Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail today for the United States to begin trials with her first F-35 jets.

The four-month WESTLANT 18 deployment will see the supercarrier sail to the eastern coast of the United States to begin trials that will pave the way for the UK to operationally deploy fighter jets at sea for the first time in years.

This deployment is the culmination of years of training, tests and trials. Last year, British personnel embarked on the USS America week for at-sea developmental testing phase 3 (DT3), the last trial that paves the way for the US Marine Corps to deploy the jet operationally on amphibious assault ships.

BAE Systems test pilot Pete Wilson said:

“This will not be a DT phase. Testing on the Queen Elizabeth will be like DTs 1, 2 and 3 combined. We don’t need to use fully instrumented aircraft; we already understand most of the loads on the aircraft systems, as we have tested that during earlier tests.”

The aircraft that will be landing on the supercarrier will belong to the Joint Operational Test team. The team’s mission is to build confidence in the aircraft towards helping clear the F-35 to make the legally mandated advance from Low Rate Initial Production to Full Rate Production. The RAF’s No 17 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron comprises ten percent of the test program in the JOTT we understand.

The reason that most if not all of the aircraft to touch down will be American isn’t some scandalous outrage (just watch how some papers report this, though) but rather most of the F-35Bs in Joint Operational Test team are American.

After speaking to one of the pilots in the test programme, we understand that the UK only has three (BK1, 2 & 4) test jets that are “orange wired” to take data for post-flight analysis, the rest being operational aircraft. Therefore, it is highly likely that the jets to go on HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year will be “mostly, if not entirely, American but flown by UK pilots”.

We were told by one of the UK pilots currently flying the jet that the reason for this is that the JOT team dictate the availability of test jets out of a pool. Our contact said:

“It would be nothing more than symbolic to make UK jets available for the trials and that comes at a significant effort since all of them are based at Edwards AFB in California, not on the East Coast where the ship trial is due to take place. 

Therefore, the most obvious and cheaper choice is to use the F-35B test jets based at Pax River, which are US ones. British test pilots like Andy Edgell, Nath Gray, will obviously fly them but there’ll be US pilots too because that’s how Joint Test works.”

Around 200 supporting staff, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts will be joined by two ‘orange wired’ test aircraft, belonging to the ITF, which are expected to conduct 500 take offs and landings during their 11-week period at sea.

The aim of these initial, or ‘developmental’ trials are to ascertain, through the specially equipped aircraft and sensors around the ship, the operating parameters of the aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions. Similar successful trials were conducted by HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea earlier this year for Rotary Wing aircraft.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“HMS Queen Elizabeth is a true statement of our national power, and the whole country can be proud to see this magnificent symbol of our engineering prowess and international ambition leaving port to sail onto the world stage.

Her voyage to America not only shows her global reach, but strengthens our special relationship with the US Forces who we have worked hand-in-hand with on this iconic programme. As she sails along the east coast of the USA, she will signal our determination to keep fighting alongside our allies in all corners of an ever more complex and uncertain world.”

Four F 35B Lightning developmental test pilots, who are members of the ITF, will embark to fly the aircraft; three British, one American. The British personnel comprise a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force and one civilian test pilot. They will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps.

The trials follow the recent arrival into the UK of the first joint Royal Navy, Royal Air Force F-35B jets, based at RAF Marham. ‘Operational testing’, utilising British F-35B aircraft are scheduled to take place on board HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.

The deployment, known as ‘WESTLANT 18’, will be the first-time HMS Queen Elizabeth will have sailed across the Atlantic. As well as the vital deck trials, it will also involve exercises to prove the ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets, as well as the landing of Royal Marines and their equipment ashore in the United States, to conduct training with their US counterparts.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, Capt Jerry Kyd said:

“This deployment to the United States will be another first for my ship. Crossing a major ocean with 1500 sailors, aircrew and Marines embarked and the spectre of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all.

It has been an incredible journey since we left Rosyth just over a year ago and we are all looking forward to this next, seminal chapter in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s life.”

As the ship’s work-up continues, so too does the regeneration of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability. Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (COMUKCSG), Cdre Andrew Betton, will take command of the ship and other units of his task group, embarking in HMS Queen Elizabeth with his Carrier Strike Group headquarters staff.

