- Howland, Tony
- Ship design and development
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
What the examination will not be, therefore, is popular, and this for several reasons.
Firstly and obviously, any examiner will have to learn to live with the role of an ‘anti-god’. The question must be asked ‘Is there an officer available in this Navy in which carrier borne airpower is an article of faith, who has both the experience and the objectivity to argue against that article?’ In this regard, a mild criticism may be levelled at ‘Proteus’ and the Navy’s case in general. The basis of our argument has always been ‘what we can do with a carrier’, rather than the less appealing but equally valid theme of ‘what the Navy can do without a carrier.’
This leads to the second reason for the unpopularity of the examination. Probably as a matter of negotiating tactics, the Navy’s case has always avoided any direct reference to its projected capabilities without a carrier. Admittedly this line of arguing could be seen as negative, but it does preclude the possibility that there may just be an acceptable alternative, even if it means that the Navy will be less capable than is currently perceived as desirable.
An examination of the no-carrier Navy offers two clear benefits, each equally valuable. A detailed examination which provides a series of clear force structure and capability options may demonstrate that the expected reduction in the Navy’s effectiveness is in fact the strongest argument in favour of the carrier. Alternatively, if the decision still goes against the carrier, much of the ground work will have been done to effect a change in the Navy’s course, thus avoiding a dangerous period of floundering whilst we return, too late, to the drawing board.
Surely it is prudent to plan in detail for the day, if and when the decision goes against the carrier, to offer immediately the alternative, complete with a concept of operations and a shopping list.
In fairness, it must be made clear that this statement is not a criticism of the Navy’s Aircraft Carrier project team. Their task has been to justify the carrier and look at carrier options, and they have to an extent succeeded. The task of looking at alternative force structures quite rightly was not part of their brief.
What then might such an examination reveal? What would a no-carrier Navy look like? What could it do and how would it operate?
Readers are not about to be offered a neatly bound package containing a new no-carrier Navy. Rather they will be offered some thoughts for further and, your author hopes, detailed examination.
The planning for the no-carrier Navy should follow the same procedure as is used in any force structure considerations, and therefore starts from the following assumptions:-
- Australia’s Strategic Assessment remains unchanged. Briefly, no country is perceived to have both the ability and the intention to invade Australia in the short term. Nevertheless, the country will attempt to continue to exist and indeed prosper in a world in which it seems nothing is predictable. National objectives — security, prosperity, stability, progress – will remain unchanged.
- The assigned roles of the Defence Force as a whole remain unchanged, at least initially, as do, again initially, the roles of the RAN.
- Obviously there is no aircraft carrier. To be completely objective, I will assume also that there is also no lesser version — the dreaded ‘Woolworth’s Carrier’ — in the inventory. In fact, I will write out of the options any sea-borne fixed wing capability.
- The RAAF’s Tactical Fighter Force, in whatever form, will enter service at about the same time Melbourne departs.
- The proportion of the budget allocated to Defence, and in particular to the Navy, is no more than at present and certainly no less.