Monday, 9 December 2013

November 2013 Notes: Auxiliary Aviation Support Vessel; The Escort Carrier for the 21st Century

Reason for writing:

In a time when budgets are tightening, when it is less and less likely that the equipment needed in times of conflict will be built in times of peace; options must therefore be considered. So if Britain is to make do, but still punch above its weight as it leaders profess, then simply put a way must be found to bridge the difference between what as a nation we are willing to pay for our security, and what as globally committed people with a very exposed economy the nation needs to pay.

The Auxiliary Aviation Support Vessel is an option for this, it is a vessel which could and would be something of a chameleon – being one thing at one time, and another at another due to its being easily reconfigurable. In the end again such vessels are about providing quantity and dexterity, not the quality, with just two (very good but still only two and therefore limited by that) aircraft carriers to provide for Air Superiority/Strike/ASW and whatever vessel(s) will hopefully replace HMS Ocean and HMS Illustrious as amphibious aviation, the Royal Navy will have the quality in hopefully enough quantity to support at least first rate operational requirements, but not have enough quality to fulfil all its require missions and certainly lack the ability to absorb a reasonable measure of damage should the worse happen, as well to provide crucial surge capabilities when required by  operations. The procurement of vessels as outlined in this work is another way of providing the depth and surge of numbers, providing a flexible auxiliary aviation platform as a force multiplier, and providing those crucial capabilities at a reasonable cost

The need though is for something which is cheap and cheerful but most importantly effective to make up the difference between the quantity of capability required and the quality that can be supplied.

Key Words/Phrases:

·         RFA: Royal Fleet Auxiliary

·         AAD: Area Air Defence

·         ASW: Anti-Submarine Warfare

·         AEW: Airborne-Early Warning

·         RORO: Roll On, Roll Off – vehicles can load themselves on and off a ship by using a ramp

·         CATOBAR: : Catapult Assisted Take Off & Barrier Assisted Recovery, the system used on most major aircraft carriers, it allows for the widest range of possible aircraft to operate; but it is also more expensive to install and maintain than the VSTOL flight deck, although that is to an extent offset by its capabilities visa-vie aircraft operation.

·         VSTOL: Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing, the cheapest system of carrier flight deck, but requires the most expensive aircraft: historically the Royal Navy (RN) was the first navy to employ this to provide its fixed wing airpower, but that was out of necessity when the first Queen Elizabeth class was cancelled (CVA-01 was due to have been called after the Queen as well) and all it managed to get built were the ‘Through-Deck Cruisers’ of the Invincible class.

·         F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter): produced in multiple variants, B for VSTOL and C for CATOBAR, this is the new stealth jet strike/fighter (what used to be called a Fighter Bomber: i.e. could fight its way to the target, drop its bombs and fight its way back) coming into service with the RN for the Fleet Air Arm to fly of the carriers.

·         NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – Britain’s principle strategic alliance,

·         Type 26 Global Combat Ship: no not a British version of the USN’s Littoral Combat Ship, but a Frigate successor to the Type 22 class


 Recent events have highlighted the need for aviation ships, whilst they are important for warfighting they are also important for peace; the trouble is first rate warfighting vessels are expensive, they are required for a nation to be able to do many of the Global Reach missions, but the problem is having enough, for those operations, for longer term low level commitments and for Humanitarian operations which might crop up. Furthermore, there is the problem with having enough vessels to support operations was the first line vessels need to move on and the facilities of an aviation ship is still needed to provide for operations; with the growing importance of helicopters (both manned and unmanned) to all forms of logistics and troop movement, especially for nations seeking to do more with less. When it’s this important, this critical, then the facilities of a forward operating base fail to compare with those that can be offered on even most basic of aviation ship; for starters there is a hangar, which can allow for maintenance to take place in the dry – this is before bringing in to consideration of factors like machinists and other facilities every ship will have to support its own operations, that can also be utilised for support aircraft.

