The Strategic Defence and Security Review and the National Security Strategy - Defence Committee Contents

Written evidence from Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KCB and colleagues



1.  This memorandum is presented as a possible guide to future Strategic Defence Reviews observing that the last SDSR had no such guidance and, as the probable result, lost its way. It proposes a fundamental change in the way the british military defence budget is determined. It is based on seven critical assumptions and essentially proposes that a "bottom line" for Defence spending by a liberal/socialist democracy in "peacetime" can be established. Such a "bottom line" should provide at minimum cost a stable national defence plan robust against long term direct threats to national security but sensitive to short term unexpected crises.


2.  Joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1946. Served in cruisers, destroyers [one ship command], frigates, submarines [four ship commands including one nuclear], as Commander of the [Aircraft] Carrier Battle Group during the Falklands War and as Flag Officer, Submarines. He filled a series of appointments in the MoD on the Naval Policy Staff and finally on the Central Staff as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Commitments)—effectively head of the MoD Operations Department. During this time he passed a post-graduate course in nuclear physics and power plant operation, and attended both the Joint Services Staff Course and the Royal College of Defence Studies Course in the rank of Commander. His final naval appointment was as CinC Naval Home Command, in charge of all naval training barring aviation and submarines. Since retiring, he worked for a "head-hunter" in the City for 18 months, then for the DOE as an Inspector on the Lord Chancellors Panel for two years, then as a lecturer and consultant on Crisis Management for a further two years. Publications: "Strategy by Matrix", "100 Days".

"We should always remember that we are a maritime nation and not just an extension of continental Europe. Our perpetual interest is the defence of our economic prosperity which depends primarily upon the free passage of our trade across the high seas and the deterrence of those who would may seek to harm us there. Our strategic defence policy and the configuration of our armed forces should inevitably reflect that. Three decades of MoD experience in the Naval Staff and the Central Staffs have convinced me that a fundamental change in the way we do business in Whitehall is necessary if we are to satisfy our strategic defence requirements at sensible cost in a period of extreme financial stringency." JFW.


3.  Labour and Conservative governments have successively "gone astray" on Defence for some 40 plus years. In 1998, the Labour Government produced an entirely reasonable, short term but limited-scope Policy Paper [SDR 98]. However they largely failed to implement it. SDSR 2010, having laid out its plans for equipment provision over the next ten years, declared that "the risks inherent in the currently envisaged Defence structure are acceptable". In an uncertain, fast moving and dangerous world, this was no more than a blind declaration of faith for the next 10 years, which history shows to be dangerously unjustifiable. The SDSR report advocates essential flexibility but then cuts some of the capabilities that offer it. Poor executive management and a wish to spend Defence money on those ventures most likely to buy votes has continued and indeed has accelerated the adverse trends in the maintenance of national security. Failure of the Government to address the simplest questions (such as, "How, exactly, Oh Ministry of Defence, does addition or deletion of this equipment meet our stated policy?") Has left the three Services in substantial disarray and in a very poor position to meet a serious threat to national security should it arise. The SDSR, because it predicated large reductions in defence spending before laying out the requirements of national strategy, resulted in a strategy limited by equipment rather than an equipment programme indicated by strategy.

4.  For example, the European Fighter Aircraft, Typhoon, remains incapable of deployment beyond established friendly air bases, has been introduced with no ground or surface attack capability and substantial sums are now being spent to give it that capability despite the fact that:

—  (i)  in the numbers ordered, it is greatly in excess of any formal stated requirement

—  (ii)  its costs have outrun any other MOD project including Trident.

5.  Defence procurement has been a dysfunctional story since the early 1970's. The causes lie deep—there has been no academic or professional approach to developing a coherent, comprehensible and long term Defence Policy since well before the 70's. Without such a Policy statement, agreed by both main political parties, consistency in implementation is bound to be unachievable in a government department which has to look thirty years ahead but is funded by governments which naturally tend to look primarily as far as only the next election.


6.  To provide a robust, coherent long-term strategic policy for the Defence of the United Kingdom, its offshore interests and territories.


7.  This Core Force Defence Policy paper makes seven assumptions:

—  (i)  Human nature has not substantially changed in the last thousand years and is unlikely to do so in the next few decades. It follows that unless we do something about it, we will almost inevitably be involved in another major war which directly affects our homeland at some time in the future, though we have no idea when, who our enemy might be or what form this threat will actually take.

—  (ii)  Democracies are always reluctant to spend on defence when they observe that no immediate direct threat to their continued economic prosperity and sovereignty exists.

—  (iii)  We will not wish to rely on weapons of mass destruction as our main defensive weapon system when that "inevitable war" finally turns up.

—  (iv)  As an island nation it is not possible to defeat us in war quickly by direct surprise attacks on the homeland base because,

—  (a)  A major landing would take too long to prepare for and the preparations would be obvious.

—  (b)  Bombing us into submission would invoke our ICBM response.

—  (v)  Our industrial and commercial activity at home could be shut down by the interruption of our oil and gas supplies from offshore or serious interdiction of our global trade routes.

—  (vi)  Faced with anything less than national submission, we should always prefer to deter/defend at the lowest possible conventional [attritional] level first.


8.  For the Core Force concept to work, it is essential to agree what notice we should assume for being able to react to Assumption 5.i) above. This is a difficult subject but between WWI and WWII it was accepted as being 10 years—up until about 1935-36. 10 years notice, as accepted by the SDSR, is demonstrably unsafe. Perhaps five? Perhaps three? In national security, you should play safe to the extent you can afford to do so. Thus this paper assumes, for planning purposes and as a starting point, that the country will have at least three years warning of the next major war directly affecting the homeland. It is important to recognise the value of such a planning assumption because many strategic procurement decisions spring from it.


9.  These considerations are straightforward:

—  (i)  We should expect our strategic planning to be different from that of our continental neighbours whose armies can march over their neighbour's border at any moment.

—  (ii)  We do not have to choose between a continental or a maritime policy because we are de facto a maritime nation.

—  (iii)  The EU continentals have to look after their own security interest—which is not identical with ours. And if they won't, we should certainly not try to do it for them. We should maintain a British Expeditionary Force capability, not stationed abroad but available to go wherever/whenever needed.

—  (iv)  Core Force Policy is centred upon deterrence—if we remain demonstrably able to re-arm adequately within the given notice time, those that might wish to harm us will be deterred from taking such action.


The Minimum Force Level

10.  Today in 2011, we are definitely not facing major war before 2014, and so what is the least we should spend on defence? Starting from nothing, could we create and develop all the necessary forces to deter/fight such a war in just three years? Could we, perhaps, rely almost entirely on a powerful ally to defend our interests? If the answer to both questions is "yes", we would need to spend very little on Defence.

11.  Unfortunately, today's ally may turn out to be tomorrow's enemy and, even if he does not turn against us, he is always liable to say "why bother" on the day [USA 1914-17, 1939-41]. "Starting from nothing" is not an option simply because you cannot develop all the necessary military capability [equipment and skills] from nothing in much less than 20 years. However, there is still a fairly wide range of skills and requirements that could be met from "nothing", or at least very little, in three years. Unless needed in normal "peacetime", these should not be funded.

12.  Arguably and for most effective military and budgetary planning purposes, military skills and capabilities should be divided into two groups, which together represent the full range of capability needed for a major war. These two groups would be:

—  (i)  Group 1—The skills and capabilities that could be provided/re-provided within the warning time assumed (three years).

—  (ii)  Group 2—The skills and capabilities that could not be provided/re-provided within the warning time assumed.

13.  With a warning time of three years or more, it would be possible to cut back substantially from present levels on provision of Group 1, while maintaining Group 2 at levels adequate for skill maintenance and capability for war. It has to be realised that most military equipment, provided the manufacturing capability is maintained and the designs are kept up-to-date, can be produced within three years. Skills however, once lost can be very difficult to regain. Anything provided in excess of the strict needs of these two groups would represent the margin for national involvement in day-to-day military events not directly affecting defence of the home base, trade routes and offshore territories. Afghanistan would be a case in point.


14.  The quality of such provision will need to be the highest available—this will ensure:

—  (i)  the best equipment for our military personnel who have to do the fighting and ensure; and

—  (ii)  that our forces are readily able to co-operate with the most advanced ally we can find on the day.

15.  As to quantity, this should be the smallest possible "core" force/ skill/ equipment/ industrial capacity inventory sufficient to:

—  (i)  Permit the training of large numbers of new personnel within the three years warning time assumed.

—  (ii)  Permit the building/construction/assembly of all necessary equipment in the same period.

—  (iii)  Permit proper training, development and maintenance of the "core force" capabilities in "peacetime".

—  (iv)  Deter and if necessary react to perceived threats that could materialise within the three-year "notice" period.


16(a)  Complexity: The complexity of modern military equipment means that there will seldom be sufficient warning time to bring forward completely new designs. There will only be time to increase the force levels of existing designs that have been properly tested and proven. Such designs should all be found and kept up-to-date in Group 2.

16(b)  Costs: The main "savings" on existing Defence costs would be found in reduced front line levels across the whole range of existing military systems. While markedly fewer units would be required, maintenance of the means to re-provide them within the assumed warning time would be required. Active manpower would be reduced even as less costly Reserve manpower would be increased. The costs of research and development would rise considerably in comparison to the costs per unit produced but not in total project terms. The costs of maintaining aircraft construction jigs in case they were needed would be another extra cost, but a great deal less than actually building and operating the aircraft in large numbers. The cost of maintaining large but empty barracks and training facilities would again appear wasteful, but much less expensive than filling them with fully trained manpower. The costs of supporting shipyards would also be major, though if building was co-located with maintaining and refitting, it could be done a lot more cheaply than at present.

16(c)  The numbers required for Group 2 is probably the area that most needs thorough examination—above all not by anyone with a vested interest. Industry will object, the three individual Services will object, European partners in joint projects will object. However, none of them will be able to defeat the logic of national self-interest. It is just conceivable that the Central Defence Staff could do the job, but recent events cast serious doubt on this.

16(d)  Residual Peacetime capability: Our Group 2 Defence forces would be able to do much of what they could do prior to SDSR 2010, albeit on lesser scales and with less sustainability if required at less than three years notice. Their capabilities would emerge from the initial "core" exercise and if the government of the day decided it needed something extra, it would have to find the money to do it over and above the existing budget rather than, as now, relying upon left-overs from previous policies and equipment programmes.


17.  Adoption of the Core Force concept could provide a stable and consistent basis for long term planning within the Ministry of Defence, robust against short term enthusiasms, commercial pressures, Treasury-inspired last-minute cuts, political vote-grabbing, vested interests and less-than-rigorous arguments. Its few main assumptions, though arguable, appear robust. Its logic, whether it entailed more or less Defence expenditure, is simple, comprehensible and soundly based in history.


18.  The ideas presented above form only the bare bones of a feasible Core Force Defence Policy. In order to move on from feasibility to a properly researched and robust final policy, certain steps would need to be taken:

—  (i)  Phase 1: Invite each of the various vested interests to come up with their answer in a short time-scale and no opportunity to consult each other. Then proceed to….

—  (ii)  Phase 2: Invite each vested interest to criticise all the others, not in open forum, but to a small central analysis team.

Each step should take no more than about two weeks—so that single interests would simply not have time to make deals with any other vested interests.

19.  While there would be considerable difficulties in putting such a "radical" policy into place wholesale and in quick time, a gradualist approach could still work, simply providing the criteria for all future procurements and developments via the process at para 20 above. The adoption of such a policy would fit with historical experience and contemporary politics and would provide a robust bottom line for Defence: obviating the need to flounder from crisis to crisis and wasting funding on partisan interests.


20.  Among the range of further work required would be:

—  (i)  To work through the many subsidiary policies on reserves of manpower and equipment, production and production reserves, industrial consequences, etc., which would be required if such a policy were adopted.

—  (ii)  To identify the appropriate force types and force levels for each Group.

—  (iii)  To adopt a common Harmony Policy for all military Services/Personnel.

—  (iv)  To calculate the budgetary costs. The savings on existing defence costs could be very substantial.

21.  Being so radical and so careless of vested interests, this policy would meet very substantial resistance: ways of ameliorating or bypassing such resistance should be sought.

22.  The resulting Group 2 "Core Force" could be so small as to be of little day-to-day, year-to-year use and would find realistic training [on real operations rather than limited exercises] difficult without the help/cooperation of a major ally.

23.  Extra funding, beyond that strictly required for the Core Force, could be authorised as external events demanded, to meet "peacetime" political needs short of a major direct military threat to the UK Homeland base.

24.  Core Force budget requirements could be "demand led" rather than "cash constrained" and thus much less vulnerable to political raids. ["Cash constrained" does tend to lead to some very wasteful programmes mainly because the "cash constraints" often only appear after the programme has been started].

25.  Requirements for all expenditure extra to the Core Force would be "cash constrained" as decided by Government from year to year.


26.  Future Defence budgets would be in two parts therefore:

—  (i)  The [strategic] Core Force Budget should be fairly stable and predictable, largely apolitical and probably inflation-proofed [note that defence inflation tends to be about three times that of domestic inflation—modern, cutting-edge technology is never cheap].

—  (ii)  The Extras Budget would be negotiable in the light of what Governments saw as needed from time to time, responding to a stated Government [tactical] Defence policy. Today it might emphasise counter-terrorist operations rather than Expeditionary Forces or European defence. By 2020, it might move to some other idea occasioned by developments, say, in Europe—or wherever. But at least, we would all know where the Defence budget bottom line was—which we have never known before.


27.  Adoption of the Core Force concept would provide at minimum cost a stable national Defence plan robust against long term direct threats to national security but sensitive to short term unexpected crises. It would provide a stable and consistent basis for long term planning within the Ministry of Defence, robust against short term enthusiasms, commercial pressures, Treasury inspired last-minute cuts, political vote-grabbing, vested interests and less-than-rigorous arguments. Its few main assumptions, though arguable, appear robust.

28.  Its logic, whether it entailed more or less Defence expenditure, is simple, comprehensible and soundly based in history.


29.  A gradual process, with its logic stated as Government policy, could be the optimum way of putting it into execution.


1.  This memorandum is submitted in support of the Committee remit to investigate:

—  (a)  The timing of future SDSRs and the ability to plan for the medium to long term, and the process for renewing and updating the NSS, including the regeneration of lost capabilities.

—  (b)  Whether the prescriptions of the SDSR will allow the MoD to balance its budget and make the required efficiency savings.

It is a long submission which presents the many supporting details at Annex.


2.  The staff work for this Submission has been conducted by:

—  (a)  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Benjamin Bathurst ex-First Sea Lord.

—  (b)  Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KBC submarine Commander, destroyer Commander, Carrier Battle Group Commander and Submarine Force Commander.

—  (c)  Commodore Steve Jermy ex- naval aviator and frigate Commander.

—  (d)  Commander Nigel D MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC. A leading expert in Air Warfare with experience varying from Command in combat, Nuclear Intelligence within NATO to the Navigator and Gunnery Officer of a small ship.

All have MoD experience.


3.  It is for consideration that the timing and periodicity of future SDSRs should be tied to a firm requirement for updating the NSS. At present, there would appear to be no fundamental policy baseline upon which the National Security Strategy is decided. Establishing this policy baseline is therefore considered high priority.

4.  The Committee might therefore wish to take note of the Core Force Defence Policy proposed by Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KBC.[178] The adoption of such a policy would be extremely helpful in guiding National Security Strategy and would clearly define the optimum periodicity of future SDSRs.

5.  The military aspects of National Security Strategy should, in all logic and by necessity, be defined by a National Security Council that includes a balanced cross-section of proven military expertise.



6.  It is clear that SDSR 2010 was led by "cost constraints" and was not adequately influenced by existing and declared Strategic Defence Policy. This has led to recommendations which have:

—  (a)  Left serious gaps in Britain's capability to protect its economically vital trade routes, fuel supply routes and offshore interests.

—  (b)  Seriously reduced Britain's ability to project political and military influence on a global basis.

—  (c)  Left in place expensive military capabilities:

—  (i)  that can no longer be justified by any perceived threat and

—  (ii)  that do little to support the defence of our global interests or to ensure the continuation of our global influence.

7.  The SDRS process has left us with the prospect of having to regenerate the Fleet's principal "force enabler" for the deterrence of those that would harm us and for the protection of our offshore interests: that is the fixed wing Fleet Air Arm. Expert naval air warfare opinion dictates that gapping this capability until at least 2020 will not allow full regeneration of that capability for at least a further five years. It is for consideration that this will cause irreparable damage to Britain's political influence in this troubled world and to our ability to protect our vital offshore interests.

8.  It would appear that SDSR 2010 did not address the feasibility of gapping or radically reducing the major investment that is still planned for the land-based air defence of United Kingdom airspace against which there is no perceived threat. The initial Staff Requirement for 232 Typhoon aircraft was based on the Cold War Soviet threat. We are informed that this has been halved. The total program cost of Typhoon as given by the Defence Procurement Agency is in excess of £68 billion.


9.  The fixed wing Fleet Air Arm is a vital and fully integrated part of the complex Fleet Weapon System. Carrier-borne, its operational practices, expertise and a global utility are strikingly different from that required of the land-based air. Without in-depth training and naval air expertise, a land-based Squadron cannot embark in a carrier and conduct effective, fully integrated naval warfare operations whether in support of ground forces ashore or providing area air defence for offensive task force operations.

10.  The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm is not part of the Royal Air Force and has not been so since before World War II. The ethos of the two services is entirely different and this is explained in some detail at Annex B to this submission.

11.  The military and political consequences of gapping the fixed wing Fleet Air Arm for an extended period are given at paragraphs 5(a) and 5(b) above. An understanding of the difficulty of regenerating this expertise and capability can be drawn from Annex B.

12.  In the context of our agreed national Strategic Defence Policy, the SDSR recommendations appear to have ignored the dependence of this island nation on the robust defence and protection of our trade routes and offshore interests. At the same time, the SDSR has failed to recommend gapping or appropriate cuts in the land-based air defence of the Homeland base - against which there is no perceived threat.


13.  The immediate and most important measure to be considered is to retain the Harrier and HMS Ark Royal in Royal Naval service. The complete withdrawal of the Tornado GR4 from service would pay for this measure. Please see Ev w120 for cost and combat effectiveness comparisons between the two aircraft types.

14.  The further steps that the Committee might wish to consider are associated with the introduction to service of the Queen Elizabeth class carrier and its air group. The Harrier Force is lifed and costed up until 2018. Prior to this date it will be necessary to equip the Fleet Air Arm with new aircraft for the continued conduct of our Strategic Defence Policy. As it stands today, the aircraft of choice has been the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The initial variant chosen was the Advanced Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) F-35B. Extensive development problems have now ruled this option out for operations from our carriers. The United States Navy version, the F-35C is now being considered as the prime option but the indications are uncomfortably clear that this too will be an inappropriate choice for our carrier air groups.

15.  The F-35C is encountering major development problems:

—  (a)  It is unlikely that its stealth qualities can be maintained in the maritime environment—and it was these stealth qualities that made it the first choice for satisfying the Joint Strike Fighter requirement.

—  (b)  Its landing speed is too high for recovery on board a conventionally powered aircraft carrier in low wind conditions. A ship's speed of at least 33 kn is required and the Queen Elizabeth will only be capable of 27 kn.

—  (c)  Development costs are soaring leading to an expected cost per aircraft well in excess of $100 million US—perhaps approaching US$150 million.

—  (d)  Replacement engines cannot be delivered on board in a conventional manner because they are too large.

In the light of these problems, the United States Navy has reduced its order for the aircraft and is planning to procure more F-18 Super Hornet aircraft to satisfy its operational requirements until the year 2035. The major and continuing increase in cost coupled with doubts about the aircraft's stealth capability and timescale of availability arguably rule this aircraft out as a prime contender for the Queen Elizabeth class air group.

16.  The F-18 Super Hornet has a pedigree of more than one million hours in service (earlier variants) and is a very capable swing role fighter:

—  (a)  It is a 4.5 generation aircraft with better stealth characteristics than the Typhoon.

—  (b)  It has state-of-the-art proven weapon systems.

—  (c)  The Growler variant of the aircraft provides a state of the art, in-depth and comprehensive electronic warfare and ELINT capability.

—  (d)  It is already fitted for air to air refuelling either as the tanker or the receiver (which the F-35 is not).

—  (e)  Its radius of action with a full war load is approximately 800 nautical miles (somewhat greater than the F-35C).

—  (f)  Its cost at 2010 prices is US$60 million (far less than the F-35 and the French Rafale).

—  (g)  Royal Navy pilots are now involved in an exchange program with the United States Navy flying the F-18.

17.  Paragraphs 15 and 16 above suggest that the UK should now consider the F-18 Super Hornet as a prime choice to fulfil the Joint Strike Fighter requirement. It's relatively low-cost, proven capability, compatibility with the Queen Elizabeth class carrier and ready availability would appear to make it an obvious choice.

18.  Early procurement of this aircraft to satisfy the needs of the Queen Elizabeth class air group and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm could be funded by a reduction in the number of Typhoon aircraft on order for the defence of UK airspace. Up to 5 F-18 aircraft could be procured for the price of one Typhoon. The recent decision to scrap tranche one Typhoons, which cost approximately £6 billion and have already been delivered, could be reversed and any further orders and modification programs for this aircraft cancelled. The numbers of Typhoon aircraft in service today and their capabilities are already more than adequate for their only formally stated role of policing UK airspace.


19.  The proposals above make economic and operational sense—both in the context of fiscal constraint and the National Strategic Defence Policy.

—  (a)  Reversal of the Harrier/Tornado decision would:

—  (i)  Result in savings over the next four years of approximately £600 million.

—  (ii)  Provide markedly more effective support to our ground forces in Afghanistan.

—  (iii)  Enable Britain to continue to protect its economic interests offshore and to project political and military influence worldwide.

—  (iv)  Ensure the retention of the vital expertise of the fixed wing Fleet Air Arm.

—  (v)  Obviate the need to regenerate that expertise.

—  (b)  Choosing the F-18 Super Hornet to satisfy the requirement for the Joint Strike Fighter would:

—  (i)  Provide a more than adequate 4.5 generation swing role fighter that is already proven in carrier operations and is the preferred choice of the United States Navy.

—  (ii)  Represent a considerable reduction in cost.

—  (iii)  Ensure the timely continuation of Britain's fixed wing Fleet Air Arm carrier expertise.

20.  Funding for this way ahead could be made available by cuts in or the cancellation of other military programs that continue to support a defence capability against threats that do not exist.


21.  In the light of the above, the Committee may wish to investigate further:

—  (a)  The SDSR decision to withdraw Harrier and HMS Ark Royal from service.

—  (b)  The SDSR decision to retain Tornado GR9 in service.

—  (c)  The efficacy of the F-35C as a realistic and cost effective contender for the Joint Strike Fighter requirement.

