Smaller Carriers??

DingDong said:
I think that there are a couple of key points to note when asking for an answer to this question - Smaller Carrier?

1. One of the key reasons why they are to be so big is for the following. firstly if you look way back to the 50's and 60's and then to the 70's carrier sizes didn't grow that much but the size of the aircraft did. By mid way through the Vietnam the Essex class were operating a mix of F-4s and A-6s. At 36,550 tons full, they were just at the edge of manageable. However, second point, to achieve high sortie rates they needed two or more in the same area to achieve good target coverage. You could argu that precision weapons means that weapon effect means smaller payloads, however you still need the sortie rate.

Ark Royal and Eagle we approaching the 55,000 ton mark and operating Bucs and Phantoms. If you look a pics of her FD with aircraft on, they look very crowded.

2. It naturally follows that as aircraft grew in size then, they will now. JCA is no exception, its massive. They grow because they need longer legs, internal bomb bays for stealth. Better multifunction radar, ******* quick engine etc etc

3. Achieving sortie rates is in part about being able to launch and recover simultaneously. I can't comment on the choreography required between hangar movements up to FD, Cat launches and aircraft trapping. However the bigger the FD, surely the easier it becomes.

4. VSTOL or CV?? Next question that falls out of this. Imagine a 65,000 ship in a sea state 4,5 or 6?? The centre of gravity will be stable however the ends of the flight deck could be pitching as much 35 feet. I know from talking to USN chaps that launch and recovery is at the edge of limits in these conditions. So VSTOL then, well it offers flexibility of launch and recovery however doesn't offer flexibility of aircraft types.

5. The CVFs are to be 65,000 to ensure that they will be viable FDs until 2050. If you operate VSTOL who's to say that the replacement will be VSTOL? There is a certain amount of hedging of bets, but there may be no more manned aircraft by 2050 - removing winging WAFUs from wardrooms - bliss - no more shit dits about flying pay and needed 8 hrs kip a day!!!

6. However 65,000 tons is about the minimum actually required to ensure that we don't need to keep replacing them. Costs? The price of ship grade steel is very expensive at the moment. Although inflation according to the RPI is about 4.25% defence industry inflation is running at about 9.5% The longer we leave construction the more expensive they will become.

7. If we wanted a carrier on time, to budget and to spec really we should be looking to the Americans. They have been making CVNs since the late sixties. A chap who lives in my village works for Lockheed Martin, say that they have had a set of plans on the shelf for a 65,000 - 75,000 ton carrier since the late 80s because every year since then the DoD has the same argument with congress about a smaller carrier. LM offered to sell the UK Mod the plans, we said no - political reasons.

8. JCA - on paper is superb. Where do i start. Super cruise - high mach numbers without afterburner. Stealth technology, datalink capability to die for. All weather you can't bend it phased array radar. However it isn't in service yet. I'd pick FA-18E/F to operete for the time being, low procurement cost, no issues with servicing or upgrades and a decent payload. It would also offer AAR and ESM capabilities.

The simple way to look at the argument is that 65,000 is the minimum not the maximum. I deally 80,000 would be best. However where the f*ck do you put them!!!


Norfolk VA


War Hero
Norfolk VA
When can i rejoin, I know I'm an old fart but Norfolk used to be a good run, apart from the high frequency of crime including murders on the naval base


War Hero

Your conclusions re size are spot on. However, one or two observations about the rest.

1. AFAIK, no Essex class ever operated A6 or F4 (or E2 for that matter). They did operate A3 (which was big enough), but teh attack complement tended to be Scooters & Skyraiders (A4 and A1) and the fighters were F8 Crusaders. One of the reasons the Reagan proposals to recommission BonHOmme Richard & Oriskany in the early 80s died is that there were no really suitable a/c to operate from those decks still in widespread service.

2. Not at all true I'm afraid. The advent of PGMs, very high thrust to weight and fuel-efficient turbofans and much better MMI avionics has put paid to the weight and size growth of the 50s and 60s. The F35 currently has a max T/O weight fo 27 tonnes and is just over 51 ft long, compared with just under 27 tonnes and 60-odd foot for the Bucc, nearly 28 tonnes and 63 foot for the Phantom. Don't even go anywhere near the F14 (over 30 tonnes and 70 foot). Compared with SHAR they're much bigger, but compared to other carrier a/c they're either flatlining or decreasing somewhat.

3. The major gain in sortie rates is avoiding having to respot a/c between launch & recovery (think dragging back all the a/c from Fly 1 to positions near the round-down), compounded by bigger launch packages. Bigger flightdecks let the a/c recover and taxi to servicing spots from where they can subsequently launch (the "pit-stop" approach).

