Banging an old drum (but I like the tune!)

Here’s an old drum that I like to pick up and bang. Nobody else really wants to hear the tune any more, but it’s still a personal favourite.

I’m talking about the money that the Royal Navy British government is wasting spending on the golden albatross unproven F-35 Lightning II instead of the combat-proven F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Let’s crunch some basic numbers.

Unit costs:

  • F/A-18E/F Super Hornet £44m ($67m)
  • F-35B Lightning II £130m ($197m)

Price per (36 aircraft) carrier air wing:

  • F/A-18E/F Super Hornet 1584m ($2412m)
  • F-35B Lightning II 4680m ($7092m)

So the savings to the British taxpayer (remember them… the people that elect the clowns politicians that make these mistakes decisions) on a carrier air wing of 36 aircraft would have been £3276m ($4680m). Two air wings (1 for each carrier) would amplify the savings to £6552m ($9360m).


That’s enough to fund the entire Type 26 frigate programme of 13 vessels and increase that programme to an operationally-efficient 16 (16x £350 = £5600) and build an eighth Astute-class submarine (£800m) and order 3 more River-class OPVs (£150m).

Yes, I am aware that my accounting is simplistic. Yes, I am aware that folks in the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force want shiny new F-35 aircraft and would consider the F/A-18 as a “make do.” Yes, I am aware that money was already wasted redesigning the carriers for “cats & traps” then back again. Yes, yes, yes. But I still like my old drum and I still like the simple tune I play on it.

“Want of frigates.”

What was true in Nelson’s day is true today. A “want of frigates” is a significant impediment to Royal Navy operations. Whether the political will exists in either the Tory or the Labour parties to fund a full Type 26 programme remains to be seen. We hear words, vague promises, murmurings, but not a single keel has been laid… yet all the while the RN’s existing frigate strength is diminished by too-soon journeys to the breaker’s yard.


[From Clarke and M’Arthur, vol. ii. p. 432.]

[About the 5th October, 1805.]

I am sorry ever to trouble their Lordships with anything like a complaint of a want of Frigates and Sloops; but if the different services require them, and I have them not, those services must be neglected to be performed. I am taking all Frigates about me I possibly can, for if I were an Angel, and attending to all the other points of my Command, let the Enemy escape for want of the eyes of the Fleet, I should consider myself as most highly reprehensible. Never less than eight Frigates, and three good fast-sailing, Brigs, should always be with the Fleet to watch Cadiz; end to carry transports in and out to refit it, would take at least ten and four Brigs, to do that service well. At present I have only been able to collect two, which makes me very uneasy.