Libya crisis could scupper British aircraft carriers once and for all

March 21, 2011

So the world has unfurled a no-fly zone over Libya, apparently undeterred by the lack of Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Judging by the uniforms gracing the steps of 10 Downing Street on Friday and the attacks launched over the weekend, Britain’s military top brass haven’t been put off either.

Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the Chief of the Defence Staff General David Richards arrive in Downing Street

Liam Fox and General David Richards in Downing Street

The Libya crisis has, until now, provided a platform for the “Save our Aircraft Carriers Campaign” to champion its cause but in the process they’ve thrown down some whopping red herrings.

First we were told Britain could have done a better job extracting citizens from Libya if it had an aircraft carrier. In the event nature’s own aircraft carrier, Malta (immune to rough seas and mechanical failure) proved a perfectly good operations centre from which to manage rescue efforts. If Britain’s response was slow, that had more to do with the speed of decision making than the available military hardware.

Even if HMS Ark Royal had been in service, victualled, crewed and ready to put to sea from Portsmouth, she would have taken a good four days to reach Benghazi sailing at full steam the whole way, through still waters. Had she been in the Gulf of Oman supporting operations in Afghanistan, it would have taken closer to five days at best. Once in theatre she would have required defence from air attack and even the threat of submarines should any of Gaddafi’s Soviet-era vessels still be operational.

A member of the British military forces steps out of a Royal Air Force Hercules transport plane at the Malta International Airport outside Valletta

An RAF Hercules transport plane in Malta

The C-130 Hercules aircraft the Royal Air Force and Special Forces used in the end to land in Libya’s Eastern Desert and to evacuate people can fly from Wiltshire to Tripoli in under 5 hours.

A second strange conclusion was that without aircraft carriers, Britain would be forced to police a no-fly zone from Cyprus – putting its jets out of easy range of Libya. Why Cyprus? NATO allies Italy and the United States run an airbase at Sigonella in Sicily which is less than a third of the distance from Tripoli.

Another argument deployed in favour of carriers has been the Falkland Islands but the smartest strategy there must be to defend them properly in the first place, maintaining or bolstering the Typhoon jets and Rapier surface-to-air missiles already based there. In the unlikely event the islands were left open to occupation, retaking them would be almost impossible –aircraft carriers or not – because unlike in 1982 there is a proper airfield from which any enemy should be able to establish and maintain air superiority. Land-based aircraft, with much higher sortie-rates, have a huge strategic advantage over marine-based jets and whoever controls Mount Pleasant Airfield controls the Falklands.

From a historic, nationalistic and sentimental point of view it is easy to understand why a proud naval nation would want to hang onto its aircraft carriers and it can’t be much fun for a First Sea Lord to inspect his fleet from the deck of an assault ship instead.

The aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, flagship of the French fleet, leaves the naval base of Toulon

Aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle leaves Toulon

But let’s face it, Britain’s retention of its permanent seat on the U.N. security council will have more to do with its submarine fleet and the nuclear warheads it carries than HMS Ark Royal, which is after all half the size of France’s PA Charles de Gaulle and one fifth the size of U.S. Nimitz aircraft carriers.

There are of course scenarios where aircraft carriers would prove useful but our main NATO ally has plenty of them and with money tight, what’s left of Britain’s plans for a new generation of aircraft carriers is starting to look like a luxury rather than a must-have for defending our shores and our allies.

As I write, the Ministry of Defence is detailing how it launched Tomahawk missiles from a Trafalgar Class submarine during this weekend’s initial attacks on Libya’s air defence systems and fired Stormshadow missiles from Tornado GR4 jets which flew 3,000 miles from Norfolk and back again without landing in Sicily (let alone Cyprus) thanks to support from air-to-air refueling and surveillance aircraft.

USS Barry fires Tomahawk missile at Libya

USS Barry fires Tomahawk missile at Libya

If Operation Odyssey Dawn goes to plan, the absence of British aircraft carriers will only strengthen the Treasury’s hand when looking for any further cuts. The vulnerability of the next generation of Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, due to enter service in 2014 and 2016 and being built by defence contractors including BAE Systems, was already striking when Reuters took a close look last month at the state of Britain’s 15 biggest defence contracts. Running through the list it was clear that many of them were so close to completion as to limit the benefits of any cancellation.

