While the union of the English speaking nations is still in the future, one area in which joint operations have occurred extensivly is in navel matters. This is also an area where increased coordination could show benefits, especially in navel construction.
After decades of shrinkage, the decision of the labor government in 1998 to build replacements for the Invincible class aircraft carriers marks a turning point in British navel policy. While HMS Invincible and her sister ships HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal have proven invaluable to the Royal navy, the fact is they were built as anti submarine warfare ships and originally they were intended to provide ASW power to a task force that would also include an attack carrier. When the CVA-01 project was cancelled the Royal Navy had to make do with just the Invincibles, but they are in reality not true capital ships.
When construction begins on HMS Queen Elizabeth next year, it will mark the first new construction of capital ships for the Royal Navy since the Second World War. (HMS Vanguard was the last RN battleship and HMS Ark Royal was the last fleet carrier) When she is launched in 2012, followed by HMS Prince of Wales (and isn’t it great to see that name being put back in commission) in 2015, it will transform the capability of the Royal Navy.
With a planed displacement of about 60,000 tons the Queen Elizabeth class (in depth here) is three times as large as the Invincible class and about 5,000 tons larger than the Audacious class ships, HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal which were the last fleet carriers operated by the Royal Navy. Her planed air wing of 35 strike fighters, 4 AEW aircraft and 6 helicopters is twice as large as the Invincible class’s wing of 22 aircraft. This however understates the improvement in combat power as the Harrier for all its virtues, has less range and speed compared to more conventional aircraft. Further the lack of AEW aircraft has left a serious hole in the Invicibles air wing.
In addition to the power it will give the Royal Navy, the Queen Elizabeth class represent an opportunity to strengthen both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Navies of Australia, Canada and India. The Royal Australian Navy has been without a carrier since HMAS Melbourne was decommissioned in 1982. The Royal Canadian Navy has been without a carrier since HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned in 1970. The Indian Navy is manfully struggling along with INS Viraat, ex MHS Hermes and is building a ship based on the Italian Cavor design, but it is no secret that India wants and needs a more powerful ship.
I propose that Australia, Canada and India take this opportunity to join in the Queen Elizabeth class program. Four additional ships could be built, one for each country and fourth to be shared among the four navies when their carriers are in for overhaul. I propose the ships be named HMAS Australia, INS India, HMCS Canada, and HMS Commonwealth. The cost of Commonwealth could be shared out among the UK, Australia, Canada, and India on a 40%, 20%, 20%, 20% basis.
This proposal would massively increase the power of the RAN and RCN and greatly increases the power of the Indian Navy. It would also increase the deployability of the RN carriers.
Since these ships probably could not be completed until after 2015, I propose that as the Invincibles are decommissioned from the Royal Navy they be transferred to the other Commonwealth Navies in the project. Officially, Invincible will decommission in 2010, Illustrious in 2012, and Ark Royal in 2015. It is believed that one of the Invincibles, presumably Ark Royal will be retained to supliment HMS Ocean in the helicopter carrier role.
This would result in a schedual like this:
2010 HMS Invincible transferred to the RAN
2012 HMS Queen Elizabeth commissioned
HMS Illustrious transferred to the Indian Navy
2015 HMS Prince of Wales commissioned
HMS Ark Royal converted to Helicopter Carrier
2018 HMAS Australia commissioned
HMAS Invincible transferred to RCN
2021 INS India commissioned
INS Illustrious transferred to the RCN
HMCS Invincible mothballed
2024 MHCS Canada commissioned
HMCS Illustrious mothballed
2027 HMS Commonwealth commissioned
From the perspective of a United Crown Commonwealth this would result in a navy with five fleet carriers, necessary to protect the Sea Lines Of Communication of a CANZUK federation. From an anglosphere perspective this would add three new carriers to the fleets of the anglosphere nations. From both perspectives it would be a good thing.
Similar buys of the new Type 45 destroyer could also be entered into. Uniting the Anglosphere is a long term project, but the rationalization and expansion of the Navies of anglosphere nations should begin now.