WI: French Navy go for F-4 Phantoms?

The French may be chauvinistic but they are not crazy. They would not want to operate something the size and wing platform of the Mirage IV off of a carrier. The F2/3 is a remote possibility. The G is better. It has variable sweep wings. The reason why the French have bought American for carrier aviation has been because American produced planes were cheaper.
The entry on PA58 in Conway's 1947-95 says that the ship was to have operated a navalized Mirage IV designated Mirage IVM. Whether it would have worked in practice is another matter.
 
Given that the Clemenceau class were longer then the RN Audacious class (which operated modified F4K Phantoms) is it possible for the French navy to have applied modifications to their Carriers (and their Phantoms as well) to launch and recover Phantoms?
I don't think so, the main limits being the lifts and arrestor gear being unable to handle the weight.

The F&C had British BS5 catapults and were pretty fast so could likely launch light Spey Phantoms.
What @Riain said.

Furthermore, the ships themselves were lightly built AIUI. If my understanding is correct the flight deck and hangar deck weren't strong enough for Phantoms either.

My guess is that the ships could have been rebuilt but there wasn't the money to do it. Or they had the money, but it was decided to spend it on something else.

With hindsight the French would have been better off building a pair of PA58 type carriers instead of Clemenceau and Foch. I think PA58 was capable of operating a reasonable number of aircraft in the Phantom and Buccaneer classes.

However, where would the money have come from? And what would the POD have been?

I wrote this for the Keep the Essex class as a Strike Carrier thread that @Riain mentioned.

002-Comparison of Essex with French CVs.png
 
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Excerpts from an old book with French naval fighters projects, pre-Crusader. Br.1120 included.

The Phantom was briefly considered by Claude Hurel, a french naval pilot send in 1961 to the USA to assess their supersonic naval fighters. Very soon, it was obvious the Phantom was too large and heavy for the Clemenceaus, and the Crusader was picked instead.
 

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We seem to get a lot of these threads, about some country buying this or that and it turns out that these decisions are surrounded by substantial rigour.
 
We seem to get a lot of these threads, about some country buying this or that and it turns out that these decisions are surrounded by substantial rigour.
It's almost like that professionals tends to base their purchasing decisions, for the most part, on logistics and the existing capabilities of their infrastructure to handle new platforms and then to sustain it. There is still the ability to sway a decision by changing the criteria utilised to evaluate the bid, but that's a different matter.

One thing I've really enjoyed over the years is reading the justification for acquiring a new platform and, then the justification for selecting one option over the other.

I need better hobbies.
 
It's almost like that professionals tends to base their purchasing decisions, for the most part, on logistics and the existing capabilities of their infrastructure to handle new platforms and then to sustain it. There is still the ability to sway a decision by changing the criteria utilised to evaluate the bid, but that's a different matter.

One thing I've really enjoyed over the years is reading the justification for acquiring a new platform and, then the justification for selecting one option over the other.

I need better hobbies.
These days I take a whole of government, fleet management and life cycles of the platform far more seriously that the performance specs. This thread's references to the Br 1120 are a case in point, having a wholly French aircraft would have all sorts of benefits in terms of sovereign capability, wartime supply assurance, buying things in Francs rather than foreign currency. However the development bill spread over only 50 aircraft meant that all these benefits were eschewed for an American aircraft because the greater sustainment and other costs was far outweighed by not paying the development bill. However developing the Super Etendard from the IVM was quite cheap so the small production run was worth it to get all the Whole of Government benefits rather than buy an A4 or A7 fleet.

The Spey Phantom is an interesting aircraft in this perspective. Britain couldn't afford to develop a Phantom class aircraft in the mid 60s, but managed to get considerable sovereign capability, wartime supply assurance, buying things in Pounds rather than USD by insisting on some 40% British components which incidentally solved several technical issues.
 
What is interesting in the French case is that they pited the Phantom against the Crusader despite vastly different capabilities.

What was needed was a supersonic naval fighter already in service, and that was it.

