WRT last night's carrier discussion . . .

The Royal Navy's current carriers are dinky little things - 19 000 tonnes fully loaded. HMS Ocean tips the scales at 22 000 tonnes, which I think makes it the navy's largest current vessel. The next generation of carriers are apparently going to displace about 40 000 tonnes - very significantly larger, although not a patch on the big tankers and bulk carriers. Interestingly, according to a post from yesterday that I unfortunately can't link to, this is about the biggest that will fit through the Panama Canal. I wonder if this was a factor in writing the spec?
Almost certainly. Otherwise they'd have to use special steel to be able to go round the south way.
I'd be surprised if they'd build a carrier that couldn't brave the Southern Ocean - after all, what happens if we need to reinvade the Falklands again?
On the other hand, the size and landing/take off requirements of the aircraft might have something to do with it, too...
I was given a guided tour of one of the current carriers recently (including lunch with the Captain). You wouldn't think that I moved in such lofty circles eh? I'm not going to go into detail, but the off the record comments about the spec and operation of these vessels was quite concerning. I'll tell you about it next time I see you.

2003-05-05 03:36
On the other hand, the size and landing/take off requirements of the aircraft might have something to do with it, too..

I thought the navy carriers just carried sea harriers and helicopters these days - are they building bigger carriers for other aircraft?

The current carriers are going to be replaced by two much larger ones to carry the naval (ie V/STOL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter.
<echo>Yes, the current carriers are Harrier/helicopter only, and the new ones will take the V/STOL JSF</echo>

I believe the RN's Harriers routinely land vertically, which makes that requirement pretty minimal. The preferred take-off method is ski-ramp assisted, which needs a bit more room (and a big ramp) but is still pretty small compared to other modern aircraft. The other requirement is that you have space to store all the aircraft. Again, the Harrier is downright tiny compared to most other modern fighters, and the RN carriers usually only have about 9-10 on board, IIRC. That's why the current RN carriers can be so small compared to the US carriers, which carry upwards of 90 aircraft, including honking great beasties like F-14s.

I don't recall how big the JSF will be, but I think it's still quite small compared to other modern aircraft. I've no idea how they're going to get the things airborne (VTO is nice, but does horrible things to your payload capacity), or how many there will be on each carrier, either.
The JSF's certainly bigger than the Harrier - from having a brief trawl it seems that it's too big to be usefully carried on the existing ships, although I don't get the feeling that the primary reason for the extra size is for takeoff.

And yes, I believe the RN is planning to do STOVL operations using a ski-jump, as currently (or at least that seems to be what those who are not actually in the know think).
OK, I did what I should have done earlier and looked it up. The JSF is about 10.7m span by 15.4m long, which is somewhat bigger than the Sea Harrier FRS1 (7.7x14.5m) The Sea Harrier FA2 is a little longer than the FRS1.

The new carriers are going to be a LOT bigger than the Invincible class - the Royal Navy website says 290m long, 60k tonnes. The main reason seems to be that they want to run much more aircraft - the Invincible class usually has 21 aircraft (9 harriers, 12 helicopters), the new ones will ahve up to 48. From the piccies, they'll be using ski-ramp take-offs, but I can't see any details for landings - could be vertical or tailhook.
Almost certainly, although just why the RN needs two targets massively expensive wastes of money ships like that is an interesting question.