Figure 1. HMS PURSUER (D 73) - Attacker-class Escort Aircraft Carrier  with some Grumman Wildcat

During World War II the Royal Navy took delivery of 45 Escort carriers, only 5 were lost including HMS Dasher which blew up (cause unknown); yet because they were either war service or lend lease, they were very quickly gone and seemingly their contribution and value has been erased from history. There have been some excellent books about them; but to hear many of the comments directed about them in discussions these days a casual listener would be excused for thinking it was they not Sherman Tanks which were called “Tommy Cookers”[1]. In 1982 writing about aircraft Desmond Wetter wrote the following[2]:

 “At this stage in the development of Naval Aviation the accent was still seen to be on ‘air superiority’. It was deemed essential that the Navy should have aircraft faster, or at least as fast, as any enemy aircraft which might be encountered. The gun was still the only weapon for use against other aircraft and not until the air-to-air missile became a reliable weapon would the need for performance superiority give way to the concept that what was really needed was an aircraft that was a good weapons platform with both adequate radar and payload. Indeed, the comparative merits of ‘air superiority’ versus weapon carrying aircraft is still argued today.”

In many ways this is as just as true if not more so for ships, at no time other than in the modern world have navies sought to have fleets entirely composed of 1st rates; the Napoleonic wars were largely fought by 3rd rates[3], the destroyers and light cruisers which swarmed around the fleets at Jutland were certainly not equipped to the equivalency of battleships[4], the Second World War was won at sea with just as much contribution from escorts carriers and corvettes as it was given by the fleet carriers, battleships and cruisers[5].

Figure 2. Lunny Thomas's Battle of the Nile

Escort Carriers were not therefore just a product of war contingency, they were a logical evolution of practiced and proven warfighting experience; a battleship or a fleet carrier for every mission is simply not necessary. A battleship is not needed to fight a torpedo boat or to provide ASW escort for a convoy or Task Group: a fleet carrier is not needed to escort convoys, lead Anti-Submarine (ASW) task groups, support ongoing land operations, to ferry aircraft forward to the combat zone and it’s certainly not going to be simple enough to for 45 to be built[6]. Now of course Britain doesn’t need 45 at the moment, and certainly such vessels could not take the place of Queen Elizabeth class or an Ocean/Illustrious replacement(s)[7]; after all when a situation requiring a 1st rate ship takes place, then it is really needed and nothing else will do. However what about the occasions where one isn’t required – even if an Ocean(and Illustrious) replacement(s) is procured and the RN has more than two 1st rate aviation ships in service; this will mean at best between one and two vessels will be available at any time[8], will that be enough? What happens if there are accidents, delays in maintenance or conflicting commitment and just one aviation ship available?

Well then it’s going to be used as the carrier – Falkland’s war of 1982 shouts that lesson loud and clear, and it should, it’s the right decision (Air Defence and Strike are key to providing for Task Force/Group operations and actually making a landing, plus fighters can provide close air support to land forces once ashore)[9]. However, this means Royal Marines and perhaps the Army too are left without air support; not the bashing holes in things kind, but the transport kind – and the other lesson of the Falklands war was whilst it can be achieved by a scratch force it can’t be done to the best standard, and with smaller forces available they need to operate at the best standard. Operating at less than that will be expensive in lives and operational capability; both of which will have consequences, not just to service member’s families but also for the government of the day. Or what happens if there are big humanitarian disasters in the Far East and the Caribbean at the same time? Both areas have nations which are commonwealth allies, and of strategic importance in various ways to UK global interests: the Philippines has rated an aircraft carrier[10], and it needed multiple such vessels to provide the aviation hubs to allow for a proper aid network to be set up, as well as to support an initial phase of reconstruction – with only one ship available where would it be sent? That is the situation if an Ocean replacement is built, if it isn’t then situation will be far worse. 