He said:

“As a critical step towards delivering the UK’s new Carrier Strike Group, this deployment demonstrates the astonishing collaborative effort that will enable the new F-35 jets to fly routinely from our Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

At the heart of the Maritime Task Group, the aircraft carrier is well protected and sustained, ready to operate around the world as a potent and exceptionally flexible instrument of our foreign policy. These first F-35B embarked trials in a UK aircraft carrier are not only key to future operational success, but represent an iconic moment for the modern Royal Navy.”

The ship will conduct trials in UK waters over the coming days, before departing for the USA later this month. She will be joined by RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton and a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth.

106 COMMENTS

    • Yeah, but there are 8 F-35B in that CGI picture so if you want to see a picture with a decent number on deck I think you’ve still got a bit of a wait 🙂 . Within the next 12 months though?

      Out of interest does anyone know the point in the process when we might see 12 F-35B embarked even if only for a later stage of testing rather than necessarily being operational?

      • IOR for maritime F-35 operations is 2021 based on the official timeline we’ve been given, same time as HMS Queen Elizabeth is meant to deploy as a combat-ready ship. It’ll still only be 617 Squadron, as 809 NAS don’t stand up until 2023, but it does effectively put 617 under RN control for a while, as the RAF won’t want the political fallout of being the ones to strip the carriers of their only fighter jets.

        • (Chris H) Callum – I am not sure you understand how 617 will operate. It has both RAF and FAA pilots and ground crews and will operate wherever required. Its not about ‘stripping’ anything off anyone. There is no demarcation between the RN and the RAF over the F-35 despite what sounds popular here

    • Have you seen the one with the flight deck full of Chinook? That’s the ‘real picture’ I want to see. 🙂

    • I wonder if there’ll be any USN ships joining her along the way.

      Seems a perfect opportunity to practice Fleet operations. Would they announce an Astute?

      • No an Astute would always be unannounced but its highly likely one will be lurking somewhere nearby. I believe the current plan is to have some Americans alongside and the embarked Marines will be getting off to train with the USMC stateside and a T45 isn’t going because its trials not an operational deployment and so there isn’t a credible anti air threat. The likely threat comes from a spying Russian sub which T45 isn’t optimised for hunting but T23 is.

        • Your logic regarding sending a frigate instead of a destroyer is sound, until you remember that HMS Monmouth is one of the GP frigates without a towed array but with the Sea Ceptor+Artisan refit, and carrying a Wildcat not a Merlin. So she’s actually better equipped for AAW and SSW than ASW

          • Even the T23 frigates without towed array are more optimised to anti sub ops than a T45 e.f. acoustically quiet hull and torpedo armament.

          • Callum – irrelevant for this excersise I know but HMS Monmouth does not have Sea Ceptor,still Sea Wolf I think you’ll find.

  1. Hi,

    Yes its an old song but still no CIWS fitted yet! You would have thought they would have put them on for her most high profile visit.

    Perhaps the MoD have lost them…

    Rob

    P.S. I saw a picture of QE about to leave, no Phalanx fitted.

    • Best leave them in their nice warehouse, fare less ware and tear, just think what all that salt water does to them………the poor things….😂

  2. This deployment has juried out to be a lot more that “just flight trials” the RN seem to be taking the opportunity really trail a lot of capability in one deployment.

    We can really start see just what an Elizabeth on deployment will mean in flexability, concentration of resources and ability to make huge impact on a wide variety of problems, natural, man made, political or military.

    It’s nice to remember that our nation does have impact on the world and we should be proud of what we are and what we can achieve (patriotic gene in full flow).

    Love finally seeing the FAA getting the ship it needed.

  3. Montrose is not optimised for anti-submarine warfare, as it’s not equipped with sonar 2087 – so interested subs are probably countered by an Astute, the frigate for sea ceptor defence and a general presence…

    • Well protected against what?

      Do you expect a full CBG for flight training off the US east cost?

      I echo the thoughts of others the primary threats are below the water and in the electronic spectrum.

      Do the Russians still have any of their AGI sniffer boats?

    • I’m sure Russia will not miss out on a golden opportunity to sniff around the carrier given their increased activity in the Atlantic. Equally, I’m sure both the UK and the US will not pass up the opportunity to track them either!

    • The escort in this instance will be more to assist in case of accidents and incidents of a mundane not military nature.

  4. Danielle, l was merely quoting the CO. I’m sure too that the ‘only’ threat will be the Russians trying to see what they can glean. A T boat would have been a welcome addition though.

