The RN is to have two 65,000 tonne carriers
to replace the Invincible class ships which were home to the Sea
Harriers. Costing £2.7 billion they will be the RN's
largest ever ships, so large in fact, that no single UK shipyard is
capable of building them. Consequently the ships are being broken down
into 4 large and 22 smaller units which will be built at a number of
shipyards around the country ranging in size from Babcock at Rosyth,
BAES at Govan and Vosper-Thorneycroft, to the small Appledore yard in
Devon. Each module with its self- contained systems will be brought as
close to completion as possible before final assembly.
To realise this vast project the Aircraft Carrier Alliance has been
formed by BAES, Babcock, the VT Group, Thales, KBR and the MoD.
THE ROYAL NAVY'S NEW CVF CARRIER AND THE F-35B
The design task
is made more difficult because the MoD wants the ships to be easily
converted from the intended STOVL mode, where the US/UK F-35B Joint
Strike Fighters (now known as the Joint Combat Aircraft, JCA, in the
UK) needing just a ski jump, to a conventional aircraft mode needing
catapults and arrestor gear. This is to cover the eventuality that the
US Government discontinues the F-35B STOVL variant, or even worse,
cancels the entire JSF programme. In the first case the USN's F-35C
variant might be adopted. In the second case the RN might be stuck with
developed F-18s or navalised Typhoons or Grippens. Harrier GR9s
from the JASS programme (see Newsletter 10) would also be available, at
least as a stop-gap.
Initial F-35B deliveries to the UK are not expected until 2014 but as
the MoD is not yet contractually committed to the aircraft we could see
Joint Force Harriers still operational in 2020!
Michael Pryce points out that on 2nd February BAES Salmesbury started
manufacture of the first F-35B rear fuselage; 41 years to the day since
the P.1154 was cancelled.