Feeds

Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?

New tech could save Blighty's carrier force

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Hints are emerging that the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers may be equipped with innovative electromagnetic catapults in order to operate cheaper aircraft as part of the ongoing, behind-closed-doors UK defence and security review/cuts process.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 catapults from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Credit: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad R. Erdmann

Soon it won't be steam but lightning coming out of the cat

In particular, reports have emerged in the defence trade press that significant, "unprecedented" numbers of RN (Royal Navy) Harrier pilots have been sent to the States to train in catapult takeoffs and tailhook arrested landings. A pilot or two going on exchange to the US Navy is normal, but it seems that the UK MoD may at the very least be seeking to keep options open.

Under current plans, HMSs Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales are to be built without catapults for launching aircraft, though space has been left in the designs for such machinery to be added if required. The idea was that the ships would be equipped mainly with F-35B supersonic stealth jumpjets, the aircraft which is to succeed the venerable and famous Harrier in the forces of the Western world. A jumpjet can make a takeoff from a "ski-jump" ramp and then land vertically having burned fuel and expended weapons, meaning that it needs no catapult launch or arrester wires for landing.

The F-35B is now at last in flight testing, but it has suffered from development delays and probable cost increases. As the world's first aircraft to combine vertical thrust, stealth and supersonic speed it was always going to be expensive; now it seems likely that it will be unaffordably expensive for a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) whose spending plans have long been out of line with its budget, and which is now facing cuts of as much as 20 per cent.

Various schemes have been discussed, for instance the idea of having only enough F-35Bs for a single air group and using the second ship as a home for marines and helicopters rather than a strike/fighter force. It has even been hinted that the second carrier might be sold to India.

However there is another way to seriously cut the cost of the planes which will fly from the new ships: that is, to fit catapults and arrester wires. This would mean that the UK could buy somewhat cheaper tailhook-version F-35C stealth planes; or much, much cheaper F-18 Hornets. The Hornet is the main jet currently in service with the US Navy and is still in production.

Provision of Catapult Assisted Takeoff But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) would also solve the great un-discussed issue of the new carriers - the same snag which, ignored in the Falklands, led to the almost crippling losses of ships and men suffered in 1982 and very nearly to the loss of the campaign.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.