—  (d)  The proposal that the F-18 Super Hornet would be the most cost-effective and operationally effective solution to the Queen Elizabeth class carrier air group needs.

Annex A



1.  This paper describes the experience and expertise required for an aviator to become fully qualified as a Carrier-borne All Weather Pilot.

2.  Land-based and carrier-borne air operations are compared and found to have very different challenges. These are examined in some detail.

3.  It examines the aspirations of a young pilot on entry into the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and discusses the markedly different ethos of each service.

4.  The paper demonstrates that a casual/part time approach to embarked flying operations is inappropriate and would not allow an embarked air group or the carrier itself to achieve effective operational readiness.

5.  Appropriate conclusions are drawn.


6.  There is little knowledge within the public domain concerning the differences between Royal Air Force aircrew and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircrew. But these do exist and have resulted from the entirely different in-service requirements and experience of the RAF and the FAA that has produced arguably "incompatible" levels of expertise. Flying fixed or rotary wing aircraft from a land base is a markedly different proposition from operating them from a ship's deck at sea.

7.  The sea is an extremely unpredictable element. It covers the majority of the globe, is an open highway for all who wish to use it and throughout history has provided an opportunity for pirates, military enemies and now terrorists to attack our maritime merchant trading interests. Merchant shipping can, with good forecasting and care, minimise the effect of Neptune's occasional wrath. But providing protection for such shipping against those that would harm us is an entirely different matter. The bulk of British imports and exports travel by sea and rely upon the Royal Navy to provide a strategically flexible and mobile force that can pre-empt the uncertainties of the modern world where our global defence, diplomatic and trade interests may be threatened. Balanced maritime forces are necessary to achieve this with an umbrella of protection that comes from visible naval power and associated deterrence.

8.  The keystone of effective maritime force is the concept of the balanced fleet. This is a force that is capable of dealing with a wide variety of threats and tasks. These tasks are most varied in nature and range from naval diplomacy, through maritime policing and disaster relief to fighting at sea and projecting power over land by naval air power or amphibious forces such as the Royal Marine Commandos, or to achieving political coercion with submarine launched cruise missiles.

9.  In providing such power and deterrence, the Fleet needs to be fully capable in all aspects of naval warfare including Anti-Submarine, Anti-Ship and Anti-Air Warfare. A marked deficiency in any one area is likely to render other capabilities ineffective. The three are interdependent and require full integration into what is effectively one large and homogenous Fleet Weapons System.

10.  Naval personnel including aviators need to have considerable knowledge of these widely ranging tasks and their interdependency. Arguably this can only be realised through continuous exposure to active Fleet operations at sea and in the littoral. This is where the underlying ethos of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force is completely different. The Navy and indeed the Fleet Air Arm represents a sophisticated integrated weapon system whose effectiveness as a whole is far greater than the sum of all the parts and with the resultant end product far more important than any one type of equipment or specific capability. The Royal Air Force arguably has concentrated instead on the "means" (particularly the procurement of large numbers of fast combat jets) rather than the global capability of the "end product". Furthermore, a rather narrow approach to airpower has ensured that few, if any, of RAF fast jet pilots have had prolonged periods at sea in which to absorb adequate knowledge of the complex Fleet Weapons System. As a consequence they lack appropriate qualification for the embarked naval air warfare role. This qualification cannot be obtained in a classroom ashore or through occasional "part time" embarkations of a week or two here and there.

11.  This paper will attempt to address these matters and also to define the standard of qualification and expertise required of a fully qualified, multi-role carrier-borne all weather fighter pilot. For this is arguably the most demanding role for any aircrew.


Land-Based Air

12.  Operations from a land-based airfield are entirely different from operating from a ship at sea. These differences should not be treated lightly.

13.  The RAF aviator lives in the mess or at home with his wife and family and enjoys all the social amenities that would be expected in any other form of life. This alone provides for a lower overall stress factor in his or her life; being able, for example, to resolve domestic problems in the home at all times, walk the dog, go to a pub, spend weekends with friends and so on.

14.  In general, the RAF operates on an air base-oriented routine with their personnel having each weekend at home with the family and having predictable holidays, albeit on a flexible basis, three times every year in line with their civilian counterparts (and every day of their leave allowance is diligently taken). Night flying and membership of a duty roster presents a mild interference factor with this harmonious way of life. For the most part, the RAF aviator enjoys a nine to five work routine.

15.  Operationally, the land-based flying task is very much less demanding. Long, broad, static runways ensure that launch and recovery (take-off and landing) is relatively safe and routine. There is a large room for error, miscalculation or lack of concentration. Further, the RAF tends to specialise its aircraft and pilots in particular roles; specifically either Air Defence or Ground Attack/Offensive Air Support, Transport or Support Helicopters, Search and Rescue, Airborne Early Warning, Air-to-Air Refuelling, etc. This markedly reduces the aviator's workload and expectations in terms of overall air warfare expertise.

16.  The principal hazard to land-based fighter operations is the weather which can normally be adequately predicted. Further, diversion airfields are always specified prior to flight so that if there is an accident on the runway or the weather suddenly dictates that aircraft cannot be recovered at their home base, alternative landing fields are always available. In addition and of particular relevance, unlike a ship's deck, airfield runways do not move around in bad weather. This makes landing an aircraft in marginal weather conditions much less stressful and difficult.


17.  The carrier at sea represents an entirely different world to a shore-based airfield. It is a compact floating weapon system with many integral parts. For its personnel it is, therefore, no different from life in any frigate, minesweeper or even a submarine.

18.  The ship's company which includes all embarked personnel, including aircrew, engineers, medics and logisticians, enjoy an existence that is far removed in quality and content from that of their civilian or land based colleagues. They are confined to an existence in a steel box from which they cannot easily escape. As Samuel Johnson once wrote, "No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in jail, with the chance of being drowned." They are separated from their friends, wives and families and cannot respond rapidly to domestic problems and difficulties. This separation places a great strain on the families left behind and can be demoralising and extremely stressful for the embarked sailor—especially when crises in the home occur.

19.  Few social amenities are available to embarked personnel. There is no pub, no shops, no green fields for walking the dog and no escape from the confinement of the steel hull that can be their home for extended periods of time.

20.  Unlike an airfield on shore, the active safety and operation of the ship is a 24/7 responsibility and there is no place for a nine to five mentality. Weekends do not exist. The smooth functioning and operability of an aircraft carrier demands continuous and fastidious attention to detail and a full integration of all the differing specialisations embarked; whether these are ships engineers, flight deck handlers, operations room personnel, watch keeping personnel, armourers, medics, cooks and caterers, or aircrew.

21.  For safety reasons in particular, all embarked personnel must know their ship well. Hazards facing the ship and crew are numerous and vary from violent weather, fire on board, collision risk, to crashes on the flight deck. The ship's company must be on its guard continuously and be ready and prepared to cope with any emergency; which is why, for example, all personnel are required to have detailed training in damage control, fire-fighting, survival and other safety-at-sea issues. Every man is fully involved in "fighting the ship" during action stations, if only to ensure his own and his shipmates' survival. Each is fully aware that their ship may be the next target.

22.  The maritime environment can be extremely hostile both to men and to machines, including aircraft. The salt laden air has a corrosive quality that is unremitting. Aircraft and other equipment must be particularly designed to counter this with the use of special alloys and materials. Inevitably, the maintenance of modern state-of-the-art weapons systems is much more demanding in the embarked environment and requires more detailed attention and hard work from ships and aircraft engineers.

23.  Flight deck operations are extremely complex and dangerous—there is no room for error by any party. Each man must know his job thoroughly and understand precisely the part that others around him have to play. All the functions carried out on an airfield ashore that covers hundreds of acres have to be conducted within the close confines of the flight deck—as well as additional functions such as catapult launch and arrested landings that use the same space. And several of these functions are incompatible with the concurrent operation of others due to the confined deck space.

24.  There is no place for casual visitors or part timers in this extremely hazardous environment. Instead, all carrier-associated personnel including the air group must go through a series of work-ups that familiarise them with the complex working of the flight deck and air operations from it. These work-ups are essential to the long-term safety of all concerned and culminate in an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) in which the ship has to demonstrate its ability to conduct intensive flying operations safely from the deck by day and by night. No individual or group can absent themselves from such operational preparation, particularly aviators and the aviation department. Following the ORI, the ship will proceed to sea and over subsequent months fine-tune its flight deck and flying operations as well as its other armaments.


25.  The aviator who is finally responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its crew is the pilot. For the sake of brevity, this section now concentrates upon the fast jet pilot but it is important to note that helicopter aircrew have to deal with many similar challenges when embarked.

26.  For the fast jet pilot, operations on board a carrier during peacetime operations represent significantly greater challenges to his expertise and dedication than those faced by his counterpart ashore. For example, conventional deck landing into arrestor wires by day is an art in itself requiring 100% concentration and extremely precise control of speed, aircraft attitude and glide path (in the vertical as well as the lateral sense). The touchdown area where the tail hook of the aircraft catches the arrestor wire is extremely small and any lapse in concentration can cause pilots to miss the wires completely or, catastrophically, impact the stern of the ship. As if this was not enough, the flow of the wind over the deck often creates "a hole" just behind the ship. This has to be anticipated by the pilot by applying a small amount of power. Failure to correct can result in disaster. Too much correction will result in missing the wires and the aircraft "bolting" down the deck and having to go around once more. In calm, benign sea conditions this can still represent a major challenge to an inexperienced carrier deck pilot. In rough seas with the ship pitching, rolling and heaving, the challenge becomes much greater. Conducting night deck landings in poor weather represents the most difficult and challenging flying task that any military pilot will face in any environment.

27.  Vertical deck landings as conducted by the Harrier or the F-35B present something of a paradox when it comes to the ease of execution. For fair weather landings by day with a clear horizon and a calm sea in temperate climates, vertical deck landing is unquestionably easier than conventional deck landings into arrestor wires especially for an ab-initio pilot embarking for the first time. However, experienced pilots in either discipline do not find deck landing in such good conditions a challenge. In foul weather by day in temperate climes with the ship pitching, rolling and heaving and with limited visibility (and therefore a poor horizon for the Harrier pilot to refer to) the stress factor for each discipline rises. The conventional deck lander has to disregard the movement of the ship (this is not as easy as it sounds) and rely totally on the ship's deck landing sight for controlling his approach path and landing. The Harrier pilot also has to disregard the movement of the ship and come to a steady hover in relation to the real world as opposed to the flight deck—again, this is not easy when there is no discernible horizon to refer to and as the ship you are trying to land upon is "bobbing around like a cork".

28.  In hot weather (whether fair or foul) by day, the vertical lander has an additional problem, that is he will normally be returning to the deck with enough fuel for just one landing. There is no room for error and he knows that if he fails to complete his landing in one attempt, he will lose his aircraft. This alone causes a higher stress level in good conditions and the fouler the weather gets, that stress level can increase exponentially especially for the inexperienced deck pilot.

29.  If we now progress to night vertical landing in other than perfect conditions (a calm sea with a bright moon and a clear horizon), the stress and difficulty factor can go off the clock, as they say, particularly for all but the most adept and experienced night deck landing pilots. The findings from the night deck trials carried out by test pilots from Boscombe Down and British Aerospace, Dunsfold during the introduction to service of the Sea Harrier were that "night deck landings of the Sea Harrier would probably be beyond the capability of the average frontline pilot". Two front line pilots in 801 Squadron prior to the Falklands (the author of this paper and the then Flight Lieutenant Ian Mortimer, Royal Air Force, who had been embarked with the Squadron continuously from the beginning) demonstrated that this finding was not necessarily accurate. However, as a result of the almost complete lack of embarkation of Joint Force Harrier squadrons, full all weather night deck qualification has probably not been achieved by any pilot in the last decade. (The emphasis here is on "full all weather": that is to say being competent in foul weather by night—not just benign conditions.)

30.  A further significant challenge/stress factor for carrier aviators is that they will often be flying with no diversion airfields available: that is to say, their only chance of returning on board without getting wet is to be fully competent in their navigation and the pilot's deck landing ability.

31.  When embarked, all squadron personnel need to play a full part in non-flying aspects of life on board, especially when in harbour/visiting foreign ports. For example, Lieutenants will be employed on the Officer of the Day roster and Lieutenant Commanders will be employed on the Duty Lt Cdr roster. These positions require a detailed knowledge of the working of the ship as well as a developed understanding of the personnel on board—and those returning on board from a night ashore! The safety and routine operation of the ship in harbour is controlled by these officers and there can be no excuse for aircrew officers not playing their part or, more importantly, not being fully trained to fulfil such responsibilities.

32.  There are two further reasons why it is important for the squadrons to be embarked and to remain embarked when the ship is deployed offshore.

—  (a)  First, the non-aviation members of the ship's company tend to remain on board throughout a major deployment with no thought at all of being relieved on task by a complete second ship's company being flown out from the UK. Such rotation would have a severely detrimental effect on the carrier's competence and efficiency as an integrated weapons system. The full rotation of aircrew and aircraft engineers during a deployment would also have an equally detrimental effect on operational capability and the ship's company's morale. It is not therefore acceptable. Further, it would be invidious for aviation personnel to come and go as they please thereby reducing the war fighting capability of the ship whilst at the same time non-aviation personnel were continuously retained on board. The rules of harmony for the Royal Navy reflect this and are very much more demanding on personnel than is the case for the RAF or the Army. Ethically, each service should operate under the same rules.

—  (b)  Second, in practically all modern conflicts offshore naval air power has been the key element in providing for control of the airspace over the combat zone. It has also been responsible for more than 80% of the interdiction missions launched against land targets during the initial phases of conflict (whether Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan). The embarked naval aviator is fully mentally prepared for such engagement in active operations and understands the need for being fully prepared to carry out such warlike missions. By virtue of his incarnation he is constantly closer to the possibility of active combat than his land-based counterparts.


33.  In 1982 during the Falklands crisis, a small number of RAF Harrier GR3 aircraft of No. 1(F) Squadron were embarked in HMS Hermes to supplement the number of Sea Harrier aircraft and to take on some of the ground attack and reconnaissance missions, thereby enabling the limited Sea Harrier assets to concentrate upon the more pressing need for defence against air attack. The RAF pilots' exposure to these carrier borne operations can be summed up as follows:

—  (a)  All pilots embarked without any previous deck landing experience but first landed on a clear deck, in benign conditions. All the pilots were highly qualified on the Harrier airframe, probably more so than the majority of the Sea Harrier aircrew.

—  (b)  The immediate and surprising attitude of a number of the pilots was that "they were now the primary weapon system of the ship and hence the ship should do what they wanted" (the classic RAF ethos). This stemmed in part from a complete lack of understanding, or indeed they were not interested, in the prevailing tactical situation in the other warfare areas (surface/subsurface/air defence), logistics and ship requirements such as positioning for future tasks, the threat, threat directions, intelligence etc. Arguably this might have been expected: in most non-action operations the RAF are able to live comfortably in accommodation miles away and totally divorced from the scene of action. Life is different for them in Afghanistan because no such accommodation exists. However, it is clear that they arrived on board in 1982 with the wrong mind-set.

—  (c)  A very highly experienced naval aviator, Commodore Neill Thomas CBE DSC, has clear memories of this active combat embarkation: "I had the pleasure of briefing and leading the RAF on a familiarisation sortie. They had been briefed in depth on ship procedures etc. The task was simple—launch for a 1 hour 10 minutes sortie with a fixed recovery time. The sortie included a familiarisation of the area around the fleet, some simple ship controlled intercepts followed by a couple of practice air combat manoeuvring engagements. Fuel management. which is critical at sea, was strongly emphasised and briefed thoroughly. In spite of my careful briefing, I had to take the RAF Harriers back to the ship after just 40 minutes because one pilot in particular had allowed himself to run seriously short of fuel—the others were not much better. And these were experienced Harrier pilots! As far as I remember, the attitude of the pilot concerned (supported to some extent by at least one of the others) was not one of wishing to integrate properly into the carrier weapon system but that "the Fleet Air Arm was allowing the ship to impose undesirable restrictions on their operations". This is backed up by Squadron Leader Pook who stated rather naïvely in his book that the FAA knew nothing about flying or operation from ships at sea and needed RAF input to improve.

—  (d)  The Royal Navy ethos obviously did not suit Pook or his colleagues. In the synopsis to his book, he remarks: "Very soon after starting operations from the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes the squadron realised that they were considered as more or less expendable ordnance. The Harriers lacked the most basic self-protection aids and were up against 10,000 well-armed troops who put up an impressive weight of fire whenever attacked." There were no such complaints from the Sea Harrier aircrew embarked in HMS Hermes. In total, they conducted many more ground attack missions than did the RAF Harrier and early on suffered the tragic loss of Lieutenant Nick Taylor at low level over Goose Green. This was an expected and inevitable result of engaging in combat operations and was something that the RAF pilots appeared to be ill-prepared for.

34.  Later, during the Sierra Leone crisis, a Naval Sea Harrier FA2 Squadron and an RAF Harrier GR7 Squadron were embarked to provide Joint Force Harrier support to the peace keeping task of ground forces ashore. Naval squadron personnel were immediately comfortable in the maritime environment. This was not so for the RAF squadron. The latter found it difficult coming to terms with operating from a carrier out of sight of land and they were very concerned that if they did carry out the armed reconnaissance missions planned for them onshore, "they would not be able to find their way back to the ship". As a result, they withdrew their services from the tasked missions. The naval squadron immediately stepped forward and carried out all the armed reconnaissance missions that had been planned for them. It was very clear that the RAF aircrew were out of their depth in the embarked environment and significantly failed to live up to the promises made on their behalf by the Chief of the Air Staff concerning the overriding importance of the RAF Harrier in embarked offensive air support operations.

35.  The only reasonable interpretation of the events on the two occasions when the RAF has embarked in a Carrier, is that the RAF squadrons involved were ill-prepared and unqualified for embarked carrier operations. Their previous exposure to such operations, if any, had obviously been totally inadequate and their attitude was very different from that of the FAA.

36.  In spite of this operational shortfall, it appears that the RAF have disregarded these fundamental deficiencies in training and operational preparedness and continue to suggest that their squadrons need only embark when dictated by a particular operational need. It seems they do not understand carrier borne air warfare and do not have the expertise to control or conduct the same.


37.  A maritime battle group is normally responsible for all aspects of its own defence. It is a self-contained entity within which individual parts have no other option but to adapt to circumstances and overcome obstacles. If they fail to do this, they put at risk the whole of the battle group. The carrier air group is no exception to this. The air group is inevitably limited in numbers of aircraft and so, traditionally, naval aircraft are normally multi-role. Unlike their land-based counterparts who might well spend every mission practising the intercept of intruders into British airspace, the naval fighter pilot has to be proficient at all roles that may be given to him by the command and his aircraft is capable of. These roles include:

—  (a)  Long range air defence including the detection, interception and destruction of anti-ship missiles.

—  (b)  The establishment of air supremacy over a combat zone.

—  (c)  Over the horizon surveillance and targeting.

—  (d)  The interdiction of surface targets.

—  (e)  Armed reconnaissance.

—  (f)  The interdiction of land targets.

—  (g)  The close air support of ground forces.

—  (h)  The protection of ground forces from Fixed and Rotary wing air attack.

—  (i)  The interception, identification and warning off of intruders.

38.  The effective practice of the majority of these roles can only be conducted from an embarked posture. Airspace and weaponry restrictions within the United Kingdom greatly inhibit the realistic practice of some of these roles, most of which need to be integrated with other battle group capabilities such as Surface to Air Missile fitted ships in order to achieve full training value.


39.  A carrier pilot is not considered fully qualified as a front-line all weather pilot until he has mastered the art of fighting his aircraft and returning it safely to the deck in all weathers by day and night. With constant practice and the expertise that can only come from having conducted numerous deck landings in different weathers, first tour pilots may eventually reach full all weather qualification. This is one of the many reasons why it is essential for the squadrons to be embarked whenever a carrier puts to sea for exercise or offshore operations. The Command, as well as common sense, requires the carrier weapon system as a whole to be ready by day and night to meet any contingency. The squadrons are an important part of that weapon system, providing over the horizon long range air defence, surveillance, anti-submarine warfare capability, strike and offensive support of ground operations.

40.  Prior to commencing flying, officers of each service receive special-to-type training at their respective Colleges; either RAF Cranwell or BRNC Dartmouth. This initial training develops an instinct for the expectations and demands of the individual Service and is crucial to the manner in which a young officer develops and views life in the service. Each Service has developed a different ethos and culture.

41.  The expectations of a young RAF officer are:

—  (a)  That his career will be based on land and primarily within the UK.

—  (b)  That he will enjoy an enhanced level of harmony—rarely being required to be separated from his family and children.

—  (c)  That all personnel within the RAF are there exclusively to support their pilots (other matters are of little import).

42.  The expectations of a young Naval officer are:

—  (a)  That he will spend a high proportion of his early career (up to the rank of Lt Cdr) at sea in Her Majesty's warships.

—  (b)  That he will be separated from his wife and children frequently and often for long periods*.

—  (c)  That in spite of his expertise he is just one small cog (albeit an important one) in the Fleet Weapons System and needs to integrate fully with that weapons system.

*Accepting such lack of harmony requires a special dedication and marks a fundamental difference between the two Services.


43.  Both RAF and R.N. pilots undergo Basic Flying Training and Advanced Flying Training under the auspices of the Royal Air Force. During these two stages of training, the highest standards are demanded of the student pilots and they are systematically graded to establish their aptitude and ability. There is an extremely high failure rate. Those with the highest aptitude and ability are selected for fast jet operational training; provided that they have reached a "high enough standard".

44.  That standard is predicated on the corporate view of the training staff who take into account many different factors including:

—  (a)  Basic flying skills.

—  (b)  Ability to cope with several tasks at once in addition to simply flying the aircraft (such as operating the radar, weapon system and navigation equipment—and controlling multi-aircraft missions).

—  (c)  Whether the student pilot would be a danger to the safety of himself in the demanding fast jet environment.

—  (d)  Whether the student pilot would be a danger to the safety of other pilots that he will be flying with and that will be relying upon him.

Provided the student pilot satisfies these expectations, he will move on to Operational Flying Training in the aircraft type that he has been selected for. Those student pilots who fall short of these high expectations but who are considered safe to operate helicopter, transport and logistics aircraft will be sent for final training in the appropriate field.

45.  Within the highly skilled group of student pilots selected for fast jet training, the training staff will have made recommendations concerning the potential of the student for qualifying in the frontline on a particular type of fast jet/fighter aircraft. Those with the highest potential and the greatest perceived overall flying aptitude will be selected for the most demanding operational flying tasks. The Harrier force is where the highest rated pilots in the Royal Air Force will find themselves.