    • Why are you so sure there will be no U.K. sub? I thought SSN deployments tend to be unannounced.

      I agree that the QEC crossing the Atlantic this week will be a very tempting intelligence target for the Russians to try and collect signature data which I assume is best done with a sub. Having said that though, if QEC is about to become a lure for one or more Russian subs, and given the high value of any info gleaned I would have thought high end stuff from the Russian fleet, I would have thought that there might well be not only a U.K. sub but also one or more US subs in the area, not so much to protect QEC but to see what assets Russia deploys and try and collect signature info on them, see if there’s anything new, etc.

      • SSN deployments are not announced. Several have been around Plymouth over the last month doing training. The US will also highly likely send escorts out to her.

  5. Hi folks hope all are well and feeling very proud of our nation and military. I suppose we will see the press going all out to see the negative, must be annoying for the media trying to keep up with digging out their country that protects them.
    There will be some protection for her at low level, obviously the closer she is to the US, it would rather foolish for any mischief. And we and the US will have an opportunity to test China’s and Russia’s spy-tec surveillance.
    Anyway what a great day!

        • He is an Anglophile. What ever one thinks of him and what buffoonery he gets in to.

          He wants a free trade deal with the UK.

          Meanwhile. Detractors such as Mayor Khan entertain foreign secretaries for lunch. Secretaries who’s countries ban Israeli passport holders from travel.

          Yep. Hycopcricy alive and well.

    • Thanks for link, it was going so well and I was enjoying the pictures, then I just had to read the comments (why did I do that FFS)………people are still going on about no aircraft (#faceslap)

      I still can’t decide which sets of comments irritate me more the ones from the Mail or the Guardian…….that’s why I read the Times far superior sets of comments 😆

      • If he has no Need to Know with required clearance then no he won’t.

        I don’t think for a moment POTUS has the highest security clearance in the US either.

        Or am I missing something James?

        • Hi Daniele,

          The POTUS has the highest authority to classify and declassify material. He / she is the one who decides in the end if there is loggerhead between agencies for example or if the POTUS believes that something should be made public or put away like the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones.

          Theoretically, the POTUS could declassify the nuclear “football” code of the day…
          Far TOO much is classified IMO. Much of it to avoid holding people/ agencies being held accountable for their actions / lack of actions / incompetence etc….

          Cheers!

        • Daniele,you are very correct in the points you make which is why I handily included the word “theoretical” in my post. 😀 :D:D

          As for the UFO – Hard to say. I did talk to an old timer in Roswell NM many years ago when we were using a local bombing range and he stated that it was no weather balloon that had been mistaken for a UFO.

          He recounted as a boy he was a beer monkey in one of the local bars. One night right after the incident supposedly occurred, some of the airmen stationed with the 509th Bomb Wing at the base (coincidence it was the only nuclear capable USAF wing at the time?) apparently spilled a lot of info in the bar – complete w pieces they had picked up at the crash site and a “chunk of alien” (his words)…

          He never saw them again and they were regulars… SOOOOOOOOOO hard to say!

          Cheers

  6. You wonder why the RN has recruitment issues when the douchebags in charge of marketing insist on playing the top gun theme tune…

  7. Seems strange that no t45 in escort. I know it’s not needed with this deployment but at some point they need to test how the t45 works along side the carrier and optimal positioning to avoid radar overlaps etc, plus of course learning to work with f35s landing and taking off.

    How is the US testing it’s new carrier, is it using escorts to make the testing more realistic or not wasting ships for it?

    I guess there just isn’t enough hulls to go around.

    • She is not operational until late 2020. UK based F-35 trials will continue next year with 617 squadron, and carrier task group training will be going on throughout 2019 and 2020.

      • In addition, stop expecting everything to happen in one go. There is a scheduled trials and capability build up process. Sending a Type 45 would be nothing but a waste of an asset at this point.

        • The point is wars don’t happen to plan. Yes there is a schedule, but it is being made very slow, to cover up the slow buy of the f35.

          If this was being run properly, they would try and get basic operational capability up as fast as possible, to allow for deployment in an emergency situation, like they rushed gear into service during the falklands.

          In theory we have enough of the pieces of the puzzle to actually use the carrier in active service today, if the worst was to happen. Main capability lack is crowsnest, but i assume the old system should be in mothball and land attack capability by the f35b, but that could be covered by naval guns/astute.