6. Steel isn't the problem. For the 25000 tonnes of steel in the ship, at £700/te material cost and £6000/te labour cost (£40/hr, inc overhead), you're looking at £17.5M material and £75M labour. Even going to £800/te material only puts £2.5M on the material cost. The main cost driver is UK MoD dicking about, unable to make decisions and a frankly insane provision for design & build risk (£500M plus) in the programme.

7. LM (or more specifically the yards it owns) have never designed or built a large-deck carrier. That expertise rests with Northrop Grumman (or more specifically Newport News Shipbuilding Corp) who are the only carrier builders since 1970. Litton Ingalls (also part of NG) build the big-deck amphibs. The design you refer to is probably the CVV (a 60000 tonner) which was a Carter-era attempt to reduce carrier sizes, but never developed to a fully detailed design suitable for production. Similar "smaller" designs were done in the 90's but rejected and again were concept / feasibility studies, not detailed enough for production.

8. Agree - on paper it looks great - apart from the limited capability of the STOVL version which cannot fit weapons over 1000lb in its internal bays and even then only carries two of them.........

I know, nobody likes a [email protected]@rse........


Lantern Swinger

NAB you appear to be right, can't find any pics of F4s or A6s on Essex clasees. However A-3s were fookin huge, and S-1 Tracer had only a slightly smaller footprint than that of the E2

LM have never built a carrier, but they do have the plans my source is very high up in the LM chain. The Newport News shipyard would be the only place able to handle the production

JCA vs SHAR footprint almost double, note the point about deck parking and servicing areas.

My preference is for cats and traps. At least you can operate the various types of attack and support aircraft. However having spoken to the Adm who was DCDS EP, one of the issues is the steam plant for C13 types. I know we are looking at an electro magnetic cat, however they aren't even close enough to being able to get the power for it.

Anyway I think we can nip the Smaller Carrier argument in the bud. Build'em big and sturdy.


War Hero
I can't think of anyone (except those who made the "political" decision to go STOVL) who doesn't prefer cat n'trap. As you say the problem is in the provision of the steam (or electric juice capacitance / storage if we went EM). The issue with the C13 as I understand it is threefold - firstly provision of the steam, secondly ability to support it (both from a personnel stream in the badger/clanky axis and some irrational fears that the US will somehow suddenly drop all support for C13 and migrate all their carriers to EM) and finally reluctance of the US to release details of the C13 to the ACA. The latter is why the current weight / space provision in the design is for the old UK BH6 cat!!

Can't see why they wouldn't release details to us provided we pay for them, when the French have their very own C13 variant in CdeG and presumably PA2.

Thankfully, the ACA are clear that the design cannot get any smaller and most of dark blue MoD (with the possible exception of treasury implants) agree.


Not_a_boffin said:
I can't think of anyone (except those who made the "political" decision to go STOVL) who doesn't prefer cat n'trap.

I have been lead to believe, by a briefing from someone at Fleet, and JFH, that the STOVL variant is preferred because, if we went conventional, (which everyone agrees is the best option), there are fears the crabs would jump on the old global air cover policy they used so successfully in the 60's, and we would lose our carriers! It dosen't matter how impractical, or even possible the idea is- it's cheaper and that's what counts!

I would like to think that modern history has shown pure and simple, how useful, if expensive, carrier aviation is, and that this is just unjustifiable jitters, however, knowing how short-sighted, penny-pinching and unreasonable HM treasury is I can understand the concerns, and a carrier with STOVL is better than a Navy with a couple of pedalos.


War Hero
I can believe that, but mainly from a perspective of keeping the RAF short-field STOVL capability viable. The performance difference between the two variants has to be seen to be believed though.
Want a laugh?

Having thrown it's dummy out of the pram and demanded a STVOL aircraft to replace the Harrier, and so locking the Navy into half baked STVOL carriers and out of buying a proper ones and something cheap and off the peg like the F/A-18E Super Hornet, the RAF are now rumoured to be interested in switching some or all of their allocated purchase of 90 STVOL F-35's into CTOL ones…

The F-35's are so late, they will arrive just as the GR4's are paying off, and the F-35C, with it's bigger bombload and range, could be used to replace them as the main RAF strike aircraft (FOAS).

If they do, there will only be enough Joint Force F-35 STVOL planes for two understrength 9 plane FAA squadrons and two 9 plane RAF ones, as the original order for 150 F-35's has been cut to 138.

It's perfectly possible that the new carriers could actually deploy with not many more aircraft than the Invincible class did.

As they say… you really couldn't make this stuff up.


War Hero
Not_a_boffin said:
Thankfully, the ACA are clear that the design cannot get any smaller and most of dark blue MoD (with the possible exception of treasury implants) agree.

Lets hope they dont take a whole deck out like they did with Albion and Bulwark - they might choose the big flat one!

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