46.  Within the Royal Navy, only the highest rated pilots are accepted from training and these are all destined for front-line fixed wing squadrons. But in contrast to the Royal Air Force selection procedure, the pilots destined for front line, embarked, multi-role carrier operations are further screened to establish their full aptitude for such operations which can be very much more demanding than equivalent land-based ones. Those who fail to make the grade have the opportunity to transfer to helicopter flying training.


At Squadron Level

47.  For more than seven decades the expertise level of fixed wing Fleet Air Arm pilots has been passed on naturally from "the old and bold" to the fresh young faces in the squadrons. This has of course been through word of mouth as well as observation and the desire to learn and succeed. However, that expertise has also been enshrined in progressive editions of Squadron Standing Orders, Standard Operating Procedures, Operational Instructions and Tactical Manuals.

48.  A significant insurance for the continuation of appropriate war fighting expertise came with the introduction of the Air Warfare Instructor. This specialist qualification has always been reserved for those aviators who have demonstrated exceptional aggression, leadership, dedication and a high level of operational capability in the front line. The Air Warfare Instructor qualification was aspired to by most Squadron pilots but few were selected and even fewer were able to pass the demanding ground school and flying modules of the course. Only the very highest standards of leadership in the air were acceptable and the AWI became the accepted authority within each frontline squadron for all tactics, training and weapons instruction in all roles. Often, the Squadron Commanding Officer and/or the second in command would also enjoy the AWI qualification but the responsibility for the attainment of first-class war fighting expertise within the Squadron remained the recognised responsibility of the Squadron AWI.

49.  AWI expertise has proven to be invaluable to Squadron command as well as to carrier command, especially when planning for and conducting combat operations. There is therefore a recognised hierarchy of carrier aviation experience and expertise that is necessary for the efficient and flexible conduct of training and of combat operations. In most circumstances, the Commanding Officer and the Senior Pilot will have had several frontline embarked tours under their belts and, as such, will have the necessary experience to run the Squadron effectively in the embarked environment. The Squadron AWI supports the command by overseeing the operational, flight safety awareness, training and competence of all aircrew and the Squadron Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) is the acknowledged mentor for the standardisation and improvement of flying practices including Instrument Flying. This structure ensures that the junior/younger members of the Squadron have a knowledge base available that they can respect and learn from.

50.  Empire Test Pilot (ETP) qualification is also available to a small number of front line pilots and Air Engineer Officers. Many Air Engineers qualify as Maintenance Test Pilots (MTP) after they have fully qualified at sea. Their experienced input into the development and testing of naval aircraft is essential for ensuring the right capabilities of front line, carrier borne aircraft.


51.  There are key senior positions within the ship's company that are essential for the effective conduct and coordination of air group operations. It has always been the norm and is, in all logic, essential that these positions are filled by carrier qualified aviators of equivalent experience and knowledge to that of the squadron commanders. Here, it should be noted that a carrier air group usually consists of Fixed and Rotary wing aircraft and therefore adequate career exposure to the roles, tasks and capabilities of each aircraft type is essential for certain senior figures. Experience has shown that lack of such exposure prevents an individual from conducting effectively the command functions required on board and has a detrimental effect on the operational capability of the air group as a whole.

52.  The captain is responsible for working up his ship's company and his air group so that the ship will conduct itself safely and operate to its best ability. He has Heads of Department to supervise sections such as Air, Engineering, Supply and Seaman. The senior aviator on board is the Commander (Air) (generally known as "Wings") who is the direct adviser to the Captain on all aspects of aviation within the ship. He has general responsibility for the operational and domestic conduct of the air group. His right-hand man is known as Lt Cdr (Flying) (generally known as "Little F") and he is principally responsible for the safe movement and control of aircraft operating to and from the deck. Other equally important appointments include the Flight Deck Officer (FDO) who controls all movements on the flight deck and the Landing Sight Officer (LSO) who is responsible for "talking down" aircraft on the approach to the deck and grading the quality of the approach and the deck landing, thus ensuring high standards and the preservation of flight safety. Other important appointments include Air Operations Officers, Direction Officers and Carrier Controlled Approach Officers.

53.  In parallel, the Observers who fly in anti-submarine and early warning helicopters have little in common with their RAF counterparts. They hold qualifications that are directly compatible with ships and are inter-operable. Much the same can be said of the Rating aircrewmen. On the air engineering side there is a hierarchy of highly qualified aviation engineers or Air Engineer Officers (AEOs) who carry out similar supervisory and command duties to their aviator counterparts. Their sphere of influence encompasses Squadron engineering standards, certain aspects of flight deck operations and Hangar Control and aircraft maintenance.

54.  All of the above need to have in-depth experience of embarked carrier operations without which they would be unable to conduct their work effectively. Although members of the air group, they generally remain with the ship both in harbour and at sea and are an integral part of the ship's company.


—  (a)  The ethos behind Royal Air Force fast jet operations has been developed from continuous land-based operations with each aircraft type specialising in a specific role, whether air defence, ground attack or offensive air support. They operate in isolation from and with general disregard for effective integration into the operational requirements of the other two services.

—  (b)  The ethos behind Royal Navy fast jet operations has been developed from significant exposure to integrated Fleet combat operations at sea since World War II. The Fleet Air Arm understands that it is just one part of the much larger Fleet Weapons System and that full integration into that system is necessary in order to achieve full combat effectiveness.

—  (c)  Knowledge and expertise in carrier borne flying operations can only be achieved by substantial and prolonged exposure to such operations. The carrier air group staff must be equally knowledgeable and expert in the conduct of such operations.

—  (d)  The Falklands and the Sierra Leone experiences were an indicator that the RAF's recent reluctance to embark for anything other than the minimum time to achieve initial deck qualifications demonstrates an inadequate understanding of carrier borne flying operations and this clearly supports the conclusion that they are unqualified to administer or control any part of such operations.

—  (e)  Fleet Air Arm aircrew, being an integral part of the Royal Navy, have career expectations within the senior service that includes the command of ships and the attainment of a high naval rank. Their conduct, dedication to duty and loyalty reflects such expectations. Embarked RAF aircrew would not have the same expectations and their allegiance will naturally lie with their own service and the different expectations of that service. Where conflicts occur, this could only be to the detriment of the fighting efficiency of the ship.


—  (a)  Aviation assets, aircraft and aircrew are just one important part of the total Fleet Weapons System and must be fully integrated into the aircraft carriers' at-sea programmes.

—  (b)  The well proven expertise and efficient conduct of carrier-borne flying operations by the Fleet Air Arm has been clearly demonstrated in the many successful combat operations undertaken over the past seven decades.

—  (c)  Royal Air Force personnel have little if any expertise in the conduct of such operations and, as such, are inadequately qualified or experienced for consideration as administrators or controllers of these operations.


Executive Summary

1.  This memorandum discusses the SDSR recommendation to withdraw the Harrier GR9 and HMS Ark Royal from service in favour of the retention of the Tornado GR4 and provides arguments as to why this decision should be reversed forthwith. This falls within the Committee remit to investigate:

—  (a)  What capability gaps will emerge due to the SDSR.

—  (b)  How these were assessed as part of the development of strategies and what impact this may have on the U.K.'s defence planning assumptions and the ability to adapt to changing threats or unforeseen occurrences; and

—  (c)  Whether the prescriptions of the SDSR will allow the MoD to balance its budget and make the required efficiency savings.

The main body of the submission is four pages long. It requires much detailed supporting evidence. This is to be found in the three Annexes which contain a further 11 pages.


—  (d)  Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KBC submarine Commander, Destroyer Commander, Carrier Battle Group Commander and Submarine Force Commander.

—  (e)  Commander Nigel D MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC. A leading expert in Air Warfare with experience varying from Command in combat, Nuclear Intelligence within NATO to the Navigator and Gunnery Officer of a small ship.

Both are proven military experts who have achieved notable success in the front line and who between them have decades of appropriate experience in the MOD, including the Central Staff.



2.  As the SDSR currently stands, the withdrawal from service of the Harrier GR9 and HMS Ark Royal will leave Britain without a fixed wing carrier strike capability for at least 10 years. It is apparent that this decision did not emanate from:

—  (a)  the careful consideration of developing strategy; or from; and

—  (b)  the UK's ability to adapt to changing threats or unforeseen occurrences.

These two elements had already been addressed in detail within the SDSR and the balanced conclusion had been reached that Tornado GR4 should be withdrawn from service. This conclusion was presumably based upon our perpetual interest in the defence of our economic prosperity which depends primarily upon the free passage of our trade upon the high seas and the deterrence of those who would harm us there. The Harrier/Ark Royal capability provides us with the means to ensure that deterrence.


3.  The decision to retain the Tornado instead of Harrier/Ark Royal was therefore not based upon the careful deliberations of the SDSR team but resulted from the last minute private meeting between the then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Prime Minister. In this meeting, it is understood that CDS denigrated the proven combat effectiveness of the Harrier in Afghanistan and insisted that the Tornado GR4 was a much more capable and effective aircraft in theatre.[179]

4.  There can be no doubt that the Prime Minister:

—  (a)  was misled by CDS on this matter, and that

—  (b)  CDS placed partisan single-Service interest before the effective Close Air Support of our ground forces in Afghanistan and the national interest.

There was no opportunity for balanced operational input from the Harrier community or the troops on the ground and there is now every cause to believe that the Tornado is not the right aircraft for Afghanistan or indeed for contingent operations elsewhere in the world. The responses within Annex A and Annex B to this submission confirm this.

5.  Further, it is understood that the Prime Minister was not informed of the following airworthiness problems facing the Tornado GR4:

—  (a)  The Tornado airframe is old—25 years or more.

—  (b)  Tornado airframes are lifed to 4,000 flying hours and now most have about 6,000 flying hours. This is 50% over the "safe design limit".

—  (c)  Resulting from this, there is an issue with fatigue cracks on the aircraft's main wing spar and some aircraft have already been grounded because of this. Whether the recent loss of aircraft is attributable in any way to these airworthiness problems has yet to be determined.

—  (d)  Certainly, these fatigue and airworthiness problems will have resulted in limitations being imposed on aircraft performance: including maximum G force limits and air speed limits, particularly at low level and in air turbulence. This reduces operational capability particularly in the Close Air Support of ground forces role.

These problems represent a significant flight safety hazard and if properly addressed by the aircraft operator may result in the grounding of the majority of the Tornado fleet in the near future.

6.  It is possible that, as soon as the Harrier has been disposed of, the Royal Air Force will feel free to inform ministers of this "new problem" and place an urgent request for a replacement aircraft such as the F-18 Super Hornet. This situation can be avoided by retaining in service the much younger air frames of the Harrier GR9 whose airworthiness is projected to be sound up until at least 2018.

7.  A concise review of what is lost by withdrawing Harrier/Ark Royal from service is presented at Annex C.

8.  The Committee may wish to note that although there is no direct military threat to the United Kingdom Homeland base, our industrial and commercial activity at home could be rapidly shut down by the interdiction of our oil and/or gas supplies from offshore. It is fundamental to our maritime strategy that our naval forces should be properly equipped to deter and prevent such interdiction. The most effective means of ensuring such deterrence as well as projecting political and military influence offshore is through the deployment of fixed wing carrier battle groups (eg Harrier/Ark Royal now and the Queen Elizabeth class carrier later). The land-based interdiction bomber, Tornado GR4, is incapable of providing such deterrence or power projection.


9.  In the light of:

—  (a)  The Tornado's extremely poor performance in Afghanistan to date as given in the attached documents (and equally poor performance in the Iraq Theatre),

—  (b)  The serious doubts concerning the continued airworthiness of the Tornado and associated cost implications,

—  (c)  The continuing need to protect our trade routes, offshore interests and territories, and

—  (d)  The continuing need for Britain to be able to project political and military power in defence of our national interests.

It is recommended that the decision to withdraw Harrier/Ark Royal from service is reconsidered and, instead, the Tornado GR4 force is withdrawn from service.


10.  At the time of the publication of the SDSR, the official MoD DOC Audit figures demonstrated that withdrawal of the Tornado from service would save the nation £7.5 billion. The same audit showed that withdrawal of the Harrier from service would save just £1.1 billion.

11.  Since that time the number of Tornado GR4 aircraft to be retained in service has been reduced; first to 90 aircraft and now, it is understood, to 60 aircraft. The results of this are twofold:

—  (a)  An overall saving in the defence budget (compared with larger numbers of Tornadoes but not in comparison with the savings that would be achieved by retaining Harrier instead).

—  (b)  A reduction in the Force Elements at Readiness (FE@R) of the Tornado to 12 aircraft available for deployment (as opposed to an FE@R of 18 Royal Naval Harrier aircraft available for deployment from a smaller fleet of 40 aircraft). The airworthiness and flight safety problems referred to at paragraph 6 above bring into question the ability of the Tornado force to provide an FE@R of even 12 aircraft. This may be why the Royal Air Force are now requiring 24 hour notice for Close Air Support missions in Afghanistan.

12.  Cost figures extrapolated from the official MoD DOC Audit are provided at Annex D and demonstrate that the retention of 40 Harriers and the immediate withdrawal of the last 60 Tornado aircraft would produce a cost saving of at least £678 million in four years and £2.8 billion over lifetime (since SDSR, the Royal Air Force has already submitted several expensive Urgent Operational Requirements for giving Tornado more effectiveness in Afghanistan. This in itself demonstrates that the advice given by CDS to the Prime Minister concerning Tornado effectiveness in theatre was misleading). The cost of retaining 40 Harrier and HMS Ark Royal in service under Naval management would be no more than retaining the 60 Tornado aircraft in service and would provide for a greater FE@R availability for operations in Afghanistan and for contingency operations elsewhere.


13.  It is recommended that the SDSR recommendation to retain Tornado in preference to Harrier should now be considered for reversal. Doing so would reduce costs in the short and the long terms and markedly increase operational capability in Afghanistan and in any contingent operations that arise elsewhere.

Annex A



"Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your letter of 8 November to Liam Fox sent on behalf of your constituent, Mr Alan Hensher, about the retirement of the Harrier fleet. Mr Hensher also referred to some figures from the Phoenix Think Tank which underpin an alternative proposal to preserve both the Harrier and the Tornado, albeit in reduced numbers.

The decision to retire our Harriers and also to reduce the number of Tornados we have shows the very difficult choices we had to make to focus resources where they are most needed—in support of current operations.


The Government and the National Security Council clearly failed to understand that "current operations" include the continued deterrence of those that would harm our vital interests on the high seas and offshore; specifically our maritime trade routes and interests and our overseas territories. Focusing our resources on a single campaign in Afghanistan that, through the government's own admission, is likely to be cut short within a year or so represents very blinkered thinking by the elected Government of this island nation.


As the Prime Minister said on 19 October, the military advice is clear, we should sustain the Tornado fleet as that aircraft is more capable and better able to sustain operations in Afghanistan.


The "military advice" given to the Prime Minister in a private meeting with Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the then Chief of the Defence Staff was unquestionably "tainted" by single service, RAF partisan interest and did not take into account the true/relevant capabilities of each aircraft type or our national need to be able to mount contingent operations to deter or dissuade those that could harm us from doing so.


The Tornado GR4 force—at its reduced size—will be significantly larger than the current Harrier force and it also has a number of key capability advantages over the Harrier GR9 including: greater payload and range and integration of capabilities such as Storm Shadow; fully integrated dual mode Brimstone; the Raptor reconnaissance pod and a cannon. Thus retaining the more capable Tornado allows continuous fast jet support to forces in Afghanistan and the ability to support concurrent operations. This would not be possible if the smaller Harrier fleet retained and Tornado retired.


First sentence above. Although the number of Tornado GR4 aircraft is greater than that of the Harrier GR9, its true serviceability rate is much lower than the Harrier. Official Figures given by one Group late last year in response to a Parliamentary question were as follows:
Total NoIn service Serviceable 10 Dec 10
Harrier7941 33
Tornado137100 50

Quite clearly it takes 66 Tornadoes to provide the same aircraft availability/serviceability as 41 Harriers. These figures were later changed by the RAF by describing unserviceable Category 1 and Category 2 aircraft as "serviceable". (These aircraft can take months to repair and remain unavailable for operations.) This resulted in the following utterly misleading figures:
Total NoIn service Serviceable 10 Dec 10
Harrier7941 41
Tornado137100 98

Further, the "key capability advantages" of the Tornado as given above either do not exist or are irrelevant in the context of Afghanistan operations:

—  The Tornado has no greater payload or range than Harrier for most of the year (in the summer when the intensive combat operations take place). This is because of its poor performance at altitude and in high temperatures.

—  Storm Shadow is a cruise missile designed for the long range Air Interdiction of hard targets and has zero relevance or utility in the Close Air Support of our ground forces in Afghanistan. The only time it was used in action was in Iraq when it failed to reach its target (no one knows where the two missiles fired eventually ended up).

—  Brimstone is nothing more than the equivalent of the helicopter/UAV launched Hellfire missile. It is nowhere near as effective as the Maverick missile capability of the Harrier.

—  The Tornado Cannon is limited in the number of rounds it can fire due to overheating and is less effective than the CRV air to ground rocket system of the Harrier.

—  The Raptor reconnaissance pod fitted to Tornado has no advantage over the Harrier system because our ground forces do not have the ability to download real-time intelligence information from the aircraft.

Second sentence above. The Tornado has already proved to be far less reliable in response to requests for Close Air Support than the Harrier. It has very little, if any, ability to support "concurrent operations" elsewhere in the world because it is confined to operating from land bases and therefore does not have the flexibility and availability of the First Echelon, carrier-capable Harrier. Many of these "declared-serviceable" Tornadoes have no meaningful Close Air Support capability and could not provide support even for small scale military operations, say off the coast of Africa (eg Sierra Leone—where they were not even considered for deployment; too difficult and no safe host nation support).

Third sentence above. In the light of the true facts given immediately above, this sentence is invalid.


The decision to retire Harrier has not been taken lightly. It has been influenced by the need to make economies over the short term and the fact that withdrawal of an aircraft type delivers greater savings than partial reductions, due to the fixed costs associated with an aircraft platform. Therefore running two smaller fleets would not have been cost-effective.


The decision to retire Harrier was misguided and was based upon information presented by the Royal Air Force. Because these facts were presented in private there was no opportunity for the Harrier community or the Royal Navy/Army to correct them and provide a more balanced picture of true aircraft capability.


The Ministry of Defence has made estimates of cost savings accrued from fast jet measures considered in the Strategic Defence and Security Review for the purposes of formulating policy. Some of these have been published to help inform the public debate. Release of further detail may prejudice our negotiating position with commercial suppliers. Furthermore, final savings figures will depend on detailed implementation.


The important/relevant cost savings that could have been realised by the withdrawal from service of each aircraft type were given by the MoD DOC Audit. These presumably reliable and "un-manipulated" cost saving figures were as follows:

—  Withdrawal of Tornado from service: £7.5 billion.

—  Withdrawal of Harrier from service: £1.1 billion.

In other words, by choosing to withdraw Harrier from service rather than Tornado the Government is missing an opportunity to save £6.4 billion.


We accept that by withdrawing the Harrier the Armed Forces will temporarily be without a carrier strike capability. We believe, however, that there were no realistic alternatives given our overriding priorities of bringing the nation's finances back into balance and ensuring success on operations in Afghanistan. The Government is firmly committed to reintroducing the carrier strike capability in around 2020. With the Queen Elizabeth class ships and the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which we plan to bring into service at about the same time, the new capability will be far more potent than the old.


First sentence above. In the context of our maritime interests you should not have accepted this so lightly and easily and without proper naval advice.

Second sentence above. There was an entirely realistic and much more cost-effective alternative available, the Harrier, and you have so far failed to realise this. The Harrier achieved far greater success in Afghanistan then the Tornado is now doing—unable to fulfil 50% of requested Close Air Support tasks.

Third and fourth sentences. Promises and vaguely considered timescales at least a decade hence will not suffice if we need to project military and political power in defence of our interests offshore before 2020.


With regards to the Falklands, the situation has changed substantially since 1982. Argentina is now a vibrant democracy, committed to the peaceful resolution of issues over the Islands. Nonetheless, we closely monitor Argentine military capabilities and we maintain a highly capable permanent military garrison in the Islands and a well defended airfield. This garrison consists of warships, ground troops and combat aircraft (Typhoon) and can be rapidly reinforced should the need arise. We will remain able to respond to any and all threats.


Lord Carrington, Maggie Thatcher, Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward and others, including such organisations as the United States Naval Institute, would most strongly disagree with this analysis. Argentina is a highly volatile, Latin democracy with an inclination to take ill-considered military actions—such as when the Argentina air force bombed Argentina Navy installations in Buenos Aires over an inter-service dispute. Our capability to defend the islands from another invasion is not as given. It remains in doubt as to whether the fast jet runways at Ascension and Mount Pleasant [Falklands] are safe from effective attack. Consequently on-site forces may not be rapidly reinforced. Any initiative to temporarily disable Ascension Island would completely negate any capability for rapid reinforcement by air. Today, the small Typhoon detachment has no capability whatsoever to interdict ground or surface targets and the aircraft themselves represent thin-skinned targets on the ground that can be put out of action with a variety of readily available weapons—even small arms such as machine guns. We are not able to respond to any and all threats! The only real deterrence to a further Falklands invasion is to have a robust carrier battle group available.


Our current fleet of Harrier and Tornado air defence and ground attack aircraft have performed magnificently over the last 30 years, and Tornados currently provide essential support to our forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But these aircraft risk becoming outdated as threats continue to become more varied and sophisticated, and maintenance of their fleets will become an increasing challenge. Therefore transitioning our fast jet forces to a combined fleet of Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighters, two of the most modern and capable multi-role combat aircraft, in the medium to long term makes operational and economic sense."


The Harrier does indeed have an outstanding combat record over the last 30 years. The Tornado record is, by comparison, very poor. It was a failure in the Iraq war with eight aircraft being lost: only one of which was the result of enemy fire. The remainder were lost through a combination of poor training, pilot error and a lack of real understanding of the safe delivery of the ordnance that was carried by the aircraft in theatre. Now, in Afghanistan, two aircraft have already been lost as a result of the poor performance characteristics of the aircraft in theatre. Further, in one month alone, the Tornado failed to respond to more urgent Close Air Support requests than did the Harrier in its five years of service in theatre.

Annex B



Secretary of State

1.  Thank you for your letter of 10 November on behalf of your constituent Rear Admiral Terry Loughran CB of Court Lodge, 10 St Margarets, Tintinhull, Yeovil, regarding the Strategic Defence and Security Review decision to withdraw Harrier from service.

2.  I would like to reiterate the tribute that I made in the House on 4 November in relation to the Harrier Force. The hard work and contribution to combat operations in Afghanistan by the Harrier Force, its crews and pilots, will not be forgotten. The Harrier has served this country well for many years and is a flexible aircraft, so the decision to retire the fleet was a difficult one.


