HMS EAGLE in the Falklands

The UK getting the Hornet is an interesting - but logical - development from this timeline.

I can't see the imperative for a "Joint Force Hornet". Remember "Joint Force Harrier" was a consequence of cutbacks and a need to make best use of a limited resource that was owned and needed by both the RN and RAF. Here, there might be a joint project office in the ministry, but that's all you really can justify. There certainly wouldn't be a drive for the two services working as closely together as they did with the Harriers.

With the RAF, the decreases in Tornado ADVs and IDS aircraft numbers makes some sense. The former peaked at, I believe, seven operational squadrons (plus the Falklands flight). The model I've seen expressed is 3-1-1 - that is, for every three operational aircraft, you need one for squadron-level maintenance, one for deeper maintenance / attrition reserve, and one for training / conversion. So, using that model, with just 100 a/c, you could field four operational squadrons - two wings of two. For the strike variant, you probably only need to reduce the number of operational squadrons by two, three at the most. Looking at a NATO ORBAT from 1989, there were eight Tornado GR MK 1 squadrons in RAF Germany and another three in the UK (two at Marham, one at Honington). So you could just lose those at Marham.

As for the Hornet in RAF service, I'd think with 120 you could have five operational squadrons plus an OCU / reserve squadron, in three wings of two each. One with the OCU and one of the others would be in the UK, replacing Phantoms. And the third would likely be the last to form, replacing the two squadrons of Phantoms in more of a fighter role in RAF Germany. When the Cold War ends, having the Hornets in hand - presumably upgraded - would allow the Tornado ADV to be retired earlier, with the RAF fighter force retracting to perhaps five squadrons each of the Tornado IDV (whatever mark it was up to by that time) and the Hornet, plus two to three of the Harrier. But what does this all mean for the Typhoon? That's a big question.

For the RN, 80 Hornets gives you three to four operational squadrons. Four would make sense with 10-12 a/c each. Thus, a normal air group on a carrier would be 20-24 Hornets, with the capacity to increase this to 30-36 by adding one of the remaining two squadrons if deployed on operations.

You could certainly see how the butterflies from this TL would lead to a more powerful RN and, ironically perhaps, RAF.
 
The UK getting the Hornet is an interesting - but logical - development from this timeline.

I can't see the imperative for a "Joint Force Hornet". Remember "Joint Force Harrier" was a consequence of cutbacks and a need to make best use of a limited resource that was owned and needed by both the RN and RAF. Here, there might be a joint project office in the ministry, but that's all you really can justify. There certainly wouldn't be a drive for the two services working as closely together as they did with the Harriers.

With the RAF, the decreases in Tornado ADVs and IDS aircraft numbers makes some sense. The former peaked at, I believe, seven operational squadrons (plus the Falklands flight). The model I've seen expressed is 3-1-1 - that is, for every three operational aircraft, you need one for squadron-level maintenance, one for deeper maintenance / attrition reserve, and one for training / conversion. So, using that model, with just 100 a/c, you could field four operational squadrons - two wings of two. For the strike variant, you probably only need to reduce the number of operational squadrons by two, three at the most. Looking at a NATO ORBAT from 1989, there were eight Tornado GR MK 1 squadrons in RAF Germany and another three in the UK (two at Marham, one at Honington). So you could just lose those at Marham.

As for the Hornet in RAF service, I'd think with 120 you could have five operational squadrons plus an OCU / reserve squadron, in three wings of two each. One with the OCU and one of the others would be in the UK, replacing Phantoms. And the third would likely be the last to form, replacing the two squadrons of Phantoms in more of a fighter role in RAF Germany. When the Cold War ends, having the Hornets in hand - presumably upgraded - would allow the Tornado ADV to be retired earlier, with the RAF fighter force retracting to perhaps five squadrons each of the Tornado IDV (whatever mark it was up to by that time) and the Hornet, plus two to three of the Harrier. But what does this all mean for the Typhoon? That's a big question.

