Admiral Stanhope Underlines Importance of Aircraft Carriers (UK)

Admiral Stanhope Underlines Importance of Aircraft Carriers

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope gave a keynote speech yesterday to international naval leaders, historians and maritime experts, underlining the importance of the aircraft carrier to the future of the Navy – and the nation.

Addressing the Future Maritime Operations Conference at the globally-respected RUSI in Whitehall, the admiral also stressed the daily commitment of the Naval Service with half the Fleet and 3,500 men and women either on active duties – or preparing for them – on a typical day.

Admiral Stanhope told delegates at the Future Maritime Operations Conference that world events over the past six decades underlined the importance of the aircraft carrier.

In only one year from the end of World War 2 until the demise of HMS Ark Royal and her Harrier jump jets in 2010 did Britain not deploy her carrier forces in support of the nation’s interests: 1989.

“To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers – and countries that have them, use them,” the First Sea Lord said.

“Air power from the sea was an important part of our national story last century – and it will continue to be a vital part of our national story this century.”

The Navy is building the two biggest ships in its history – carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales – which will begin to enter service from around 2018, with their punch being provided by F35 Lightning II strike fighters.

The ships will be at the heart of the Response Force Task Group, the group of warships and supporting auxiliary vessels ready to deploy around the world at short notice should the Government require it.

Admiral Stanhope said the effectiveness of the task group – formed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review – was demonstrated off Libya last year.

But away from such high-profile operations as Libya, the admiral stressed just how committed the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Fleet Air Arm and RFA are on an average day.

The average day the First Sea Lord picked was May 8 when more than 40 ships and submarines – half the entire Fleet – and some 3,500 sailors, aircrew and Royal Marines were either on front-line operations or preparing for them:

  • Minehunters in the Gulf exercising with the US, Omani, French and Saudi Arabian forces;
  • HMS Daring on her maiden deployment east of Suez;
  • RFA Fort Victoria as the command ship for a Thai admiral on counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean;
  • Fleet Air Arm helicopters over the sands of Afghanistan;
  • HMS Westminster patrolling the Indian Ocean for pirates, terrorists and drug smugglers;
  • HMS Dauntless on a counter-drugs operation in the Atlantic;
  • Hunter-killer submarine HMS Talent off South Africa;
  • HMS Ocean in London and flagship Bulwark plus RFA Mounts Bay off Weymouth practising their Olympic security roles;
  • 45 Commando ready to move at short notice as the UK’s lead commando group…
  • …and 40 Commando preparing for their impending deployment to Afghanistan;
  • HMS Protector making her way through the Panama Canal on her way home from her first deployment to Antarctica.

That is just a small selection of units, ships and squadrons committed that day.

Naval Today Staff, July 5, 2012; Image: Royal Navy