2.1  As we are sure you are now fully aware, the decision to retire the Harrier was wrong. It was based on misleading and unquestionably partisan last-minute advice and should now be reversed. The "military advice" you refer to is understood to have been delivered privately by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the then Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff only: not a reliably impartial pair of advisers. The Harriers were held in a Joint RN/RAF force and any discussion should have included an RN input. Since WWII the RN has had far greater operational flying experience than the RAF and naval opinion should have been sought. The subsequent decisions on Harrier and consequent deprivation of fixed wing Carrier capability for a decade show a failure to recognise:

—  the facts of the Joint agreement, and

—  the strategic value of maritime air capability.

It also creates an unnecessary exposure to risk.

Secretary of State

3.  The overriding factor in deciding between removing either the Tornado GR4 or Harrier was the ability to support operations in Afghanistan. The Harrier fleet would have been too small to support Afghanistan operations at current levels, notwithstanding Carrier Strike and other contingent operations. Conversely, the Tornado GR4 force even at its reduced size will be significantly larger than the current Harrier force and would allow continuous UK fast jet close air support to forces in Afghanistan and the ability to support concurrent operations.


3.1  Although the number of Tornado GR4 aircraft is greater than that of the Harrier GR9, its true serviceability rate is much lower than the Harrier. Official Figures given by RAF 1 Group late last year in response to a Parliamentary question were as follows:
Total NoIn service Serviceable 10 Dec 10
Harrier7941 33
Tornado137100 50

Thus it takes 66 Tornadoes to provide the same aircraft availability/serviceability as 41 Harriers. It is now understood that only 60 Tornado are to be retained giving an availability rate of just 30 aircraft. This will provide for a lower Force Elements at Readiness (FE@R) than with Harrier. Further, keeping 60 Tornado in service will cost at least 50% more than keeping 41 Harrier in service—enough to operate the HMS Ark Royal.

These figures were later manipulated by the RAF by describing damaged Category 1 and Category 2 aircraft as "serviceable". Category 1 and 2 aircraft can take more than one year to repair. This resulted in the following misleading figures:
Total NoIn service Serviceable 10 Dec 10
Harrier7941 33
Tornado137100 98

Secretary of State

4.  Tornado also has a number of key advantages including a greater endurance and additional capabilities such as Storm Shadow; fully integrated dual mode Brimstone; the Raptor reconnaissance pod and a cannon. The Tornado has wider utility in the intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance role, in addition to its close air support capabilities. This ability to undertake an increased number of operational tasks means it is tasked more frequently and over a wider geographical area in Afghanistan than the Harrier was when it was previously deployed. We will retain a reduced Tornado GR4 fleet that will drawdown gradually to ensure there is no effect on operations in Afghanistan as we transition to Typhoon and joint strike fighter, from which we will also regenerate our Carrier Strike capability. In line with these transitions, we currently plan to take the Tornado GR4 out of service in 2021.


4.1  First Sentence above. The "key advantages" of the Tornado as given above either do not exist or are irrelevant in the context of Afghanistan operations:

—  1.  The Tornado has no greater payload or range than Harrier for most of the year (in the summer when the intensive combat operations take place). This is because of its poor performance at altitude and in high temperatures.

—  2.  Storm Shadow is a cruise missile designed for the long range Air Interdiction of hard targets and has zero relevance or utility in the Close Air Support of our ground forces in Afghanistan. The only time it was used in action was in Iraq when it failed to reach its target (no one knows where the two missiles fired eventually ended up).

—  3.  Brimstone is nothing more than the equivalent of the helicopter/UAV launched Hellfire missile. It is nowhere near as effective as the Maverick missile capability of the Harrier.

—  4.  The Tornado Cannon is limited in the number of rounds it can fire due to overheating and is less effective than the CRV air to ground rocket system of the Harrier.

—  5.  The Raptor reconnaissance pod fitted to Tornado has no advantage over the Harrier system because our ground forces do not have the ability to download real-time intelligence information from the aircraft. Indeed, the Harrier Sniper pod is now being fitted to the Tornado to make up for the latter's deficiencies.

4.2  Second Sentence above. The Tornado GR4 was specifically designed as a high-speed, low-level Interdiction Bomber; not as a Close Air Support aircraft—hence its relatively poor operational performance in Afghanistan. The Harrier was specifically designed as a Close Air Support aircraft; hence its extraordinary success in Afghanistan. In the context of this operational theatre, the Harrier is the more appropriate aircraft and has proven its worth.

4.3  Third Sentence above. The broad statement that the Tornado has an "ability to undertake an increased number of operational tasks" is a substantial exaggeration. Its record of responding to urgent Close Air Support requests from our ground forces is abysmal compared with the Harrier. Further, some of the missions now being flown by Tornado in Afghanistan have no relevance to the important Close Air Support need and are being flown specifically to generate the impression that it is a more productive and efficient aircraft and the Harrier. A critical examination would show that the hours flown are entirely disproportionate to the effect on the ground in support of our ground forces. In the simplest of terms, this puts our ground forces at unnecessary risk and is a deplorable practice.

4.4  Last Two Sentences. In the context of our maritime interests this loss of a capability vital to the Expeditionary and Fleet weapons systems for at least 10 years is a major change in national strategy which has not been discussed in any detail. It should never have been accepted so lightly and without recognition of Naval and Land Force advice. There was an entirely realistic and much more cost-effective option available, ie the Harrier, which has achieved far greater success in Afghanistan than the Tornado is now doing—the latter being unable to fulfil 50% of requested Close Air Support tasks. Assurances and vaguely considered timescales at least a decade hence are no substitute for Ark Royal still in commission with an air group of Harriers embarked and will not suffice if we need to project military and political power in defence of our interests offshore before 2020.

Annex C

What is Lost by Withdrawing the Harrier?

1.  More than £5 billion pounds in the short and the longer term to keep the more expensive Tornado in service.

2.  The expertise of the fixed wing Fleet Air Arm that has taken 100 years to generate and nurture.

3.  Our only fighter/fighter ground attack aircraft capable of:

—  3.1  Operating from roads, damaged runways and rough airstrips. This would be extremely useful in the Falklands during the coming extensive works on the runway there.

—  3.2  Operating from carriers with their advantage of flexibility of manoeuvre, avoidance of diplomatic and over-flight problems and independence from vulnerable land and air supply lines.

—  3.3  Providing air support for expeditionary/amphibious operations at short notice throughout the world.

4.  The most rapid and reliable response to urgent tasking in support of ground forces in Afghanistan (Harrier: 12 minutes. Tornado: 30 minutes or more. It is understood that the RAF are now asking for 24 hours' notice for requests for close air support missions. The Tornado has failed to satisfy more requested ground support missions in one month than did the Harrier in five years).

5.  Our only fighter ground attack aircraft capable of delivering highly accurate GPS precision-guided munitions in Afghanistan without the risk of collateral damage to civilians/own forces. (The Tornado requires extra expenditure to be fitted with the Harrier Sniper Pod—£100 million plus. Further expensive UORs have now been submitted for Tornado GR4.)

6.  The respect of our allies in Afghanistan who consider the Harrier to be the best and most popular Close Air Support aircraft to have been deployed in that theatre.

What would be Lost by Withdrawing Tornado?

1.  Little, if anything. The Tornado replacement, Typhoon, is already in service in adequate numbers and is available for land-based operations. Later expensive tranches will be able to deploy the Storm Shadow short ranged cruise missile as well as the Brimstone anti-armour missile—even though Storm Shadow has no relevance to Close Air Support in Afghanistan. It should also be noted that the Harrier GR9 can deploy the Maverick anti-armour missile in place of Brimstone.

What is gained by keeping Harrier rather than Tornado in service?

1.  A major saving in cost over the next 15 years and a significant saving in cost of £678 million in the short term (four years).

2.  An additional embarked contingent capability through to 2018 that cannot be provided by Tornado or Typhoon.

3.  The approval and support of our allies in Afghanistan who have the highest respect for the combat effectiveness of the Harrier in theatre and little or none for the Tornado.

4.  Political and military respect for the visible power that the Royal Navy can continue to present around the world in order to deter those that would harm our interests.

5.  The retention in service of personnel who have unique and irreplaceable expertise in the field of naval air warfare and carrier operations.

Annex D


Table 1

Costs are in £1,000's Mod DOC Audit figures for in life cost Per Annum4 years Plus Sniper pod upgrade*
60 Tornado to 2025£3,284,000 £219,000£875,000 £975,000
40 RAF Tornados to 2025£2,189,000 £146,118£583,471 £683,471
74 Harrier to 2018£1,100,000 £137,500£550,000  
40 Royal Navy Harriers to 2018£595,000 £74,000£297,000
* Tornado Upgrade to fit Sniper Pod to Aircraft - more than £100 million

1.  It is very clear from the above that retaining 40 Harriers in naval service rather than 60 Tornadoes in RAF service for the next four years would save the government £678 million.

2.  In terms of total in life cost, a decision to retain 40 Harrier rather than 60 Tornado would save the government £2.8 billion.

3.  At the same time, FE@R availability of aircraft for combat operations would be 33% higher with Harrier than with Tornado.


Executive summary

1.  This short memorandum is presented as a brief on the differences in some of the terms and conditions of service across the three Services. It shows that they are markedly different but offers no reasons for this. As such, it may be a subject for consideration by Committee members since any attempt to make them the same for all three Services could have substantial effects on overall funding quite apart from the effects on individuals.

Introduction to the submitter

2.  Joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1946. Served in cruisers, destroyers [one ship command], frigates, submarines [four ship commands including one nuclear], as Commander of the [Aircraft] Carrier Battle Group during the Falklands War and as Flag Officer, Submarines. He filled a series of appointments in the MoD on the Naval Policy Staff and finally on the Central Staff as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Commitments)—effectively head of the MoD Operations Department. During this time he passed a post-graduate course in nuclear physics and power plant operation, and attended both the Joint Services Staff Course and the Royal College of Defence Studies Course in the rank of Commander. His final naval appointment was as CinC Naval Home Command, in charge of all Naval training barring aviation and submarines. Since retiring, he worked for a "head-hunter" in the City for 18 months, then for the DOE as an Inspector on the Lord Chancellors Panel for two years, then as a lecturer and consultant on Crisis Management for a further two years.



3.  "Harmony" is important to the British service man or woman, because the term is shorthand for a key issue within his or her terms and conditions of service (TCOS): they govern how long he or she may routinely expect to spend away from home. This means that "harmony" has a direct impact on the availability of the individual or a unit for operations.

The RN, RM, Army, and RAF take different approaches:

—  (a)  RN and RM—in a three year period a sailor or marine (or unit) may expect to spend no longer than 60% of the time deployed. Navy shorthand for this is the "60 in 3 rule"[equivalent: 1-in-1.66].

—  (b)  Army—a soldier (or unit) should expect to undertake a six months operational tour, and then have a 24 months "tour interval" before the next deployment. Characteristically, the interval between operational tours is spent initially at home, then preparing for deployment. The Army short hand for this is the "1-in-5 rule."

—  (c)  RAF—an airman (or unit) should expect to do a maximum of four months on an operational tour, followed by a 16 month "tour interval", predominantly on his or her home base—There is no RAF shorthand for this approach but, for simplicity, we will use the term "4-in-20 rule" [equivalent 1-in-5].

Additionally, each service also uses the following measures for the number of days an individual (or indeed a unit) can be deployed on operations:

—  (d)  RN and RM—up to 660 days deployed within a three year period.

—  (e)  Army—a maximum of 415 days deployed in a 30 month period.

—  (f)  RAF—no more than 280 days deployed in a 24 month period.

It should be noted that the RN, RM and Army use the same time period for their two measures (three years for the RN & RM, 30 months for the Army), but the RAF uses a different length period for each of the two "harmony" measures.

These rules matter for the individual, but they also have a major impact for defence planners, both at the operational and strategic levels.

Operational Impact

4.  The main operational impact occurs when the British Armed Forces are engaged in enduring operations, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq—where the key contrast is between the RN, RM and the Army on the one hand, and the RAF on the other. Whereas a sailor, marine or soldier is able routinely to conduct a six month operational tour, an airman will need to rotate after four months to stay within his harmony guidelines.[180]

By way of example, the Tornado aircrew deployed to Afghanistan rotate every three months, resulting in additional churn, greater use of the air bridge, and less continuity in theatre. There will be operational impacts in the future, too. A typical deployment period for an aircraft carrier—American, French, or British—is not less than between six and nine months. With their harmony rules, RAF squadrons deployed to RN carriers would need to rotate at the 4 month period, with the associated repatriation expenses as well as the loss of cohesion when a new Squadron arrives on the carrier and needs to be worked up. Fleet Air Arm squadrons, by contrast, sail and return with the ship without "breaking harmony."

Strategic Impact

5.  The strategic impact is more profound. This is because the harmony guidelines are one of the key drivers in the overall size of each service. Here, the key contrast is between the RAF and Army on the one hand, and the RN and RM on the other. However, it is recognised that the two different measures each service can use will produce different results.

For example, using the first set of measures (a. to c. above) in order to conduct an enduring operational deployment, such as Afghanistan, the Army and RAF will need to employ five times as many people as those deployed (based on the Army's "1-in-5 rule" and the RAF's "4-and-20" rule). Whereas for the RN and RM, it varies, depending on the maintenance cycle required for the vessel or equipment; typically it is between three and four times as many people, but it can be as low as 1.7 for every person deployed.

If the second set of "harmony" guidelines (d. to f. above) are used, the Army requires 25% more personnel to deliver the same number of operational personnel as the Navy and Royal Marines while the RAF requires 36% more.

The strategic impact for aircraft carriers is also significant. When compared to the Fleet Air Arm, because RAF squadrons need to rotate at the 4 month point, twice as many RAF squadrons will be needed to man an RN aircraft carrier on the current model of six-to-nine month deployment. It should be noted, however, that with the plans for only a limited implantation into service of the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, it is highly likely that considerably longer deployments will have to be used in order to maximise the time on task of the single operational hull between short periods of essential maintenance at a dockyard. Longer deployments may therefore exacerbate the differences between RN/FAA and RAF "harmony" and increase the number of RAF units that will be required.


6.  Comparisons may be invidious with each Service having entirely valid reasons for their own rules. However, should these reasons be now invalid given the "joint" nature of operations, there could be considerable possible implications for further reducing any funding gap that still remains.

Recommendations for Action

7.  Committee members may wish to assure themselves that valid reasons for these differences exist and the implications that they might have on the ability to maximise the operational availability of future equipment/force structures as well as the current situation.


Executive summary

1.  This memorandum is submitted in support of the Committee remit to investigate:

—  (a)  The role of the Ministry of Defence, including the Defence Reform Unit, and other Government departments, the National Security Council, the Armed Forces and other agencies in the development and implementation of the NSS and SDSR, including areas that stretch across Government such as the U.K.'s increased role in conflict prevention.

—  (b)  Whether a funding gap still remains, how significant is it and how will it impact on defence capability.

Introduction to the submitters

—  2(a)  Admiral Sir Michael Layard KCB CBE. Seaman officer in Destroyers, Frigates, Minesweepers & Aircraft Carriers. All weather fighter/ ground attack/tactical nuclear, pilot in The Fleet Air Arm, Air Warfare Instructor. Commanded a front line, embarked Sea Vixen Squadron, a Frigate, a Destroyer and a Naval Air Station, Director of Naval Air Warfare in the MOD, Flag Officer Naval Aviation, and finally, Second Sea Lord & Chief of Naval Personnel.

—  2(b)  Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KCB Served in cruisers, destroyers [one in command], frigates, submarines [four in command including one nuclear], as Commander of the [Aircraft] Carrier Battle Group during the Falklands War and as Flag Officer, Submarines. He filled a series of appointments in the MoD on the Naval Policy Staff and on the Central Staff as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Commitments)—effectively head of the MoD Operations Department. Finally, as CinC Naval Home Command, he headed all naval training except aviation and submarines.

—  2(c)  Commander Nigel D MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC. A leading expert in Air Warfare with experience varying from Command in combat, Nuclear Intelligence within NATO to the Navigator and Gunnery Officer of a small ship.

All are proven military experts who have achieved notable success in the front line and who between them have decades of appropriate experience in the MOD, including the Central Staff.


3.  Currently, there appears to be no easily visible policy baseline on which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and associated National Strategic Security agencies can draw or refer to in the development and implementation of the NSS and SDSR.

4.  The Core Force Defence Policy proposed by Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KBC could be considered a possible template for such a policy baseline and would assist in the assessment of logical priorities, particularly at times of severe fiscal constraint.

5.   In the absence of such an agreed policy baseline, this submission addresses some of the areas that arguably merit attention if future SDSRs are to provide a better balance between National Strategic Policy and the wherewithal to carry out that policy.

National Strategic Policy

6.  There would appear to be a level of confusion at all levels concerning exactly what is Britain's declared National Security Strategy. SDR 98 and SDSR 2010 each "defined" that Policy in a manner that was arguably ambiguous and, in the SDSR in particular, appeared to place little weight on the fundamental reality that we are an island nation.

7.  It behoves us to remember that we are not just an extension of continental Europe. Our perpetual interest is the defence of our economic prosperity which depends primarily upon the free passage of our trade upon the high seas and the deterrence of those who would harm us there. It is for consideration that this should be the baseline for our Strategic Defence Policy and for the configuration of our Armed Forces.

The National Security Council (NSC)

8.  The NSC is virtually a Cabinet in its own right and "the Chief of the Defence Staff, Heads of Intelligence Agencies also attend when required". Without wishing to detract in any way from the corporate wisdom of the NSC, it is arguable that without a clear defence policy baseline as proposed above it is open to persuasion by individuals who may have partisan interests to protect and promote.

9.  The representation of a single Service voice to such an important Council clearly has its dangers and in this instance, albeit not to the Council directly, resulted in the long-term gapping of the one military capability that:

—  (a)  ensures Britain's ability to project military and political influence around the world, including conflict prevention, and

—  (b)  is our prime deterrence against those that would do us harm.

10.  Further to the above, it appears from the SDSR Minutes that there was an almost total lack of Royal Navy representation during the oral sessions of the Review. One must question the wisdom of such imbalance and a lack of representation—especially in the context of our island nation status and our vital offshore interests and trade routes.

11.  This leads to the need to examine the role and the constitution of the Ministry of Defence itself.

The Ministry of Defence

12.   One could be forgiven for describing the MoD as a bureaucratic monster that appears to have lost its way. Its constituent parts (the three Armed Services) each govern the size of their own representation without any regulation imposed from the interpretation of National Strategic Defence Policy. This has resulted in a major imbalance with:

—  (a)  By far the largest representation coming from the Royal Air Force.

—  (b)  A medium representation coming from the Army.

—  (c)  By far the lowest representation coming from the Royal Navy.

13.  The Central Staff has an equivalent imbalance in representation.

14.  Recent history can suggest that this would not necessarily be in the interest of providing the nation with forces that are in balance any declared defence policy.


15.  That there is a major imbalance between the three Services within the MoD, there is no doubt. Hopefully, the Defence Reform Unit will address this issue in detail and pay due regard to the "knock-on effect" which can be summarised as follows:

—  (a)  If, within MoD, a single Service has the most staff officers and therefore the loudest voice, that Service will have the ability to manoeuvre the other two Services into supporting programs and procurements that would otherwise be rejected as inappropriate to National Strategic Policy.

—  (b)  This can lead to a large proportion of the defence budget being spent on weapon systems that have little or no direct relevance to the front line, first echelon operational need or to the perceived priority within the National Strategic Policy.

16.  Further, British Aerospace and other defence related companies are able to recognise the loudest voice in the MoD and they have made it their business to recruit retiring senior officers that will assist them in perpetuating the interests of that "loudest voice". Whether we like it or not, this practice brings into question the vested interests of those serving in the MoD. It also provides British Aerospace in particular with a platform/avenue for obtaining lucrative development and production contracts that:

—  (a)  are often overpriced compared with international competition, and that

—  (b)  often do not result in the quality of weapon system desired. Please see Annex B to this submission.

17.  Should there be a clearly defined baseline policy such as that recommended in the Core Force Defence proposal, it is for consideration that the Defence Reform Unit would be able to recommend a level of single service representation within the MoD that is directly related to that policy and to the current National Strategic Policy.

18.  If it is agreed that our National Strategic Defence Policy is fundamentally led by our island nation/maritime interests, this would fit well historically with practically all the military initiatives taken by Britain since World War II. The Royal Navy has extensive corporate experience of successful worldwide combat and maritime operations in support of our ground forces offshore. Please see Annex A.

Conflict Prevention

19.  Conflict prevention may be achievable by diplomatic, political and/or military means. Each of these represent an important and often mutually dependent arm of persuasion as well as the three pillars of graduated response and deterrence. A robust military capability that can be deployed effectively and at short notice anywhere in the world adds considerable strength and meaning to both diplomatic and political initiatives. In stark contrast, the lack of any visible military capability markedly reduces the impact of any diplomatic or political initiative.

20.  Annex A provides several examples of where a robust British military presence in the guise of the Royal Navy has indeed prevented unrest developing into armed conflict. It is therefore only reasonable to suggest that a robust maritime military capability that is centred upon today's capital ship, the aircraft carrier, is a prime and flexible "persuader" for conflict deterrence and prevention.

21.  The two emergent major powers, China and India, have both recognised this and their aircraft carrier building programmes are causing some consternation and concern within the military intelligence communities of Western nations; including the United States. It is arguable that this concern is not directly related just to war fighting but more to the spread of Chinese and Indian diplomatic and political influence that will result from their visible power upon the high seas. Such influence will bring economic benefits that would otherwise not be open to them and that will compete with our own interests.


22.  SDSR 2010 recommendations, if implemented, will remove Britain from the world's stage as a visible military power, will prevent us from engaging in contingency operations to deter and prevent conflicts and, as a result, will adversely affect our trading opportunities and economic prosperity.

Annex A


1.  Herewith a brief outline of 17 events, crises, conflicts and deterrence, in which Royal Navy carrier battle groups were deployed in support of UK Government policy since 1945. It demonstrates that the availability of sea-based tactical aviation adds immensely to the nation's overall deterrent capability. In several instances it has been the only form of intervention that was initially possible.

2.  Significantly it also demonstrates the inability of potential aggressors to deter the deployment of aircraft carriers into areas supposedly dominated by land-based aircraft. The myth of aircraft carrier vulnerability is belied by experience in:

—  (a)  Palestine 1948.

—  (b)  Korea 1950-53.

—  (c)  Suez 1956.

—  (d)  Levant 1958.

—  (e)  Korea 1960.

—  (f)  Kuwait 1961

—  (g)  Confrontation with Indonesia 1963-66.

—  (h)  East African Mutinies 1964.

—  (i)  Defence of Zambia 1965-66.

—  (j)  Beira Patrol 1965-66.

—  (k)  Aden 1967.

—  (l)  Belize 1972

—  (m)  South Atlantic 1982.

—  (n)  Kuwait 1991.

