For no important reason, I was thinking about the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS “Queen Elizabeth II”. This ship has been in the news, but for all the wrong reasons: her commander was recently removed by helicopter whilst anchored in the Forth, accused of having used the ship’s car for personal use whilst in the US (maybe he should have used a helicopter?).
Even Lord West of Spithead (former head of the RN) expressed his bemusement at the style of management. But if this really is a question of misuse of public money, then it seems but a drop in several oceans compared with the bigger pictures – firstly of defence spending, secondly of defence strategy, and lastly of man-management.
Firstly, the cost to build these two 65,000T aircraft carriers is currently about $10 Billion (when it comes to such eye-watering amounts of money, the figures always expand because defence spending is notoriously adrift). This is however a bargain compared with US super-carriers (100,000T) which are nuclear-powered, cost about $15 Billion to build (and $3 Billion to de-commission).
The US fields about 10 such ships: they are quite defenceless (thus have to be escorted by various surface escorts and submarines) thus 5-6,000 men. The 2013 cost of clothing, training, feeding, paying such numbers put the daily running costs to USD $6.5 Million (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_R._Ford-class_aircraft_carrier). If the Royal Navy deems her Captain over-used the ship’s car, then money must be tight.
But what of the aircraft the ship was built to carry? QEII is supposed to carry 36 F-35Bs (designed for US Marines) built by US firm, Lockheed-Martin.
The F-35 programme was 7 years behind schedule and $150 Billion over-budget (perfectly acceptable in defence spending!). Lockheed-Martin are not Boeing – and any reference to their 737 Max would be inappropriate – but when half remain grounded for lack of spares, then one (for-the-price-of-two) costs $300 million.
The 72 aircraft for two ships adds $11 Billion. (N.B. these are their off-the-shelf price, not their whole-of-life cost).
Secondly, QE II apparently now has 12 F-35Bs and will be attached to the US Marines. British taxpayers’ money has not been well spent. I don’t know how much a supersonic missile or torpedo costs, nor indeed a swarm of plastic drones, but such an expensive ship makes for a very juicy target.
The first aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, was launched in 1919 and technology has changed in 100 years, but not strategy. Carriers’ vulnerability puts a serious counterweight to any ‘prestige’ they might bring to erstwhile superpowers; indeed, the UK’s prostrated serfitude to the US destroys any last pretence of British Sovereignty.
All empires fall: losing one may be a misfortune, but to lose two is pure incompetence. Australia, Canada and NZ cling on like drowning men, weighed-down by oxymoronic military intelligence and misplaced political allegiance. Peace benefits Humanity. Wars profit Bankers.
As per the latest NZ Budget, our military will spend $5 Billion, doing “…nothing to address poverty, homelessness,…healthcare, low income, incarceration; nor does it address…climate change…Military spending diverts resources. If we want genuine socio-economic and climate justice, new thinking…is essential”.
Finally, man-management: the Royal Navy in 1757 executed Admiral Byng for ‘failure to do his utmost’. Voltaire considered that this was the British way “pour encorager les autres”. Is it likely that the removed commander will ever again do his utmost for King & Country?
British Secretary of Defense (Stupid Boy, Gavin Williamson) has walked the plank for breaching Cabinet duplicity, and PM May has been given a seat on the next helicopter. Napoleon said: Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake.