Naval Air: August 25, 2000


British Aerospace and Thomson CSF are working up competing designs for a new British aircraft carrier. Each is working up six designs, with 30 or 40 aircraft, and with STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing), STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery), and conventional designs. While it is assumed that the aircraft will be the Vertical Take Off variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the British want their carriers to be able to operate American F-18s or French Rafales as well as a new radar plane. The need for a radar plane is obvious, as only a plane of this type can coordinate air battles and attacks on targets. Options include the E-2C, the EH101 helicopter, the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, or a variant of the selected strike aircraft. A good guess would be that the ships will displace more than 40,000 tons. British Aerospace is proposing a "hybrid" ship which would have a ski-jump bow for STOVL aircraft (with two catapults) and an angled flight deck for conventional aircraft (with a single catapult). This design would, British Aerospace says, provide the maximum flexibility. As the ships will operate for 40 years, the aircraft they will carry in their final decade isn't even on a drawing board yet.--Stephen V Cole


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