For the RN, 80 Hornets gives you three to four operational squadrons. Four would make sense with 10-12 a/c each. Thus, a normal air group on a carrier would be 20-24 Hornets, with the capacity to increase this to 30-36 by adding one of the remaining two squadrons if deployed on operations.

You could certainly see how the butterflies from this TL would lead to a more powerful RN and, ironically perhaps, RAF.
Agreed, I just note that the FAA doesn't really need the Hornets until 93/94 as they don't have a flattop. So the RAF will get it's Hornets first and the FAA might still operate some old F-4 and Buccaneers in the interim.
 
Agreed, I just note that the FAA doesn't really need the Hornets until 93/94 as they don't have a flattop. So the RAF will get it's Hornets first and the FAA might still operate some old F-4 and Buccaneers in the interim.
I thought those were already transferred to the RAF when Eagle decommissioned? Or at least the Phantoms were.
 
I thought those were already transferred to the RAF when Eagle decommissioned? Or at least the Phantoms were.
I'd imagine that the FAA has a decent chunk of its pilots assigned to USN/USMC carrier based Phantom and Hornet squadrons to maintain proficiency and the RN is probably getting its pilots carrier qualified on the Lexington(and later whatever carrier the USN is using for training the few months after when Lexington decommissions and QE isn't quite done)and that a fair few people are attached to USN steam catapult and arrestor wire crews to keep the knowledge of how to use and maintain them in the fleet until the QE enters service
 
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Nick P

Donor
Butterflies.

This Royal Navy had 48 F-4K Phantoms. They lost 20 to the RAF in 1969 (HMS Eagle not rebuilt) and the surviving 18 in 1978 (HMS Ark Royal retired). They might have needed more replacements given that 10 were lost on Ark Royal alone.
Therefore those F-4K have not gone to the RAF to be operated by 43 Squadron 1969-1989 nor did they go to 111 Squadron from 1978-1989 when both converted to the Tornado F.3.
So what did the RAF do to replace the Lightning? Did they get the full order of 150 F-4M Phantom instead of the 118 that actually arrived? Or just struggle on regardless with an increasingly antiquated machine?

In 1984 the RAF had to buy 15 second hand F-4J to replace the squadron that went to protect the Falklands post-war. Does this still happen?

I'm really overthinking this, aren't I? 😄 🤪
 
Butterflies.

<snip>

I'm really overthinking this, aren't I? 😄 🤪
Possibly

The RAF could keep a couple more Lightning squadrons in service in the 1970s - maybe the F-2As in Germany. But it would probably still get one squadron from the FAA as I don't think both Ark Royal and Eagle would have been in commission at the same time.

in OTL 1978 the FAA had one squadron of F-4K (Phantom FG1 in UK speak ) with 14 a/c. I think 12 was the regular complement on the Ark so 2 spares. The RAF had another squadron of the FG1 along with six with the F-4M/Phantom FGR2. There was an OCU with 21 Phantoms. models unspecified so some more FG1 perhaps there.

I'd assume this was the situation roughly in 1982 iTTL also as Eagle would have a similar mix of aircraft. Given Eagle would have served until 1986 the surviving aircraft would have been transferred to the RAF then. But by then the Tornado would have started replacing first the Lightning and then Phantom in the AD role and the Buccaneer force at some point. Though as there were still Buccaneers around in 1991 for Gulf War One they at least could still have been in service by the outfitting of the new carrier.
 
I do think that building the 3rd carrier for india should be considered very seriously for the timeline.

Probably after the first one is finished so that yard has something to do i think would be best in the same yard. And it arrives before 2000 hopefully. Should keep a few thousand workers working for example and u might get some type 23 export orders as the escort for it aswell hopefully.

U would need some political will being expended on persuading india to buy one , hell they might be interested in two if the inflation doesnt drive the prices up much from the quoted billion per ship. If u make the deal early enough or atleast before labor gets into power for the order to get thorugh since canceling work wich has been lined up isnt ideal and if india orders two u might actually somehow afford the proposed 3rd instead of canceling it maybe.