Whilst it is true when they were introduced the stark simplicity of the escort carriers was a product of their circumstances, and therefore to an extent of the extremes of the time. They were after all a response (a logical precedent response, but still a response) to a shortage of flight decks – like today there were not enough to do provide for the missions required. So although originally for the purpose of protecting convoys from ranging Focke-Wulf Condors and to provide ASW aircraft in the gaps between land based aviation; their sheer numbers and flexibility meant that as time went they expanded to operating in all spheres of naval aviation until eventually they were key platforms contributing to major operations in every theatre of the war – arguably being the key enabler that made those operations possible. They were not, it is important to state, replacements though for the first rate vessels, just as this proposal is not about replacing either the Queen Elizabeth Class or any Ocean Replacement; the idea is that like escort carriers of World War II, and the very modern relationship between the now three vessels of the Bay class and Albion & Bulwark it is meant to act as a force enhancer/multiplier with the ability to act in a limited fashion solo if required by circumstance.

The idea is to make use of the Dry Stores vessel which is already proposed[11], but instead of adding a dock[12] at the back, a flexi-deck with space for containers to be moved around in[13], and a hangar above that with a flight deck on the top[14]. The flight deck would of course run the length of the ship, with multiple helicopter spots and a ski ramp on the front to allow STOL and VSTOL aircraft to take off as well. There would need to be two lifts, which could serve both the hangar and the flexi-deck, and perhaps even go lower to allow for stores to be brought out[15]. There should be a ramp available from the flexi deck that can be used for RO-RO and also for the launch/recovery of the small hovercraft currently available on HMS Ocean – perhaps using the same pontoon system that vessel has perfected[16]. The Replenishment at Sea (RAS) masts[17] could be fitted to both port and starboard, although whilst starboard would be alongside the island structure, the port side might need to have a telescopic ability whereby it can be lowered to ease air operations – depending of course on height in comparison to position on the hull. Alternatively if deck edge lifts were used then a system similar to that used by USN carriers could be put in place, whereby the RAS masts operate from the hangar opening.

Figure 3. Moving Pallets into the hangar of USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

Whilst the vessel, as an auxiliary, would be built to commercial standards plus this would not be a detriment, after all both HMS Ocean and the Bay class have been built so and they serve with distinction. Furthermore, like the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, and indeed most of the ships of the RFA, they would be armed for self-defence; perhaps three Phalanx CIWS[18], supplemented by three Typhoon Remote Weapon systems[19], and although the Queen Elizabeth’s are not getting it (and they really should be), perhaps a VLS of Sea Ceptor[20] missiles mounted on the island to provide that extra layer of security against possible leakers[21]. Alongside these a range of passive defensive systems like those available with the Centurion system[22] would be sensible to offer further depth of security. 

Figure 4. A Royal Navy Phalanx practice firing

To support weapons and operations some electronics systems will of course be required. As far as electronic systems go everything that can be leveraged from either the Type 26 or Queen Elizabeth class should be; for example out fitting the vessels with the radar selected for the Type 26 would give them sufficient capability for their likely operational needs (as well as mirroring a decision made with the Type 45s & Queen Elizabeth class fits[23]), and allow for savings as it would be using an existent production line – no extra costs for development. That is basis for this whole platform everything would be either off the shelf or in production, already developed – beneficially this will actually reduce operating costs on the other units because it will spreads costs of maintenance/upgrade across a large unit pool. With this in mind, and considering what has already been outline, the following are some proposed specifications:

·         Length: ~230m

·         Beam: ~30m (Waterline), ~33m (overall)

·         Propulsion:

·         Range: 8,000nm+ (18kts)

·         Speed: 25kts+

·         Hangar: large enough to accommodate 24-28 aircraft either Fixed Wing or Rotary Wing (Medium) Aircraft; but designed with space to take Chinook sized aircraft.

·         Flexi-Deck: Able with the addition of proper containers to become accommodation for marines or evacuees, to become a medical suite with operating theatres and diagnostic equipment, alternatively those containers could be used to house a drone control facility, or the space could be used to carry extra supplies – it could even be used for a combination, that is after all the point of a flexi-deck, it’s flexible.  