Unlike the RN and USN, who went for the phantom for long range fleet defense, Sparrow included: a pre-Tomcat role. The French Navy had no such luxury.
The plan was never to try and defeat Soviet Naval Aviation bombers with Phantoms.
- In case of WWIII, the French carrier would have joined the USN fleet in the North Atlantic, providing two more decks the size of Essex, in exchange for their protective SAM / Phantom / (later Tomcat) umbrellas.
- The rest of the time (medium and low threat environments, typically Africa), MASURCA + Tartar air defense ships were the real shield. Crusaders were only secondary, to chase away the Tu-142s (sounds familiar ? hello, Sea Harrier !)
This is how Admiral Sanguinetti saw it (and he was a very influent naval thinker, politicians included). He noted that Clemenceau-class carriers only had enough internal space for a merely sufficient number of strike aircraft; trying to add more than a token air defence wing above this would cut too much into the strike capability. Note that most of the time, a mere 8-10 Crusaders were carried to make room for more attack squadrons.

De Gaulle' son Philippe (still alive, aged 98 !) was a naval officer and his father asked him what was worth - one MASURCA ship or a limited air defense capability ? His answer was that one MASURCA ship could be canned to buy those 42 Crusaders. And this is what happened.
It created a long lasting rift among the French Navy and probably explain why the Crusaders were not replaced in the 70's. Facing shrinking budgets, the French Navy prioritized an upgrade of the strike wing, that is, replacing the Etendard IV. All the competitors were attack planes - A-7, A-4, Jaguar M, even Harriers, and of course the Super Etendard.
The only major exception was the tentative naval Mirage F1, but it went nowhere. Although it very nearly happened in the 71-73 years: one F1 prototype made approaches (not touch-and-go or landings, just approaches) on Foch.
But in the end the Crusaders were not replaced for decades.
 
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What is interesting in the French case is that they pited the Phantom against the Crusader despite vastly different capabilities.

What was needed was a supersonic naval fighter already in service, and that was it.
Everybody did no matter how inappropriate it was, the British even trialed it on their smallest, slowest, shortest-catapult carrier the Hermes. My guess is that the French looked at the Phantom for about as long as Australia did and rejected it for the same reason; they lacked carriers suitable for the type.
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De Gaulle' son Philippe (still alive, aged 98 !) was a naval officer and his father asked him what was worth - one MASURCA ship or a limited air defense capability ? His answer was that one MASURCA ship could be canned to buy those 42 Crusaders. And this is what happened.
It created a long lasting rift among the French Navy and probably explain why the Crusaders were not replaced in the 70's. Facing shrinking budgets, the French Navy prioritized an upgrade of the strike wing, that is, replacing the Etendard IV. All the competitors were attack planes - A-7, A-4, Jaguar M, even Harriers, and of course the Super Etendard.
The only major exception was the tentative naval Mirage F1, but it went nowhere. Although it very nearly happened in the 71-73 years: one F1 prototype made approaches (not touch-and-go or landings, just approaches) on Foch.
But in the end the Crusaders were not replaced for decades.
Prioritising one capability by denying funds to others is pretty common, Australia cancelled 2 submarines to provide funds for the A4 fleet.

As for the replacement, the Crusader entered service in 1965 with an expected life of about 15-20 years, so would be replaced until the early 80s. The Jaguar M, A4, A7 and finally Super Etendard were replacements for the Etendard IVM delivered from 1961 and whose ~15 years was up in the mid-late 70s, rather than the F8s which still had half their lives ahead of them during this period. By the time the F8 fleet was ready to be replaced there was nothing on the market suitable to replace it with, so it soldiered on (and on and on).
 