More importantly though, most also looked to be more strategically important than aircraft carriers, particularly if one assumes Britain’s military priorities in the coming decades are going to be defence of the realm, supporting international humanitarian operations and crisis response.

The biggest UK procurement project, the 21 billion pound Typhoon Fighter Aircraft (Eurofighter), is well advanced with several squadrons already operating what will be the backbone of the RAF, replacing ageing Tornados and Jaguars. Air force chiefs would argue that without them there is no air force.

British Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon jets fly over the Gioia del Colle NATO Airbase in southern Italy

British Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon jets fly over the Gioia del Colle NATO Airbase

Next is the 12 billion pound Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft, essential if Britain is serious about deploying with speed to far-flung parts of the world as it has done in Libya and might one day need to do to bolster its presence at Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falklands.

Third on the list is the Royal Navy’s well-advanced, 7 billion pound nuclear-powered Astute attack submarine fleet, able to carry out covert missions in a way that aircraft carriers cannot.

Then there are the Type 45 “Stealth” Destroyers, of which four are already in service or undergoing sea trials. Their Sea Viper (PAAMS) missile system, Sampson radar and Aster surface-to-air missiles with a range of up to 120 kilometres would theoretically be ideal for keeping the skies above Benghazi clear.

The aircraft carriers, with a 5.9 billion pound price tag, are the next biggest project. Ditching them might free up resources to replace the scrapped Nimrod MRA4 Reconnaissance Aircraft seen by many as essential to the defence of British waters – unlike aircraft carriers which have always been about projecting power abroad rather than defending the homeland.

File photo of the F-35 Lightning II planes arriving at Edwards Air Force Base in California

File photo of F-35 Lightning II planes

Abandoning the carriers might also allow the Ministry of Defence to scale back preliminary plans to buy around 150 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters designed to fly from land and ships, although not without upsetting its project partners in the Pentagon.

There is a broad consensus that a replacement for the C-130 Hercules – used to rescue Britons from Libya’s interior – is essential to rapid response and to deployment if Britain plans to retain an army of any kind. It will come in the form of the over-budget but well-advanced A400M Large Transport Aircraft.

Britain’s defence equipment should prioritise stealth (exemplified by submarines), speed (in the shape of fighter jets among other things), range (tanker aircraft), accessibility (transport aircraft), deterrence (Trident) and punch (such as state of the art cruise, SAM and AAM missiles). While operations in Libya may not show aircraft carriers to be obsolete, it could well reveal how they struggle to be a class-leader in any one of these fields.

When England defeated the Armada in 1588, it was thanks in no small part to the ability of its faster, smaller “race-built” ships, boasting more technically advanced armaments, to sneak up on and outmanoeuvre Spain’s large but cumbersome galleons. Stealth, speed and punch then. Not size.

British navy chief Admiral Mark Stanhope inspects a guard of honour during his ceremonial reception in New Delhi

Admiral Mark Stanhope inspects a guard of honour

This debate has some way to run yet. In the words of Ark Royal’s own motto, “Zeal does not rest”. Defenders of aircraft carriers will no doubt be hoping that U.S., French, Italian or Spanish carriers lumbering towards Libya will make a useful contribution in the coming days or weeks. All the while though, their detractors will be arguing things are going to plan without them and that the time has come for Britain to swallow its pride and live without big, shiny aircraft carriers of limited usefulness.



The writer is the son, nephew and grandson of former RAF airmen and pilots. He is also, however, the nephew of a former Royal Navy officer, the cousin of active Army officers and the great-grandson of a Royal Marine and a submariner. 


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Posted by Libya crisis could scupper British aircraft carriers once and for all – Reuters UK (blog) | Aerospace Jobs, Aerospace Training | Report as abusive

A certain way to have policies with no clear direction at all is to base major decisions on whatever event has taken place last and ignore everything else.

Posted by 105 | Report as abusive

I really don’t see how being related to service personnel qualifies the writer to comment on the value of aircraft carriers?

Whilst carriers may not be crucial for current operations in Libya which is indeed relatively close in the grand scheme of things, I believe that they could be rather more useful in operations further afield should the need arise.