          Not practicing with the escorts and not putting the weapons on for fire testing whilst at sea is just stupid and only makes sense if your 100% certain that there will not be a war, which you just can’t ever be or we could disband the army.

          If it was me, i would have the QE loaded with a few dozen helicopters to give some space management issues and practice more carrier landings/takeoffs as she crosses the atlantic (a pretty rough journey cross wise) and perfect for practicing sub hunting around a carrier and air defence roles.

          After this she will be in refit for a few months and so time is lost, during which tactics for defensive roles could be adjusted.

  8. What is telling it the picture above is how large these ships are 8 F35B on the flight deck and they still have acres of space. That is why the quoted peacetime load of just 12 jets is a bit ridiculous. You will not see Ford class ships sailing around with just 24 aircraft on board. Why are HMG stating the QEs will deploy with just 12, surge upto 24 when required and have a maximum load out in war of 36 aircraft?
    Answer lack of aircraft. We need a confirmed order for another 60+ F35Bs.

    • Yes very true, even 36 is probably on the low side, the captain was quoted as saying a much higher figure that 40 aircraft ( 50+ if I remember correctly). That’s why we really need all 130+ F35Bs.

    • You will find that the ‘intended’ occupants of all that space are USMC squadrons when the balloon goes up. You have to view QEC as more a contribution to US defenSe than to our own ‘specific defenCe’; it is the US who are the ultimate guarantors of our physical security not HMAF. Yes the Royal Navy will drive them about and train on them, and yes our industry will support them, but this isn’t 1910 or even 1960.

      In a parallel dimension when the UK fielded say one main combat aircraft you could perhaps have hangar that was fuller. Let us say we only had FA18 and squadrons rotated to the carrier and then back home to do QRA then yes. Um. Or perhaps consider that to support that level of ‘occupancy’ you want an orbat similar to that of RAFG towards the end of the Cold War would be needed. Also consider he USN has more aircraft wings than carrier decks, I can’t remember the ratio,

      • (Chris H) David Taylor – Please don’t take my comments personally but you seem to have a very disparaging and somewhat illogical view of the UK and its Armed Forces. We are most certainly not beholden to the USA for our defence. They guarantee us nothing beyond Article 5 of the NATO Treaty (a duty we reciprocate). Our nuclear deterrent while a shared resource is totally independent. We operate our own SOPs and RoEs and even our F-35s in the USA operate under UK authority not US. UK USAF bases are entirely RAF bases and are leased bases only one of which incidentally has combat aircraft.

        Yes USMC F-35s will be embarked on QE and the PoW at various times because we co-operate and train together. There will be a larger USMC contingent in the early days for the simple reason we gave up early ‘B’ production so a) it allowed the USMC to get to IOC faster, b) to have production meet carrier acceptance timeframes and c) achieve lower cost. The USMC owe us and they have put it in writing they will ‘make up the numbers’ and be under UK command.

        And rest assured we will have more than sufficient numbers of F-35s, Apaches, Chinooks, Wildcat and Merlins to fill every square inch of those two huge hangar decks.

        • No Chris I have a very balanced view of our capabilities and position in the world. Believe me that just like you I am very much a ‘Brexiteer’ and I believe we can do very well on our own. But these days no nation, apart from the US, is truly independent. Our defences work as sub-set of the US defence systems as do Australia’s and Canada’s; the Anglophone club is a very unique one in the international system. We are not a vassal state as we are in the EU, but we are one of the junior partners. One of the biggest threats to our security is moves within the US to turn it away from Anglophone roots. This has been happening for decades; there were even instances of it during the Falklands War. One of the reasons why QEC is ‘possible’ is because it fits into that system, it is what makes it viable. I don’t think the base airgroup for QEC will be big. I see 12 F35b going to sea at one time, even with QEC low temp of ops compared to a US CVN. There will be a clutch of Merlin for Crowsnest, and perhaps (hopefully) some Merlin for a CSAR flight. I say hopefully with the latter because proving the concept (which is happening at the mo) and then establishing the capability aren’t the same thing. I think any Merlin for ASW will be aboard the escorting frigate. And then perhaps a Wildcat or two for hacks. There will undoubtedly be lots of visitors from the AAC, RAF, USN, etc. but they don’t count as ‘filling the hangar’. (I am hoping to see before they go out of service USMC AV8’s flying from QEC, but I don’t think the MoD(N) would risk it because of PR.)

