Commodore J H
Stanford, BA, FRAeS, RN, Assistant Chief of Staff Carrier Strike and
Aviation & Commodore Fleet Air Arm, came to Kingston on 13
February to talk about the future of aviation in the Royal Navy.
Introduced by our Chairman, Ambrose told us that Jerry had joined the
Royal Navy in 1977 who sponsored him through an honours degree in
English and American Literature at Warwick University.
From 1981 he served in HMS Hermes, gained his wings in 1985
and completed a number of shipborne tours flying Lynx
helicopters. He held several commands including the Type 23 Frigate HMS
Westminster on deployment to Sierra Leone, was promoted
Captain in 2001 and was appointed Deputy Director (Operations) in the
Defence Intelligence Staff. He commanded the brand new HMS Bulwark
taking her from builder's yard to operational status. In 2006 he took
command of RNAS Culdrose flying Merlin, Sea King, Jetstream and Hawk,
was promoted Commodore and took up his present appointment. After the
introduction Jerry started what he described as an informal
'Powerpoint' slide show with commentary.
Of Naval Aviation
He opened this entertaining and informative talk with a historical
section introduced by a picture of the RN Historic Flight Sea Fury,
currently grounded with an unserviceable Centaurus for which a
replacement is being sought. The RNHF also has a two-seater on lease.
The beginning of British naval aviation, said Jerry, was almost a
century ago in 1909 when a contract was placed for an airship. In World
War I the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) operated independently until
the Royal Air Force was formed by amalgamating the Army's Royal Flying
Corps with the RNAS... on the auspicious date of 1 April 1918.
Subsequently naval aviation remained in RAF hands until 1924 when the
Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the RAF was formed in which 70% of pilots were
RN officers. In 1937 approval was given for the Admiralty to
the administrative and operational control of all naval flying, the
FAA, except Coastal Command; this was achieved on 28 May 1939.
The FAA's primary role in World War II was 'strike' as exemplified by
the Swordfish of HMS Illustrious attacking Taranto harbour in 1940 and
crippling the Italian fleet. This example was followed a year later by
the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. To strike from the sea remained the
primary role in Korea with Sea Furies, at Suez with Sea Hawks and in
the 1960s and 70s with Buccaneers and Phantoms operating from Ark
Royal. This, the Navy's last carrier, was decommissioned in 1978
together with her fixed wing aircraft which were handed over to the
During the 'Cold War' the emphasis
changed to defence; keeping the
sea lanes open. For this role a new type of ship, a small through-deck
cruiser for operating anti-submarine helicopters, was ordered; the
Invincible class. They were also to operate the Sea Harrier in the
fleet defence, strike and reconnaissance roles. The Falklands war
required the fleet to go South and strike with RAF Harriers as well.
This was, said Jerry, a wake-up call for the Navy.
Invincibles are 30 years old and operate, once more, a strike force
only, of Harrier GR7s and 9s, the very capable fleet defence Sea
Harrier F/A2 having been withdrawn for defence budget reasons. The GR7s
and 9s are flown by RN and RAF pilots from the Joint Force Harrier
organisation. For airborne early warning (AEW) the 30 year old Sea King
becomes the Mk 7 AEW when equipped with the Nimrod's
in an outrigger mounted radome, giving a 250 mile view and capable of
tracking vehicles over land. Other helicopters in service include the
small and fast, IR sensor equipped, Lynx armed with missiles and guns,
the EH-101 Merlin, with fly-by-wire and carbon fibre, for maritime
patrol, reconnaissance and support carrying 16 troops, as well as other
versions of the Sea King which can carry 18 troops from a carrier to
the shore 300 miles away.
today's operations Royal Naval
aviation faces many challenges from the environment: weather, waves,
salt water, climates from tropical to Arctic; and from the need to
deploy world-wide: UK, Falklands, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean,
Caribbean (apprehending drug running), Afghanistan and so on. The RN
Strike Wing constitutes one third of the Joint Force Harrier so
operates in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at 3,000 ft and 40 degrees C where
the Mk 9As come into their own with their Pegasus thrust uprated by
3,000 lb. The Sea Kings also operate in Afghanistan and Iraq.
for the future, the Government is committed to enter into a contract
for two new strike carriers, the CVFs 'Queen Elizabeth the Second' and
'Prince of Wales', names carefully chosen to make cancellation
embarrassing! Design work is complete and entry into service is planned
for 2014. These are large ships with a displacement of 60,000 tonnes,
three times that of the Invincibles and about two thirds that of the
USN nuclear carriers at 100,000 tonnes. They will carry 36 Joint Combat
Aircraft (JCA) each, as opposed to 10 Harriers in the Invincibles.
However, the manpower complement is the same as the Invincibles at 700.
They will be powered by a low fuel consumption combination of diesels
and gas turbines generating power for the electric final drive. A
nuclear powered alternative was unaffordable at twice the cost.
The design is such that either STOVL or conventional naval aircraft
could be accommodated. For STOVL the deck is axial with plenty of space
each side for parking and manoeuvring, but should the need arise,
because STOVL aircraft are not built or bought, an angled deck can be
marked out and catapults and arrester gear installed in space allowed
for in the design. The ships are to be built at five yards in fully
equipped, 10,000 tonne 'super blocks' which are towed to Rosyth for
assembly. The ship will be run by the RN and the aviation will be the
responsibility of the RAF and the RN, the former providing land war
expertise and the latter sea war expertise.
The favoured, STOVL,
option is the Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning II, part of the Joint
Strike Fighter programme, the first of which is due to fly in April
this year, 2008. It meets the British JCA specification which Jerry
paraphrased as "F-18 performance, Harrier utility and F-16
affordability." It has "affordable stealth" with attention paid to
shape, materials, internal primary store carriage, and fuel cooling for
IR signature reduction. The F-35B also embodies automatic recovery to
the ship (as described by John Farley in Newsletter No.11, Ed.).
Conventional aircraft alternatives are the Boeing F-18, the Dassault
Rafale and a navalised BAES Typhoon. Ninety F-35Bs are required for the
RAF and RN Joint Force.
aircraft projects under
consideration by the Navy include a new-build updated Lynx, a Merlin
upgrade, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) similar to the Predator but
smaller and capable of remaining airborne for 24 hours, and the V-22
Osprey as a Sea King replacement
This concluded Jerry's talk
after which he took many questions. Asked about the Sea Harrier F/A2s
he said that some were in service at Culdrose where they are used,
sometimes taxying, for training deck handlers, and some are in store at
Shawbury. Questioned on the strength of the Navy Jerry replied that
there were 35,000 RN personnel compared with 45,000 RAF and 100,000 in
The vote of thanks
was given by Duncan Simpson who
said that Sir Sydney had a soft spot the Royal Navy saying, "The Navy
always treated us as if we were gentlemen."!