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RAF in plot against Fleet Air Arm again

1930s, 1970s ... disaster every time they do it

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Simply upgrade the carriers to include catapults and wires. Buy the cheaper US Navy arrester-hook version of the F-35, not the expensive and probably troublesome jumpjet. Buy nice cheap carrier radar planes, as lots of people do worldwide. All this will actually cost less over time than the current jumpjet ships and custom rotary-wing radarcraft plans.

Let the Navy run the seagoing aircraft, not the RAF. That way they might still be around when needed.

To save money in the short term - the short-term pileup of stupid legacy projects is the problem right now - cut some projects, rather than shutting down operational combat units yet again. Axe the Nimrod MRA4 patrol planes, the Future Lynx helicopters, the deep-bombing upgrades to Eurofighter Tranche 3, the A400M transports: buying cheap and excellent off-the-shelf replacements where necessary. Scrap the rubbishy, expensive Merlin HC3 helicopter fleet and buy the RAF some more Chinooks instead. By all means beach a few more pointless cocktail-party frigates if that's what it takes to get some real, properly equipped carriers and preserve the submarine force.

Yes, you'd see some job losses among arms workers - bad news in times like these. But closing down the Harrier force as the RAF would like to will cause job losses too. And frankly, given the choice between millstone regional aircraft factories which keep on bleeding the services white year after year, or actual combat units - tried and tested over the decades, just returned from hard fighting in Afghanistan - I know who I'd rather keep on the payroll.

If all that doesn't save enough money, frankly I'd join the decorated Iraq hero and SAS officer Colonel Tim Collins and say break up the RAF, not the Fleet Air Arm. I'd say "one nation, one army, one navy - that'll do fine". As a way of having aircraft, the RAF is an unbelievably expensive and troublesome to deal with. (The Israeli air force has about the same number of useable combat aircraft, many of them actually better than the RAF's. It has less than half as many people. The Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps manage to operate highly sophisticated aircraft with far fewer bodies per cab.)

With just two services, you only have scope for one interservice dispute, after all. As it is we have three, allowing a triplefold fight which threatens to paralyse us even in good times - and cripples us outright when money is tight.

Let's try and remember the lessons of history just for once, here. Let's remember all our thousands of soldiers and sailors dead in the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, at Crete, on the Atlantic and Arctic and Malta convoys - and all over again, heartbreakingly, in the Falklands. Let's remember that every time a British fighter has shot down an enemy aircraft since World War Two, that fighter took off from a ship to do it.

Seriously, write to your MP about it. I know I will. And Admiral Jonathan Band, current head of the Royal Navy: if this goes ahead, you'd better not still be in uniform when it does. ®

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