Principle Researcher’s View: Why can I say that Aircraft Carriers, in fact any aviation ship, is the most flexible tool and greatest enabler in the UK government’s bag?

Posted on November 27, 2010


Author: Alexander Clarke

Fact: 90% of the world’s population lives within 250 miles of the sea

  • The Harrier GR9 has a combat radius of 345 miles
  • The Super Hornet has a combat radius of 449 miles (on an interdiction mission)
  • The F-35C will have a combat radius of 736.5 miles

Fact: the last time an Aircraft Carrier was sunk by enemy action was in World War II,

  • Despite Argentine claims to contrary they missed Invincible,
  • Whilst the Chinese claim to have developed Russian carrier killing tactics to the point the vessels are moot, it is interesting to note that both them and Russia are planning on building 6 (the Chinese are well under way with this aim)

Fact: Aircraft Carriers are incredibly useful

  • For humanitarian missions, their large flight decks, hospitals and self-contained nature make them an ideal asset to be deployed for real effect
  • They have huge diplomatic significance and if deployed at the right time can show the government’s commitment in such a way as to stop a conflict becoming a war
  • During the Korean War, the 2nd Gulf War, and throughout the conflict in Afghanistan, Aircraft Carriers have provided either all, or the vast majority of air support – simply because they can move to be within operating range and they cannot be shut down by another nation’s internal politics or diplomatic agenda

Fact: Whilst the Harrier GR9s and the remaining Invincible class carriers are not the best in the world, they are what we have till they get replaced and frankly it’s better to have them than nothing

  • During the capability gap British forces will be unable to be supported if committed to missions such as took place in Sierra Leone, the entry into Afghanistan, if problems erupted once more in the Falklands, or if the current government wished to send a force to aid South Korea.
  • Should we be on a mission which the French agree under the recent concordant to support Britain, then we still might not have carrier support as their carrier, the Charles De Gaulle has a very bad track record of breaking down at the most problematic of times

Fact: Britain gets a net profit of £56Billion from shipping every year, the industry employs nearly 500,000 people directly, accounts for over 95% of our trade by volume and over 50% by value

  • The Royal Navy is the insurance on this, and whilst Pirates are the problem of today, we don’t know who will be threatening freedom of the seas next year, let alone in 10, 20, 30, 40 years time – all we do know is that an Aircraft Carrier with a good Air Group will enable Britain to deal with them