As for the replacement, the Crusader entered service in 1965 with an expected life of about 15-20 years, so would be replaced until the early 80s. The Jaguar M, A4, A7 and finally Super Etendard were replacements for the Etendard IVM delivered from 1961 and whose ~15 years was up in the mid-late 70s, rather than the F8s which still had half their lives ahead of them during this period. By the time the F8 fleet was ready to be replaced there was nothing on the market suitable to replace it with, so it soldiered on (and on and on).
This is another link to the website that I also put in Post 20.
The page that this links to has the Mirage F1 fitted with the M53 engine developed instead of Mirage 2000. He has 380 ordered for the French Air Force and 100 for the Navy.

I don't know if it's a good idea, but it's interesting.
 
The Spey Phantom is an interesting aircraft in this perspective. Britain couldn't afford to develop a Phantom class aircraft in the mid 60s, but managed to get considerable sovereign capability, wartime supply assurance, buying things in Pounds rather than USD by insisting on some 40% British components which incidentally solved several technical issues.
I think the UK could have developed a Phantom class aircraft if the POD was 1962 and it was done instead of the P.1154 project.

I have some notes that say the Spey Phantom cost double the estimate to develop. That is the total R&D cost rose from about £50 million to about £100 million. This included the engine development cost which rose from about £25 million to £50 million. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the name of the book that I read it in, but I think it was Francis K. Mason's book. Development of the Spey Phantom took longer than estimated as well.

However, to be fair to the people that decided to buy the Spey Phantom, projects like these often take longer than estimated and cost more than estimated.

A British Phantom class aircraft could have cost more than expected to develop and taken longer than estimated to develop.

The TTL version of this website would have many threads arguing that it would have been cheaper to buy the Phantom instead of developing the Hawker Siddeley Spectre, which is my name for the British Phantom class aircraft.

Having written that I think the £21 million spent on the P.1154 to 1965 and the £100 million spent on developing the Spey Phantom IOTL would have gone a long way towards developing a Phantom class aircraft between 1962 and 1970.

I have also read that the changes that were made to make the Phantom capable of operating from Eagle & Ark Royal and the 40% British components produced a non-standard aircraft that cost considerably more to build than "ordinary" Phantoms. The devaluation of Sterling in November 1967 increased the manufacturing cost further, but the planners that decided to buy the Phantom cannot be blamed for failing to foresee that.

Therefore, I think a British Phantom class aircraft would have cost about the same to build as the Spey Phantom.

A British Phantom class aircraft might have performed better than the Spey Phantom because the airframe and engine could have been designed to fit better. AIUI fitting the Spey to the Phantom spoiled the area ruling and that degraded its performance.

Similarly, it might have had lower take-off and landing speeds, because it was a new design rather than an adaptation of an existing design and it could take advantage of the advances in STOL technology that had been made between when the Phantom was designed and the early 1960s. Therefore, the British Phantom class aircraft might have been able to operate from the British aircraft carriers that were capable of operating the Buccaneer.

Finally, a British naval aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s usually folded into a smaller package than the equivalent American aircraft. Therefore, a one-to-one substitution of the Sea Vixen with British Phantom class aircraft aboard Hermes and Victorious might be possible. That wasn't possible with the Spey Phantom even if it had been capable of taking off and landing with a useful payload.

That is, provided there isn't an A.B.C. (Another British Cockup).
 
Finally, a British naval aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s usually folded into a smaller package than the equivalent American aircraft. Therefore, a one-to-one substitution of the Sea Vixen with British Phantom class aircraft aboard Hermes and Victorious might be possible. That wasn't possible with the Spey Phantom even if it had been capable of taking off and landing with a useful payload.

That is, provided there isn't an A.B.C. (Another British Cockup).
I'm particularly interested in any story that enables HMS Hermes to continue operating in a catobar role.
 
What is interesting in the French case is that they pited the Phantom against the Crusader despite vastly different capabilities.

What was needed was a supersonic naval fighter already in service, and that was it.

