Britain’s aircraft carriers, bought but not paid for yet

The Prince of Wales, the newer of the two aircraft carriers costing £3.5bn has broken down in the Solent. I had planned and still plan to write a piece about the 2020-21 Defence Reviews and have already written about it briefly on this blog.  

HMS Prince of Wales R09
HMS Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth, CC Rab Lawrence 2019 BY from flickr

These aircraft carriers, at 64,000 tons are three times bigger than their predecessors which were used to provide air combat capability during the Falklands War. I cannot see a need for such vessels, and it is my view they were authorised to create jobs in the Scottish dockyards that built them albeit under massive US pressure. They are calculated to cost about £3½ bn and the inconvenient truth is they are estimated to have £½m running costs/day!  That makes a fifteen year life time cost of £2.7bn and a full lifetime cost over 50 years of £9.1bn for each aircraft carrier. Over 70% of the whole lifetime cost of the aircraft carriers is running costs and yet to be incurred.

We should sell them, although who would want a ¾ size fleet carrier? Maybe we could sell one each to India and Pakistan, or maybe the Argentines would like one. …

Johnson’s defence splurge

Johnson’s defence splurge

Boris Johnson as accelerated the financial conclusions of his government’s defence review, which may have been originally over influenced by Dominic Cumming’s cyberpunk fantasies about the future of war. Everything Johnson says in this announcement is of little value, what Starmer says is important and his questions need to be answered, particularly “Where’s the strategy?” It’s a shame he makes it sound like a failure in management theory. Without answering that question, we are in danger of creeping back east of Suez, or am I already too late to worry about this, and being dragged into wars against Iran or China. Interestingly, Johnson by alleging that the decline in expense and capability has been going on for decades unskilfully avoids the immense damage that Cameron/Osborne’s 2010 review did to the capability of the armed forces. The rest of this article looks at the need for a threat analysis, the wisdom of strategic alliances, defence spending as an incubator, the military's fixations on shiny things, and concludes with an appeal to oppose new war's East of Suez.

Not enough to go round

Not enough to go round

What’s happening in the Gulf is both exceeding dangerous, and in terms of a Brexit government’s request for European Union’s military help quite amusing. Britain was set up by Trump’s Govt and then let down when asked for military help, but the military reason we need to ask for help is that the UK only has 19 surface ships and one of the reasons for this dramatic reduction is the decision to build the two aircraft carriers and four ICBM carrying submarines. I have written about the Aircraft Carriers and the Missile subs before. The former are the results of New Labour’s pork barrel politics and the subs are also useless and will be more so in the future. … …

Cod Wars 4.0

Cod Wars 4.0

While writing Labour’s new Red Lines, I looked at Common Market 2.0 which promises to exit the Common Fisheries Policy. How can we do that? The British quotas were sold and bought by other EU member entities. Who’s going to compensate the current quota holders? Are we to return to the Cod Wars because the EU is not Iceland and the French by themselves now have more surface warships than the Royal Navy. …


This popped up in one of my news feeds, it’s at the Daily Mail online site, but interesting and informed. Hastings argues that the two new ‘Fleet’ carriers planned for the Royal Navy, although unfinished are already obsolete.

He argues that they are very expensive and their strike power could be replaced with cruise missiles and drones which require considerably cheaper launch platforms. It is proposed that we buy US F35 warplanes to fly off them which are so expensive, that the numbers to be purchased have been reduced twice. The F35 is multi-role which means that it has an air defence capability but missiles (if you have enough) are good for fleet defence. Hastings also states, that the Navy now only has 17 surface warships all of which would all be needed to defend the carriers at sea which would be very vulnerable to the modern surface to surface anti-ship missiles.

He argues for their cancellation or mothballing, but while the decisions were taken under a Labour Government, the Tories have had seven years to do something about it and inherited responsibility with the publication of the 2010 Strategic Defence Review. …

First Strike & Secrecy

I can’t believe that a refusal to countenance a nuclear first strike is seen as a sign of weakness. I have written several times over the last two years about the dangerous imbalance in the Tory defence strategies. Weak conventional arms means that nuclear annihilation is more likely not less. A military that can only throw nuclear bricks will have to do so. The ballistic missile fleet is a deterrent not an asset. It’s use would mean it’s failed.

One thing I had not considered though is whether the submarines can stay hidden for their 20 year expected life time. This article in Open Democracy quotes the Tory Chair of the Commons Defence select committee who questions whether the current submarines’ technology will be able to keep up with the growing surveillance technology. They supplement this by  citing numerous ex-Defence Secretary’s opposition and add in Colin Powell for good measure. …

On Trident Renewal

On Trident Renewal

I have today, submitted this article, on reasons not to renew Trident to Labour’s “Your Britain” site, I am now looking to see how to submit it to the Labour Party’s trident review. My submission focuses on the defence arguments, its ineffectiveness as a defence weapon, its questionable independence, its cost and its opportunity cost. If you agree, please visit the Your Britain site and vote for it. …

Paper Tiger

The Tories announce their commitments on defence; they announce that they’ll build a new seaborne strategic nuclear deterrent; while failing to fund enough soldiers, weapons, war planes and surface warships to defend us against the next threat. The Tories have put us in the position where we have a Navy with aircraft carriers without planes FFS, and will rent the ‘planes from the French if we need them; and they’re not the enemy 😉  Today’s subs don’t deter Russia, ISIS nor the Argentine Government in the 1980’s. It’s possible of course that a ICBM in the hands of Fallon would deter someone, but probably not; he’s a joke.