—  (o)  Bosnia/Former Yugoslavia 1992-96.

—  (p)  Sierra Leone 2002.

—  (q)  Iraq 2003.

Annex B



1.  The funding gap that exists has resulted from several factors:

—  (a)  The lack of a baseline defence policy against which Ministers can assess the validity and wisdom of formal MoD requirements.

—  (b)  The failure of successive governments to require British defence contractors to be competitive in cost, timescale of delivery and performance.

—  (c)  The lack of transparency concerning the efficacy and real performance in combat of various weapon systems.

—  (d)  The failure of successive governments to channel spending in accordance with declared National Strategic Policy.

The lack of a baseline Defence Policy against which Ministers can assess the validity and wisdom of formal MoD requirements

2.  This problem has been discussed in some detail in the body of the main submission.

The failure of successive governments to require British defence contractors to be competitive in cost, timescale of delivery and performance


3.  The approach of successive governments to the British defence industry (and to our European collaborative partners) has been one of "the carrot but no stick". This does not work with children and it has not worked with British or European industry.

4.  If we look at history, we find that occasionally British industry and ingenuity has produced classic and highly successful weapon systems at a sensible price. In modern times, the Harrier and the Sea Harrier are prime examples of this. In 1979, the Sea Harrier cost £12 million per aircraft, was extremely reliable and versatile, deployed to the South Atlantic in 1982 and won the air war over the Falkland Islands in spite of the overwhelming numerical odds against it (the Mirage three fighter, the Mirage five Dagger and the A-4 Skyhawk). The ship-launched Sea Wolf missile is a further example of success.

5.  In contrast and in the same timescale, collaboration with the Europeans produced the Tornado F1 at a price of £42 million per aircraft and the Tornado GR1 at a price of £37 million per aircraft. The Tornado F1 did not have an effective air to air weapon system until at least the mid-90s and underwent many weapon system modifications including a new radar at enormous cost. It was never deployed successfully to any theatre of combat operations.

6.  Also in the same timescale, the versatile F-18 Hornet became available. A swing role fighter aircraft with far greater all-round performance than the Tornado F1/3, it was available for purchase at US$28 million per aircraft—less than half the price of the Tornado.

7.  The desire to buy British had become an extremely expensive exercise and continued in the same vein with other projects such as the Nimrod and the Sky Flash air to air missile—neither of which could compete in the market place with their American or French counterparts. Storm Shadow represents a further example of high cost coupled with poor performance in service.

8.  Conservative estimates show that, since 1967 and correcting prices for inflation to 2010 rates, more than £350 billion has been spent on fixed wing military aircraft and weapon systems—of which less than £20 billion has been spent on the Harrier and the Sea Harrier. Both of these aircraft have achieved great success in combat operations: virtually all the success that has been achieved by any British military fixed wing aircraft since 1979. A breakdown of these cost figures is given at Appendix 1 to this Annex.


9.  This sad history is now being compounded by the ill-advised continuation/ expansion of existing programs or the launch of new development programmes. The Typhoon programme is a case in point for the former. For the latter, one might wish to scrutinise more closely the cost-effectiveness (compared with international proven alternatives) of:

—  (a)  The air to air refuelling tanker program.

—  (b)  Any Nimrod replacement.

—  (c)  All Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) development projects.

Proven and very much cheaper alternatives are readily available in the international market.

10.  We should of course lean towards "home-grown products" but only on the strict understanding that:

—  (a)  Operational performance in service is guaranteed at the contractor's expense.

—  (b)  The cost of the program is no more than the cost of the alternative product—again guaranteed at the contractor's expense.

The lack of transparency concerning the efficacy and real performance in combat of various weapon systems

11.  There are several embarrassing records of "home-grown" or "European collaborative" projects failing to meet operational performance expectations in the combat theatre. Three of these are:

—  (a)  The Tornado F3 which spent 12 years in service "protecting UK airspace against the Soviet threat during the Cold War" without a functional air to air weapons system.

—  (b)  The Chieftain tank which was unable to take an effective part in Desert Storm, 1991, owing to serviceability and reliability problems.

—  (c)  The Tornado GR4 which under-performed in Iraq and is now under-performing in Afghanistan.

12.  The regrettable deficiencies in these three very expensive weapon systems were hidden from the public and from the Government and this deception allowed further ill-advised procurement contracts to be secured by the same defence contractors that had produced the underperforming weapon systems. This has again led to excessive costs that are far higher than those that would have been realised through the procurement of readily available international products. This has contributed significantly to the funding gap.

The failure of successive governments to channel spending in accordance with declared National Strategic Policy

13.  The exorbitant amount of money spent on military fixed wing aircraft since 1979 and particularly since the end of the Cold War has demonstrated an inability within MoD and the Government to align expenditure with the perceived threat and with our on-going commitments offshore. It is for consideration that the introduction of a baseline Policy such as the Core Force Defence Policy proposed in this submission and in associated submissions would provide the means for ensuring such alignment.


Executive Summary

1.  This memorandum is presented as the simplest possible answers to the questions "Why Navy?" and "Why aircraft carriers within it?"

Introduction to the submitters

2.   Professor Martin Edmonds, Captain Alan Hensher, Admiral Sir John Treacher. All three are experienced retired naval officers. Two had front line naval aviation experience. One has joined academe.


The severity of the current financial crisis appears to dominate all political thinking to the point that it distorts the issue of government responsibility for the defence of the United Kingdom and its vital interests. The terrorist threat, in all its complexity and varied forms, alongside the conventional and nuclear threats from rogue states to both UK national and commercial interests, seeks to undermine the very structure of the nation. Defence spending, unappealing as it may be to the electorate, should reflect the defence of the realm as the prime duty of government. The threat is more difficult than ever to analyse or predict but a response of diminished military presence inevitably leads to dwindling international influence.

Spending on defence procurement ensures that manufacturing industry benefits from new technologies and their application. Intense financial pressure generates a short-term perspective that obscures the long-term value to our defence strategy, scientific research and industrial health. The spectre of spending billions even when amortized over a decade or more tends to overshadow the enduring benefits to our security and strategic industries. We should be careful to avoid the effect of short term decisions in sterilising essential future requirements.

As an example, recent agreements between the MoD and industry associated with the carrier build programme will provide £230 million a year to a wide range of suppliers over the next fifteen years and will sustain key maritime and other defence industrial skills. It will in the long run save hundreds of millions of pounds, retain an essential industrial skills base, help promote future scientific development, and reduce our already heavy dependence on foreign suppliers whilst strengthening our international competitiveness.

It is axiomatic that governments of all political persuasion need to have effective military options to counter any crisis, or unexpected threat that may arise: a visible capability that sends a clear diplomatic and political message of government policy and intention. It is here that the unique qualities of Maritime Forces come into play. The ability to deploy ships, to poise and to operate aircraft at a place of the government's choosing is at the heart of maritime power. Operating in international waters confers independence of diplomatic clearances, and over flying rights. The carriers and the afloat support system obviate the need for host-nation assistance for airfields or other logistic support and give the ability to support land forces ashore. Carriers, amphibious ships, escorts and submarines have an extensive flexibility of roles ranging from high-intensity warfare to defence diplomacy, prevention or deterrence, with the added resources for alliance cohesion, humanitarian support or disaster relief.

The UK now faces no immediate conventional threat but must take urgent action to improve homeland security from a Mumbai-type attack. However, it remains a maritime nation, is heavily dependent on maritime trade and is now facing a shortage of energy, much of it delivered by sea. As the UK's dependence on LNG supplies, carried in massive and vulnerable vessels, increases, protection against pirates and the conventional naval forces of hostile states will become critical. Effectiveness of defence starts with the potential adversary's assessment of the capability and will of the target to defend itself. NATO managed to do this for 50 years through the massive military support of the USA. The UK presented a different profile in the case of the Falklands and paid the price. The hydro-carbon rich off-shore areas of the Falklands will surely attract the Argentines in due course and we must be prepared.

The UK's response to an intense and complex threat situation can be defined, we believe, by four key words: Power, Presence, Projection and Flexibility. All these elements are embodied in the aircraft carrier, amphibious ships and associated naval assets. However, as important as a military response is a policy of prevention. A Carrier and its Air Group brings leverage to avert crises before they ignite, simply by being on station and available for the application of instant military force anywhere in the world.


Executive Summary

(i)  This paper draws together the threads of advice to Ministers and the process that led to the recent SDSR recommendation that Harrier and HMS Ark Royal should be withdrawn from service resulting in a ten year gap in fixed wing aircraft deployed with the Fleet.

(ii)  It concludes with a statement of what should have occurred and what might still be done to correct the situation.

Introduction to the Submitters

—  (a)  Admiral Sir John Woodward GBE KBC submarine Commander, destroyer Commander, Carrier Battle Group Commander and Submarine Force Commander.

—  (b)  Commander Nigel D MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC. A leading expert in Air Warfare with experience varying from Command in combat, Nuclear Intelligence within NATO to the Navigator and Gunnery Officer of a small ship.

Both are proven military experts who have achieved notable success in the front line and who between them have decades of appropriate experience in the MOD, including the Central Staff.



1.  A review of MoD history since 1967 demonstrates that a clear conflict of interest has emerged between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy fixed wing Fleet Air Arm. Britain's defence and the economic interests are global in nature as they have been for centuries and, as the uneasy peace maintained by NATO and the nuclear deterrent progressed, funding for our Armed Forces was being gradually reduced.

2.  The Royal Navy's (and Royal Marines') role was and still remains clear:

—  (a)  To project military and political power upon the high seas to ensure the lawful and free movement of trade.

—  (b)  To deter those that would harm our national interests from taking any such action.

—  (c)  To provide humanitarian relief following natural disasters to small/developing nations that cannot help themselves.

—  (d)  To deter emerging nations and future superpowers from territorial aggrandisement that could/would destabilise the global marketplace.

3.  The Royal Air Force's role was also clear and was centred upon defending the UK home land base against air attack by the Soviet bloc and maintaining the nuclear deterrent through the medium of the "V" Bomber force. The latter was clearly vulnerable to interdiction and did not have a global reach and so the national nuclear deterrent was vested in the Polaris programme and our nuclear submarines. This left the Royal Air Force with the following principal roles:

—  (a)  To provide for the air defence of the UK against the Warsaw Pact bomber threat.

—  (b)  To provide an air bridge of logistic support to naval and ground forces engaged in expeditionary Force operations.

—  (c)  To police UK airspace against intruders.

4.  When the Cold War ended, unhappily so did any strategic role of the Royal Air Force which at that juncture was one of the largest air forces in the world. With no perceived air threat against the UK homeland base, the justification for maintaining this large air force had disappeared.

5.  Lord Trenchard had predicted that at some stage the Royal Air Force would be subsumed by the Royal Navy and the Army. The end of the Cold War presented an obvious opportunity for that to occur.

6.  It is arguable that the Royal Air Force had "seen this moment coming" for decades. If it did, it was not ready to admit it. That is where the conflict of interest between the RAF and the Navy/fixed wing Fleet Air Arm arose. To remain a third single Service, they needed to demonstrate that they have a substantial war fighting role. To do that they needed to take over all flying, Navy and Army, rotary and fixed wing. This would be on the basis that airpower is indivisible and must be kept in the hands of a capable single Service. However, the carrier battle groups of the Royal Navy with the Fleet Air Arm embarked have continued to demonstrate their utility and flexibility at many trouble spots around the world since the end of World War II. A list of the more prominent conflicts is provided at Annex A1. Annex A 2 provides detail of where RAF operations overseas were facilitated by naval carrier battle groups.

7.  Quite rightly, the Royal Air Force was proud of its heritage based on the Battle of Britain and the immense efforts of Bomber Command during WWII. A single Service had indeed been required to avoid defeat in WWII. Sadly, its relevance started to diminish during the long years of the Cold War threat, but its "survival instinct" caused it to over-reach and falsely proclaim a worldwide capability for its land-based aircraft even though the events presented at Annex A 1 did not in many instances include any participation or contribution from land-based air. The claimed worldwide capability to respond to or to deter threats to our national offshore interests did not exist.

8.  In contrast, the Royal Navy fixed wing Fleet Air Arm has always responded to such threats in a rapid and effective manner. Events since the end of the Cold War have underlined the desire of the Royal Air Force to survive at any cost: it would appear that this "cost" includes the loss of our capability to project political and military influence on a global basis in order to deter those that would harm our interests. These events are summarised below.

Joint Force Harrier

9.  Joint Force Harrier was conceived in the year 2000 to provide integral air support to UK Expeditionary Task Force Operations. It was agreed between the Air Staff and the Naval Staff that it should consist of Naval Sea Harrier FA2 Squadrons for fighter air defence, surface search, probe and strike, and RAF Harrier GR 7/9 Squadrons for the offensive air support of ground forces ashore. Part of the arrangement was that "in the name of joint efficiency" the naval squadrons should move from Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, to RAF Cottesmore and the RAF helicopter squadrons would move to Yeovilton from RAF Odiham. Both sets of aircraft squadrons would continue to be administered by and remain under the operational control of the originating single service.

10.  A sign of things to come, these plans were changed in very quick time with very little opposition from the Naval Staff who evidently trusted in the concept of "jointery". The move of the RAF helicopter squadrons to Yeovilton was cancelled. This was a precursor for a vigorous attack by the Air Staff on the continued existence in service of the Sea Harrier FA2 squadrons; in spite of the fact that the FA2 was the only operational BVR fighter in the UK inventory—recognised by our NATO allies as the most capable area interceptor fighter in Europe.

11.  Single service interest/survival instinct rather than "jointery" was beginning to evidence itself.


Stage 1: The Untimely Withdrawal of Sea Harrier from Service

Stage 1A

12.  No reasons for this failure to keep an inter-Service agreement (the move of RAF helicopters to Yeovilton) were asked for or presented and, in the light of subsequent events it appears to have been part of an RAF "plan" to retain full control of their own assets including helicopters whilst taking full control of Joint Force Harrier (JFH).

13.  There had been agreement for a two star Admiral to be the head of the JFH organisation. Very soon after the latter's introduction, the Royal Air Force conducted a Command level internal reorganisation resulting in the removal of the two star Admiral and the subsequent loss of control by the Royal Navy over its management of Fleet fixed wing aircraft.

14.  There was then set in motion what can be described with hindsight as a "plan to engineer the removal of the Sea Harrier from service". In late 2001, Sea Harrier front line squadrons were directed by signal from MoD to submit a comprehensive list of equipment upgrades that would benefit the aircraft's operational capability. They were told that there is "money to spend" and "we need to spend it now". In other words, MoD was asking for a "nice to have list".

15.  The lists were forwarded to MoD where Jointery-specific Committees (staffed predominantly by RAF officers) were considering ways of saving money (rather than spending an excess - as they had intimated directly to SHAR front line squadrons). The "nice to have list" was purposefully taken out of context and was reviewed by the Committees as a "Must have if Operational Capability is to be sustained list". Some of the "nice to have list" items, notably the need for a more powerful engine, were then used as justification for the withdrawal of the SHAR "based on cost constraints and the limited in-service period remaining for the FA2".

Stage 1B

16.  In MoD, the then First Sea Lord was persuaded by the RAF under the heading of Joint Operations that the ground attack variant, the GR7 Harrier, was the most important element of Joint Force Harrier and that, as a result of "financial imperatives", the SHAR must be discontinued prior to the expected In Service Date of the Joint Strike Fighter (JFS)/Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA)[181]—the F-35.

17.  This would leave a gap in the First Line of Air Defence of the Fleet/JTF of not less than six years (2006 to 2012) and probably more (now 16 years)—the JSF programme would undoubtedly slide to the right, as usual. It appeared that "logic", "operational imperatives" and SDR98/DP 2001 Statement had played little part in the decision-making process.

18.  A Joint First Sea Lord/Chief of the Air Staff statement released at the time the decision was made public, along with statements by James Ingram, Minister for the Armed Forces. A MOD Question & Answer news brief was also issued on the decision. (See Annex B and C).

19.  These documents demonstrate that the Sea Harrier withdrawal decision was flawed.

20.  Later, in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee Meeting on Procurement dated 8 May 2002, the following statements were made:

Lord Bach (Minister for Defence Procurement): Sir Jock [Stirrup] was saying last week ……that the role of the Royal Navy carriers is not primarily now to defend the fleet, but it is in line with the expeditionary doctrine that underpins our defence policy, much more about the ability to project power a distance, precisely the point Sir Jock made. The Sea Harrier makes little contribution to this frankly. The GR7 makes a much more substantial one and will make an even greater one when it is upgraded to GR9. That is the first point.

Lord Bach: Clearly Sea Harrier provided a useful defence against attacking aircraft, but in general terms it offers no protection against sea-skimming missiles launched from ships, from submarines, from land or from aircraft standing off from distance and that is something that those who attack this decision have never tried to answer. The real issue here is that Sea Harrier does not help against sea-skimming missiles from wherever they are launched. Now, that sea-skimming missile is now assessed to be the primary threat to maritime assets.[182]

These statements clearly showed that neither Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, KCB, AFC, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) representing MoD, but advised presumably by RAF officers, nor Lord Bach had an operational understanding of naval air warfare in the Fleet and in the expeditionary task force operation arena. Nor did they speak honestly about the Sea Harrier operational capability. It was incorrect to say that "... in general terms it offers no protection against sea-skimming missiles... The real issue here is that Sea Harrier does not help against sea-skimming missiles from wherever they are launched."

21.  Facts rather than convictions had already demonstrated that the Sea Harrier with AMRAAM represented the only Fleet/UK weapon system that was specifically designed to counter the sea-skimming missile threat; and it was very capable of doing so with a probability of kill expected of close to 100%. How Sir Jock Stirrup could be unaware of this fact is not clear - it was certainly a function of his appointment to remain fully briefed on all aircraft capabilities before recommending action on them. His ignorance was either inexcusable or feigned.

Stage 2: The Untimely Withdrawal of Harrier from Service

Stage 2A

22.  The Harrier GR7/9 provided highly effective Close Air Support to our ground forces in Afghanistan for five years. It was the ideal aircraft for this role having been designed for it in the first instance.

23.  However, the Royal Air Force decided to replace the Harrier in theatre with the Tornado GR4.

24.  Of the 134 Tornado GR4 aircraft in service, only 28 were configured/equipped to conduct this Close Air Support role effectively. The remaining aircraft required expensive weapon system upgrades prior to any deployment. From the time of their initial deployment it was quickly demonstrated that the Tornado could not respond to urgent Close Air Support requests as quickly or as effectively as the Harrier. These performance deficiencies were not reported to Ministers but instead the parliamentary questions submitted on this issue were answered in a misleading manner, giving the impression that the Tornado was far more capable than it had shown itself to be in theatre.

25.  Tornado aircraft performance deficiencies resulted in the loss of aircraft in theatre and its overall serviceability rate has produced a situation where, instead of a 12 minute "wheels off the ground" response time by the Harrier, a Tornado deployment now requires 24 hour notice of Close Air Support requests.

Stage 2B

26.  Prior to final publication, the SDSR team had come to the operationally and financially correct conclusion that the Harrier should be retained in service for operations in Afghanistan and for contingent operations elsewhere. It had also concluded that the Tornado force should be withdrawn from service forthwith. MoD DOC Audit figures showed that this way ahead would save the defence budget at least £7.5 billion whereas withdrawal of Harrier would save the budget just £1.1 billion.

27.  The then Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, RAF, was apprised of these findings and immediately arranged a private meeting with the Prime Minister. It is now clear that CDS misled the Prime Minister concerning the operational capability of the Tornado GR4 and persuaded him, without any reference to the Royal Navy or the Army, that the SDSR recommendations should be changed and that it was Harrier that should be withdrawn from service and the Tornado retained. What he deliberately failed to mention in that meeting was that:

—  (a)  The continued airworthiness of the Tornado GR4 was a major problem.

—  (b)  Some aircraft had already been grounded because of fatigue cracks in the wing's main spar.

—  (c)  The aircraft's planned fatigue life expectancy of 4,000 flying hours had already been exceeded by up to 50%.

—  (d)  More funding would be required to provide the Tornado with the right sensors for the safe deployment of GPS precision guided weapons.

—  (e)  The cumulative effect of a) to d) above would represent considerably less capability in theatre than that provided by the Harrier and would be considerably more expensive.

Stage 3:  Promoting the Need for a Land-Based Fighter Ground Attack Capability

28.  Part of the RAF's current strategy is to justify a need for a new land-based fighter ground attack aircraft. This is an expensive strategy for the following reasons:

—  (a)  The modification of the Tranche 2 Typhoon to give it a ground attack capability is at additional high cost. In placing the Harrier Force in store, the RAF stated that it wished to economise by reducing to two types of fast jet only and stating grossly incorrectly that the Tornado could perform better in the support of ground forces than the Harrier. Simultaneously, the RAF now wish to replace the Tornado capability with that of the modified Typhoon in Tranche 2. Had the Harriers been kept in front line service, neither of these expensive programmes need have been undertaken before the planned arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter F35C.

—  (b)  Having spent approximately £5.3 billion on Tranche 1 Typhoon aircraft only a fraction of which are required to fill the UK air policing and air defence of the Falkland Islands roles, there is now a proposal to withdraw these relatively new aircraft from service within the next two years—replacing them with modified Typhoons on grounds that the Tornado is ageing, its weapons systems are inappropriate and the Harrier GR9s have been taken out of service. It should be noted that they are presently still being kept in store at RAF Cottesmore and fully capable of return to front line service at markedly less expense.

29.  RAF longer term plans include a requirement for the Joint Strike Fighter to be able to embark in our new carriers. This conflicts with the modified Typhoon plan in that there would then be no operational requirement for a land-based Joint Strike Fighter. Common sense, operational logic and fiscal constraint all point to the conclusion that if the Joint Strike Fighter is to be procured at all, it should be as part of the Royal Navy fleet weapon system—that is for carrier operations only.


30.  The chain of events described above demonstrates the conflicts of interest that exist within the RAF and between the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. These conflicts underline the prediction by Lord Trenchard that in due course the Royal Air Force would need to be subsumed into the Royal Navy and the Army.

31.  Arguably, that time has now come although there would be merit in maintaining a much smaller Air Force to support the other two Services with ISTAR and strategic lift capability. All envisaged future combat theatres are offshore; as are the majority of our military commitments, our trade routes and associated interests.

32.  The flexibility and effectiveness of carrier battle groups within the Royal Navy weapon system is well proven. The lack of capability of the land-based air to respond rapidly to crises offshore and to deter their escalation is also well proven. In all logic therefore, the focus of our national defence spending should be on the maritime strategic policy that has served us so well in the past. Further expenditure on land-based fighter ground attack aircraft would be a waste of scarce resources.

What Should Have Occurred?