Unlike the RN and USN, who went for the phantom for long range fleet defense, Sparrow included: a pre-Tomcat role. The French Navy had no such luxury.
The plan was never to try and defeat Soviet Naval Aviation bombers with Phantoms.
- In case of WWIII, the French carrier would have joined the USN fleet in the North Atlantic, providing two more decks the size of Essex, in exchange for their protective SAM / Phantom / (later Tomcat) umbrellas.
- The rest of the time (medium and low threat environments, typically Africa), MASURCA + Tartar air defense ships were the real shield. Crusaders were only secondary, to chase away the Tu-142s (sounds familiar ? hello, Sea Harrier !)
This is how Admiral Sanguinetti saw it (and he was a very influent naval thinker, politicians included). He noted that Clemenceau-class carriers only had enough internal space for a merely sufficient number of strike aircraft; trying to add more than a token air defence wing above this would cut too much into the strike capability. Note that most of the time, a mere 8-10 Crusaders were carried to make room for more attack squadrons.

De Gaulle' son Philippe (still alive, aged 98 !) was a naval officer and his father asked him what was worth - one MASURCA ship or a limited air defense capability ? His answer was that one MASURCA ship could be canned to buy those 42 Crusaders. And this is what happened.
It created a long lasting rift among the French Navy and probably explain why the Crusaders were not replaced in the 70's. Facing shrinking budgets, the French Navy prioritized an upgrade of the strike wing, that is, replacing the Etendard IV. All the competitors were attack planes - A-7, A-4, Jaguar M, even Harriers, and of course the Super Etendard.
The only major exception was the tentative naval Mirage F1, but it went nowhere. Although it very nearly happened in the 71-73 years: one F1 prototype made approaches (not touch-and-go or landings, just approaches) on Foch.
But in the end the Crusaders were not replaced for decades.
The payload of French naval strike aircrafts was also limited, usually 2 to 4 lights bombs or two rocket launchers, but the two Clems certainly offered an impressive ASW and ASuW capability, especially once the excellent Super Etendard+Exocet combo entered service.
 
I'm particularly interested in any story that enables HMS Hermes to continue operating in a catobar role.
TBH the aircraft that I'm proposing would be capable of taking off from and landing on Hermes, but not with a useful payload.

And she could only carry 8 Sea Vixens, 8 Buccaneers, 4 AEW Gannets and 8 helicopters after her 1964-66 refit. Therefore, ITTL I'd expect a maximum air group of 8 Phantom analogues, 8 Buccaneers, 4 Gannets and 8 helicopters.

OTOH Victorious was larger. This allowed her to carry 12 Sea Vixens, 12 Buccaneers, 4 AEW Gannets and 8 helicopters. Except, that some sources say that it was only 10 Sea Vixens and 10 Buccaneers. AIUI her catapults were also more powerful than the ones fitted to Hermes, which makes it more likely that she could have operated the Phantom analogues carrying a useful payload.
 
The payload of French naval strike aircrafts was also limited, usually 2 to 4 lights bombs or two rocket launchers, but the two Clems certainly offered an impressive ASW and ASuW capability, especially once the excellent Super Etendard+Exocet combo entered service.
Yep, no Buccaneers or A-6 on the decks. A-7 s would be the maximum.

Same for interceptors: no twin-jet, rather single-engine types, from Crusader to (eventually) naval F-1. Hornets are little too large and heavies for Clems, particularly near the end of their useful lives. There was a serious push to get some of them by 1989, and it went nowhere - also for political reasons (Dassault was friend with both Mitterrand and Chirac, he was taking no risk !)

Now, had the Convair 200, rather than the doomed Rockwell XVF-12, won that contract in 1972...
 
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I think the UK could have developed a Phantom class aircraft if the POD was 1962 and it was done instead of the P.1154 project.

I have some notes that say the Spey Phantom cost double the estimate to develop. That is the total R&D cost rose from about £50 million to about £100 million. This included the engine development cost which rose from about £25 million to £50 million. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the name of the book that I read it in, but I think it was Francis K. Mason's book. Development of the Spey Phantom took longer than estimated as well.

However, to be fair to the people that decided to buy the Spey Phantom, projects like these often take longer than estimated and cost more than estimated.

