Thursday, 21 October 2010

Why Catapults Are Cheaper,By David Cameron

For a long time this blog has promoted the idea that the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers should be fitted with catapults and arrestor wires.

This allows these ships to carry the cheaper and more capable F35C version of the Lightning II instead of the more expensive and less capable vertical landing F35B variant.

It also allows significant savings to be made in aerial refuelling aircraft and other support aircraft.

The most well known proponent of "stopping and then landing",Commander Sharkey Ward,also recently recommended that the "cat and trap" F35C be purchased instead of the less capable F35B.

Many people have argued against this idea.

They claimed that the F35C would cost more to operate than the F35C.

That argument has now been settled.

Yesterday in Parliament the British Prime Minister David Cameron made the following statement :

"We will build both carriers,but hold one in extended readiness.

We will fit the "cats and traps"-the catapults and arrester gear-to the operational carrier.

This will allow our allies to operate from our operational carrier, and it will allow us to buy the carrier version of the joint strike fighter, which is more capable, less expensive, has a longer range and carries more weapons.

We will also aim to bring the planes and the carriers in at the same time."

We agree wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister on this matter.

As there is some confusion surrounding the governments plans it is worth quoting the Prime Minister further:

"The Queen Elizabeth is not being "put back" in terms of its manufacture.

 Once it has been manufactured, we will fit the "cats and traps"-the catapults and arrester gear-to the operational carrier,so that it can then work with the carrier version of the joint strike fighter, which is a better aircraft than the one that the last Government ordered.

That will make it fully interoperable with our closest allies, the Americans and the French.

So there is not a delay in the production of the carriers, as the hon. Gentleman says.

Some extra equipment needs to be added."

The Prime Minister continues:

"On the carriers, it will not delay their manufacture and production.

What it means is that as the first is produced, the most logical step would be to fit the "cat and trap" to that carrier,which will therefore come fully into service when the carrier version of the joint strike fighter arrives at the same time.

We will have solved one of the inherited problems of bringing the two things 

Clearly, an alternative would be to fit the "cat and trap" to the second carrier, but the most logical way ahead is the one that I have set out."

Her Majesty's Ship Queen Elizabeth then will not be delayed and will be fitted with catapults and arrestor wires.

Further detail can be found on Page 23 of the Strategic Defence and Security Review:

"The strike needs to be made more capable.

Installing the catapult and arrestor will allow the UK to acquire the carrier-variant of Joint Strike Fighter ready to deploy on the converted carrier instead of the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant.

This version of the jet has a longer range and greater payload: this, not large numbers of aircraft, is the critical requirement for precision strike operations in the future.

The UK plans to operate a single model of JSF, instead of different land and naval variants.

Overall, the carrier-variant of the JSF will be cheaper, reducing through-life costs by around 25%."

That last line raises the question of why British forces ever wanted the vertical landing F35B in the first place.


Martin said...

to me it makes more sense to fit POW with Cats and Traps and mothball QE. If QE is already being built then there will have to be some modifications made in order to accomadate cats and traps. POW can be started as a CATOBAR carrier. If they are not delaying the build schedule then POW will be ready by 2018. a full year before the JCA is ready.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Martin,

Queen Elizabeth has spaces designed into her for catapults.
Those areas have probably not been built yet.
I would recommend reading the last link in this post.
The government is clearly committed to carrier aviation but a close read of that document reveals why they only wanted one carrier.


steve said...

I am just wondering who is going to tell Her Majesty her ship is being mothballed. Who is going to launch the QE now?