There might be slight interest from australia if for some reason they want to retain fixed wing carriers for some reason and i guess russia and china might actually be interested aswell in them if politics dont get in the way for carriers of that size eventually but im talking about the nations that might be interested in getting into carriers and not being very realistic tough .

The type 23 frigates sound very good workhorses for the navy and should be a pretty good export success i imagine hopefully to keep yards building stuff after the big stuff is done.

Cause the otl india carrier program is a travestry of epic proportions and this could help avoid it .
 
I do think that building the 3rd carrier for india should be considered very seriously for the timeline.

Probably after the first one is finished so that yard has something to do i think would be best in the same yard. And it arrives before 2000 hopefully. Should keep a few thousand workers working for example and u might get some type 23 export orders as the escort for it aswell hopefully.

U would need some political will being expended on persuading india to buy one , hell they might be interested in two if the inflation doesnt drive the prices up much from the quoted billion per ship. If u make the deal early enough or atleast before labor gets into power for the order to get thorugh since canceling work wich has been lined up isnt ideal and if india orders two u might actually somehow afford the proposed 3rd instead of canceling it maybe.

There might be slight interest from australia if for some reason they want to retain fixed wing carriers for some reason and i guess russia and china might actually be interested aswell in them if politics dont get in the way for carriers of that size eventually but im talking about the nations that might be interested in getting into carriers and not being very realistic tough .

The type 23 frigates sound very good workhorses for the navy and should be a pretty good export success i imagine hopefully to keep yards building stuff after the big stuff is done.

Cause the otl india carrier program is a travestry of epic proportions and this could help avoid it .
Hmmm maybe a way to sweeten the deal would be to lease with the option to later buy the two RN Invincible class carriers and their Harriers for a very generous price to India in order for them to retain carrier capabilities(since they didn't buy Hermes in this timeline India is going to need a new carrier asap)until the new carrier(s) is delivered to India since the RN will be retiring the Invincibles once the QE and her sister come online, and since the ships aren't that old they will try to make some money off them, and leasing the Invincibles and their planes will allow the UK to either sell them to India once the lease is done or lease/sell them to another nation once the Indians get their shiny new fleet carrier(s)
 
I do think that building the 3rd carrier for india should be considered very seriously for the timeline.

Probably after the first one is finished so that yard has something to do i think would be best in the same yard. And it arrives before 2000 hopefully. Should keep a few thousand workers working for example and u might get some type 23 export orders as the escort for it aswell hopefully.

U would need some political will being expended on persuading india to buy one , hell they might be interested in two if the inflation doesnt drive the prices up much from the quoted billion per ship. If u make the deal early enough or atleast before labor gets into power for the order to get thorugh since canceling work wich has been lined up isnt ideal and if india orders two u might actually somehow afford the proposed 3rd instead of canceling it maybe.

There might be slight interest from australia if for some reason they want to retain fixed wing carriers for some reason and i guess russia and china might actually be interested aswell in them if politics dont get in the way for carriers of that size eventually but im talking about the nations that might be interested in getting into carriers and not being very realistic tough .

The type 23 frigates sound very good workhorses for the navy and should be a pretty good export success i imagine hopefully to keep yards building stuff after the big stuff is done.

Cause the otl india carrier program is a travestry of epic proportions and this could help avoid it .
India's pretty big on self-sufficiency in this time period. They might be persuaded to buy the Sea Wolf SAM, but they'll want to design their own frigates rather than buy British. The carrier might be more likely.

If Britain is to export ships, it's going to have to come by cutting into the frigate market. Particularly sales of the MEKO 200 and La Fayette designs, which have dominated frigate exports since the Cold War. How the Brits let Singapore buy French, for example, is beyond me. Might also be some opportunities in the future with Type 45 sales if they play their cards right.
 
But i do think that offering india the proposed 3rd carrier is a good idea to make their carrier program make sense and something for the author to consider . And the main part that india will like is that it isnt a old ship and the 30-40 year life of it. And if they really like it for some reason they could buy a 2nd one to make the british proposed 3rd ship possible financially maybe if the author wants to.

