20 Apr 19
Posted by: Nick Kettlewell

This is the tenth year of this publication which we have not always reviewed and indeed it is not easy for the editor of a review annually to seize the attention of a fairly closed community such as ours. As a former editor of such a publication I can sympathise. This, however, is a very special edition including a comprehensive introduction to both the Queen Elizabeth and the new USN carrier Gerald R Ford (CVN -78).
Four regional reviews give good coverage of developments in national fleets worldwide and the editor chooses to highlight three fleets in more detail this year: the Royal Canadian Navy, the Peruvian Navy and the Singapore Navy. I was amazed at the expansion of the last and so will many of our members I imagine.
We then turn to the section on significant ships starting with the Ford, commissioned on 22 July 2017, the lead ship of the first new class of USN carrier for forty-two years, since the Nimitz (CVN-68) commissioned in 1975. Two more, the Kennedy and the Enterprise, are under construction. She comes with 23 new or modified systems including the Electromagnetic Launching System (EMALS), Advanced Arrestor Gear and new dual band radar. Members will enjoy comparing her with QE, and I will just draw attention to two features: her air group consists of 75 fast jets and helicopters and her complement is 2,800 ship’s company and 1,800 in her air wing, 600 fewer than the Nimitz class.
The coverage of the progress of our CVF from initial user requirement in 1998 through political and design iterations to construction and delivery is most comprehensive. As I led the team that produced the Command, Control and Communications input for that document it is most gratifying to follow it going forward to fruition. We, of course, only examined her future roles in commanding Joint and Combined operations integrated with command and operation of her air group. We did however highlight some early actions including the need for optimum siting of SATCOM antennae, which had been a bugbear in the Invincible class, and no doubt contributed to the two island design, unlike the small island in the Ford which risks mutual interference. I will leave it to members to read this quite outstanding and superbly illustrated story of an achievement which will make them proud that we still have the expertise and skills to design and build such ships. By comparison with the Ford, her air group consists of up to 40 fast jets and helicopters, core complement 672, accommodation for 1,600.
The review concludes with three technological reviews, this year Naval Aviation, Naval Communications and Autonomous Systems. The first looks at world wide capability in some detail. UK members will not be surprised that the author is critical both of our premature retirement of the Sea Harriers in 2006 and of the concept of Joint Force Harriers which saw reduced operational effectiveness afloat. He regrets that this concept continues with the F-35Bs and that 809 Squadron will not form until 2021 with initial operating capability in 2023. He even quotes the Inskip award of 1937 – well done him! Let us base 809 at Yeovilton. Our acquisition of Poseidon is included; what a mess we made fiddling with Nimrod airframes.
I was disappointed with the Modern Naval Communications Review. Possibly the author was concerned about security but this is more a history lesson. His review of data links starts with 984 Radar/ADA/Digital Plot Transmission (Link 1), almost before my time! I was surprised he did not go back to Skyraider/AN/APS20F/BELLHOP! Coverage of SHF/EHF SATCOM is fairly comprehensive, but omitting UHF FLTSATCOM. Links 10,11 and 14 are discussed but I would have liked to see more of modern systems and their integration with ship’s combat management, as in the LPDs for example. JTIDS/Link 16 gets a mention but then we fitted Link 16 in the Sea Harrier FA2 twenty-five years ago. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) has been around for over 20 years, too. I look forward to hearing more about the tactical direction and management of the F-35B and the communications bandwidth that will require.
The section on autonomous systems is interesting, not least in explaining what it means in relation to unmanned vessels of the past.
To sum up this is an exceptional edition of this annual review given its most excellent coverage of the Queen Elizabeth. In addition, for those who seek an update of the navies of the world and their rapidly developing capability, here it is. The hardback, a large format book, is most reasonably priced for what it is at £35. Highly recommended.

Nick Kettlewell