          • Just an observation David one of the Merlin units ( 820 ) I think is dedicated CVF squadron so I think QEC will indeed carry a Merlin Squadron. Plus Merlin from 849 NAS and some Merlin from the CHF.

          • @ Daniele

            Yes you are correct. I still think the air group will be small. I don’t think all of 820 will be aboard QE all the time. The UK struggled to keep the Invincibles ‘full’ with aircraft. We shall see. If 10 years time the pair of them are steaming about the globe with 40 odd aircraft, FAA aircraft I will be amazed. Though it would be nice to see it. Thank you for the correction.

          • Let’s hope so David. ASW helicopter numbers have dropped alarmingly. RN had so many at one time when the RN was geared for ASW.

            Yes fair enough just because 820 is the dedicated squadron indeed does not automatically follow all 9? Helicopters are embarked.

  9. It’s not just F3B, there are no where near enough Merlin HM2. Ideally another 25 to 24 should be ordered. The F35 order should allow for 3 front line FAA squadrons and 3 RAF frontline squadrons. But that requires money and political commitment, and neither of those appear to be in evidence.

    • I would argue the lack of Merlins is a bigger problem than the lack of f35b’s.

      In the event of a war, 15-20 f35b can do a pretty effective job (see the falklands with about 20-25 harriers), but if there isn’t enough Merlins to provide 24/7 coverage for both sub hunting and crowsnet, the carriers would be ineffective and have to operate a lot further from land to protect themselves (again see the falkands, with woodward being forced to pull the carriers further back due to lack of coverage).

      Not a perfect replacement, but the Merlins are needed to cover the gaps in the surface and sub-surface fleets. Realistically we do not have enough sub hunting frigates to protect a task force in 2018, and that will get worse with the replacement split buy (8 frigates in the pool, realistic potential for service in a fighting war maybe 4, which is way way too small a number of protect a task group).

      Merlins are therefore even more important going forward and so the ones in storage need to be dusted off and upgraded, assuming they haven’t been completely stripped for parts by now.

      Considering the task group would probably have 4-8 frigates/destroyers, albions with temp hangers and a QE, there is a lot of room for Helicopters, even considering the need to carry chinooks/apache/wildcats on top of the Merlins.

    • (Chris H) I am surprised the RN weren’t given say 6 Chinooks from the RAF (older airframes would do) to add onboard lift capability. Yes the new Tides (and modified Forts) are capable of transferring up to 6 ton unit loads across during RAS via Rolls Royce HRAS systems but what if that isn’t available? In any case having extra lift is a valuable resource. RMs would appreciate it and they are fast too! Massive benefit at zero cost.

  10. Mr Bell and rec, all points that have been made previously ad nauseum. Fitted for but not with 42 fixed and rotary aircraft would seem an apt footnote to the MOD and RN tub thumping!

  11. I think some posters may be getting a little carried away.

    So the QEC sails regularly with just 12 F35B? And doubles to 24 in short order and possibly more.

    What a calamity!

    Most nations can only dream of having even that! New Carriers AND 5th Gen fighters too?

    Plus Merlin. Plus Crowsnest. Plus CHF det and anything else they want to put on deck.

    Massive capability upgrade on the Invincibles.

    Big Carrier equals big flexibility. Not the automatic filling of decks with aircraft to overflowing like the impressive sight of a USN carrier.

    Agreed with Mr Bell you do not see Ford Class sailing with that number. WHY would we need to compare with a Superpower with thousands of aircraft in the USN alone and with, what is it 13 Carriers?

    Lack of aircraft. No. Lack on MONEY in Defence Budget and some realism required that we are, as the UK, a major power, not a superpower.

    I’m personally delighted with how it is going and that we will have the capability, IF REQUIRED, to surge extra aircraft.

    • @ DM re Chinook above somewhere.

      That is reason why I said 7. 🙂

      I would expand the squadron by 6 cabs just for that role.

      We are where we are with QEC. Might as well throw everything we can at the project.

      • Understood David. 😁

        With the 14 extra Chinook there was talk of another Chinook Squadron forming so pity that didnt materialise other than the Puma Chinook OCU. We have near 70 of them now I think? Maybe lack of crew?

        I don’t know the establishment of 7 but understand it’s already bigger than 18 and 27 given it’s workload.

