This is usually suggested as a “cheaper option” than the Queen Elizabeth class carriers.
This does not appear to be the case when one considers how much these ships cost.
From the United States” Navy” FY 2012 Budget,the U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class costs (U.S.) $13,419 Million/(U.K.) £8,387 Million for 3 ships or an average of $4,473 Million/£2,796 Million each.
From the National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2010,the Queen Elizabeth class costs £5,900 Million/$9,440 Million for 2 ships or an average of £2,950 Million/$4,720 Million each.
It is important to note that the decision to delay construction of the Queen Elizabeth class is responsible for £1,560 Million/$2,496 Million of that £5,900 Million/$9,440 Million total cost.
Had the ships not been delayed to free up money for other over budget projects like Typhoon,the 2 ships would have cost £4,340 Million/$6,944 Million or an average of £2,170 Million/$3,472 Million per ship.
If the United Kingdom had been building or buying the U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class instead of the Queen Elizabeth class they would have been delayed due to the same budgetary problems with similar cost penalties.
The U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class will have significantly higher operating costs than the Queen Elizabeth class as it requires almost 1,100 crew members compared to almost 700 crew members for the Queen Elizabeth class.
The U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class can only operate the vertical landing F35B which has lifecycle costs 25% higher than the F35C,according to the British Prime Minister,which can be carried by the Queen Elizabeth class.
While a single Queen Elizabeth class ship can supply all of the United Kingdom”s expeditionary air power needs in most conflicts,the less aviation capable U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class cannot and would require either additional ships or land based fighter and tanker support at an additional cost which far exceeds that of the aircraft carriers themselves.
As current operations in Libya are demonstrating,land based aircraft are usually based further from the combat area than carrier based aircraft.
This has been the case in almost every major war fighting operation the United Kingdom has been involved in over the last 65 years.
This results in them generating fewer sorties per aircraft per day and fewer hours on station per sortie.
Consequently the land based combat aircraft fleet must be significantly larger and hence more expensive than a sea based carrier wing to deliver the same effect.
Often the land base requires twice as many combat aircraft to achieve the same effect as the carrier”s air wing.
The cost of these additional land based aircraft may be 5 times that of the aircraft carrier it”s self.
The land based aircraft will also require substantial aerial refuelling support while the carrier based aircraft will require less,or often no,aerial refuelling.
The British Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft costs approximately 3 times as much as the Royal Navy”s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers for each service year.
It can be seen that it would be prohibitively expensive for the United Kingdom to buy aircraft carriers with less aviation capacity.