And as suggested as part of the deal they take the invincible class as soon as QE is finished to get their carrier program up and running since it will take like 5-6 years to build their ship anyway . If it is agreed 2-3 years before qe finishes u can help them by training them to run the invincible anyway and then training them again if they go for hornets to make the project more palatable.

And i do agree that exporting the hell out of type 23 should be a major british goal to keep their shipbuilding going also the ssk design should be exported when possible. Altough lining up the india deal first to maybe get the idea across to the military and foreign office i guess since it will be a freaking billion pound project and as i said to keep shipbuilding afloat isnt a bad goal to have for the british goverment.
 
If Britain is to export ships, it's going to have to come by cutting into the frigate market. Particularly sales of the MEKO 200 and La Fayette designs, which have dominated frigate exports since the Cold War.
In that case, since ITTL the RN is is almost certainly going to retire the Type 21's as OTL it'd be incredibly helpful to the British shipbuilding industry for them to replace them with a modern general-purpose light frigate that's going to be relatively easy to adapt to other nations requirements. The modernisations of the facilities at Cammell Laird and VSEL will make the British yards competitive on price, but since MEKO already has an export record the best way for the UK industry to make a splash is to be offering something that's attractive to lower-tier navies that the RN has enough confidence in to use themselves.
How the Brits let Singapore buy French, for example, is beyond me.
Add to that the Saudi Al Riyadh's and maybe the South African Valor's, that's ten to thirteen reasonably possible sales.
 
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In that case, since ITTL the RN is is almost certainly going to retire the Type 21's as OTL it'd be incredibly helpful to the British shipbuilding industry for them to replace them with a modern general-purpose light frigate that's going to be relatively easy to adapt to other nations requirements. The modernisations of the facilities at Cammell Laird and VSEL will make the British yards competitive on price, but since MEKO already has an export record the best way for the UK industry to make a splash is to be offering something that's attractive to lower-tier navies that the RN has enough confidence in to use themselves.
So basically an earlier type 31?
 
So basically an earlier type 31?
Yeah, or a direct follow on to the T21 if you prefer, which I think that it'd look a bit more like. Closer to BAe's Leander concept than the selected design, so maybe ~4,000t and ~125m for the RN version.

That said, a suitably updated and modernised T23-based design might be perfectly suitable, particularly for the Saudi and Singaporean requirements.

Thinking about it, while my proposed "Type 83" would be a conceptual replacement for the Type 21's they likely end up directly replacing the six Batch 2 Type 22's in service.
 
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An EAGLE becomes a Phoenix
When HMS EAGLE had returned from the Falklands War her stellar performance had seared her name into the hearts and collective minds of the British public. A few years later the Falklands conflict had receded from recent memory and into the realms of history books and TV documentaries and far fetched stories told by drunken men in pubs (some true and some not so true).
When the 1983 Defence Whitepaper had announced a decommissioning date for HMS EAGLE it had included a few lines about the possibility of preservation. In the run up to her decommissioning in 1986 the MOD had announced that they were open to the possibility of preserving the ship and willing to hear any serious proposals for the ship’s future. To this end rather than being immediately put up for disposal EAGLE had been towed out into the Tamar while her future was decided. However, those in the know knew that this was a political move for PR purposes rather than a serious attempt at saving a piece of naval history.
An HMS EAGLE Preservation Trust had been formed and some funds raised and proposals put forward by various parties ranging from making her a museum ship in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to an ambitious proposal to moor her in the Thames at Greenwich as part of the National Maritime museum.

