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Official drawing of the CVA-01
|Preceded by:||Audacious-class fleet carrier
Centaur-class light carrier
|Succeeded by:||Invincible class|
63,000 at full load
|Length:||925 ft (281.94 m)|
|Beam:||184 ft (37 m)|
|Propulsion:||6 Admiralty boilers with 3 Parsons steam turbines providing 135,000 hp (101,000 kW) to three shafts|
|Speed:||30 knots (56 km/h)|
|Range:||7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km)|
|Complement:||3,250 plus airgroup|
|Armament:||1 twin Sea Dart Guided Weapon System 30 launcher, 4 x Sea Cat GWS 20|
|Armour:||unspecified for side and underwater protection|
|Aircraft carried:||Up to 50 aircraft, with the planned airgroup having 18 x Phantom FG.1; 18 x Buccaneer S.2; 4 x Gannet AEW.3; 4 x Sea King HAS.1; 2 x Wessex HAS.1 (SAR), probably with 1 x Gannet COD.4|
|Aviation facilities:||2 catapults (reduced from 4), 2 lifts, 1 hangar 650 ft (200 m) by 80 ft (24 m)|
The CVA-01 aircraft carrier was to be a class of at least two fleet carriers that would have replaced the Royal Navy's existing aircraft carriers, most of which had been designed prior to or during World War II.
The project was cancelled, along with the proposed Type 82 destroyers that would have escorted them, in the 1966 Defence White Paper, due to inter-service rivalries, the huge cost of the proposed carriers, and the difficulties they would have presented in construction, operation, and maintenance. Had these ships been built, it is likely they would have been named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Duke of Edinburgh or the Invincible class.
In the 1960s the Royal Navy was still one of the premier carrier fleets in the world, second only to the US Navy which was in the process of building the 80,000 ton Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers. The fleet included the fleet carriers HMS Ark Royal, Eagle, the rebuilt Victorious, and the rebuilt light carriers Hermes and Centaur. However, many of these ships were not large enough to handle significant numbers of modern jet fighters. HMS Ark Royal, the largest of the carriers at the time, could only accommodate 48 aircraft, which compared poorly to the 90 available to a Kitty Hawk class ship. The increasing weight and size of modern jet fighters meant that a larger deck area was required for take offs and landings. Although the Royal Navy had come up with increasingly innovative ways to allow ever larger aircraft to operate from the small flight decks of their carriers, to maintain air groups of a size large enough the Royal Navy decided that it would be necessary to commission a new class of large fleet carriers.
Design considerations 
Once the Chiefs of Staff had given their approval to the idea of new carriers being necessary, in January 1962, in the strategic paper COS(621)1, British Strategy in the Sixties, the Admiralty Board had to sift through six possible designs. These ranged from 42,000 to 68,000 tons at full load. The largest design, based on the USS Forrestal class, had space for four full sized steam catapults, but was rejected early on as being significantly too costly, particularly in terms of the dockyard upgrades that would be needed to service them. However, the advantages of size were immediately apparent. A 42,000 ton carrier could only hold 27 aircraft, whereas a 55,000 ton carrier could carry 49. This represented an 80% increase in the size of the airgroup for a 30% increase in displacement. Even with these smaller designs, however, cost was already becoming a serious issue. The Treasury and the Air Ministry were pushing for a new set of long-range strike aircraft operating from a string of bases around the globe. For the former this appeared a cost effective solution for the East of Suez issue, and for the latter it meant that the Royal Navy would not get a majority of the defence budget. This meant that by July 1963 it was announced that only one carrier would be built.
The CVA-01 would have displaced 54,500 tons (although the ship was said to displace 53,000 tons "in average action condition"), with a flight deck length (including the bridle arrester boom) of 963 ft 3 in (293.60 m) The size of the flight deck, combined with steam catapults and arrester gear would have enabled the carriers to operate the latest jets. The aircraft complement would have included 36 Phantom fighter/ground-attack aircraft and/or Buccaneer low-level strike aircraft, four early-warning aircraft, five anti-submarine helicopters and two search-and-rescue helicopters. The large 'Broomstick' radar dome above the central island on the carrier was planned to be a Type 988 Anglo-Dutch 3D radar, which would subsequently be fitted on the Royal Netherlands Navy Tromp-class frigates, although this would not have been fitted to the final carrier as Britain pulled out of the project.