33.  What should have occurred in 2002 was for the MoD and the Government to follow the strategic policy laid down in SDR 98 and subsequent papers. That is to say:

—  (a)  The Sea Harrier FA2 and the Harrier GR9 could have been retained in service for both land-based and carrier-borne operations.

—  (b)  The ageing, land-based Tornado could have been withdrawn from service.

—  (c)  At the same time, the procurement of the Typhoon air to air fighter could have been limited to less than half of Tranche 1.

—  (d)  The Joint Harrier Force could have been replaced at the end of their operational lives by either the F18, or the F35 that aircraft manages to meet capability, time, cost and our new carrier requirements.

Massive savings in the defence budget would have been realised and little real operational capability would have been lost.

The Way Ahead Now

34.  There is still time to correct the situation:

—  (a)  The flawed decision to withdraw Harrier GR9 and HMS Ark Royal from service can still be reversed despite the political difficulties of being seen to be doing a "U" Turn.

—  (b)  Tornado GR4 could be removed from service as soon as Joint Force Harrier is reinstated.

—  (c)  Further procurement of Typhoon should be curtailed and the existing aircraft employed to fill the low-key role of UK airspace policing.

While there would be a diminution of RAF-manned fast jet flying, major savings would be realised as a result of these three measures and, just as importantly, our ability to project political and military power on a global basis could be kept intact rather than gapped for an indeterminate period with all the uncertainties of regeneration after such a gap. The military arguments are convincing and economic, the political decision to do a "U" Turn can readily be justified by the very considerable sums saved which had deliberately not been factored by the MoD into the original decision.

Annex A 1


1.  A brief outline of 17 events, crises, conflicts and deterrence, in which fixed-wing aircraft carriers were deployed in support of UK Government policy since 1945. They show that the availability of sea-based tactical aviation adds immensely to the nation's overall deterrent capability and, in several, no other form of intervention was initially possible. More significant is the inability of potential aggressors to deter the deployment of aircraft carriers into areas supposedly dominated by land-based aircraft. The myth of vulnerability is belied by experience.


Naval aircraft from HMS Ocean covered the final evacuation of British forces from Palestine in May 1948. RAF aircraft had already been evacuated and only carrier-borne naval aircraft were capable of providing the protection required.

KOREA 1950-53

HMS Triumph joined the USS Valley Forge to strike at North Korean targets shortly after N Korea attacked the South in June 1950. The British aircraft carriers Triumph, Theseus, Glory and Ocean provided all the UK's tactical strike and fighter operations throughout the three years of the war. RAF involvement limited to transport flights into safe airfields and some flying-boat MPA patrols in the open ocean off Japan. RN carrier aircraft flew thousands of effective sorties.

SUEZ 1956

A combined assault on Egypt by British and French carrier-borne and land-based aircraft. In the British operations the RN deployed three fixed-wing carriers, Eagle, Albion and Bulwark plus two helicopter carriers, Ocean and Theseus. Because of their ability to gain better position the strike carriers reacted more quickly to calls for action than RAF aircraft in distant Cyprus and Malta. Despite only having one-third of the total British strike fighters embarked, RN strike fighters flew two-thirds of the strike sorties and their aircraft spent longer over the target area. RAF aircraft had long transits from their bases, carried less weapons and could spend little time on task, most of that at high level to conserve fuel.


US/UK assistance sought to protect Lebanon and (land-locked) Jordan against Iraqi aggression. Eagle provided support for airborne and amphibious forces deployed into theatre. RAF transport aircraft flying British troops into Jordan were protected by carrier-borne fighters since RAF fighter bases were too far away for their aircraft to be effective.

KOREA 1960

UN forces including an RN carrier deployed to the Yellow Sea on exercises aimed at deterring the North from launching a renewed attack on the South. Deterrence succeeded. No RAF involvement since no bases close enough.


British forces deployed to Kuwait to defend it against threatened Iraqi aggression. HMS Bulwark arrived with 42 RM Commando within 24 hours since good intelligence had put her in the right place and used its helicopters to deploy and support them. British troops flown into Kuwait by RAF transport with only what they stood up in—had to requisition vehicles and wait for RN amphibious shipping to bring in more. Strike carrier Victorious took several days to arrive with her battle group from the South China Sea but brought the "complete package of power" that subsequently dominated the area. A single RAF Hunter squadron had deployed to Kuwait from Bahrain but lacked fuel, ammunition, spares and most of all GCI radar coverage other than that provided by Bulwark. RAF transport being used to fly in troops so none available to support the Hunters which left once Victorious arrived. The need for the RN to support RAF aircraft led to the second commando-carrier, Albion, being fitted with better surveillance radar (Type 965).


British and Commonwealth supported the Malaysian Government against Indonesian aggression and deployed forces from all three Services. The Far East Fleet provided a considerable deterrent against Indonesian escalation and the presence of its strike carriers posed a threat that Indonesia could not counter. Carrier and air group transits of high-visibility international waters such as the Sunda Strait added to their value. RAF could not provide such a visible deterrent.


Following a mutiny by Tanganyikan Army units in January 1964 Britain was asked to provide assistance. HMS Centaur was at Aden and embarked 45 RN Commando; 16/5 Lancers with their vehicles and two RAF Helicopters in addition to her normal air group. Subsequent assault a model of how flexible carriers are and how quickly they can act. Another example of RAF being taken into action by an RN carrier. Centaur was capable of launching her normal air group although at times it would have been a "squeeze".


Following the Rhodesian UDI in November 1965 the Zambian Government asked Britain to provide air defence against possible attack by the Rhodesians. Deploying an RAF fighter unit and the ground environment to support it took many months and the gap was filled effectively by HMS Eagle which provided fighters, AEW and an effective air defence environment quickly.


Followed on from above. Britain undertook to enforce UN sanctions preventing tankers from entering Beira with oil for Rhodesia. Only carriers could search the vast areas of sea involved in the months it took the RAF to build up an MPA base and deploy aircraft to it. Eagle and Ark Royal both involved for considerable periods at sea.

ADEN 1967

British forces were evacuated from Aden in November 1967 covered by an RN task force off shore. RAF aircraft were among the forces evacuated and therefore relied on RN carrier-borne aircraft for their defence while they did so.


A show of strength by Buccaneers from Ark Royal prevented a threatened invasion of British Honduras (Belize) by Guatemala. RAF too far away and could do nothing.


Carrier-borne strike-fighters and helicopters were fundamental to the campaign which would not have been possible without them. Significantly the RAF needed carriers/Atlantic Conveyor to get them into action.


USN carriers played a big part in the coercive all-arms forces that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait; Ark Royal 5 operated in the Eastern Mediterranean in a containment role that was not, in the event, used.


RN and USN carriers operated in support of UN and NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia. Carriers were able to position clear of weather which sometimes limited RAF and coalition operations from land bases. The UK Government ordered one carrier to be available constantly in case it proved necessary to withdraw British forces under fire since land-based aircraft could not guarantee to do so and did not have the valuable mix of fighters and helicopters close to the scene of action.


Illustrious provided air support for British forces that rescued UN forces in Sierra Leone providing a secure base that could not be located or attacked by the terrorists ashore. A floating base and national command centre.

IRAQ 2003

Ark Royal 5 operated in her alternative LPH role with Sea Kings and RAF Chinooks embarked to land RM commandoes on the Al Faw Peninsula. Latter difficult to operate because they could not be struck down into the hangar and blades could not be folded—had to be removed.

"Strange as it may seem, the Air Force, except in the air, is the least mobile of all the Services. A squadron can reach its destination in a few hours, but its establishments, depots, fuel, spare parts, and workshops take many weeks, and even months, to develop."

W. Churchill, "The Second World War", Vol. 11, page 384

Annex A 2


By David Hobbs

1.  There are a number of examples where the RAF could not have deployed aircraft, aircrew and maintainers into conflict zones without aircraft carriers. Once deployed, the RAF then relied on sea-borne bulk supplies of fuel and ammunition which, in turn, needed the RN to maintain control of the sea supply routes with its aircraft carriers playing a prominent role. Examples include:

Russia 1919

British forces deployed into Russia against Bolsheviks in 1919 needed air support most of which was transported into theatre in RN aircraft/seaplane carriers and then deployed ashore.

Palestine 1929

Aircraft from HMS Courageous landed to support British troops in action in Palestine.

Norway 1940

RAF aircraft based in the UK had insufficient range to be effective in operations over Norway after the German invasion. Most support came from carrier-borne aircraft but the only effective RAF involvement came from Gladiator and Hurricane fighters landed from the aircraft carriers Glorious and Furious. The carriers also gave navigational and technical support.

Malta 1940-42

RAF fighters had insufficient range to fly to Malta from Gibraltar after Italy entered the war and the only way to get Hurricanes and Spitfires to Malta was to fly them off the decks of RN and USN aircraft carriers. There would have been no fighters in Malta without them. HMS Ark Royal 3 was lost returning from flying Spitfires to Malta.

North Africa 1941-42

Most of the fighters in the Desert Air Force relied on sea control to get them there and numbers were carried in aircraft carriers such as HMS Furious.

Sumatra 1942

RAF fighters did not have the range to reinforce Allied forces in South East Asia as the Japanese advanced in early 1942. HMS Indomitable ferried and flew off Hurricanes to Sumatra which could not, otherwise, have got there.

Pacific 1945

RN escort carriers ferried RAF Mosquito bombers and their secret "Highball" bouncing bombs to Australia in 1945. They were intended to operate from the decks of fleet carriers to attack Japanese warships in the home islands but the USN refused to allow them to do so. The RN put considerable effort into training their crews.

Korea 1950-53

Although the RAF did not operate combat aircraft in the Korean War, it did supply Meteor fighters to 77 Squadron of the RAAF which did operate. They were ferried to Iwakuni in Japan in British aircraft carriers including HMS Unicorn. Without her, the RAAF could not have supported the Squadron in action.

Confrontation 1963-66

During the Indonesian Confrontation against Malaysia, the RAF relied on RN commando-carriers to ferry helicopters to Borneo. They lacked the range to fly there.

East African Mutiny 1964

Two RAF Belvedere helicopters were embarked in HMS Centaur; they had no other means of reaching the scene of action.

South Atlantic 1982

RAF Harriers and Chinook helicopters had no means of reaching the conflict other than Atlantic Conveyor and the decks of Hermes and Invincible. They relied on the RN radar/air defence environment and RN supplies of fuel and weapons to be effective, neither of which would have been there without the carriers.

Iraq 2003

RAF Chinooks embarked in HMS Ark Royal five took part in the amphibious assault by Royal Marines on the Al Faw peninsula. Again, they lacked the range to operate from a land-base and needed the aircraft carrier to take them to the fight.

Annex B



(Statement issued early 2002) (Comments in italics)

1.  The Secretary of State (The Rt. Hon James Ingram MP) will this afternoon announce some significant news concerning Joint Force Harrier (JFH) and the power projection capability vested in the joint force and the Invincible Class aircraft carriers. Following extensive study work, he will announce our intention to migrate JFH to an upgraded all Harrier GR9 force manned 50/50 by RN and Royal Air Force personnel by 2007. To that end the Sea Harrier FA2 will be withdrawn from service early by 2006. This signal presents the background to this important decision and should be used to ensure all of those in both services closely involved in this unique force are fully aware of the changes ahead which have our strong support.

2.  A strong theme throughout the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) was the importance of joint operations in the delivery of war-fighting capability. One of the initiatives announced was the intention to create Joint Force 2000 (JF2000) which would operate a single, common aircraft type from land and sea. The SDR acknowledged that this aspiration would not be realised fully under current plans until the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) was in full frontline service. It was noted during SDR that total integration of the Joint Force would be impracticable as the Sea Harrier (the FA2) and the RAF Harrier (the GR7) share less than 10% of their airframe and avionics, and they have quite different primary operational roles. Notwithstanding this, it was considered that closer harmonisation between the existing Harrier forces would certainly pave the way for a truly joint force for the future.

3.  As a first step towards this goal, the formation of a new organisation entitled Joint Force Harrier (JFH) was announced in Feb 1999. Its purpose being further to develop the joint operational culture with the longer term aim of facilitating the migration path to CVF and FJCA. JFH was formed on 1 Apr 2000 commanded by AOC 3 Group, a 2 star naval officer based at HQ STC, RAF High Wycombe. From the outset, the staff of the JFH set out to expand on the success of Joint Harrier operations and gradually to merge the two service's culture and practices towards a properly joint force. It was announced in Feb 99 that the RN FA2 force and its personnel would relocate from their base at Yeovilton to the two RAF Harrier bases, Cottesmore and Wittering (Cott/Witt). This move, planned for the second half of 2003, would create an environment where the two services would work effectively as an integrated force.

4.  In the longer term, the successful introduction to service of FJCA is key to the future of the UK's expeditionary offensive air power capability and our colleagues in the equipment area of the MoD are working hard to deliver the aircraft and associated systems into service on time. The Services, too, need to prepare to accept the aircraft by its in service date of 2012. Last year a study team formed to examine how best to migrate the current capability of the JFH to the era of FJCA and the future carriers (CVF). This study included a detailed assessment of the capability the force delivers now, and how this needs to be developed to facilitate the transition to a common land based and carrier-borne attack aircraft. The study team was tasked to develop a series of options for migration to FJCA/CVF. In doing so the team was to ensure that each proposed migration path was coherent, deliverable and designed to ensure that the JFH retained a credible expeditionary military capability until the introduction to service of FJCA. In addition, the team would take full account of key SDR conclusions germane to carrier operations and the JFH. The most significant of these was:

"The Invincible Class carriers were designed for cold-war anti-submarine operations with helicopters and a limited air defence capability provided by a small number of embarked Sea Harriers. This is no longer the main requirement. The emphasis is now on increased offensive air-power".

(CNS and CAS had ignored SDR 98 which emphasised the need for an effective "air supremacy" and "airspace denial" capability that could only be provided by the Sea Harrier FA2.)

5.  The study work drew extensively on advice and expertise from key stakeholders such as front line commands, industry, IPTs, and from those within MOD itself. The main outcome of the JFH study work has been to recommend an investment strategy reflecting the guidance above. The principal findings of the study work are summarised below:

—  (a)  Both FA2 and GR7 would require significant investment over the next few years to maintain and upgrade their individual capabilities to ensure that both types retain a credible expeditionary capability to their respective out of service dates.

—  (b)  In accordance with the outcome of SDR, maintenance of an offensive attack capability through to FJCA and CVF was considered of overriding importance. (This was not in accordance with SDR 98. It did not suggest in any way that the offensive attack capability overrode the need for effective air defence and air supremacy.)

—  (c)  The FA2's embarked capability in hot climates will remain critically limited for a substantial proportion of the year by its poor engine performance because it cannot easily be retrofitted to take the more powerful mk107 engine currently being fitted to the Harrier GR7. (The study was confined to a short period of the Persian Gulf year when the Sea Harrier could not land back on deck within the approved operating safety limits if still carrying its AMRAAM outload and completely ignored the operation of fixed wing assets from Forward Operating Bases ashore. The US Marine Corps AV8B Harrier flew nearly 4,000 missions over Iraq from such operating bases—because they had the same engine problems as the Sea Harrier. That did not dissuade them from doing their job. It should be noted that CTOL fighters operating from United States carriers were also limited on operations by heat induced engine performance reduction. And so it was entirely wrong to isolate this problem as an unacceptable problem for Sea Harrier.)

—  (d)  The ability to operate world-wide by both day and night was required to ensure a robust expeditionary capability.

—  (e)  It would be possible to migrate to an all Harrier GR force whilst maintaining a credible expeditionary capability until the introduction to service of FJCA/CVF, albeit this would exacerbate the acknowledged capability gap in the air defence of the fleet until the introduction to service of a significant number of Type 45 destroyers equipped with the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) and later, FJCA. (Even with the Type 45, a major air defence capability gap still exists without the FA2.)

—  (f)  Migration to a single aircraft type would require modifications to the Harrier GR7 to ensure a credible expeditionary capability was maintained (until FJCA/CVF ISD) including the ability to employ smart/precision weapons such as the precision guided bomb and the brimstone anti-armour weapon. The Harrier GR7 will therefore be upgraded to GR9 standard.

6.  The study team recommended that the JFH investment strategy should be based on early migration to a single aircraft type, maximising investment in Harrier GR. The next step was to consider when would be the appropriate date to withdraw FA2 from service. A number of options were examined which would begin the withdrawal on dates between 2003 and 2007. Many factors were considered in this phase of the work, including: the potential size of the fleet air defence capability gap; the funding profiles required for the GR7-9 upgrade programme; the impact on RN and Royal Air Force personnel; and, the convergence of RN and RAF air engineering practices. After considerable debate we agreed a date of 1 April 2004 as a planning assumption for the commencement of the FA2 draw down with the caveat that this should be revisited if necessary once implementation work is underway.

7.  It is intended that JFH migrates to an all Harrier GR9 force based at Cott/Witt commencing in April 2004 completing by about April 2007. Shortly after this date 50/50 RN/RAF manning will be achieved across the joint force. The precise timing will be dependent on the implementation of air engineering convergence, which will be brought forward from 2008 to ensure that fully joint engineering operations are possible. A small number of Sea Harrier pilots will convert to the Harrier GR7 during 2003, ahead of the main transition, to establish a core of RN experience within the Harrier GR force. Planned collocation of the force will be modified in that FA2 personnel will relocate to Cott/Witt to operate the Harrier GR7/9 as FA2 squadrons disband between 2004 and 2006. The FA2 and ac-specific supporting infrastructure will remain at Yeovilton until withdrawn from service.

8.  The precise structure of the re-brigaded JFH, which will remain a STC formation, has yet to be confirmed but it is assumed that, post migration, there will be four front line squadrons. Within two of the squadrons, the establishment will comprise a majority of Royal Air Force personnel, within the other two squadrons the RAF/RN balance will be reversed with RN personnel in the majority. The operational conversion unit will be manned 50/50 by RAF/RN aircrew and ground crew. In parallel with the reconfiguration of the Harrier Force, the Invincible Class carriers will be modified to operate GR9 aircraft and will be provisioned to sustain the force elements declared. The Joint Force aircraft will be double-earmarked for operations from land or sea. The Harrier GR9 will be maintained in service until 2015.

9.  This significant change announced by the Secretary of State today will allow us to deliver a greater offensive strike capability from the CVS than even SDR envisaged would be possible ahead of FJCA. The new structure for the Joint Force which we have agreed will allow us coherently to migrate to FJCA whilst operating a common aircraft and taking advantage of best single-service practice. These advantages will more than outweigh the impact on air defence of the fleet caused by the withdrawal of the FA2 until the new Type 45 destroyer and PAAMS enter service from 2007 (and FJCA enters service from 2012). (This last sentence is totally wrong in its operational judgement. When you are attacked by air to surface missiles at sea, it does not matter how many bombs you have on board.)

10.  CINC STC will shortly provide further details for those in JFH.

Annex C


(Submitted in support of the statement by First Sea Lord [Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh] and Chief of the Air Staff [Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire] giving details of the planned withdrawal from service of the Sea Harrier FA2 by the year 2006. [Submission date, early 2002])

Editorial note: Comments below concerning appropriate Q & A's present the real truth of the matter and call into question whether Defence policy 2001 Statement was indeed a serious document. The latter stated that "we will be maintaining the emphasis on deployability and the ability to survive and fight in an expeditionary environment".


1. Q.  Is this move just another cost saving measure?

A.  No. It is the entirely logical conclusion to work that has sought to establish a smooth transition to FCJA. It will see the enhancement of our expeditionary offensive air capability and, with the Type 45 Destroyers, establish a route map to the Navy of 2010 and beyond.

Comment:  This may be "entirely logical" to financial mandarins but it is entirely illogical when considered from an operational point of view. Lessons learned from operations over the past thirty years show that the combatant with the better air-to-air and air-to-ground capability is the one that wins the day. One has to "kill off" or deter the enemy air capability before it is safe for air-to-ground operations to take place. Further, the modern, accepted air-to-ground doctrine is for the delivery of smart weapons from altitude (out of reach of small arms and short range surface-to-air missiles). Ground attack aircraft with weapon systems designed for low level, over-the-target direct delivery are too vulnerable to enemy ground fire.

2. Q.  Will this plan save money? If so how much?

A.  There will obviously be savings from the withdrawal of the FA2 from service earlier than previously planned. However, the vast majority of the benefit from this will be realised in a later timeframe, beyond 2006, after the last FA2 squadron is disbanded.

Comment:  Much more money could have been saved by discontinuing some or all "non-essential" and less than efficient operational aircraft. Why does the RAF need additional shore-based ground attack aircraft (Tornado GR4 and later, Typhoon)? This clearly does not fit with an expeditionary force policy.

3. Q.  How will the money saved be used?

A.  In part it will be used to upgrade the Harrier GR7 to GR9.

Comment:  How could this be so when the Harrier GR9 upgrade was already approved and needed to be complete before Sea Harrier finished service?


1. Q.  Will this leave a gap in the RN's air-defence capabilities?

A.  While there will be temporary degradation in the outer layer of air defence until FCJA is operational, this will be adequately compensated for by the introduction of the Type 45 Destroyer, and other elements of our layered maritime air defence system. Also, with the increasing emphasis on coalition operations in the littoral and the much reduced requirement to conduct blue water operations, there are few, if any scenarios which in the interim will require FA2 aircraft to ensure operational success.

Comment:  This is not so. In small numbers (only three by 2010), the Type 45/PAAMS cannot provide flexible air defence over large threat sectors. Nor can it engage low level threats below the radar horizon. It will be much more capable than the Type 42/Sea Dart system inshore but it cannot compensate for the complete lack of an outer layer of fleet air defence. If faced with, for example, the uprated, supersonic Chinese sea-skimming missile, SS-N-22 Sunburn (now being sold to third world and developing nations), it will be no more capable than Sea Dart against Exocet. It does not therefore compensate. The "other elements of our layered maritime air defence system" are only chaff plus Point Defence Missile Systems and guns. All these are "last resort" measures and, lacking the early attrition by the outer layers, will be easily saturated by co-ordinated air-to-surface attacks.

Finally, the most likely UK specific scenario that could arise after the removal of Sea Harrier from service is for the Argentine to retake the Falklands. Britain would be unable to intervene to protect her interests there.

2.  Q.  How do you justify the withdrawal of the FA2?

A.  It is a logical step in the progression to a single aircraft type. The end result will be vastly increased offensive capability from the Invincible Class carriers.

Comment:   Embarked operational experience to date with Harrier GR7 is limited to the Sierra Leone experience, where:

—  (a)  The RAF Harriers did not fly armed recce missions ashore in support of own forces. They did not feel confident in being able to "find the ship" during recovery. So the Sea Harrier FA2 carried out all the day and night armed recce missions instead.

—  (b)  The GR7 did not have a clearance to fire its gun and would therefore have been less effective than the FA2 when on task.

