Feeds

Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?

New tech could save Blighty's carrier force

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.