The CVA-01 "Queen Elizabeth" class
aircraft carrierwas to be a class of at least 2 fleet carriers that would have replaced the Royal Navy's existing aircraft carriers, most of which had been designed prior to or during World War II. They would have allowed the Royal Navy to maintain its position as one of the global blue water navies and to operate independently of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation navies during the Cold Warperiod.
The project was cancelled, along with the proposed
Type 82 destroyers that would have escorted them, in the 1966 Defence White Paper, due to inter-service rivalries, the huge cost of the proposed carriers, and the difficulties they would have presented in construction, operation, and maintenance. Had these ships been built, it is likely they would have been named HMS "Queen Elizabeth" and HMS "Duke of Edinburgh". [ [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/aj.cashmore/britain/british-carriers.html British Fleet Carriers] ]
In the 1960s the Royal Navy was still one of the premier carrier fleets in the world, second only to the
US Navywhich was in the process of building the 80,000 ton "Kitty Hawk"-class aircraft carriers. The fleet included the fleet carriers HMS "Ark Royal", "Eagle", the rebuilt "Victorious" and the rebuilt light carriers "Hermes" and "Centaur". However, many of these ships were not large enough to handle significant numbers of modern jet fighters. HMS "Ark Royal", the largest of the carriers at the time, could only accommodate 48 aircraft, which compared poorly to the 90 available to a "Kitty Hawk" class ship. The increasing weight and size of modern jet fighters meant that a larger deck area was required for take offs and landings. Although the British had come up with increasingly innovative ways to allow ever larger aircraft to operate from the small flight decks of their carriers, to maintain air groups of a size large enough the Royal Navy decided that it would be necessary to commission a new class of large fleet carriers.
Once the Chiefs of Staff had given their approval to the idea of new carriers being necessary, in January 1962, in the strategic paper
COS(621)1, "British Strategy in the Sixties", the Admiralty Boardhad to sift through six possible designs. These ranged from 42,000 to 68,000 tons at full load. The largest design, based on the USS "Forrestal" class, had space for four full sized steam catapults, but was rejected early on as being significantly too costly, particularly in terms of the dockyard upgrades that would be needed to service them. However, the advantages of size were immediately apparent. A 42,000 ton carrier could only hold 27 aircraft, whereas a 55,000 ton carrier could carry 49. This represented an 80% increase in the size of the airgroup for a 30% increase in displacement. Even with these smaller designs, however, cost was already becoming a serious issue. The Treasury and the Air Ministrywere pushing for a new set of long-range strike aircraft operating from a string of bases around the globe. For the former this appeared a cost effective solution for the East of Suezissue, and for the latter it meant that the Royal Navy would not get a majority of the defence budget. This meant that by July 1963 it was announced that only one carrier would be built.
The CVA-01 would have displaced 54,500 tons (although the ship was said to displace 53,000 tons "in average action condition"), with a flight deck length (including the bridle arrester boom) of 963ft 3in. [Brown, D.K. and Moore, G. (2003) Rebuilding the Royal Navy. Warship Design since 1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press] The size of the flight deck, combined with
steam catapults and arrester gear would have enabled the carriers to operate the latest jets. The aircraft complement would have included 36 Phantom fighter/ground-attack aircraft and/or Buccaneer low-level strike aircraft, four early-warning aircraft, five anti-submarine helicopters and two search-and-rescue helicopters. The large 'Broomstick' radar dome above the central island on the carrier was planned to be a Type 988 Anglo-Dutch 3D radar, which would subsequently be fitted on the Royal Netherlands Navy"Tromp"-class frigates, although this would not have been fitted to the final carrier as Britain pulled out of the project.
By Spring 1963 Minister of Defence
Peter Thorneycroftannounced in Parliament that one new aircraft carrier would be built, at an estimated cost of £56 million, although the Treasury thought that the final cost was likely to be nearer £100 million. This was based on the carrier using the same aircraft as the Royal Air Force, the Hawker P.1154supersonic V/STOL aircraft (a larger version of what would become the Hawker Siddeley Harrier). However, after the General Election of October 1964 , the new Labour Government wanted to cut back defence spending, and the RAF attacked the Royal Navy's carrier in an attempt to safeguard first its BAC TSR-2strike/reconnaissance aircraft and then its proposed replacement, the General Dynamics F-111, from the cuts. The new Government, and by extension Treasury, were particularly concerned about the size issues involved, as these were fluctuating quite frequently. They therefore demanded that the Admiralty keep to 53,000 tons. With the navy unwilling to alter the size of the carrier and its airgroup accordingly the difficulties spiralled, and the final tonnage was much more likely to be nearer 55,000 tons. The design issues also increased, including dramatically reduced top speed, deck space, armour and radar equipment. When the Cabinet met in February 1966, the new Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey, strongly supported the RAF and their plan for long-range strike aircraft, by now the F-111, largely due to the costing issues of running fleet carriers. This meeting resulted in the 1966 Defence White Paper. In this paper the CVA-01 was finally cancelled, along with the remainder of the Type 82 destroyers that would have been built as escorts, of which only HMS "Bristol" was eventually completed. Instead HMS "Ark Royal" was approved for modernisation. This paper ironically also cancelled the RAF's TSR-2.
ubsequent Royal Navy carriers
The Royal Navy did not completely surrender aircraft carrier capability. The first of the "Invincible"-class carriers were ordered in 1973. Carefully named "through-deck command cruisers" (TDCC) to avoid the stigma of great expense attached to full-size aircraft carriers, these 20,000 ton ships had significantly less fixed-wing aviation capability than the planned CVA-01 carriers. However, they were to function as part of combined NATO fleets, with a primary mission of providing
Cold Waranti-submarine patrols in the north-east Atlantic Ocean, in support of the American carrier battle groups. They could still carry specialised fixed-wing aircraft in the form of the V/STOL Sea Harrier jets, which allowed the Royal Navy to deploy aircraft in the Falklands War.
The United Kingdom has recently returned to the fleet carrier idea, with the construction of a new generation of aircraft carriers larger than the cancelled CVA-01s. The two new carriers are to be named HMS "Queen Elizabeth" and HMS "Prince of Wales". The contract for these vessels was announced on
25 July 2007by the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring.cite hansard | url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070725/debtext/70725-0007.htm#07072570000993 | house=House of Commons | date=2007-07-25] cite news |first=Michael|last=Evans|title=Go-ahead for £4bn aircraft carriers |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2141406.ece|work=The Times |publisher=Times Newspapers |date=2007-07-25 |accessdate=2007-07-26]
Royal United Services Institute Journal - Aug 2006, Vol. 151, No. 4 By Simon Elliott - CVA-01 and CVF - What Lessons Can the Royal Navy Learn from the Cancelled 1960s Aircraft Carrier for its New Flat-top?
Gorst, Anthony. (2004). CVA-01. In: Harding, Richard, (eds.) The Royal Navy 1930-2000: innovation and defence. Cass, Abingdon, pp. 170-192. ISBN 071468581X
* [http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cva01.htm A comprehensive essay on the history of the CVA-01 design and related issues]
* [http://www.ijnhonline.org/volume1_number1_Apr02/article_speller_amphibious_royalnavy.doc.htm Island Stance]
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