3.  Q  Surely the FA2 is no older than the GR7?

A.  The FA2 is essentially a modified Harrier GR3, an all-metal aircraft that was withdrawn from RAF service in the late 80s. The GR7 is of a more modern design, is largely constructed of composite materials and designed to accept the more powerful Pegasus 11-61 engine similar to the one used by the US Marine Corps.

Comment:  This reply does not answer the question.

The FA2 is no older than the GR7. It is specially fitted with hardware that does not corrode in the maritime environment and is therefore better able to cope with the rigours of this environment. Expensive modifications will have to be made to prepare GR7/9 for these maritime conditions.

4.  Q.  Is the air-defence capability of the GR7 as good as that of the FA2?

A.  No. The GR7 is optimised for offensive support operations, although it has a limited air defence capability using Sidewinder Air to Air missiles.

Comment:  The real answer is that the GR7 has a limited self defence capability even when fitted with Sidewinder missiles. Without an air-to-air radar, the GR7 has little fleet air defence capability and with its short range air-to-air missile system ASRAAM compared to the FA2s AMRAAM, it is very vulnerable to any modern air-to-air fighter.

5.  Q.  Is the air-defence capability of the GR9 as good as that of the FA2?

A.  No. The GR9 will be optimised for offensive support operations and be capable of employing the latest smart weapons such as the Brimstone anti-armour weapon. (why was it then fitted to the Tornado GR4 and not the Harrier GR9?) It will be a more capable platform in the offensive role than the GR7. Like the GR7 it will be able to utilise Sidewinder Air to Air missiles.

Comment:  See comment to answer 4, above.

6.  Q.  What are the operational advantages of the GR9 over the GR7?

A.  In essence, the capability to employ the latest generation of smart weapons such as Brimstone. There are other advantages too, but these are classified. Why then was not Brimstone fitted to the Harrier GR9?

7.  Q.  At what range did the FA2 operate to provide air defence to the Fleet?

A.  Not prepared to comment on specific operational detail, but in some climates its operational performance is constrained.

Comment:  Combat Air Patrol stations are typically held at ranges of 100 nm or more from the centre of a task force over land or sea. Although operational performance is constrained in the hottest environments, it can still provide a carrier based effective outer layer of air defence (or police "no fly" zones) up to ambient temperatures of about 34ºC. When operating from a Forward Operating Base in support of beach head operations it is unconstrained.


1.  Q.  What is the timescale for the migration?

A.  By 1 April 2007, JFH will operate an all Harrier GR9 fleet.

2.  Q.  When will the first FA2 squadron disband?

A.  During the first half of 2004 so that personnel can begin their conversion to the Harrier GR.

3.  Q.  When will the last FA2 squadron disband?

A.  During 2006, at about the same time as the last part of the Sea Harrier Force is withdrawn from service.

4.  Q.  Why are you taking the FA2 out of service before the Type 45 comes into service?

A.  The FA2 is not the only system that contributes to the overall defence of the fleet. This is especially true for coalition operations and operations in the littoral. In addition the aircraft lacks performance in certain areas and this can constrain operations. The aircraft's systems would also require significant investment for it to remain credible in the air defence role beyond 2006. Overall, the cost of keeping the Sea Harrier in service from this date until the entry to service of the Type 45 is judged to represent poor value for the taxpayer. We assess the risk is manageable considering other air defence capabilities available in the intervening period.

Comment:  This is more of the same misleading information. The FA2 aircraft systems actually required no significant investment for it to remain credible in the air defence role beyond 2006. Some limited investment would have provided valuable operational advantages; such as the fitting of the JTIDS system.

What other air defence capabilities are available in the intervening period? None beyond "last ditch" Point Defence systems and certainly not the Type 45 even if they became available in adequate numbers.


1.  Q.  Will the arrival of the Type 45 and PAAMS provide an air defence capability for the Fleet that meets that provided by the FA2?

A.  It's a different and superior capability in the context of today's operational requirements. It will be better suited to the protection of maritime assets operating close to shore.

Comment:  It is neither superior nor capable against long range air threat targets, below the radar horizon threats or against threat aircraft with modern stand-off missiles. When operating close to shore, the FA2 is invaluable with its positioning flexibility and its Blue Vixen/AMRAAM look-down/shoot-down capability. It can deter a threat from attack or engage attack aircraft well before fleet radars can detect their presence and before they are in a position to threaten the fleet or ground forces.

2.  Q.  What is the plan for the introduction to service of the Type 45?

A. The first of class will enter service in 2007, with 3 in service by 2010.

Comment:  This is far too late to "fill the gap".

3.  Q.  What is the range of PAAMS?

A.  Not prepared to comment on operational detail. But it represents a quantum leap in capability over its successor, Sea Dart, and thus offsets the loss of the FA2 outer layer.

Comment:  Although still unproven, it may well be much superior to Sea Dart but it is still limited by radar horizon and by the Type 45's relative immobility. Without the outer layer of fighters, it may easily be saturated by a multi threat attack from different directions.


1.  Q.  When will the first FJCA enter service?

A.  2012.

2.  Q.  When is the first FJCA squadron expected to be operational?

A.  The timing has not yet been set in concrete. A lot will depend on which aircraft is eventually chosen. Current planning assumes that FJCA will be capable of operational tasking shortly after entering service.

3.  Q.  Has the MoD chosen the FJCA?

A.  No. The MoD has identified that the Joint Strike Fighter offers the potential to meet the FJCA requirement.

4.  Q.  Do you have a fall-back position if JSF does not go forward—could this mean a delay?

A.  It is highly unlikely that the JSF programme will not produce at least one variant that would meet the UK's requirement. Nevertheless, there are fall-back options available to meet our required timescales.

Comment:   What are these so-called fall-back options? If the Naval and Air Staff have done their planning job efficiently, these options (if any) should now be available and should be made public. The F-18 Super Hornet is an obvious prime contender.

5.  Q.  How will Joint Force Harrier be structured once the FA2 has been withdrawn from service?

A.  We are planning four front line squadrons and an Operational Conversion Unit. Two of the squadrons will be manned predominantly by RAF personnel. In the other two squadrons the manning balance will be reversed with RN personnel in the majority. The Operational Conversion Unit will be manned 50/50 RAF/RN.


1.  Q.  Is this just one step on the road to "disbanding" the Fleet air Arm? If this did not appear a probable part of the plan, then why ask the question?

A.  There is no hidden agenda to "march off" the Fleet Air Arm. SDR envisaged that there would be a joint RN/RAF shareholding in both JFH and FJCA and this has been agreed by the service chiefs. Moreover, Joint RN/RAF carrier-based deployments are now very much the norm, as was seen recently in Sierra Leone.

Comment:  But the RAF Harriers did not/would not fly missions over the land in Sierra Leone—they were afraid of not getting back to the ship. The RAF Harriers rarely embark and then only for a few weeks at most. This can hardly be called a "norm".

2.  Q.  With the demise of the FA2 Squadrons, Will the RAF be responsible for carrier-borne aviation?

A.  No, the GR7/9 will be manned and maintained by both the RN and RAF and both services will take an equitable share of the land based and sea based operational and training commitment.

3.  Q.  What are the pilot requirements for the RN/RAF after migration has taken place?

A.  For the RN, there will be little change to the current requirement for fixed wing pilots. For the RAF, there will be a small reduction but given the relative size of the RAF the impact will be positive but small.

4.  Q.  What will be the net increase/decrease of military/civilian personnel at RNAS Yeovilton and Wittering/Cottesmore?

A.  Approximately 565 RN personnel will relocate, principally from RNAS Yeovilton to RAF Cottesmore/Wittering over the period 2004-06, between one and three years later than original planned.

Through a combination of substitution of RN and RAF personnel and withdrawal of Sea Harriers from service some 380 RAF Air Engineers, 105 RAF support posts and 32 RAF aircrew posts will be disestablished with individuals released for redeployment elsewhere.

Of the 235 civilian posts currently at RNAS Yeovilton, some 20 non-mobile civilian posts will be extended beyond 2003 to be disestablished over the period 2005-06. These posts will not now be transferred to RAF Cottesmore/Wittering. The remaining civilian posts at RNAS Yeovilton will be unaffected.

In addition, 26 new civilian posts that were to have been created at RAF Cottesmore/Wittering, currently unfilled, will now no longer be required.

5.  Q.  Will there be any redundancies amongst civilian personnel?

A.  It is difficult at this stage to predict whether any redundancies will be necessary. However, in the event that some personnel were to be made redundant, every effort would be made to find alternative employment and careful and sympathetic consideration would be given to each individual's preference. In these circumstances staff made redundant would be compensated under the terms of the appropriate regulations. In addition, the MoD Outplacement Service (MODOPS) would be available to help those made redundant to identify new opportunities.

6.  Q.  Will there be any redundancies amongst military personnel?

A.  No. There will be no redundancies amongst Military Personnel. Displaced RAF personnel will be re-employed elsewhere within their specialist areas. Such postings are routine.

Comment:  There may well be massive RN Fleet Air Arm voluntary redundancies. And if the surface Navy realises that it is going to remain relatively defenceless against air attack, ship's company personnel may also leave the service in droves. No one wants to fight if one's masters do not provide the means for adequate defence and survival.

7.  Q.  Is this decision based at all on the shortage of aircrew?

A.  No. This is driven by operational imperatives and the need for the UK to focus on expeditionary offensive capability.

Comment:  The greatest operational imperative is to deter the enemy from proceeding with his malign intentions. To do that requires a sensible balance between offensive systems (GR9/JSF and FA2/JSF) and defensive systems (FA2/JSF only).


Introduction to the submitter:

1.  Professor Martin Edmonds is Honorary Professorial Fellow and Reader Emeritus of the University of Lancaster. In a career in defence and international security studies lasting over 47 years he has held appointments at: Manchester University; Lancaster University; Columbia University in the City of New York; the University of Southern California; the University of Maryland; and the University of Toulouse. He is also the Founder (and still) Director of the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies (CDISS), and also (Founding) Editor-in-Chief of the international journal, Defense and Security Analysis. In 2005, he was appointed Academic Advisor on research to the UK Defence Academy and is Convenor of the Carrier Conclave Group. Relevant publications include: Future NATO Security; 100 Years of the Trade (RN Submarines); Future Conditional: War and Conflict after Next; Defence Diplomacy and Preventive Diplomacy: the Role of Maritime Forces; Maritime Manoeuvre: Expeditionary Warfare, "Jointery" and the Role of the Carrier; Maritime Forces in Peace and War: Joint and Combined Operations; British Naval Aviation in the 21st Century; ASW in Coastal Waters; The Future of Naval Aviation: Views from the USA.


2.  It is over 12 years since the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR). In the intervening years the world has changed considerably, as has the United Kingdom. Much of what has happened since then had not been anticipated: "globalisation"; "cyber-warfare"; terrorism; counter-insurgency; piracy; humanitarian intervention; environmental hazards; illegal immigration; and, today, overseas military occupation and political development. Such has been the rate of change that from a defence and security perspective serious shortcomings in Britain's defence capability and the equipment available to the Armed Forces have been (sometimes embarrassingly) exposed. Irrespective of the current economic and political circumstances, a thorough and comprehensive reassessment of Britain's role in the world and her defence and security requirements was not just desirable, but a necessity.


3.  The SDR took almost 15 months to prepare, The SDSR did not have that luxury, given the Coalition Government's urgent need to address the country's severe economic and financial difficulties and its policy radically to reduce overall public expenditure. No item of public expenditure was exempt, defence included, with the exception of the health, education and international development budgets. The challenge facing the government's National Security Council (NSC) should not be underestimated. At best, the NSC can only first identify and, then, project world economic, political and cultural trends and correlate these with Britain's future capacity to provide for the security and wellbeing of her people. The SDR did not get it this wholly right; the question now is whether the SDSR has done any better. Regrettably, informed opinion is that it has not.

4.  One effective way to look for a solution on any problem (not just defence) is to go back to basic principles. Vis a vis the SDSR, two basic approaches lend themselves: one is to assess what one has now and then adapt and build from that foundation; the other is to identify where one wants to be in so many years time—say 25 years from now—with what, how and where—this can be called the "bottom up" approach. Once that is done, take measured decisions that are most likely to get the optimal outcome. Both approaches are beset with immense problems, but they help clarify the issues. To provide guidance when addressing these problems, the Government commissioned a National Security Strategy (NSS) that, in theory at least, define the underlying principles and parameters of Britain's future defence and security policies—the "top down" approach.

5.  Given these first two approaches and the role of the NSS, emphasis on the former is better in the short term; in the long term the latter is preferable. Does Britain want defence and security problems addressed now, or in the future? The outcome of the SDSR inevitably had to be a compromise of both: the former, because that is what had to be done—there was no escape—and the latter, is what needed to be done, if Britain can be defended and secure against clearly identified threats in, say, 25 years time. Both approaches need the over-arching "top down" NSS principles and parameters

6.  It was inevitable that the outcome of the SDSR would likely be an amalgam of capabilities necessary to prosecute Britain's current commitments throughout the world—Afghanistan, especially—and of those thought desirable to meet future potential threats on or around 2030. At issue was how to arrive at a balance between the two within the Treasury's requirement to cut defence spending by up to 18% and reduce the "black hole" of £38 billion committed on future equipment. Compounding the problem was, apparently, the lack of knowledge in depth of defence and military issues of both the members of the Prime Minister's NSC team and the team of Cabinet Senior Civil Servants who were charged with "pushing through some of the most controversial cuts". To help their deliberations, an advisory group of some 20 experts was appointed, though apparently their recommendations were ignored.

7.  There may, however, have been sound reasons to isolate the Armed Services and the Ministry of Defence from the NSC's deliberations, not least to avoid Service partisan interests and inter-Service rivalry further complicating matters, though this seems now to have been less than successful. Ultimate responsibility had, therefore, to be held "where the buck stops"—within the Cabinet, or more specifically the NSC. Ultimately, it rests with the Prime Minister himself as would appear in the case of the SDSR. Despite the loud and trenchant criticisms from a wide variety of sources and not just the military, the PM has since insisted that the SDSR represents a "good deal" for the Armed Services and currently appears reluctant to be persuaded otherwise.

8.  The issue, before it is too late, is to ask whether he is right to stick to his guns or should he now listen to criticisms from those who, allegedly, were either ignored or were by-passed during the relatively rushed deliberations leading up to the SDSR. The response should be to be to look at what the Government itself has said, particularly in respect of the thrust of the NSS and the content of the SDSR that was announced two days later. The NSS, titled "A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty", stipulated the following main objectives:

—  To ensure British forces in Afghanistan were to have the equipment they need;

—  To begin to bring the defence programme back into balance; and

—  To enable Britain to retain the best and most versatile Armed Forces in the world and better equipped to protect British security in an uncertain world.

In making a number of further statements of relevance to the SDSR, the NSS concluded:

—  There is no major state threat to Britain;

—  Britain is to play a major role in shaping international institutions and alliances, such as NATO and the EU; and

—  Britain should, on the strength of its National Security Risk Assessment (NRSA), prepare capabilities to address threats to the UK, in order of magnitude and likelihood:

—  Tier 1 (Terrorism; Cyber attack; International Military Crises; Major Accidents);

—  Tier 2 (Attacks on British Overseas Territories; Major overseas instability and civil wars; Organised crime; and Satellite communication interference); and

—  Tier 3 (Conventional attack on the UK; Increases in illegal immigrants, organised criminals and terrorists into the UK; Attacks on UK overseas territories; Release of radioactive materials; and Attacks on NATO or EU allies).

9.  Derived from the content of the NSS, the main driving force behind the SDSR was clearly Britain's' involvement in Afghanistan—at least until her ultimate withdrawal on or around 2015. This is what was meant, above, by the Review addressing current commitments—there are, of course, many more commitments than just Afghanistan—before planning for future threats and defining Britain's interests and place in the world. No one has disputed that Afghanistan needs to be addressed, first. The subsequent arguments have been over where defence cuts should fall, what capabilities should be retained, and which should be developed to meet future threats. The sensitive issue is how much current commitments affect future plans and policies within a constrained annual budget.

10.  The SDSR makes it clear that the flexibility of the Armed Forces and the maintenance of a broad spectrum of capabilities are highly important, as are geographical reach and the ability to engage in high intensity operations, as and when needed. It declared that, "we will maintain our ability to act alone where we cannot expect others to help". More specifically, the SDSR asserts that the Armed Forces will be "balanced, flexible, and adaptable", rigorously prioritised and pragmatic, and based on needs and expeditionary in character. It does not, however, include any explicit statement about the broad strategy to be followed. If the SDSR means what it says, only a maritime strategy is flexible and adaptable enough to enable Britain to engage in expeditionary operations. But it has been Britain's maritime and amphibious capabilities and the Royal Navy, in particular, that the SDSR policies and budgetary cuts have affected the most.

11.  In other words, there is a serious mismatch between the content of the NSS and that of the SDSR. The decisions that have followed from it not only have rendered the strategic assumptions of the NSS unworkable, but have also seriously damaged the structures and capabilities of all three branches (four, with the Royal Marines) of the Armed Services, potentially irrevocably. Among the more incomprehensible decisions—though allegedly as a result of last minute behind-the-scenes representation to the PM by two senior RAF personnel—was the scrapping of the GR9 Harrier jump-jet and the retention of the ageing, costly and operationally unreliable Tornado. Aside from leaving Britain's future carriers with no aircraft for upwards of 10 years, it failed to recognise that operationally and financially—by some considerable margin—the Tornado was a worse alternative. The cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 "spy plane" reconnaissance aircraft was another that would leave a long-term capability gap and, again, runs contrary to stated NSS priorities.

12.  Without going into specific details, the Royal Navy has had its amphibious capability seriously curtailed; it has no sea-borne air capability until 2020; it can only maintain 2.3 attack submarines in operational areas at one time; and the loss at a stroke of 20% of the destroyer and frigate force is little short of catastrophic in the face of six current operational commitments and the requirement for other national tasking in the form of national and international exercises, task group training and operations, and ship visits in support of foreign and trade policy. Further, the expedient of sharing aircraft carriers with the French reveals a level of ignorance—or naivety—on the part of the Government that has left Navy personnel with years of carrier operational experience almost at a loss for words. However, the most serious concern of all is that the Royal Navy as a whole has been reduced to such an extent that organisationally, it has fallen below its "critical mass" and to such a degree that it would be unable to respond to those very Tier 1 and 2 threats identified in the NSS.

13.  The Army has come off relatively lightly, reflecting the current emphasis on Britain's counter-insurgency role in Afghanistan. However, the future imbalance in the structure of the Army has not been properly addressed. That up to 37% of the Army's strength will not be in permanent, formed, supported, deployable combat formations is not merely a source of concern, but more especially a significant waste of money. Given the limitations of the resultant multi-role brigades, the focus on land operations is not so much a balanced capability able to work across the spectrum of military operations, but more one that is configured for enduring land counter-insurgency operations. It is these that are scheduled to end in four years time.

14.  The Royal Air Force has, arguably, emerged the least affected, even though it contributes least to the objectives defined in the NSS document or towards the claims for flexibility and an intervention capability in the SDSR. Only a reduction in Tornado squadrons, the withdrawal of the GR4 Harrier and the cancellation of the MRA4 are the major casualties. The Typhoon jet programme will go ahead, the RAF will eventually also get the F-35C carrier jet aircraft, additional helicopters and the A400M transport aircraft. But the devil is in the detail: for example, the proposed new transport aircraft does not have the capacity to accommodate the Army's new equipment and the Apache battlefield helicopter, has not been acquired. The RAF has since been reported as being the Service responsible for Britain's future Cyber-warfare capability, though this has been contradicted by a senior Foreign Office official.

15.  All in all, the SDSR is significant as much for what it has proposed—which does not entirely marry with the National Security Strategy statement—as for what it has left out. There is not any mention of Reserve Forces; nor is there anything on Defence procurement. There is no reference, either, to any degree of harmonisation between the three Services (ie work load and output). Likewise, there is little on wider security issues and the Armed Forces' role in fighting international crime, protecting Britain's sea lanes of communication, cyber warfare, piracy, humanitarian aid, defence diplomacy, etc.


16.  The three Services may have to come to terms with what has been decided, though very few with professional military experience are convinced that what they are left with makes coherent military or operational sense, either to them separately or collectively. The SDSR's claim is that the flexibility of the Armed Forces and the maintenance of a broad spectrum of capabilities are highly important, as are geographical reach and the ability to engage in high intensity operations, as and when needed, even to the extent that, "We will maintain our ability to act alone where we cannot expect others to help". At present, none of these aspirations is likely to be met. There is plainly a need "to think again", most critically, in order to achieve some better coherence between the NSS's assumptions and the content of the SDSR.


Executive Summary

1.  This paper fits within the Defence Select Committee remit to examine whether a funding gap still remains, how significant is it and how will it impact on defence capability. In particular it seeks to brief the Committee on a mooted project that carries a significant risk of increasing the funding gap.

—  (a)  It is concerned with the proposition being put forward by British Aerospace Systems for development funding to be put into the modification of the Typhoon aircraft (Eurofighter) into a multi-role aircraft with an ability to operate from aircraft carriers.

—  (b)  It draws on extensive naval air warfare expertise, direct experience of carrier deck landing and take-off expertise (both conventional and VSTOL) and Naval Air Engineering expertise gained from involvement with the Sea Harrier and two USN aircraft projects (T-45 Goshawk and F-35).

Introduction to the submitters

2.  The staff work for this Submission has been conducted by:

—  (c)  Commander Nigel D MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC. A fully qualified expert in Air Warfare and aircraft carrier operations with experience varying from Command in combat, Nuclear Intelligence within NATO to the Navigator and Gunnery Officer of a small ship.

—  (d)  Mr Steve George. A Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a highly experienced former Fleet Air Arm Air Engineer Officer with direct experience of Sea Harrier design and operations, and also industrial experience, having worked with BAE SYSTEMS on two YUS navy aircraft projects, the T-45 Goshawk and latterly the Joint Strike Fighter programme.


3.  A proposal that the Typhoon can be modified to enable it to operate from aircraft carriers as a full "swing role" fighter aircraft has been made by British Aerospace.

4.  British Aerospace Systems and its European partners are informing the British and the French Governments and their prime prospective overseas customer (India) that this major modification to the aircraft is feasible and worth substantial government support and funding. See ANNEX A for the press release on this issue. Extracts from a further media outlet are provided at Annex B.

5.  This paper will discuss the feasibility of the proposal.

6.  It will then go on to raise pertinent questions concerning the BAE proposal relevant to:

—  (a)  the funding gap already facing the defence budget; and

—  (b)  the resultant likely capability of the aircraft.


7.   Previous MoD-funded studies have already shown that it would be impractical, and non-cost-effective for the Typhoon aircraft to be made fully carrier capable. It appears that British Aerospace Systems is disregarding these studies and has launched a further initiative to persuade politicians, senior MoD officials and offshore customers that a Navalised Typhoon is feasible.