A British Phantom class aircraft could have cost more than expected to develop and taken longer than estimated to develop.

The TTL version of this website would have many threads arguing that it would have been cheaper to buy the Phantom instead of developing the Hawker Siddeley Spectre, which is my name for the British Phantom class aircraft.

Having written that I think the £21 million spent on the P.1154 to 1965 and the £100 million spent on developing the Spey Phantom IOTL would have gone a long way towards developing a Phantom class aircraft between 1962 and 1970.

I have also read that the changes that were made to make the Phantom capable of operating from Eagle & Ark Royal and the 40% British components produced a non-standard aircraft that cost considerably more to build than "ordinary" Phantoms. The devaluation of Sterling in November 1967 increased the manufacturing cost further, but the planners that decided to buy the Phantom cannot be blamed for failing to foresee that.

Therefore, I think a British Phantom class aircraft would have cost about the same to build as the Spey Phantom.

A British Phantom class aircraft might have performed better than the Spey Phantom because the airframe and engine could have been designed to fit better. AIUI fitting the Spey to the Phantom spoiled the area ruling and that degraded its performance.

Similarly, it might have had lower take-off and landing speeds, because it was a new design rather than an adaptation of an existing design and it could take advantage of the advances in STOL technology that had been made between when the Phantom was designed and the early 1960s. Therefore, the British Phantom class aircraft might have been able to operate from the British aircraft carriers that were capable of operating the Buccaneer.

Finally, a British naval aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s usually folded into a smaller package than the equivalent American aircraft. Therefore, a one-to-one substitution of the Sea Vixen with British Phantom class aircraft aboard Hermes and Victorious might be possible. That wasn't possible with the Spey Phantom even if it had been capable of taking off and landing with a useful payload.

That is, provided there isn't an A.B.C. (Another British Cockup).
I agree that in technical terms Britain could have developed a fighter in the Phantom class, however such a beast would be approaching the TSR2 in terms of complexity and therefore development cost. In 1964 the incoming Labor government decided that Britain couldn't afford to develop 3 new, top line aircraft; P1154, HS681 & TSR2 and I'm inclined to agree with them. The HS681 should be replaced with a Belfast and C160 Transall fleet and the P1154 with a 2nd line P1127 and joint-project Phantom by dropping the NBMR 3 & 4 programmes. Once the RN gets the joint-project Phantom to replace the Sea Vixens the RAF could get it to replace their Lightning fleet. This would leave the mega capable TSR2 as Britain flagship development programme of the 60s, able to soak up the bulk of the development money and create a bunch of new technologies that could go into other aircraft in the 70s.
 
I agree that in technical terms Britain could have developed a fighter in the Phantom class, however such a beast would be approaching the TSR2 in terms of complexity and therefore development cost. In 1964 the incoming Labor government decided that Britain couldn't afford to develop 3 new, top line aircraft; P1154, HS681 & TSR2 and I'm inclined to agree with them. The HS681 should be replaced with a Belfast and C160 Transall fleet and the P1154 with a 2nd line P1127 and joint-project Phantom by dropping the NBMR 3 & 4 programmes. Once the RN gets the joint-project Phantom to replace the Sea Vixens the RAF could get it to replace their Lightning fleet. This would leave the mega capable TSR2 as Britain flagship development programme of the 60s, able to soak up the bulk of the development money and create a bunch of new technologies that could go into other aircraft in the 70s.
How about the P1150 which was the "better Harrier" that HS thought could work, unlike the more ambitious supersonic P1154?
 
How about the P1150 which was the "better Harrier" that HS thought could work, unlike the more ambitious supersonic P1154?
Certainly scaling up the Mach 1.3 P1150 into the bigger Mach 1.6 P1154 to meet NBMR3 made the task considerably more difficult I'm not entirely sure that the P1150 will be cheap to develop and successful. There were issues with PCB BS100 engine which made it a very complex design and it would have created other issues in operation like ground erosion and FOD blast.
 
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