·         Sensors: Type 997 Artisan 3D radar[24]

·         Weapons: 3x Phalanx CIWS, 3x Typhoon Remote Control Weapon Systems and  Sea Ceptors SAM

·         Other: Davit Posts should be stressed to take LCVPs, a RORO door to allow for quick off/on loading – preferably that can reach the water at an angle to allow for the launch & recovery of hovercraft

Whilst the Tide class MARS tankers are smaller than this (the proposal is 15% longer and wider on the flight deck – in fact whilst being longer they would be 3m thinner than the Invincible class[25]), the design has had to an extent been modified to facilitate aircraft operations – for example these dimensions have been modelled in terms of deck space on the Canberra & America classes[26]. The top speed required would of course be equivalent with the Queen Elizabeth class[27], whilst the range was selected so that they could match Albion & Bulwark[28], whilst 18kts seems to be an RN standard[29]. Neither was the aircraft number randomly selected; it was based on a calculation of the space available accommodated vs capability to support; but like the stocking of the modules/equipment in the flexi-deck, the stocking of the hangar will depend upon the envisaged mission. With sensors it makes sense to utilise a certain level of fit to enable operations, hence the selection of the radar which is fitted to the Type 23 Duke class Frigates[30], will be fitted to the Type 26 frigates[31] and which will be one of the radars fitted to the Queen Elizabeth class[32] – it is a capable system, but it’s not as capable (and therefore doesn’t cost as much, either in money or support) as the radar suite of the Type 45 Daring class AAD or the Queen Elizabeth class’s other radar[33]. So it’s been outlined and roughly specified, the question now is what the class could/would do.

Figure 5. The future of UK 1ST Rate Global Reach capability, note the S1850M radars (the black rectangle on top of the forward mast of the Queen Elizabeth class, and the aft mast of the Type 45)

Well in ‘Peace Time’, these ships would of course be ideal for carrying out Humanitarian Relief missions; being able to be configured thanks to their flexi-deck as a medical/evacuation facility, their ability to operate helicopters and planes for search/recovery/logistics support and most importantly as a dry stores RAS vessel – able to bring with them a lot of supplies. Something which is not only useful for humanitarian missions or war time is the ability to move supplies and act as something of strategic lift vessel as well as of course carrying out one of their primary functions, resupply of other ships at sea (this is a role which has importance in times of peace, of limited conflict and most importantly during war); this is after all what the ships are at the moment being built for, the aviation facilities would be an enhancement on that. RFA Argus is currently used a lot for aviation training and these vessels would be perfect to step into that role, moreover they would also be able to be used for F-35 pilot’s first training on a ship which would be far more sensible than risking a first rate for that role. Further to all this, the class would be Spare Flight decks for emergencies, if there is an accident on one of the first rates or if they are the other side of the world and a volcano goes off again – they can be used. Finally the Flexi-deck space could be used to support trade missions, by taking/hosting British goods at an event; like aircraft carriers were often used for in 1950s & 60s - alternatively it would be a large space for international conference to be hosted if necessary; with the capacity of being used to host concerts as well should that be desired. The whole point of the desire is flexibility and adaptability. However, peace is of course a very relative term for navies, especially those with EEZ and commitments which span the world, including such missions as as counter piracy operations, counter-smuggling and ocean patrols, it is worth looking at what they could offer in a limited conflict scenario. 

Well much the same as the Bay class in Somalia these vessels can carry out limited ‘interventions’/incursions, although there’s would be more helicopter based they would have the ability of course to carry and deploy fighter aircraft which could be a serious operational force multiplier. Similar factors would apply during covert operations; i.e. insertion, support and extraction of Special Forces. Even regular maritime patrol counter-smuggling/counter-piracy would be excellent supported by such an axillary with a flight deck as again the volume of aircraft which could be deployed to support not only own national vessels, but also allies.  After this of course comes war; but before getting there it must be pointed out the capability these ships would have with unmanned aviation, as the flexi-deck again could be adapted quickly with the correct modules into a control hub which could allow many such systems to be operated[34], allowing if desired for manned aircraft operation to be concentrated on one vessel and unmanned on another[35].