By early 1963 Minister of Defence Peter Thorneycroft announced in Parliament that one new aircraft carrier would be built, at an estimated cost of £56 million, although the Treasury thought that the final cost was likely to be nearer £100 million. This was based on the carrier using the same aircraft as the Royal Air Force, the Hawker P.1154 supersonic V/STOL aircraft (a larger version of what would become the Hawker Siddeley Harrier). However, after the General Election of October 1964, the new Labour Government wanted to cut back defence spending, and the RAF attacked the Royal Navy's carrier in an attempt to safeguard first its BAC TSR-2 strike/reconnaissance aircraft and then its proposed replacement, the General Dynamics F-111, from the cuts.
The new Government, and by extension Treasury, were particularly concerned about the size issues involved, as these were fluctuating quite frequently. They therefore demanded that the Admiralty keep to 53,000 tons. With the navy unwilling to alter the size of the carrier and its airgroup accordingly the difficulties spiralled, and the final tonnage was much more likely to be nearer 55,000 tons. The design issues also increased, including dramatically reduced top speed, deck space, armour and radar equipment. When the Cabinet met in February 1966, the new Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey, strongly supported the RAF and their plan for long-range strike aircraft, by now the F-111, largely due to the costing issues of running fleet carriers. This meeting resulted in the 1966 Defence White Paper. In this paper the CVA-01 was finally cancelled, along with the remainder of the Type 82 destroyers that would have been built as escorts, of which only HMS Bristol was eventually completed. Instead plans were made for the modernisation of Eagle and Ark Royal.
One well-known story about the cancellation of CVA-01 states that the RAF moved Australia by 500 miles in its documents to support the air force's preferred strategy of land-based aircraft. Regardless of the story's veracity, the principal reason for the cancellation was that the carrier's main purpose was to project British power east of Suez. When the British government decided in the mid-1960s that it would withdraw from east of Suez, CVA-01 lost its justification.
Eagle and Ark Royal - Phantomisation 
The cancellation of CVA-01 was planned to be compensated for with the modernisation of both Eagle and Ark Royal to enable them to operate the aircraft that were intended for the cancelled ships. However, a later decision was taken to completely phase out fixed-wing flying in the Royal Navy by 1972; Victorious was withdrawn just prior to the start of what was intended to be her final commission in 1969, while Hermes was paid off for conversion to a "commando carrier" in 1971. At the time of the announcement, Ark Royal was beginning the major reconstruction needed to allow operation of the Phantom, and it was deemed unacceptable either to cancel the much needed work, or to spend such a large amount of money (approx £32m) for less than three years continued use. As a consequence, the decision was taken to retain Ark Royal following her 1967-1970 refit, but not to proceed with a rebuild of Eagle, in spite of the estimated cost of providing her with a similar reconstruction to that of Ark Royal being £5m. Eagle decommissioned in 1972, with her final use being as a source of spares to maintain Ark Royal.
"Through Deck Cruiser" 
The Royal Navy did not however completely surrender aircraft carrier capability, despite the eventual withdrawal of Ark Royal in 1978. The concept of the "through-deck command cruiser" was first raised in the late 1960s, when it became clear that there was a good chance of the Fleet Air Arm losing fixed-wing capability. The "through-deck cruiser" name was chosen to avoid the stigma of great expense attached to full-size aircraft carriers, with these 20,000 ton ships having significantly less fixed-wing aviation capability than the planned CVA-01 carriers. However, they were to function as part of combined NATO fleets, with a primary mission of providing Cold War anti-submarine patrols in the north-east Atlantic Ocean, in support of the American carrier battle groups.
In order to ensure the safety of the battle group around the "cruiser", the facility to carry the Sea Harrier was added at a late stage of development, the intention being that it could give the battle group the capability to intercept Soviet aircraft without having to rely either on land based or US Navy interceptors. The ultimate result of this was the Royal Navy being able to deploy carrier-based aircraft during the Falklands War. One officer who worked on the CVA-01 believed, however, that had the United Kingdom "built two or three ships to this design, they would now [in 1999] be seen to have been the bargain of the century and they would have made the Falklands War a much less risky operation" due to greater functionality.
The United Kingdom has returned to the fleet carrier idea, with the construction of a new generation of aircraft carriers larger than the cancelled CVA-01s. The two new carriers are to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The contract for these vessels was announced on 25 July 2007 by the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring.
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