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(2003) Thirty years on: Reflections on CVA-01 versus TSR2

(2003) Thirty years on: Reflections on CVA-01 versus TSR2

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Published by Jeffrey Bradford
UK Defence Forum research ("Grey paper") number 109 using newly released papers from the national archives concerning the difficulties of procuring Aircraft Carriers (CVA-01) and combat aircraft (TSR-2) during the 1960s.
UK Defence Forum research ("Grey paper") number 109 using newly released papers from the national archives concerning the difficulties of procuring Aircraft Carriers (CVA-01) and combat aircraft (TSR-2) during the 1960s.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Jeffrey Bradford on Oct 10, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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GR109Thirty years on: reflections on CVA-01 versus TSR2
by Dr Jeffrey BradfordThis essay was written during the 1997/8 Strategic Defence Review. Itsanalysis remains salient today
‘This is a particularly difficult time to write about the future of aircraft carriersowing to the Government defence review which is now considering defencecommitments’ - Admiral Gretton, RUSI 1965.
What purpose does military strategy serve in times of relative internationalcalm? This essay seeks to address just such a question in the light of thecurrent interest shown in emphasising Britain’s maritime strategy over thecontinental commitment as part of the Strategic Defence Review process. Iorder to achieve this the paper will focus upon the implications of strategy onthe procurement of major systems such as the aircraft carrier.In time of conflict strategy provides a warm, cosy feeling for the government of the day that there is a grand design for the employment of the armed forces toachieve national political objectives. This is described in official Royal Navalthinking as military strategy, ‘that component of national or multinationalstrategy, presenting the manner in which military should be developed andapplied to achieve national objectives or those of a group of nations’
 For the military strategy in wartime is a serious issue regarding thedeployment of forces, and sequencing of actions toward the successfulcompletion of a campaign designed to meet the political imperatives of theday. Distinct from military strategy this concept is defined by the Royal Navy asthe Military Strategic Level or, ‘the level of command and planning for armed
Royal Navy.
The fundamentals of British Maritime Doctrine
(London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office1995). Glossary. p. 225.
conflict (level of war) at which military resources are applied to achieve militaryobjectives’
However what is the real purpose of strategy when potential aggressors arediffuse, ill defined and conflict far away ? Clearly the armed forces cangenerate contingency plans for a near mechanistic employment of forces in aconflict which comes as a bolt from the blue. The United States Navy’s PlanOrange devised in 1911 was just an example of the type
At this time thoughthe Japanese were recognised as a major naval power and a possible futurethreat against the United States. Therefore they were accorded respect by theNaval establishment and its planners.However planning in peacetime not only is focused toward potential enemies.Allies also are subject to similar scrutiny. At the turn of the last century UnitedStates Naval planners were preoccupied with Great Britain’s Navy because‘the Royal Navy was the toughest opponent and England was America’s mostformidable overseas economic competitor’
The late 1990’s
Today though there is no clear challenge for Britain and whilst Russiadeserves respect as maintaining a residual significant defence capabilitythere have been several demonstrable moves that at least for the immediatefuture indicate she is not regarded as a threat
This leaves us therefore witha dearth of aggressors to plan for and none likely to undertake an assault onthese islands unless one was to take into account our cross-channelneighbours. This is not a new occurrence. A War Office report of 1932 madethe assertion that, ‘at present the enemy cannot be defined and this absence
Glossary. p. 225.
For a discussion of Plan Orange see Hagan, K J.
This people’s Navy: The making of American sea power 
(New York: Free Press 1991). Ch. 8. pp. 238 - 239.
Ch. 7. pp. 204 - 205. British incursions into Venezuela from British Guiana in July 1895 led toa confrontation which ended with Britain seeking a negotiated settlement for challenging the ‘MonroeDoctrine’ of US hegemony over North and South America.
Not least completion of CFE and various nuclear related treaties and protocols including START II, thePartnership for Peace initiative, and the NATO-Russia Founding Act signed following a recent NATOSummit.
of a basis to the problem adds greatly to the difficulties of its solution’
Itcould be suggested that the defence of Britain in the cold war has become thedefence of British interests at the end of the second millennium.As an observer, an emerging theme of the past couple of years has been aresurgent interest in building a more flexible, readily deployed instrument of military power to prosecute the national interests of Britain. Clearly forcestructures and procurement relate to strategy and in this case maritimestrategy. This is not a recent phenomenon. The last period in the recentmemory of aficionados of British defence policy was the early 1960s leadingup to the Defence Review of 1966.
The 1960’s
With the passing of three decades much material salient to the defenceactivity of the times has been released by the Public Record Office enrichingour knowledge of events. This period has much to offer us today in thinkingabout the role of strategy in times of peace to which the paper shall now turn.The role of the aircraft carrier was absolutely clear in the two decades prior tothe 1960s. It was the new naval decisive weapon used in a global conflict for destroying similarly equipped fleets of great power adversaries. As the threatof major conventional war receded and atomic then nuclear weapons enteredthe arsenal so did the credibility of such systems similarly atrophy.The first phase of peacetime strategy for the Royal Navy saw thoughts aboutintegrating the fleet into this brave new strategic world. The Navy would aim tosurvive the nuclear exchange, contribute to it where possible and then fightconventionally afterwards. The problem possibly was that such a strategywas hard to exercise and probably unlikely to occur. Against this backdropsomewhat crucially the aircraft carriers in service were simply ageingphysically, and deteriorating in effectiveness becoming steadily obsolete.
Bellamy, C.
 Knights in white armour: The new art of war and peace
(London: Hutchinson 1996).Ch. 1. p. 42. Bellamy cites the ‘Kirke’ Report of the Committee on the Lessons of the Great War October 1932, Public Record Office WO32/13087. p. 29.

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