8.  BAe uses computer simulations to validate their proposals. There have been major problems in the past with such work. For example, in the mid-90s, British Aerospace Warton privately developed a carrier deck simulator to and from which it could fly a simulated Typhoon (an aircraft not then in production). They invited Peter Levine, the then head of the Defence Procurement Agency, to try out the simulator and to show him how easy it was for the Typhoon to be operated from a carrier. Mr Levine sat in the cockpit and tried it himself. He was very impressed as to how easy it was to land on and take-off from an aircraft carrier. What he didn't know was that the programming of the simulator bore very little relation to reality. But he presumably went away convinced that flying from aircraft carriers was simple, easy, learnable in a single day and that Typhoon was readily operable from carriers.

9.  The personal experience of one of the authors of this paper of British Aerospace Warton simulation is also relevant. In 1980, they created an air combat simulator for the training of frontline pilots and asked two experienced fighter pilots from the Fleet Air Arm to test out the simulator. They were pre-briefed that it was "impossible to beat the aircraft in their simulation". Each pilot flew 12 combat sorties against the "unbeatable" simulated fighter aircraft and both claimed 12 "kills" in quick time against it. They concluded that the simulation's failure had to be blamed on the lack of front line combat expertise in the BAe design team.

10.  It can be deduced from this latter experience that the carrier deck simulator flown by Mr Levine had been programmed by company staff with no experience of operating from carriers. This ill designed simulation made carrier deck landing look easy, which it is not, and Mr Levine was seriously mislead: on all counts.


Annex A, paragraph 2

11.  "Eurofighter is here touting the potential of a navalised development which has already been studied in detail in the UK".


12.  They naturally would not wish to disclose that the formal MoD sponsored studies conducted in the UK came to the conclusion that a viable navalised version of the Typhoon was not a practical proposition.

Annex A, paragraph 4 and 5

13.  "The European type [Typhoon] would receive several new features to support its proposed life at sea. These include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and thrust vectoring control nozzles for its two Euro jet EJ200 turbofan engines. The latter would enable the fighter to approach the vessel at a reduced speed without restricting pilot vision by requiring an increased angle of attack." "Eurofighter says only localised strengthening would be required on some fuselage sections near the landing gear and to the EJ 200."


14(a)  This proposal appears to be for operating Typhoon in a mode similar to the Russian "STOBAR" arrangement, where a land based fighter/bomber with a high thrust to weight ratio is launched from a ramp (ski-jump) and recovered at an acceptably low speed using a combination of advanced flight controls systems and vectored thrust. Such a proposal carries significant technical risks, associated with launch, recovery and aircraft design:

—  (i)  Launch Capability

—     The basic requirement for a naval aircraft is to be able to launch from the flight deck under all sea and wind conditions with an operationally effective payload. STOBAR aircraft face severe challenges in achieving this, which are less severe for both CATOBAR (CATapult Operations and Barrier Arrested—as per the US Navy) and STOVL operations. These are set out below.

—     During any aircraft launch, ramp end speed is crucial (for STOBAR and STOVL, the speed at which the aircraft leaves the deck-fitted ski jump). A CATOBAR aircraft (eg F/A-18) relies on the power of the steam catapult to achieve the required speed to generate wing lift. A STOVL aircraft (Harrier or F-35B) leaves the end of the ski jump at a speed below which wing borne flight is possible, but uses vectored engine thrust through its centre of gravity to support the aircraft while it accelerates to wing borne flight speed. Unfortunately, the Typhoon doesn't have a "powered lift" mode of the flight—that is lift provided by downward facing nozzles -that can replace wing lift below normal flying speed. Nor, critically, does it have reaction controls (thrust nozzles fed by engine air) to control aircraft attitude below normal flying speed. These factors mean that:

—     It can only sustain flight after launch by wing lift and whatever component of thrust can be generated by a very high angle of flight. This, in turn, generates drag, which means that the aircraft spends longer in the most dangerous phase of flight—immediately after deck launch, and

—     It runs a severe risk of severely degraded handling qualities as it leaves the deck before full flying speed is reached.

—     Without a catapult (and BAE acknowledge that the Typhoon cannot use such a device) the aircraft can only achieve higher end speeds by ever longer take off runs, which are in turn limited by nose leg loads on the ramp, or by reducing launch weight—payload. (Looking at the Russian aircraft operations, it is noticeable that they can only carry light weapon loads.)

—  (ii)  It should be noted that during the previous UK MoD funded studies, BAE proposed the addition of a reaction control system to Typhoon. Such a modification would involve channelling high-pressure, high-temperature air from both of the engines to the four extremities of the aeroplane, installing the necessary control nozzles, and linking this system to the pilot's control column and the flight control computer system. This would add significant weight and cost to the aeroplane. Critically, such a system would also rob the engines of power at precisely the stage of flight when maximum thrust would be required for safe operation.

—  (iii)  If conventional aircraft such as the Typhoon could launch with their normal payload in under 800 feet, ski jumps would be fitted to all expeditionary air bases where take-off weight is constrained by altitude and/or temperature. The reason ramps are not used in this way is because such aircraft cannot benefit from the use of ramps without very considerable modification.

—  (iv)  Landing

—  (v)  The basic requirement is to be able to land safely and rapidly on the ship, carrying a basic minimum fuel load and also unused weapons, under all conditions, day and night. For a CATOBAR aircraft, this means that the aircraft has to fly controllably on the prescribed approach/glide path to the flight deck at a precise, not-to-exceed speed into the arrestor wire—the arrestor wires have a limiting load beyond which they will break. This is an extremely challenging requirement and drives the design of CATOBAR aircraft. The standard USN approach speed is around 130 to 135 knots, which delivers stable approaches and minimum "trap intervals" (essential when numbers of aircraft are being recovered) at a speed that the arresting cables and engines can cope with. This speed delivers precision approaches, so that the ship needs only three cables for reliable "traps". It also allows the aircraft to cope with the "burble", which is the area of turbulent air immediately behind the ship, through which the aircraft must fly. Finally, this approach allows the aircraft, should it fail to engage the wire, or suffer a wire or hook failure, to accelerate immediately and take off again (this is called a bolter) within one second of touching the deck. The T-45 Goshawk, a very small and basic jet trainer, required massive redesign of the entire wing and tail to achieve adequate CATOBAR landings. (BAE are fully aware of these lessons).

—     Incidentally, a STOVL aircraft gets around all these issues by applying the "stop, then land" method, but at the cost of carrying the penalty of a powered lift system.

—     Typhoon is not designed to fly safely in the landing configuration at these speeds at normal landing weights and so the BAE suggestion was that with very advanced flight controls (and possibly vectored thrust?):

—  1.  The aircraft could be "over pitched" and

—  2.  Flared in such a way by the pilot as to arrive at the deck at a low descent rate and lower speeds—essentially, a dynamically manoeuvred landing.

—  (vi)  This concept would rely on split-second timing, rapid aircraft manoeuvres in the final seconds of the approach as well as an ability to predict deck motion. It was also unclear how such an approach would deliver precision touchdown points, or how it could be converted into a bolter. In all, such a completely unproven method must be considered extremely risky. The only effective way to reduce some (not all) of the risks would be to reduce landing weight—critically affecting the ability to "bring back" weapons.

—     Furthermore, in spite of the proposed changes, the Typhoon pilot's view of the landing sight and deck during the extensive simulator tests carried out continued to be minimal (or in some cases nil, due to the location of the aircraft's fore-planes). This must be considered completely unacceptable if pilot's lives are not to be risked unnecessarily. (It should be noted that despite an extremely tight budget, and a simpler method of landing, the redesign of the RAF Harrier into the Sea Harrier included an elevated cockpit to solve pilot view issues).

—     It must be concluded that attempting to adopt the completely new and untried technique being proposed by BAE would carry extremely high technical and safety risks that could only be mitigated by an expensive programme of development and trials. See Annex C for a more detailed explanation of some of the issues involved.

—  (vii)  As an indication of how critical the landing issues were found to be, the previous studies included a proposal for the ship to be fitted with special RB211 gas turbines to produce an "updraft blast" of air in the landing area and thereby assist the aircraft to land. Again , this is a completely untried concept-normally, carriers do all they can to keep gas turbine exhaust away from aircraft during landing, to avoid loss of thrust due to hot gas ingestion.

—  (viii)  Structure

—  (ix)  The BAE assertion that "localised strengthening" would be required to operate the Typhoon from an aircraft carrier would be challenged by any aircraft designer with experience of naval aircraft, and must be viewed as an unfortunately optimistic mis-statement of the facts.

—     Putting an aircraft on to a flight deck at around 135 knots and stopping it in a few hundred feet means taking a great deal of kinetic energy out of the aircraft in a short time through the landing gear and the arresting hook. The resulting loads are measured in tens of tons and have to be transmitted through the airframe to get to the wheels and the hook. This takes metal, and lots of it. (The T-45 Goshawk required around a ton and a half of extra reinforcement to make it carrier-capable. The F-35C CATOBAR variant of the JSF is the least common of the three variants, with extensive redesign of the structure throughout the entire airframe).

—     Moreover, the arresting hook system has to be radically different in design and operation from a land based emergency system (Typhoon's arresting hook will most probably be designed to be thrown away after a single "trap").

—     Launch loads for a STOBAR design are not as bad as for a catapult launch, but the loads on the nose leg are still non-trivial.

—     The main challenge for Typhoon is that the basic airframe has been very aggressively pared down to minimum weight. The aircraft suffered a major weight escalation during design, and every part of the airframe was examined again and again for chances to reduce weight (as an example, every nut and screw was pared down to the minimum length and size to save weight—as a result, a single access panel on the fuselage has over twenty different length screws used). The structural modifications required for any effective carrier operations would, without doubt, require a major airframe redesign. An excellent example is the BAE proposal for a redesigned landing gear. The existing design was carefully chosen for lowest weight, least impact on fuel volume, and least interference with under wing stores. The new design would increase all these penalties, and it is not surprising that BAE proposing the addition of conformal tanks that supposedly have no drag penalty. (If they do not provide lift, they will certainly provide extra weight and drag—giving less range/fewer weapons/lower combat speed.) The landing gear is in the very core of the airframe, and such a new gear would inevitably lead to a new centre fuselage at least.

—  (x)  Finally, during the previous UK studies, BAE proposed that the landing area of the ship's deck should be "sprung to reduce gear loads". This quite impractical scheme was an indicator of how tight the airframe loading issues were for any navalised Typhoon, and how little appreciation the Warton team had for maritime aircraft operations. In summary, Typhoon represents a poor starting point for a naval aircraft, and structural modification for naval operations would present massive technical risk which would inevitably carry a major price tag. It strains credulity, and is most unfortunate, that BAE are claiming that this is not the case.

Annex B, paragraph 3

15.  "According to Paul Hopkins, Vice President Business Development (Air) at BAE Systems, simulation tests of a "navalised Typhoon" show the aircraft can take off and land with full mission payload, including two "Storm Shadow" cruise missiles, four BVR missiles, two short range missiles."


16(a)  Simulation

It would appear that Paul Hopkins' enthusiasm for a "navalised Typhoon" operational capability from carriers is based upon BAE simulations that do not take into account the realities of flying from the deck at sea (see comments at 14, above).

16(b)  Mission Payload

The feasibility and practicability of the Typhoon returning to the deck and landing with this full mission payload (as well as the extra weight incurred by a major airframe modification and strengthening and the addition of conformal fuel tanks) again calls into question the validity of the internal BAE mission simulation. The F-35C, which is a dedicated naval aircraft design, and much larger then a Typhoon, would not be able to recover to the deck with such a payload. See Annex C.

Is a "Navalised Typhoon" a good investment for Britain?

17.  The questions that need to be asked are:

—  (a)  Is it sensible to lay out large amounts of scarce Defence funds on a project that proposes the adoption of radically new, untried and inherently risky concepts that have been developed by a team with the barest expertise in the field of naval aircraft design and actual carrier operations?

—  (b)  Should the British taxpayer be asked to fund projects which have not been researched adequately, have limited chances of success and which rest on assumptions that contradict basic physics?

—  (c)  Why should the Government put any development money into a navalised Typhoon project when alternative proven solutions for the Queen Elizabeth class carrier air group are readily available at less than a quarter of the cost of the Typhoon (eg the F-18 Super Hornet)?

Annex A


1.  The Eurofighter consortium is offering India the opportunity to acquire a new version of its Typhoon for use from a future indigenous aircraft carrier, with the first firm details of the proposal having emerged at the show.

2.  One of six contenders battling for the Indian air force's 126-aircraft medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal, Eurofighter is here touting the potential of a navalised development which has already been studied in detail in the UK.

3.  "If Typhoon wins MMRCA then India will have the indigenous skills to develop a navalised version," says Paul Hopkins, BAE Systems' vice-president business development (air) India. "This is a perfect opportunity for the nation to add aircraft with both land and sea capabilities."

4.  Being shown in model form for the first time this week, the European type would receive several new features to support its proposed life at sea. These include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and thrust-vectoring control nozzles for its two Eurojet EJ200 turbofan engines. The latter would enable the fighter to approach the vessel at a reduced speed without restricting pilot vision by requiring an increased angle of attack.

5.  Eurofighter says only localised strengthening would be required on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, and to the EJ200. Conformal fuel tanks could also be integrated with the airframe to extend the strike aircraft's range.

6.  Video footage being shown in the Eurofighter and BAE exhibit areas includes recent simulation-based imagery of tests made using adapted flight control software and new engine modelling. Sporting Indian navy markings, the navalised Typhoon is depicted taking off from a deck space similar to that aboard the ex-Russian navy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which is now being modified for Indian use.

7.  Also of interest for Indian applications is a new weapons option being displayed for the first time with a full-scale model of the Typhoon. Working in conjunction with Saab and Diehl, Eurofighter is offering the RBS15 anti-ship missile as a future payload for the multi-role fighter.

8.  The company is also showcasing technologies including an active electronically scanned array radar offered for the Typhoon, and providing demonstrations with a BAE-developed smart helmet display system for the type.

Annex B


1.  While the competition between six international aircraft manufacturers moves on, some of the competitors are already looking a step further, positioning their respective platforms addressing possible interest from the Indian Navy. The Super Hornet F/A-18E/F from Boeing and French Rafale from Dassault are already operational on board U.S. and French carriers, while the MiG-35 could be matched with the MiG-29K model the Indian Navy already operates. That leaves the Lockheed Martin F-16IN, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon in a disadvantage.

2.  Well… Things may change quite soon, according to BAE Systems. The company has anticipated this, highlighting at its display a navalised version of the Typhoon, utilizing few of the Tranche 3 features, such as thrust vector nozzles, conformal fuel tanks, and spoilers at the leading edge wing roots, designed to minimize landing speed. Unlike the Super Hornet and Rafale using catapult launch which requires significant strengthening of the landing gear and airframe, Typhoon is considered for "ski-jump" equipped carriers only (like QE2 and India's future indigenous carriers).

3.  According to Paul Hopkins, Vice President Business Development (Air) at BAE Systems, simulation tests of a "navalised Typhoon" show the aircraft can take off and land with full mission payload, including two "Storm Shadow" cruise missiles, four BVR missiles, two short range missiles, a centerline fuel tank and two conformal fuel tanks - something no other navalised aircraft can perform. A navalised Typhoon will be new built aircraft, fitted with strengthened airframe and landing gear. The British decision to switch from STOVL F-35B to F-35C conventional take off Lightning could pave the road for reconsideration of using Navalised Typhoons by the Royal Navy, on QE-2 aircraft carriers.

4.  The Gripen can also potentially be modified for service on aircraft carriers equipped with Ski Jumps. According to Eddy de la Motte, Director of Gripen operations in India, Saab performed a feasibility study of operating Gripen on aircraft carriers about ten years ago. The study determined this possibility is possible, feasible and affordable. "We don't have carrier experience and will rely on our partners like Embraer and HAL having more experience in this field to meet such requirement when it comes" LaMotte said.

Annex C


1.  Landing on board a conventional aircraft carrier in a fighter aircraft presents significant challenges that are not experienced when operating from an airfield ashore. Deck landing into arrestor wires by day is a high workload, high skill evolution requiring 100% concentration and extremely precise control of speed, aircraft attitude and glide path (in the vertical as well as the lateral sense). Any diversion from the prescribed approach parameters can and does result in various undesirable effects:

—  (a)  Too high an approach speed can cause the hooked wire to break leaving the aircraft with not enough residual speed to take off again but too much speed to stop on the deck: resulting in the loss of the aircraft.

—  (b)  Aircraft attitude (the angle of attack that the aircraft wings are presented to the air stream) must be accurately controlled. Too high a nose attitude at the prescribed speed will cause the loss lift from the wing surfaces and the aircraft will rapidly sink towards the stern of the ship. Too low a nose attitude will result in an increase in air speed, giving the aircraft to much inertia for the arrestor wire to cope with—and the latter will break.

—  (c)  Maintenance of the prescribed glide path as given by the stabilised landing sight is necessary to ensure that the hook does indeed catch a wire. If you are too low on the glide path, the hook can bounce over all the wires (or you may crash into the stern of the ship). If you are too high on the glide slope, your hook will miss the wires.

In other words, the correct air speed, attitude/angle of attack and glide slope must be maintained in a stable fashion all the way down the approach path to the deck.

2.  This means that the inertia of the aircraft, both horizontal and vertical, remains constant to the touchdown point: there is no reduction in rate of descent of the aircraft (as with landing on an airfield) and the forces that the aircraft under-carriage have to contain are markedly higher. Some have observed in the past that a carrier deck landing is almost akin to a "crash on deck"—the forces involved are so large. The undercarriage strength also has to take account of the movement of the ship, particularly a pitching deck and "ship heave":

—  (a)  The Pitching Deck. With the deck pitching around the ship's centre of gravity in heavy seas a severe upward momentum of the deck can be experienced at the touchdown point. This upward momentum needs to be taken into account in undercarriage strength as it represents to the undercarriage an increased downward force of the aeroplane on touchdown.

—  (b)  Ship Heave. This is caused by the ship being moved bodily up and down by heavy seas and has a similar impact on required undercarriage strength to the effects of ship pitch.

3.  The prescribed glide path for deck landing (as indicated by the deck landing sight) is, by virtue of simple geometry, steeper than that experienced ashore. On land, the prescribed glide path is 3°. But the land is stationary. With the ship moving at up to 30 kn away from the aircraft on the approach, the deck landing sight is set at 4° which gives the aircraft an approach path through the air of just 3°. Aircraft handling for maintaining the glide slope is therefore the same for landings ashore and on the deck. It is of course important to recognise that if the ship's deck is pitching 2°, this leaves only 1° of clearance between the aircraft flight path and the stern of the ship. Any reduction in the prescribed glide path and this clearance, through for example the adoption of a flared landing technique, would therefore be totally unacceptable from a practical and a flight safety point of view.

4.  The touchdown area where the tail hook of the aircraft catches the arrestor wire is extremely small and any lapse in concentration can cause pilots to miss the wires completely or, catastrophically, impact the stern of the ship. As if this was not enough, the flow of the wind over the deck often creates a "burble" just behind the ship. This has to be anticipated by the pilot by applying a small amount of power. Even in calm, benign sea conditions this represents a major challenge to any carrier deck pilot.

5.  When an aircraft lands ashore on an airfield it encounters a "ground cushion" when its height above the ground is at about 10 feet. This condition is caused by the interaction between the flat surface of the ground and the airflow across the aircraft's wings. This automatically causes a reduction in the rate of descent of the aircraft, a side-effect of which is that the aircraft stays airborne longer and touches down further along the runway. If the pilot also reduces rate of descent by flaring the aircraft, the ground cushion effect will be exaggerated and the aircraft will touch down smoothly further down the runway without placing heavy forces on the undercarriage system. Catching a wire using this technique would be extremely difficult if not impossible.

6.  When landing on a carrier, with the deck approximately 60 feet above the sea surface, there is no ground cushion. If there was, it would make landing on board more difficult and more dangerous because the essence of a good approach to the deck is to continue the prescribed glide slope all the way to the deck without any reduction (or increase) in the steady rate of descent. This allows the point of impact of the deck hook on the deck to be more precisely achieved—allowing the aircraft to "catch a wire". Any flaring prior to touch down (even the smallest amount) will cause the aircraft to miss the wires. A side-effect of this type of approach is that a heavy force is applied to the landing gear on touchdown and, hence, the landing gear needs to be much more robust (and heavy) than its land-based counterpart. See paragraph 2 above.

7.  The arresting hook system appears simple but represents a major challenge for aircraft design. The dynamic interaction between the aircraft and the arresting system at around 135 knots is massive, and reliably bringing aircraft to a halt in around 350 feet is a difficult and dangerous evolution.

8.  The "burble" behind the ship, as referred to in paragraph 1 above, can cause an increase in the rate of descent of the aircraft as it approaches the stern of the ship. An obvious danger, this has to be anticipated by the pilot by applying a small amount of power in order to maintain the prescribed flight path to the required impact point of the deck hook amidst the wires. If too much power is applied, the aircraft rate of descent will be reduced and the aircraft will flare, missing the wires.

9.  The suggestion in the earlier BAE studies that the Typhoon would be able to make a precisely flown, flared landing on deck is at best highly risky and runs counter to the experience earned in the last hundred years of carrier operations. This places BAE's simulations and assurances in perspective.

10.  When you are learning to deck land, one of the golden rules is to always concentrate on the cues given by the deck landing sight and NEVER to attempt to "fly the deck" (which is precisely what flared landing would require). That is because the landing site is fully stabilised and is positioned so that if you do follow its cues, your hook will catch a wire because you are maintaining the prescribed steady glide path all the way to the deck. The deck can move considerably in heavy seas and that movement must be totally ignored by the pilot if he is to land on board safely.

11.  In rough seas with the ship pitching, rolling and heaving, the challenge becomes much greater. Conducting night deck landings in poor weather represents the most difficult and challenging flying task that any military pilot will face in any environment. In such conditions it is quite impossible for a pilot to "fly the deck" or to employ a flared landing technique. It could be possible that BAE would propose some form of highly assisted or fully automated landing system to take the pilot out of the loop. Again, such a proposal would be extremely risky and carry major development costs.

178   Ev w120 Back

179   This can be deduced from the letters from the Minister of State for Defence and from the Secretary of State to MPs who had expressed their constituents' concerns on this issue. Transcripts of these letters and responses to the contents therein are provided at Annex A and Annex B to this submission. Back

180   Not withstanding that they are deployed for shorter periods, airmen qualify for the same amount of post-operational tour leave as their RN, RM, and Army colleagues.  Back

181   FJCA was the planned STOVL version of the US/UK Staff Requirement. Back

182   Defence Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2001-02, Major Procurement Projects, HC 779 Back

183   Craig Hoyle, Flight Daily News, 9 February 2011 Back

184  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 3 August 2011