The problem is preserving a ship as big as an aircraft carrier is simply not viable for a number of reasons the biggest of which is simple cost. Even keeping something the size of EAGLE in a mothballed condition was expensive enough to scare off most potential private sector investors. Then there was the cost of restoring the thoroughly gutted ship to museum condition and making it safe and accessible to visitors to say nothing of the electricity and water bill just to keep the lights on and toilets flushing. The initial restoration and preservation cost estimates would only rise as time went on and the ship deteriorated more and more. The fact that the colour of the ship gradually changed from warship grey to a rusty red was testament to this.
There is also the issue of finding somewhere to put the ship that was big enough and deep enough for her while still being accessible to the public. Deepwater berths are very valuable bits of real estate owing to their scarcity and commercial value from berthing fees and thus very expensive to purchase and not the sort f thing anyone in their right mind would simply give away no matter how worthy the cause. The proposal to move the ship to Greenwich would involve building a completely new deep water berth for the ship which being in the Thames in London would actually have much more value as a cruise ship dock than the home of a museum ship.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard being technically a part of HM Naval base Portsmouth certainly had the space and the facilities to run the ship but the MOD were not going to hand over one of their precious deep berths which with two supercarriers on the way would soon be at a premium. EAGLE would have made an impressive addition to the growing fleet of RN historical ships. Henry VIII’s salvaged flagship MARY ROSE and HMS WARRIOR the worlds first ironclad warship having recently been opened to the public with money having in part been generated from the RN’s higher public profile and increase in public interest in naval history following the Falklands conflict. However, the MOD was finding it hard enough to finance the construction of its new aircraft carriers let alone paying to keep what would essentially be a tourist attraction. Some may have been tempted to point out that the RN was still paying to keep Nelsons flagship HMS VICTORY and that if they were struggling so much with their finances shouldn’t consideration be given to disposing of this “unnecessary burden”. However, it was known within the MOD that anyone attempting suggest to the Admirals that HMS VICTORY should be sold would likely find themselves at risk of an “unfortunate accident”.

To be financially viable the ship would have to attract the kind of visitor numbers that could only be found somewhere like London. However, the Greenwich proposal would have involved towing the ship which would no longer have its own power through the Thame Barrier which given the size of the ship relative to the gap she would have to transit and the tidal conditions was just asking for an accident. Plus, a ship that size would have been a permanent navigational hazard to other vessels on the Thames and the chances were permission from the relevant authorities to go ahead with this would not be forthcoming.



Finally, in March 1988 speculation about HMS EAGLE’s future was brought to an end by the Ministry of Defence’s announcement that HMS EAGLE would be sold for scrap. The announcement came as a bitter blow to those who had been trying to secure the ships future and had created a storm of negative PR for both the MOD and government. Over the following months various groups and campaigns and public petitions tried to reverse the MOD’s decision without success.
Immediately after the announcement in an attempt to try and counter the storm of negative press HMS EAGLE’s former captain the now Vice Admiral Jock Slater who had commanded the ship during the Falklands campaign had been forced to give a television interview. The now Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (policy and nuclear) had stated “The fate of EAGLE was a straightforward navy department matter and without difficulty. All of the bids for preservation had been found to be inappropriate and unrealistic and had therefore been rejected and the old lady given a ships equivalent of a decent human burial: scrap”. He had gone on to state that the navy and especially himself has EAGLE’s old captain was rather than dwelling on what had been instead working towards what would soon be with the introduction of the new QUEEN ELIZABETH class supercarriers that would dwarf HMS EAGLE.

There had been a proposal for HMS EAGLE to be the subject of a SinkEx (used for target practise and sunk at sea) to see how modern naval weapons would fare against an aircraft carrier. Some had been actively pushing for this as the data gathered from this once in a lifetime opportunity would be extremely useful to the ongoing CVF-90 programme and even the US Navy would very likely be interested. However, the sight (and ensuing photographs) of EAGLE burning and slipping beneath the waves would probably have a devastating impact on the British public and be a propaganda tool for Britain’s enemies (Argentina would probably claim they had sunk her or some other bizarre conspiracy theory). Thus, this proposal had been rejected.

