THE Government’s announcement of the proposed acquisition of more F35B planes from the United States (“Aircraft fighter jets to boost US’s military ‘punch’”, The Herald, November 23) is made as if this somehow significantly improves the capability of the two new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales.

In fact the two new ships will remain unfit for their primary purpose as strike aircraft carriers. To meet that requirement they ought to have been designed as catapult and trap carriers with a complement of fixed wing aircraft. They are not.

The lack of “cat and trap” means that they are forced to carry the American jump jet model of the F35 programme, a plane currently bedevilled with onboard computer problems and which, crucially, even if eventually passed fit for service, is less agile than conventional fixed wing fighter aircraft and has far less range – some 450 nautical miles as opposed to the F18 currently operational in the US with some 800 miles range.

In a recent mock dogfight, the F16, an older forerunner of the F18, had by far the better of the F35A fixed wing jet, in itself a superior plane to the F35B jump jet model ordered by the UK.

Initially, also, I believe that the UK intends to operate only 12 F35B planes from each of their new carriers. This in itself beggars belief.

A carrier requires a defensive cap of four to five aircraft, leaving just seven or eight as operational out of a total of 12. Given that up to one-third of aircraft on any carrier may well not be immediately operational due to servicing or repairs, that figure comes down to a ludicrously low level of planes for a carrier designed to take 40 aircraft.

Without a cat and trap system, the new carriers also will be unable to carry long-range early airborne radar planes, such as the American turbo prop Hawkeye. This matters, because the airborne early warning radar system intended for use by the Royal Navy will be helicopter borne, significantly lacking both the range and ability to “see” of the turbo prop plane.

In short, our new “strike carriers” are basically white elephants. They may well be of use in transporting aid to foreign countries in need. However, in terms of their primary purpose as strike carriers in a battle fleet against worthy opponents they are virtually redundant.

This is even more so given that the Americans are currently testing unmanned planes with a range of up to 1,200 miles, something our new carriers, with a 50-year lifespan, will be quite unable to do minus cat and trap.

It is yet another example of the grotesque waste of money by the Ministry of Defence procurement department.

Roger Graham,

23 Cullen Crescent,


THE gross incompetence and profligacy of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) never ceases to amaze, although we should perhaps be used to it by now. In 2010 it suddenly and inexplicably decided to abandon all air surveillance patrols over the North Sea and North Atlantic, which had been in operation for more than years. A new generation of Nimrod aircraft, specifically designed for this role and already under construction, were literally thrown on the scrapheap at a cost of several million. Since then we have relied on planes from foreign countries operating under NATO to protect our northern shores.

The long-standing custom-built base at RAF Kinloss was closed (incidentally costing the Moray area almost 2,000 civilian jobs), the specialised engineering and support facilities on site were abandoned, and the area was converted into an army barracks. Even the long-standing RAF Mountain Rescue Team was unnecessarily scrapped. RAF families were displaced and local businesses and schools were severely affected.

Now, only five years later, the MoD has performed a complete volte-face. A new fleet of nine US-built Boeing F8 maritime patrol aircraft is to be purchased (how soon and for how much is not revealed) (“Final bil for replacing Trident on course to hit £41 billion”, The Herald, November 24). They will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, just five miles along the coast from Kinloss and already the home of a totally different type of aircraft, Typhoon fighter-bombers. Completely new engineering and support facilities will have to be built for the new planes, crews retrained, and perhaps runway lengths extended. Of course there is no mention of the likely cost or timing of any of this.

Meantime Russian naval fleets and submarines can continue to roam freely and perhaps undetected in northern waters around our coasts, while there is not a single British surface warship based in Scotland. What a complete shambles. Yet no doubt all those responsible will remain secure in their highly-paid jobs in the MoD.

Iain AD Mann,

7 Kelvin Court,


DESPITE us being told that the immediate threat to the UK is terrorism Michael Fallon justifies the untimely obscene increase in funding for the conventional armed forces as they are required to protect "our overseas interests".

