Hi Fed & CC,
I've got to agree about the carriers.
We, as a country, were in an unusual position in 2010, when the incoming Government was faced with an almighty, financial mess left by the outgoing government ( this is fact not party politics ) and therefore they, as would any incoming government of any party, had no choice but to 'juggle' the budget - obviously making completely the wrong decisions according to some ,and yet absolutely right decisions according to others , which rightly or wrongly, included the decommissioning of the old carriers, and Harriers.
Interested parties , of which I freely admit I'm one ( I think they made an unforgivable error ), will always have something to say about less money being spent on their pet projects, and the usual suspects will moan no matter what any government does, because it happens not to be made up of their party of choice.
The sad fact is that there is no going back, so we should quietly mourn the loss of the old carriers and the Harriers, but embrace the new life which will be with us for many years to come.
So we currently have no aircraft for the carriers, but should there be a need, there are conventional aircraft available to us, from abroad, & at short notice, albeit not as up to date as we would ideally like, and we are blessed with extremely competent aircrew, capable of quickly re- training, although experience of deck landings will be somewhat limited.
In an emergency, I'm sure that aircrews can be accommodated at the USN facilities in Florida and join in the current carrier landing training program.
The cost of installing an emergency catapult , and arrester gear if found necessary, is small compared to the overall cost of the carrier, and could be done quickly. ( the flight decks of the new carriers are probably long enough for many aircraft to take off without assistance, but arrester gear is probably essential )
Some say that the days of manned aircraft and therefore carriers are over, well with regard to manned aircraft v drones, just imagine a drone seeing off a Russian TU-95 'Bear' encroaching on our airspace - I can hear the Cossacks laughing all the way to our coastline.
Manned aircraft, therefore, inc. carrier based, are and will be for many years to come, an essential part of our defence, as well as our commitment to our allies and protectorates, but of course there is fast becoming a need for drones also, but only initially as a supplement/complement for, 'not as a replacement for manned aircraft' - not in my lifetime anyway.
Until potential enemies abandon conventional aircraft, drones will always have a secondary role in defence, but potentially of course may have a primary role in attack and ground support.
So carriers are still our immediate future, in my humble opinion,
Sorry to be so long winded.