Why can't Britain be happy to have double carriers?
Author: Li Jie (Senior Research Fellow of the Chinese think tank, the army's external publicity expert, chief science communication expert of the national military strategy discipline, the national defense education teacher's storehouse storehouse expert, the Naval Military Academy Research Institute, and the executive vice president of the Pacific Society geopolitical Research Association)
In December 10, 2019, the "Royal Prince Elizabeth" of the Royal Navy "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carrier - "Prince Welsh" officially joined the Navy on active duty. The aircraft carrier was launched in 2011 and completed in September 2017. Outfitting and testing work is progressing smoothly. The prince of Welsh is 284 meters long; the deck is 73 meters wide, and the draft is 11 meters; the full load displacement reaches 65 thousand tons, the largest warship built by the Royal Navy so far.
Since 1999, in order to make up for the aircraft carrier caused by the "invincible" aircraft carrier's decommissioning, the United Kingdom has launched the CVF plan. The queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier is the product of the plan. It can be said that from "Eagle" and "invincible" to the "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carrier, the United Kingdom has adjusted and changed its development path in order to meet the needs of the times and future naval battles. The British government and the Royal Navy first decided to launch the aircraft carrier, cancelled the F-35C fighter, and then used the "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carrier with low technical risk, and the skating deck which the British were very familiar with, and the short take-off / vertical landing F-35B fighter.
However, during the design and construction of the "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carrier, it was always troubled by military budget and carrier aircraft selection. In 2009, the United Kingdom even considered abandoning the construction of the prince of Welsh or selling it or converting it into an amphibious ship. After 2010, although the prince Welsh was able to continue to build, the criticism of the carrier in Britain, especially the Labour Party, has not ceased. Most of these criticisms focus on the high cost of the aircraft carrier.
But from the point of view of operational capability, the two queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers in the United Kingdom far outnumber the 3 "invincible" class aircraft carriers that had served in the last century in 80s: first, their tonnages increased from 65 thousand tons to 65 thousand tons; secondly, equipped with the F-35B carrier aircraft provided by the United States, compared with the previous generation of carrier aircraft in the United Kingdom, the "harrier" fighters, both in stealth, combat radius, or power plant, electronic warfare and other aspects, have greatly improved, so we can say that the new aircraft carrier has improved the maritime combat capability of itself and the whole formation to a certain extent.
Now, is the entry of two new aircraft carriers to make Britain return to the era of "double carrier"? The Duchess of Cornwall, an aircraft carrier sponsor, made a pledge at the service ceremony of Prince Welsh, claiming that the entry of the new aircraft carrier marked the beginning of the new exciting era of the Navy.
However, Britain's new aircraft carrier itself also has many problems: for example, after the queen Elizabeth aircraft service, it was first exposed to the watertight cabin door in the first sea trial in June 2017, and in December it was also caused by leakage of the propeller shaft. In June 9, 2019, the leakage problem occurred again, resulting in the sea trial being completed ahead of schedule. In addition, the British new aircraft carrier lacks the national warning aircraft, and has to use the "grey backed Falcon" carrier helicopter to carry the old "search water" series of airborne radar to undertake the early warning task of the fleet, which undoubtedly becomes a big short board of the aircraft carrier.
Of course, the most vulnerable is because of the tight British navy, the new ship's design funds are insufficient, and the number of convoy ships is insufficient, which makes it difficult for the UK to complete the two aircraft carrier formation in the short term. In 2018, it was reported that the 6 destroyers of the British navy, 45 destroyers in 2017, had been in the port or base for 80% times since 2017. With the queen Elizabeth class second - the "Prince Welsh" aircraft carrier, the number of convoy ships in the British navy will become tighter.
In view of the current British Navy's funds, it will take quite a long time to build two complete or ideal aircraft carrier formations. On the one hand, there are too many destroyers in the British navy at present. The frigates are old and the number of attacking submarines is obviously insufficient. On the other hand, the number of F-35B sold by the United States to the United Kingdom is only 48 now, which is only enough to supply an aircraft carrier.
Under the influence of the chaos of British political situation, the speech of the US Navy leasing the new British aircraft carrier has recently appeared again in Britain. The idea is: the United States Navy is the Royal Navy rescue field, integrating the ships of the two countries into an aircraft carrier formation. Tony Radakin, chief of staff of the Royal Navy, said in November that he expected further development. However, the analysis of Rand Co experts quoted by the US national interest points out that it will be very difficult and no precedent to support two totally different logistical systems at the same time.
In short, the United Kingdom still wants to maintain the "big country must have an aircraft carrier" face, and want to become a powerful country in the world, of course, to a large extent, also want to do everything to please the United States, hoping to help the United States in the South China Sea. So Boris Johnson, the current British Prime Minister and then British Foreign Secretary, said in a speech in Australia in 2017 that the first thing after the two new carriers were built was "allowing free sailing to the Pacific." In February 2019, Gavin Williamson, then British Defense Secretary, also advocated a series of erroneous theories such as sending the British aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.