A primary tasking they could be utilised for during, in addition to logistics/RAS and supporting raiding, would be as Engineering Force Enabler: like HMS Unicorn – i.e. they could carry spare air craft, maybe take on any high energy/commitment aircraft maintenance duties on freeing up space on the carrier to support ongoing strike/air defence missions. Again, whilst not replacing the first rates, they would be insurance where something to happen to them, and even though they would be more limited the adaptability of the flexi-deck would allow for the expansion of maintenance facilities or accommodation facilities should they be required to operate as either a backup Carrier or LPH. They might even be used to carry fighters and provide limited organic air defence for the Amphibious Task Group, freeing up the Ocean Replacement to focus on its duties, and freeing up the Carrier Battle Group to find & destroy/attack the enemy. The final consideration is that at the moment Britain does not have a proper hospital ship[36], and whilst the discussion in terms of such vessels is often focused upon humanitarian matters, they are also very important in conflict, especially when conducting operations with smaller forces in more dense conflict zones – where it becomes very important to moral, the likelihood of survival if injured.

As addition to all this should be considered the possible export market for such vessels, nations which cannot afford/justify buying an aircraft carrier could well find these escort carriers irresistible – with all the flexibility and adaptability they would bring to a nations overall capability; with the result if the case of providing years of work.

Key Questions:

When first this was discussed, there were three questions which friends kept bringing up, so it seemed sensible to ask & answer those questions within the paper as well -

1) Statement - Auxiliaries can’t be sent into combat as they are not built for it nor armed for it: Reply - the Bay class are auxiliaries and they dock down in war zones, so are all the tankers and stores ships which supply the warships at the moment, whilst fitting CIWS weapons are not a guarantee (hence the preference for fitting Sea Ceptor as well) they are a measure of protection which allows for operations in those areas to be safer.

Figure 6. This picture illustrates the semi-prone position of a Bay class when ‘docked down’ to flood it’s stern area to enable the operation of landing craft – this vessel is auxiliary, which can carry a large proportion of the entire Commando Brigade’s supplies

2) Statement – By proposing such a vessel, the argument for first rate (most often described as ‘proper’) ships is being undermined: Reply – The RN are getting two pretty good carriers and the case for an Ocean & Illustrious replacement(s) might be off the stationary at the moment but it's still on the table as no one is suggesting that we do not need such a capability; furthermore, the RN will at best then will get four or five ships, which in reality still won't produce enough force flexibility to provide for operational requirements. With the addition of 3-4 Auxiliary Aviation vessels, then even if only the RN ended up with three or four first rate ships it would still have enough flight decks to guarantee enough for training, for humanitarian relief and for conflict. So, therefore be able to provide the UK with the best security possible; in most importantly a viable (in relation to national circumstance) manner.

3) Statement - there is no spare money in the ship building budget: Reply - The RN are due to build 3 dry stores ships anyway, all that is being suggested is they should be built a little taller with space for a hanger and fitting a couple of lifts; i.e. taking something we are already building, have acknowledged need for and add to that it is a cost effective manner to make it even more adaptable, capable, flexible and most importantly useful.

4) Statement – But where would they be built: Reply – well the capacity at Portsmouth, Camel Lairds and other shipyards is apparently not going to be fully utilised by the Type 26 build, this has led to a decision to close Portsmouth[37] (now leaving aside the arguments for 18 rather than 13 Type 26 frigates[38]) – this spare capacity is what could be used, and should it prove popular with the export market would provide security for those yards for many years.


Key Points: (What Auxiliary Aviation Ships would do)

·         Operational capabilities

o   All the time

§  Logistics – Dry RAS

§  Movement of Supplies / Strategic Lift

§  Spare Flight deck for emergencies

§  Could operate manned or unmanned aircraft

o   Peace Time

§  Humanitarian Relief

§  Training Ship – Like Argus and especially important with the reduction of available carrier decks

§  Flexi-deck space could be used to support trade missions, by taking/hosting British goods at an even…alternatively it will be a large enough space for a very large international conference to be hosted if necessary.

o   Other – Contingency and Limited Conflict

§  Limited Conflict/Interventions such as what the Bay Class vessel did in Somalia

§  Support of Covert Operations

§  Providing a Unique Capability which will be of value to allies

o   War Time

§  Engineering Force Enabler, like HMS Unicorn – i.e. could carry spares; take the heavy aircraft maintenance duties on freeing up space on the carrier.