Posted by jastocker | Report as abusive

I still believe there is no justification to cancel the carriers. With Libya there are several allied bases close including the RAF base in Cyprus and Gibralta. I am not sure how this article can say we have not missed carriers. 8 hour round trip, 3-4 mid-air refuels. This is not efficient and if you consider parking a carrier of the coast and launching aircraft from there, then they will be engaged for longer periods and a much quicker turn around. The carriers should be built, and the JSF should be cancelled. We should buy all of hour 232 allocation Typhoons and navalise them. BAE said it couldn’t be done many years ago, but now the Indians want them, now they can!

Posted by alan09344 | Report as abusive

Thank you for your comments. It’s great to have triggered a bit of debate on this. If I may put another cat among the pigeons, might I suggest that with Typhoons now based in Italy, the 8 hour round trips may no longer be necessary. Presumably we could also base the Tornadoes in the region if we wanted to. Once the necessary infrastructure is there to support them perhaps? Time will tell. Being really cynical for a moment, one might suggest that one of the reasons for these long-range sorties is to show that it can be done and an opportunity for the RAF to justify the continued existence of a Tornado capability …

In relation to the comments by jastocker, I would not disagree that aircraft carriers can be useful, my question is whether they are essential. As I say, when compiling the list of Britain’s 15 biggest defence spending projects, I was struck by how most were key to maintaining our basic defences and supporting almost any foreign interventions overseas. It did not appear to me that this applied to the carriers. I promise to keep an open mind however, and am open to persuasion.

Finally, the references to my relations who served or serve in the forces was for the sake of transparency. While I have endeavoured to take a logical and balanced approach to researching this story, I felt that it would be good journalistic practice to declare my background.

Many hours of research and good old-fashioned journalism are my principle qualification for writing this story.

Thanks again for the thoughts and keep them coming.

Posted by pchoskins | Report as abusive

This is all very fine, but the government has already stated it would have cancelled the carriers had not the previous government signed up to a commercial contract which means that the full contract price applies whether BAE built them or not!

Posted by jrregal2 | Report as abusive

Fair point jrregal2 and one that I probably should have made. At the very least it raises questions about the nature of defence contracts. Having said that, it does look like one of them will be mothballed, presumably in part to save on running costs and possibly to save on some of the costs of equipping it. It’s not entirely clear because the Strategic Defence Review spoke only of holding “one of the two new carriers at extended readiness”. The government did, however, say that selling one of the two carriers was an option (one way to recoup some of the cost) and there have been reports that India may be interested.

The defence review also noted, by the way, that “in the short term, there are few circumstances we can envisage where the ability to deploy airpower from the sea will be essential”.

Posted by pchoskins | Report as abusive

This article is pretty ignorant. The Ark Royal is 210m, the De Gaulle 261m and the Nimitz 332m, hardly five times bigger, unless you go by weight. The Hercules rescue was shear luck. The pilots said on one flight bullets from the ground entered the cockpit. They were lucky. They should have had close air support, from carriers. Malta won’t allow combact flights and the Cypres government objects to any flights except surveillance. The UK is a bit of a laughing stock for not having any carriers. China and India are building them. They are the ultimate force projection. It may take 4 days to sail to theatre, that is why you put assets in place before kick off. The USS Kearsarge 257m, off Libya, flies Harriers. The US has so far relied on them heavily. What has the UK done: fire 6 out of 112 cruise missles, fly some Tornadeo sorties from the UK, some aborted. They need carriers. Who knows what the threats will be to UK interests around the world. The Italians are threatening to withdraw their bases. You cannot rely on others all the time. The other month we had Hague and Fox down in Australasia sayiny they wanted to recharge Commonwealth defences ties. What with! The last UK naval visit to NZ was the Iron Duke some years agao. You either behave like a major power, or pretendthat subs and transport planes can win wars. Bring back Ark Royal.

