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The British-French CVF (

…Norman Polmar, at, on Britain’s plans to build two real aircraft carriers, scheduled for completion in 2014 and 2016, respectively. The new vessels will replace the three small “Harrier carriers” that entered service in the early 1980s.

With their “split island” design, the British carriers will have a rather striking (some might say odd), appearance. The CVF carriers are smaller than their American counterparts, displacing about 65,000 metric tons, compared to the 100,000 (long) tons displacement of our Nimitz-class. The vessels’ embarked air wing will consist of U.S.-designed F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and helicopters.

While the U.S. will soon have an “all-nuclear” carrier fleet (with the pending retirement of the USS Kitty Hawk), the CVF design with be conventionally powered, with a top speed of 25 knots. The British apparently decided that the added cost and complexity of a nuclear propulsion system over-ruled potential benefits, namely, a higher cruising speed.

While the smaller “Invincible” class ships (and their Harrier V/STOL jets) performed yeoman service in the Falklands conflict and other operations, it was clear that Britain needed a bigger carrier–with more capable aircraft–for future contingencies. Enter the CVF.

It’s nice to see the Royal Navy get back in the game with a more capable design, one that will be shared with the French. According to Mr. Polmar, the French CVF is scheduled for completion in 2015, but with their current carrier (the Charles deGaulle), scheduled for a refit and refueling in the same timeframe, it’s doubtful that France can meet that schedule.

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