§  Back up Carrier/LPH – in which role they could be used to move a section of the Brigade

§  Provide limited Organic Air Defence for Amphibious Task Group freeing the Carrier Battle Group

§  Hospital Ship

Points of Interest:

·         Escort carriers were busy throughout the war[39]:

“We were three days out when the fighter boys had the opportunity to show their mettle. A Heinkel 177 with a glider bomb appeared astern of the convoy.  I despatched two Wildcats which we could see clearly as they climbed away, clawing for height to dive down on the German aircraft. We watched them hurtling down to attack, hear the rattle of their guns, then saw smoke issuing from the Heinkel.

White parachutes blossomed out below it, then it spun down to crash into the sea. The ships of the convoy sounded their sirens and the Wildcats returned to general acclaim.”

Figure 7. HMS Trumpeter

·         HMS Trumpeter in 1944 alone took part eight different operations (“Offspring”, “Goodwood”, “Begonia”, “Lycidas”, “Hardy”, “Urbane”, “Lacerate” and “Fretsaw”) as well as carry out an anti-submarine sweep with Force 9 in support of Convoy RA60[40]

·         The Pacific Fleet depended upon 11 escort carriers acting in the role of aircraft Ferry and Replenishment[41] (as well as occasionally providing more traditional escort carrier duties)

o   Mission: they were the link between all the support and the carriers, without them when the carriers suffered loses they would have had to go back themselves to get support, when instead thanks to the these escort carriers acting as conveyor belt taking damaged aircraft back and bringing new aircraft forward then losses never undermined momentum.

o   Ships involved: HMS Activity, HMS Arbiter, HMS Begum, HMS Chaser, HMS Fencer, HMS Reaper, HMS Ruler, HMS Slinger, HMS Speaker, HMS Striker and HMS Vindex[42].


Britain is a nation of innovators, in fact as rule it’s arguably at its strongest and best when its back is most pressed against a wall; the trouble is a tendency is creeping in whereby that fact is tacitly if not openly relied upon. The industrial capacity to click fingers and for ships to spring forth almost at will is gone, the world is not a peaceful place; in fact the last 60 years have been unusually peaceful if considering the rest of our history. There are many predictions about the future, about whether the European Union or the UN will survive or will change, whether world will become uni-polar, bi-polar, tri-polar or multi-polar, the only thing that anyone is sure of is that it is changing, that it is getting more not less complex. It is because of this, that escort carriers, auxiliary aviation ships, make sense again – yes they cannot replace the fleet carriers in terms of raw power or sortie rate, but they can certainly relieve some of the pressure on those vessels, and become a force  and perhaps more important presence multiplier. They would be something which could be relied upon to help tip the scales, whether used as drone control vessel or as a fill in; they would be the auxiliaries, like the Bay Class, the small ships which make a difference not because of just what they carry but because of what they represent and enable the larger ships to do.

Further Reading:


Holmes, Richard. "From the Field Gun to the Tank; Tommy Cookers." BBC Home; History Trails - Wars and Conflict. March 1, 2005. (accessed December 3, 2013).

Paul, James, and Martin Spirit. "HMS Unicorn - Specifications and a Brief History." The Light Brigade - Carriers in Korea. 2008. (accessed November 11, 2013).


Bell, Christopher M. The Royal Navy, Seapower and Strategy between the Wars. London: Macmillan Press, 2000.

Brown, David K. The Grand Fleet; warship design and development 1906-1922. Barnsley: Seaforth, 2010.

Brown, Eric. Wings of the Navy. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1980.

—. Wings on My Sleeve. London: Phoenix, 2007.

Brown, Louis. "A Radar History of World War II; Technical and Military Imperatives." Bristol and Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1999.

Cable, James. Britain's Naval Future. London: Macmillan Press, 1983.

—. Gunboat Diplomacy, 1919-1979. London: Macmillan Press, 1981.

Chesneau, Roger. Aircraft Carriers of the World to the Present an Illustrated Encylcopedia. 3rd Editon. London: Brockhampton Press, Arms and Armour Press, 1998.

Clapp, Michael, and Ewen Southby-Tailyour. Amphibious Assault Falklands, The Battle of San Carlos Water. London: Orion Books, 1997.