Finally, in late July 1988 the day finally arrived for HMS EAGLE to leave her home in Devonport for the very last time.
As with so many times before thousands had turned out to witness the final voyage of the famous ship. This time however apart from a few members of the skeleton crew onboard for the voyage dotted around the vast expanse of her empty and rusted flight deck that had even begun to sprout trees there was no ships company lining the side, no Royal Marines band playing and no flags flying. The ship was a dead ship in every sense of the word. Devoid of all power, steering and navigational equipment the ship was merely a hulk being towed to her grave by tugs. The skeleton crew onboard to tend to the tug lines navigated their way through the dark ship by torchlight though endless empty passageways and compartments that had been completely emptied of everything from furniture to machinery and consoles and even wires and hatches. They made their home in the ships rust stained island superstructure where they had a clear view of and easy communication with the tugs. With little to do until they reached the shipbreakers yard the men of the skeleton crew spent the six day voyage touring the ship in groups and putting together a photo album documenting the last voyage of the EAGLE.
However, as she rounded Devils Point past the crowds and made her way towards Plymouth Breakwater the ship was given one last gasp of life. A Chief Petty Officer onboard EAGLE as part of the skeleton crew had decided that the ship deserved better than to be towed away from her home as a decrepit hulk and had “procured” a box of smoke flares. As the ship passed the crowds, he set of all 26 flares in the ships funnel giving the impression that she was moving under her own power.
upon his return to Devonport he was ordered to report to Flag Officer Plymouth Vice Admiral Webster (who had commanded the ill fated HMS ARGONAUT a decade before her destruction in San Carlos Water). The admiral had stated that the Chief had exceeded his authority and that he hoped he felt suitably chastised and regretful. This was however followed by “off the record, well done Chief”.

It had taken 6 days for EAGLE to make the transit up to Cairnryan in Scotland where for the first time in years she once again found herself berthed next to her sister HMS ARK ROYAL, However, by this point ARK ROYAL was little more than a few thousand ton lump of unrecognisable steel and a fore shadowing of what was very soon to befall EAGLE. It didn’t take long for the scrappers to sink their teeth into the ship. A gaping hole opened up in the centre of the flight deck which had kept growing and growing. Very soon the ships island superstructure was gone and the cavernous hanger seemed to become carnivorous as decks, bulkheads and compartments simply ceased to exist. A seemingly endless relay of barges were filled up with scrap metal from the ship before being dispatched to be melted down in a Spanish smelting plant.
A shipbreaker who had a cousin who was working for Cammel Laird on the construction of the new HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH in Birkenhead kept a record of the current displacement of both ships noting how quickly QUEEN ELIZABETH was gaining weight while HMS EAGLE was rapidly losing it. Not all of HMS EAGLE was destined to be melted down or simply burned. The admiral’s cabin had been dismantled and reassembled in a Plymouth hotel and many of the ships fittings such as her portholes were sold off and occasionally turn up in the most unlikely of places such as the Ferry public house in Salcombe.

In April 1989 the BBC had decided to make a special follow up episode to their 1977 award winning TV series Sailor which had documented life aboard HMS EAGLE during a deployment. The episode entitled “12 Years On” had been commissioned in response to an increase in public interest in the series and HMS EAGLE following the ships final voyage to the scrap yard and focused on the lives of the crew members who had featured in the original series and what they were doing now. Some were still serving, some had gone onto other things, some were able to talk about their experiences in the Falklands conflict and tragically one had been lost aboard HMS GLASGOW during the conflict. As a part of this follow up episode one of the members of EAGLE’s old crew who had featured frequently in the series but had since left the navy had been taken to Cairnryan to see his old ship in the final stages of its scrapping. By this point so much of the ship had been ripped apart that he hadn’t recognised her until a yard worker pointed to a hulk at the end of a line of cars and told him that was her. At this point he had nearly burst into tears and said that it broke his heart to see the remains of what had once been his home. The producer apologised to him after filming saying that he had wanted to capture that reaction. The cameras showed that all that remained of the ship at this point was a skeleton Among the mud and snow on the jetty were once beautiful mahogany ladders and chrome fittings just discarded. The old crew member even spotted and waded through deep mud to retrieve a metal ladder that had once been outside of his mess and which as a young sailor he had spent many hours of his life scrubbing boot marks from. He was able to confirm that this was “his” ladder by the fact that it still bore his name that he had scratched onto it all those years ago. The cameras had filmed him having retrieved this ladder (which he took home with him afterwards) reminiscing about the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review and how he remembered him and his shipmates working their fingers to the bones polishing and scrubbing the ship in preparation for the Queens review.
By the time the program broadcast EAGLE was gone with the last loads of scrap having made their way to the Spanish smelter.

