In March, it was reported that the British plan to build two carriers, with a third to follow later. They are to supplement, and eventually to replace, the three Invincible-class light short take off/vertical landing (STOVL) carriers. Apparently, the project was sold after the recent Middle East crisis, when Saudi Arabia and Bahrain refused to accept British aircraft intended for possible strikes against Iraq. The usual naval argument, that ships always are available but land bases are subject to political vagaries, was demonstrated suddenly and very clearly.
Recent British experience has shown that the three light carriers have only limited capacity, so reportedly the new ships will be rather larger. According to another report, the British may limit the initial cost of the program by buying or leasing U.S. F/A-18s. To operate them, the ships would need arresting gear. They could make due without catapults, however, since such high-powered aircraft can take off from ski jumps (as Russian jets do on board the carrier Kuznetzov). The combination of a ski jump and arresting gear is usually termed STOBAR—short take off but arrested recovery.