D'Este, Carlo. World War II in the Mediterranean 1942-1945. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 1990.

Friedman, Norman. British Carrier Aviation. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988.

—. British Cruisers; Two World Wars and After. London: Seaforth Publishing, 2010.

—. U.S. Aircraft Carriers. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1983.

Glete, Jan. Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650; Maritime Conflicts and the Transformation of Europe. London: Routledge, 2000.

Gordon, G.A.H. British Seapower and Procurement between the Wars; a reapraisal of rearmament. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988.

Greene, Jack, and Alessandro Massignani. The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940-1943. London: Chatham Publishing, 1998.

Harding, Richard. Seapower and Naval Warfare 1650-1830. London: Routledge, 1999.

—, ed. The Royal Navy, 1930 - 2000, Innovation and Defence. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2005.

Hobbs, David. Moving Bases; Royal Navy Maintenance Carriers and MONABS. Liskeard: Maritime Books, 2007.

—. "Naval Aviation, 1930-2000." In The Royal Navy, 1930 - 2000, Innovation and Defence, edited by Richard Harding, 69-88. Abingdon: Frank Cass, 2005.

—. Royal Navy Escort Carriers. Liskeard: Maritime Books, 2003.

Holmes, Richard. "From the Field Gun to the Tank; Tommy Cookers." BBC Home; History Trails - Wars and Conflict. March 1, 2005. (accessed December 3, 2013).

Jane's. Fighting Ships of World War II. London: Random House Group, 2001.

John, Rebecca. Caspar John. London: Collins, 1987.

Massie, Robert K. Castles of Steel. London: Pimlico, 2005.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions; may 1942 - august 1942. Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2001.

Polmar, Norman, Minoru Genda, Eric M. Brown, Robert M. Langdon, and Peter B. Mersky. "Aircraft Carriers; a history of carrier aviation and its influence on World Events (1909-1945)." Vol. I. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006.

Reynolds, Clark G. The Fast Carriers; the forging of an air navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1992.

Rodger, N.A.M. The Command of the Ocean. London: Penguin Books, 2004.

Simmons, Mark. The Battle of Mattapan 1941; The Trafalgar of the Mediterranean. Stroud: Spellmount, 2011.

Smith, Myron J. The Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, 1942; A Selected Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 1991.

Sondhans, Lawrence. Naval Warfare 1815-1914. London: Routledge, 2001.

Southby-Tailyour, Ewen. 3 Commando Brigade, Sometimes the best form of defence is attack. London: Random House, 2009.

—. HMS FEARLESS; The Mighty Lion. Barnesly: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2006.

—. Reasons in Writing, A Commando's view of the Falklands War. London: Leo Cooper, 2003.

Thomas, David A. Crete 1941: The Battle at Sea. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks, 2003.

Thompson, Julian. 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands. London: Pen & Sword Military, 2007.

TNA - Admiralty: 1/9426. "Designs of Small Aircraft Carriers." ADM 1/9426. London: National Archives, 1937.

Wellham, John. With Naval Wings; The Autobiography of a Fleet Air Arm Pilot in World War II. Chalford: Spellmount Limited, 2007.

Wettern, Desmond. The Decline of British Seapower. London: Jane's, 1982.

Woodward, Sandy, and Patrick Robisnon. One Hundred Days, The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander. London: Harper Collins, 1992, paperback edition 2003.