Posted by KiwiJohnny | Report as abusive

Ditching the Aircraft Carriers could free up money for a Nimrod MRA4 replacement – Interesting idea. Lets spend another £4bn on buying a replacement (American) aircraft for a new one we already had. Brilliant concept. The great Liam Fox was interviewed on Northwest Tonight as the JCB’s started ripping the first one apart. His reasons for cancellation were:
1) Its 10 years behind schedule – so what its all we’ve got. If we knew at the start of the project it would be delayed so much then fair enough, but not when they are nearly finished. Now we don’t have anything at all and any replacement will be years away even if it is bought off the shelf.
2) It would cost too much to run, £500m in the first 5 years – Yes but thats still less than buying a replacement and you still have running costs no matter what you fly.
3) All 9 haven’t been flight tested yet – well get them finished and get on with it then.
I have never been convinced as to why these airframes were JCBed to death with such indecent haste, maybe because they want to close Woodford but still a very short-sighted decision or white stick one to be more accurate. An alternative would have been to finish, airtest and fly them out to the US desert until the economy improves enough to introduce them into service.
Replacement with the Boeing P-8 (737) will just mean vast amounts of £ going into the US coffers instead of at least staying in this country. We must be a real laughing stock amongst potential adversaries and even our own allies. We spend huge sums on aircraft that we then use for bulldozer practice, aircraft carriers with no aircraft, helicopters that can’t fly because we didn’t buy the correct software. If we want to save money on defence we should look no further than the MOD, population approx 80,000. Thats way bigger than the RAF and RN combined – why so many?
I apologise for the ranting and my argument being a bit off piste but my blood pressure hasn’t come down from the Nimrod debacle and now we are in yet another shooting match.I would feel more confident in the armed forces future if it weren’t for the people who make the decisions constantly proving that it is perfectly possible to climb to the upper echelons of HM Govt without a single clue as to what you are doing. For Armed Forces, maybe that should read Britains Disarmed Forces.

Posted by directr44 | Report as abusive

In relation to size, yes I was comparing the Ark Royal with the De Gaulle and Nimitz carriers based on weight — or displacement as they seem to call it on the high seas — which I believe is the usual measure for warships.

Posted by pchoskins | Report as abusive

Not to worry directr44, I’m pretty sure yours is not the only case of elevated blood pressure as a result of this debate. It’s an emotive issue. In relation to the procurement process, there seems to be a general consensus now that the whole thing is pretty dysfunctional and needs a complete overall. Maybe, for example, making individual senior officers and mandarins responsible for the delivery of individual projects from start to finish, regardless of what other jobs they might go on to.

Posted by pchoskins | Report as abusive

Carriers are special warships as deck length is critical. The Queen Elizabeth class carriers will be 280m and 60,000 tons so they will be a vast improvement on the Invincible class carriers. They will be more in keeping with the large US carriers and able to fly a wider range of aircraft. If a fast airstrike is required in Libya to protect civilians today, eg tanks starting to shell housing, the Americans can be there in 20 minutes with Harriers. If you relied on the UK it could be hours. Great. Got there but everyone was dead. The US has 10 large carriers and nearly as many WASP class like the Kearsarge. The UK has an economy about one fifth the size. There is no economic reason why the UK cannot have one fifth or sixth the carrier capability. The Tories are just plain wrong on this issue.

Posted by KiwiJohnny | Report as abusive

I’m not a regular blogger so does my second comment get posted. I note that out of 10 posts there are 4 by the writer so there must be a conversational aspect to this and I thought my last post introduced new perspectives.

Posted by KiwiJohnny | Report as abusive

Interesting stuff on the new carriers versus the old ones and certainly something I might have paid greater attention to. In terms of flight times, point taken although I think that the RAF Typhoons and Tornadoes are now flying out of Gioia Del Colle in southern Italy which presumably means they too are minutes rather than hours away from Libyan towns. Given that Typhoons can reach Mach 2 (roughly twice the top speed of a Harrier), they could presumably be over Benghazi or Tripoli in about 30 minutes.

On the subject of postings, apologies for the delay. I’m all for making this as conversational (and constructive) as possible and you can comment as much as you like. All postings (including my own) have to be approved and it looks like yours were delayed overnight. I have now pushed them out. Keep them coming and thanks again.

Posted by pchoskins | Report as abusive

This is a good article, thank you.

It would be nice to have maritime patrol capability, but the Nimrod MRA4 is overpriced. This raises the possibility of making savings by shifting work away from UK-listed companies to overseas companies that (in some cases; not all) offer better products for less. What do you think of this political hot potato?