Just what are these interests? The only overseas interest that I and the overwhelming majority of taxpayers is whether after paying tax on everything other than the air we breathe we can afford to go there on holiday. So just whose assets are we protecting?

David J Crawford,

131 Shuna Street,


IT is good to know that the UK's defence is in capable hands. David Cameron has announced in the defence review that new maritime patrol aircraft will be purchased to protect us from the frequent incursions of those pesky Russians who are getting a bit aggressive. We will be safe in our beds – in 2020 when they are on station.

More immediately with terrorist attacks becoming the daily norm, the PM has ratified the creation of two rapid response brigades, each of 5000 men. So, look out Islamic State, we are coming to get you – in 2025 when we will be ready for anything you care to throw at us. In the meantime – well, just be careful out there.

James Mills,

29 Armour Square,


THE news that a new class of frigate will be designed and built on the Clyde, along with the construction of eight Type 21 global combat ships, is just reward for a dedicated and professional workforce and management team.

What a pity that the SNP Defence spokesman at Westminster, Brendan O'Hara MP, saw fit to attack the UK Government over a supposed “betrayal” of the Clyde workforce, rather than welcome the news as a boost to the Scottish economy.

As pointed out by Jim Moohan, GMB Scotland's senior organiser, "the Scottish Government has totally misunderstood the background to the type of work that Clydeside has done for a number of decades now". How embarrassing for the SNP that its paranoia is now there for all to see at Westminster and that it overrides their ability to be positive when the opportunity arises.

The sheer hypocrisy of a party which tried, just 14 months ago, to take us out of the very Union that provides such contracts, but now sees fit to decry the business that has been awarded by the UK Government, beggars belief.

We can only imagine the plight of the Scottish defence industry had there been a Yes vote last September, and be grateful that it didn't become reality.

Derek Miller,


West Balgrochan Road,


THE discourse over the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review throws up at least one other Better Together canard to join the then scare stories around the supposed loss of the type 26’s contracts. We were told that the remaining UK intelligence services would not co-operate fully with Scotland’s. The international cooperation around ongoing operations related to the Paris attacks means that’s yet another bogeyman story that won’t resurrected next time.

Bill Ramsay,

84 Albert Avenue,


ONE of the more repugnant sights of this week is the Bullingdon Boy David Cameron strutting like Mussolini in his efforts to send British Forces into the war where France, the US and others are already engaged. An earlier Tory Prime Minister might have referred to the soft underbelly.

The soft underbelly is there in the City of London and in the arms manufacturers in which the UK has such special skills. It lies in the deprived areas of our outer cities where youth can see no hope beyond some romantic adventure. It lies in the self-satisfaction that deludes a population into belief in thermonuclear war is a deterrent against ... what?

At the very time that this preposterous Mr Cameron pronounces in Parliament his belief in protecting the UK, the defences of the UK's shores are being reduced. Only the other day Nato jets were required to oversee Russian bombers near our airspace (“RAF sends jets to intercept Russian planes” The Herald, November 21). That is the impact of defence cuts and no Trident submarine can cover that black hole.

There is no simple solution to the protracted war to which our world leaders have brought us but for the sake of human dignity we must give no support to those who would seek to resolve the issue with violence. Yes, I would like to melt them but what would that achieve? We must never succumb to those who do not believe in the dignity and rights of every human being.

KM Campbell,

Bank House,


DURING the current debate on the possible replacement of Trident and, more importantly, the "real" debate still to come next year, perhaps we should reflect upon the wisdom contained within the inscription on the Shieldaig and District War Memorial. How often have these words proved prophetic, yet how often have they been ignored and at what cost?

"O Lord, Hasten Thou the Day when Nation shall not rise up against Nation, when They shall not learn to War any more, And we thank You that meantime, Thou hast provided us with the instruments of Defence against our enemies"

J W Napier,

71A Park Street,