British military officials have developed a case of carrier envy, in the wake of France's aircraft carrier Charles De Gaul taking a starring role in the operations to unseat Libya. As to be expected, the chief of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope, told British lawmakers how much the Royal Navy misses having an aircraft carrier:
From Defense News:
First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope told the parliamentary defense committee that if Britain still had a carrier available, it would be deployed off the coast of Libya helping to enforce U.N. Resolution 1973.As Stanhope went on to say, the Royal Navy is now faced with the task of rebuilding a fixed wing carrier strike force using the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, a plane Britain isn't expected to receive in serious numbers until the latter half of the decade. Those planes are slated to fly off the Queen Elizabeth class supercarriers that are slated to enter service around 2020.
Giving evidence alongside the heads of the Army and Air Force on the impact of last year's defense review, Stanhope said that retaining HMS Ark Royal and its fleet of Harrier strike aircraft would have been his top priority if the government's strategic defense review and associated four-year defense spending plan could be revisited.
The Royal Navy will then have to relearn catapult and arrestor gear carrier ops for the first time in nearly half a century (it used STOVL carriers from 1970s to 2011). Have fun with that. Yes, British JSF pilots will train on F-35Cs here in the states but still, rebuilding the ability to operate a jet-capable carrier air wing is going to take a little while.
Britain retired, HMS Ark Royal, its last remaining carrier to carrier fighters earlier this year in an effort to seriously trim defense spending. This has left the RN without a ship-borne strike fighter force for the first time since before World War II.
Click here if you'd like to buy Britain's recently retired Ark Royal.