[1] (Holmes 2005)
[2] (Wettern 1982, 74)
[3] For example at the battle of the Nile the only ships which Nelson commanded that were not Third Rates, was the Fourth Rate HMS Leander and the Sloop HMS Mutine (Rodger 2004, Glete 2000)
[4] (Massie 2005, Jane's 2001, Linton 2009, D. K. Brown 2010, Sondhans 2001)
[5] (D'Este 1990, Friedman, British Cruisers; Two World Wars and After 2010, Greene and Massignani 1998, Morison 2001, Reynolds 1992, Simmons 2011, Smith 1991, Thomas 2003)
[6] The Royal Navy completed 22 Fleet, Light Fleet and Fleet Maintenance carriers between 1939 and 1945 (many were started pre-war), Escort carriers were not even asked for till 1941 (Friedman, British Carrier Aviation 1988, Friedman, U.S. Aircraft Carriers 1983, Chesneau 1998).
[7] Whilst this has currently disappeared from official communiques and is off the table at the moment, a new SDSR is coming and it is necessary.
[9] (Clapp and Southby-Tailyour 1997, Southby-Tailyour, 3 Commando Brigade, Sometimes the best form of defence is attack 2009, Southby-Tailyour, HMS FEARLESS; The Mighty Lion 2006, Southby-Tailyour, Reasons in Writing, A Commando's view of the Falklands War 2003, Thompson 2007, Woodward and Robisnon 1992, paperback edition 2003)
[13] either by perhaps an overhead crane system or a roller deck with rollers positioned to allow for easy movement – whichever system chosen there would need to be a very strong locking system utilised
[14] This would in effect be a sort of double hangar space, not an unprecedented design in British service (it was a principle feature of the Implacable class) and naturally providing a very flexible system for operational dexterity (Friedman, British Carrier Aviation 1988, 154, Chesneau 1998).
[15] Perhaps there could be some type of corridor running the length of the ship connecting all the various stores compartments at the top allowing for easy movement of stores to flexi deck
[21] None of these systems are candidates for being ‘fitted for not with’; like escort’s wearing multiple hats this is an accountants trick ( which could sound good until put into context, would a tanker or truck be sent to Afghanistan fitted for but not with a machine gun? The answer is of course no, so why would a ship which can be anywhere in the world and could be re-tasked at a moment’s notice be fitted for but not with surface to missiles, anti-ship missiles or in the case of some auxiliaries virtually any weapons at all? It doesn’t make sense from a logic point of view, a tactical point of view (it places an even greater burden on the, too small in number, 19 escorts currently possessed by the RN) and from an economic point of view doesn’t make sense long term either. This is because at some point the ship is presumably going to go into a war zone, if it’s fitted for but not with those weapons, then it’s like sticking an alarm box on the front of a house but not actually connecting sensors to trigger it – worse than pointless, as the importance of the vessel is highlighted but it gets no security. Therefore, in the event actually making it more likely for that ship to be targeted and destroyed.
[35] This might seem unusual at the moment, but
[36] HMS Argus carriers out this role in a limited fashion (03/12/2013).
[39] (Wellham 2007, 163-4)
[40] (Hobbs, Royal Navy Escort Carriers 2003, 170-4)
[41] (Hobbs, Moving Bases; Royal Navy Maintenance Carriers and MONABS 2007, 90-8)
[42] (Hobbs, Royal Navy Escort Carriers 2003, 17-20, 24-5, 48-9, 58-60, 70-3, 127-132, 143-5, 148-51, 156-9 & 175-9)


  1. Can't agree more with your article, The royal navy really needs a third deck as a "just in'case measure". really cant believe the navy is not arming it Queen Elizabeth class carriers with short range SAMS. They are way to valuable to risk.

    1. Hi Karl, happy new year and thank you for comments

      That certainly is a problem; myself I'd have thought a bank of Sea Ceptor VLS would not have been that much of an engineering problem to put in, other navies do so - even the American's, who have far more escorts, do; they fit Sea Sparrow, Rolling Air Frame and CIWS to the Ford Class ('s just good practice, these are important assets which will have to go into harms way to do their job, just as every part of the armed forces does it seems silly to not protect them properly.

      The obsession with just in time logistics and modern business economics might make sense in accountancy land but make for a poor strategic situation.

      yours sincerely


  2. I have come across your blog a few times while doing research but haven't commented before. I wrote something for the Think Defence site about modern auxiliary cruisers which overlaps with this article. I hope it will be of interest.

    1. Dear Gareth

      I followed the link, its an interesting article...there are some excellent ideas in our past, I just wish we were more open as a nation to using them.

      yours sincerely


  3. I came across this alternative history and model recently; I thought you might be interested.

    1. Dear Gareth,

      thank you, that's really interesting, and strangely enough, from my own past

      yours sincerely



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