From that point on the closest anyone would ever get to sampling what it was like to be aboard HMS EAGLE would be by visiting the Carrier display in the Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton where a one third section of the flight deck including the island superstructure were recreated. While it is impossible to recreate the spectacle of an operational aircraft carrier flight deck within the confines of a hanger the display certainly gives a good impression of what it would have been like with the hangar filled with preserved aircraft that all flew from EAGLE’s deck at some point. Within the “island” a visitor would see recreations of many of the ship’s compartments such as Flyco, the bridge, Operations Room, aircrew refreshments bar and other compartments. Many of the displays were recreated using items salvaged from the former HMS EAGLE and other ships of the same era.



Though HMS EAGLE was no more the name EAGLE which stretched back 400 years and had 16 battle honours wasn’t about to fade away.



When HMS EAGLE had returned victorious from the Falklands Conflict in 1982 the Prime Minister had very much nailed her colours to the ships mast (metaphorically of course) and the name EAGLE had very much become synonymous with her own as she attempted to make the most of what was termed the Falklands Factor to maximise the positive impact on her image and polling.
The PM had made a highly publicised visit to the ship not long after its return and on its first voyage after the Falklands had flown out to the ship where she had been filmed watching flight deck operations, chatting with the crew and sitting in the backseat of a Buccaneer that sported an aircraft carrier shaped silhouette. One of the more famous photographs of both the ship and Prime Minister was taken from a helicopter while the ship was at sea of the PM stood on the ships bow with the 2500 strong ships company assembled on the deck behind her flanked by Phantoms, Buccaneers and Gannets.
As a result of this relationship the ship had earned many nicknames in the tabloid press such as “Maggie’s Enforcer”, “Thatcher’s Fist” and “the Iron Lady’s Iron Glove”.

Starting in 1984 the satirical puppet TV show Spitting Image which featured a caricature of the Prime Minister as arguably the main and definitely the most memorable character often depicted the PM using the services of a group of tough looking sailors with HMS EAGLE written on their cap tally’s to enforce her will on her cabinet and minor foreign leaders and to deal with those who displeased or disagreed with her. Crew members aboard HMS EAGLE were reported to have been greatly amused by their depiction on the show somewhat enjoyed their newfound reputation for toughness.



Consequently, when it had been announced that EAGLE was to be scrapped rather than preserved which many erroneously thought of as the MOD backtracking on a promise a lot of the public anger and resentment at this decision had ended up being directed at the PM who was portrayed as indifferent and callous.
To this end in order to deal with public anger and potential fall out and to help preserve her reputation as a prime minister who was strong on defence (which was debatable given the cuts her government had inflicted on the armed forces to say nothing of the ones they had tried to implement before the Falklands conflict) the PM had decided to do something.

