and recovered by the Catapult Assisted Take Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) configuration. Costs of this system should be controlled by very firm contracts administered directly by the MOD.
Compared to the F-35A, the F-35C carrier variant features larger wings with foldable wing tip sections, larger wing and tail control surfaces for improved low-speed control, stronger landing gear for the stresses of carrier-arrested landings, a twin-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tailhook for use with carrier arrestor cables. The larger wing area allows for decreased landing speed while increasing both range and payload.
The dis-satisfaction with the UK being a member of the European Union should be an indicator that a world-wide alliance may not be possible nor plausible under current conditions. Therefore a Royal Navy with the ability to operate at long range from the UK is perhaps the best and only response. Unfortunately, we have just scrapped our aged V-bomber force instead of a continuous replacement programme which makes for a more cost-effective set of options for any of our standard platforms. This means that the burden for long-range operations should fall to the Royal Navy.
With new events re-shaping the problems in defence both in Europe and in South-East Asia, it is now more important for the UK to demonstrate to the US and also to China, that it is willing to step in to protect its interests and the vital maritime trade routes across the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca up to the Arabian Gulf.
I do not see this as an adventure for the British Army but rather a joint force shared by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The army should be UK based for early intervention in support of NATO.
There are many papers analysing the intelligence of world defence and political events so I am not going to discuss that here.
Now we have HMS Bulwark as the lead capital ship operating in the Red Sea in support of coalition forces operating in Syria and Iraq. She can only sport helicopters for support, but if we had one of the QE Class carriers equipped with F-35C aircraft with a fully operational seaborne and airborne screen – it would be a force to reckon with representing the best that the UK has ever had to sea.
03/05/2016 – modified 24/07/2016 and 22/10/2016