Posted by edwinkite | Report as abusive

The Typoons may be fast but they are not ground attack but air to air warplanes. I have read serious military criticisms of the Tornadoes based on their age. The last Harriers were made in 2003. But there are key differences between the US Harriers currently in theatre and the UK Harriers, now disbanded. See this blog. bya-and-aircraft-carriers/. I still think to maintain a balanced force and blue water navy capability the UK needs the new carriers, and it will be able to afford them. The original plan was for 4: 2 French and 2 British. So perhaps the French pulling out ratched up the costs. Wouldn’t be the first time. The F35s programme on the otherhand seems a mess but the Aussies and Canadians are still committed.

Posted by KiwiJohnny | Report as abusive

“Britain’s defence equipment should prioritise stealth (exemplified by submarines), speed (in the shape of fighter jets among other things), range (tanker aircraft), accessibility (transport aircraft), deterrence (Trident) and punch (such as state of the art cruise, SAM and AAM missiles). While operations in Libya may not show aircraft carriers to be obsolete, it could well reveal how they struggle to be a class-leader in any one of these fields.”

Erm, sorry, but let me just check I have this right…

Stealth (F35 is pretty stealthy last I checked), Speed (an aircraft carrier can be deployed as a trouble spot is flaring up and therefore be available for action the moment combat begins and from as little as 12 miles off the coast.), range (are you kidding me, are you seriously arguing that an aircraft carrier has limited range), accessibility (erm, now I wasn’t too good at geography but there’s quite a lot of blue on my world map poster and not so many airfields. Also, HNS and over flight rights might scupper those big ol’ transport aircraft), deterrence (now you’re making me laugh! A 65000 tonne ship off your coast with 36 5th gen fighters, helicopters and support assets can be quite deterring if you are thinking of being a bad boy), punch (I refer you back to my last comment, 36 5th gen fighters, add to this the carrier’s battle group including TLAM equipped attack subs and modern SAM equipped destroyers and that’s some punch!)

Libya isn’t a conflict that requires carriers but as France and the US are showing….they would have helped. Don’t forget though, that it’s not ALL about military effect, it’s about what you can put on sky news as doing that counts. Carriers make good TV that say to the world stage “look how powerful and capable we are”, land based air assets just don’t have the same impact unless they do something dramatic. Hence the 3000nm round trip by the Gr4s to engage targets using what is essentially an air launched TLAM. If they wanted the targets hit, they would have fired more TLAMs, if they wanted the targets hit along with some news to report, they fly 4 Gr4s 3000nm and release official MOD footage.

Nice one sided article though, especially the part about how we beat the Spanish Armada in 1588 without carriers….or aeroplanes, probably won’t be needing the RAF then. 😉

Posted by jack11 | Report as abusive

What an articulate but disappointingly one-sided article.

Obviously the author is unaware that 60% of the allied aircraft assigned to the Libya operation are based on aircraft carriers which means that at least 80% of the missions are being flown from them as they have only a fifth of the distance to cover.

If it wasn’t for USMC Harriers, other US Navy and French Navy aircraft the operation would probably be close to a non-starter and much less effective.

And they don’t seem too worried about “defence from air attack” or Gadaffi’s “soviet-era submarines”. Obviously they forgot to read this piece.

The real point about the RAF in this op is that in the grand scheme of things, it’s contribution is largely irrelevant. 3 (possibly just 2) out of 4 stormshadows hit their target and 2 out of 6 Brimstones. So 4.5 hits in total. Compared to 112 tomahawks fired from sea, of which 96% hit their target and one suspects, much greater effects from the USMC Harriers, French and US Navy aircraft.

The UK’s Libya mission is not really that military in its effects but diplomatic. Wave the British flag for Cameron’s no-fly zone and continue to pursue the sectional interests of the RAF at the expense of the country and something much more useful, flexible and lower cost, the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Navy’s carriers.

See here libya_analysis/ and here lity-check-2.html for another perspective.

And to read up on this subject in more depth, look at some of these reports  /reports-other-documents-available-to-d ownload/.

Posted by Woodmansterne | Report as abusive

Woodmansterne – anyone quoting Sharkey Ward needs to beware and examine their own “one-sided” position; Mr Ward’s is famously anti-RAF and his recent blogs so full of factually incorrect and hugely biased statements that he is rapidly becoming a laughing stock in aviation circles.

I’m also curious where you got your info regarding Stormshadow & Brimstone data from; Brimstone has a near 100% hit rate in Afghanistan.