When the ship naming committee met to discuss potential names for the ships of the CVF-90 aircraft carrier programme they had decided to stick with the tradition of naming the first new capital ship of a monarch’s reign after the monarch. Hence the first ship was to be called HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH. This name had a fine history from the previous HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH which had been the lead ship of a class of superdreadnought battleships which had fought in both world wars and had seen action at Jutland. This was also the name that was to have been given to the first of the CVA-01 aircraft carriers that had been cancelled in 1966.
Naming the first ship QUEEN ELIZABETH also set the precedent for the other ships of the class (although only two were to be built officially three ships were still planned and so they were obliged to allocate a name) to be given royal names.
The names considered for hull #2 of the CVF-90 programme were HMS PRINCE OF WALES, HMS KING GEORGE THE FIFTH, HMS KING GEORGE THE SIXTH, HMS DUKE OF YORK, HMS DUKE OF EDINBURGH and HMS THUNDERER.
PoW, KG5 and DoY would mean that that hull #2 would be named after one of the KING GEORGE THE FIFTH-class battleships of the second world war all with proud histories with Pow and DoY having sunk the German battleships BISMARK and SCHARNHORST. DUKE OF YORK was discarded as it would likely be seen as the ship being named after Prince Andrew the Duke of York (himself a Falklands veteran) and thus causing allegations of nepotism to be directed at the queen. HMS DUKE OF EDINBURGH was to have been the name of the second ship of the cancelled CVA-01 programme which was the main reason why it had been included on the shortlist. The only other HMS DUKE OF EDINBURGH to have bee part of the Royal Navy had been a WW1 armoured cruiser which had fought at Jutland.
HMS THUNDERER was the odd one out. No one was sure quite how it had sipped onto the final shortlist but there was no denying that it was a good and solid name and given that the ship would be launching supersonic aircraft probably an appropriate name. The previous HMS THUNDERER had been intended to have been one of the LION class battleships cancelled at the end of the second world war and the one before that had been an ORION class dreadnought which had also fought at Jutland.

The name that the committee had decided upon in the end for hull #2 was HMS PRINCE OF WALES. This was somewhat down to the influence of the former First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach who had been credited as the man who had single handily convinced the Prime Minister to go to war over the Falklands.
For Admiral Lech the name HMS PRINCE OF WALES held a special place in his heart. He had served as a young midshipman onboard the previous HMS PRINCE OF WALES which had been sunk along with HMS REPULSE by a Japanese air attack in December 1941. He felt that the reason why he had was still alive was simply due to his having been transferred ashore before the battleship had sailed on its last voyage on the orders of the ships captain. The captain had been Captain John Leach Admiral Leaches father who had gone down with his ship.
Therefore, the PM’s last minute intervention had resulted in long lasting bad blood between her and the former admiral.

The order for hull #2 had been placed with VSEL in the latter half of 1988 not long after the departure of HMS EAGLE from Devonport for the final time. The Prime Minister had personally intervened at the point of placing the order and insisted that the ships name be changed so that it would become the 19th HMS EAGLE.
She had even gone as far as to insist that some of the steel from the previous HMS EAGLE which had been melted down should be used in the new ships construction along with whatever suitable fittings could be located in the ashes and mud at the previous ships grave in Cairnryan.
There were some issues caused by this but there was a reason why the Soviets of all people had called the PM “The Iron Lady” and even she herself had once said “the lady is not for turning”.


Regardless of the names of the great ships that were now taking shape in both Birkenhead and Barrow a carrier is nothing without its aircraft…..
 
While I do feel for Admiral Leach I can understand the good optics of using the name Eagle as its a name that goes back to 1592 and moreover the RN has had no less than 2 carriers named Eagle with the last ship of named being highly successful while the last ship named Prince of Wales had the dubious distinction of being lost to the most unlikely of torpedo hits mixed after being thrown almost senselessly at the enemy.
 
From that point on the closest anyone would ever get to sampling what it was like to be aboard HMS EAGLE would be by visiting the Carrier display in the Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton where a one third section of the flight deck including the island superstructure were recreated.
Recreation? Surely they could have saved a piece of the original Flight deck and Island?
 
You know, this is an entirely believable turn of events.

Ship names are something where the sovereign retains a little more power and influence than the norm, so it would certainly take some dramatic efforts by the Iron Lady to turn it around.

On the whole, I think EAGLE is the better name for the ship. Much as it is good to honor the royal family, PRINCE OF WALES has a surprisingly lackluster history on previous hulls, and EAGLE certainly has a great deal more luster at this point in this timeline. It will also give it a little more protection in years to come from budget cutters at Treasury, too.
 
Also, by requiring that the previous Eagles' steel gets reused in the new one, it also adds another layer of cancellation proofing to the process. The tabloid papers would be up in arms if they tried to cancel her after that.

Also Eagle has one of the better looking ships crests as well.
 
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