Jack11 – The ONLY similarity between TLAM & Stormshadow is that they are both described as “cruise missiles”. TLAM could not have done the job that the Stormshadows did.

Debate and opinion is good guys, but informed debate and opinion is far far better!

BTW, I’m all for carriers, but 1 isn’t enough, and we simply cannot afford them right now.

Posted by jellymould | Report as abusive

…oh, and I totally agree regards Sharkey! He was a FAA legend but I think all the walls he’s been banging his head against have finally done some damage to his grey matter!

Take all he says with a bucket load of salt.

Posted by jack11 | Report as abusive

England had the most powerfull navy’s in the world, why the bristish government is downsizing the british armed forces is beyond me, the suggestion of cancelling the new carriers is not what the british people would want, they want to see their navy be a strong effective force, stop handing out tax payers money to ilegal imigrants and start biulding our defence force up to where it was several years ago.

Posted by AUSIE | Report as abusive

As an American (fashionably late as always), It really gets my blood boiling to hear you saying the British should just leave the on sea operations to the U.S. because we have carriers. We also have a major financial mess on our hands and though we want to stand by and stand up for our allies, the time may soon come were you’ll need to sort out your own messes. The US Navy is not the British Navy, so if the British need carriers to fill the mission gap, it sure better start building them.

It would be really nice to turn on the TV one day and see the British off the coast of some country giving aid or military deterrent, rather than us all the time. It’s high time you guys get in the game.

Posted by az1166 | Report as abusive

How do you defend an aircraft carrier in the future, such as against long range missile attack?

Every year computers get smarter and cheaper so easier to target.

Suppose for example a balistic mirv missile such as what china is thinking about, on reentry you can have 10 to 100 different missiles coming in at mach 5 – 10, an aircraft carrier is a very big and slow target.

Or you could have a bunch of cheap low flying stealthy drones with ramjet engines, not much warning, overwhelm defenses by having so many at same time.

Posted by multilis2 | Report as abusive

For the amount it costs to build these aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, one could get a dozen Typhoonsquadrons or higher up, 24 Gripensquadrons. To maintain two aircraft carriers, one non-operational, can be seen as an economic madness. Consider that aircraft carriers “only” should be useful to defend the Falkland Islands, it is senseless.
When you then consider that self-protecting at sea is more difficult to keep today in which new technology can easily detect and control aircraft carriers, may question the usefulness of the vessels.

Posted by Rollern | Report as abusive

[…] Die Libyen-Intervention demonstrierte erneut, wie wichtig Flugzeug- und Helikopterträger für den Westen bei Militäreinsätzen sind. Mit Ausnahme des spanischen Trägers Príncipe de Asturias und des italienischen Trägers Cavour fuhr Europa während Odyssey Dawn und Unified Protector alles auf, was es trägermäßig zu bieten hatte. Frankreich schickte die Charles de Gaulle und beide Helikopterträger der Mistral-Klasse. Italien entsandte seinen kleinen Träger Garibaldi. Großbritannien konnte sich nach der Außerdienststellung der Träger der Invincible Klasse nur noch mit dem Hubschrauberträger HMS Ocean beteiligen. Britische Militärs macht dabei nochmal ihrem Ärger damit Luft, dass ein Träger gegenüber dem Einsatz landgestützter Flugzeuge eine Menge Geld gespart hätte. […]

Posted by Eine Europäische Carrier Strike Group? – GLOBAL OBSERVER – GLOBAL OBSERVER | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, whilst the RAF do have flashy jets and good holiday phots from italy, they do not have the operational capability. it says on the MOD website that they flew over 7000 hours of operations. Tornados and Typhooon have an endurance of abouth 1500km. this meant they could only spend 7 minutes in Libyan airspace on any sortie. even with a hugely costly unreliable air bridge that took over 2 weeks to set up it still failed to deliver on nearly every level. whereas a carrier would have taken under a week to get there with up to 20 aircraft flying round the clock. with destroyers and ASW frigates in the task group it could have provided area Air and Submarine defence. to top it off with an RFA for refuelling it would be sustainable for a huge length of time. yes, having a well defended airbase within range of every potential future threat probably would be a better solution. however that is not possible. with the largely unused eurofighter costing over 29 billion and the new harrier and joint strike fighter at half the cost, the question has to be asked. which is worth it?

Posted by lifeinabluesuit | Report as abusive