          • I think the main concern is the complete waste of money building such large carriers. The old invisible class could have carried 12-24 and would have cost a fraction of the money which could have gone towards one of the many capability holes.

            Filling with Chinooks/Apache to make them look useful is short term thinking, since it will significantly reduce their life expectancy as they are not coated/built for sea water. Which will in turn result in another capability cut, when we can’t afford to replace the current air frames.

            Mr Brown has a lot to answer for.

  12. Being pragmatic, I do agree with the consensus that it would be too expensive to convert QE class carrier to cats & traps at this point in time. Also taking into account the issue of launching and landing aircraft on CTOL carrier types in rough seas, result in increase risks, and reduced sortie rates.
    As a STOVL carrier, QE class would have a potential to be a multi-role carrier, examples are: ASW platform, Amphilbious support assault carrier, air strike platform, ‘Freedom of the Seas’ patrol carrier, war zone air dominance platform, disaster relief(LPH) platform.
    But the QE class will not be able to fulfil some of the potential roles above, due to the limited types of aircraft procured. The MoD has taken a big risk by procuring only one type of STOVL fixed wing aircraft, the F-35b, optimize for strike and ground attack roles.
    Why did not the MoD have the foresight to procure a specific STOVL ‘air defence/interceptor aircraft. This type of interceptor might be an advanced Sea Harrier, or a P1154 type of Harrier refined and modernized.
    I find it difficult to believe the F-35b can fulfil the air defence role of a fleet. Could it beat back waves of 4 gen fighters(like the Falklands war)? Is it the reason why the US Marines procured the F-35 for it’s deep strike and ECW role? US Marines have already got F18’s for the air defence role.
    Also the QE class need to be equipped with the V-22. To have a V-22 AEW system would give greater AEW coverage.
    Also potentially the V-22 could be used as a tanker to refuel other aircraft.

    A lot of the technology to equipped a new type of Sea Harrier has already been developed for the Typhoon aircraft.

    I look forward also to other common sense approaches to the QE class carrier debate.

  13. @ Steve re carrier size.

    Well I am already in trouble here with one of your community’s more vocal commentators for saying they are a mistake. For transparency I have already said I was quite excited in 1997/8 when they were announced. I had visions of 24 F/A18 with E2 flying off 2 CTOL carriers, backed up by a 32 escort hull flotilla and 12 SSNs, with a couple of amphibs. To qualify that I have been unhappy with the idea since for about 15 years or so. Yes now I think we would be better off with something Cavour sized or Juan Carlos like; the new Italian Trieste probably being the sweet spot. I suppose it all depends on what you think about fixed wing, fast air. For me the important thing is Crowsnest and how we get that to sea.

  14. How exactly will these carriers be used then, i.e. what scenarios? Say if WW3 were to start sometime soon, would they be of any use against peer level (or even superior) enemies?

    Also, in terms of self-defence, there is talk that in times of need the carriers will be armed with containerised sea ceptor. What exactly does that (containerised) actually mean in practice, where would they be placed and how many? Would it take any structural reworking to put them in place? And do the carriers have any soft kill measures?

    • The QE class have anti-torpedo measures, ant-ship missile measures, flares and chaff dispensers, IR jammers, plus these older features called, uh, guns. If WW3 started tomorrow, neither carrier would be ready for combat. So what is your point?

    • A carrier and its RFA support vessels are High Value Units and as such get layers of defense in depth provided by other units.
      Sigint from Satellite and “other” sources lets you know what is coming ( Missile armed aircraft taking off, surface ships etc.) If you can monitor and detect in the RF environment you gain a massive advantage. You can detect radio and radar far beyond the radars actual detection range.
      Subs are in the outer layer to counter enemy Surface and Sub Surface threats.
      Towed array vessels and dipping Helos for more ASW
      Crowsnest for AEW
      CAP for on call instantly available reaction aircraft a few hundred KM away from the HVU
      Air Defense Destroyers managing the air picture
      Then close in vessels with Ceptor and the HVU itself with soft and hard kill measures.
      All of the above talking to each other over Link data connections.

      The idea is you kill the launch aircraft or vessels before they get in range.
      Failing that, its a big ass sea. If you need to get lost in it it is actually surprisingly easy. A missile shooter needs to know where you are and then does a best guess on where you are going to be. If you change course after detecting an airborne search radar prior to a launch of say a mach 2, 300km range missile you have maybe 10 mins to get out of the missiles homing head search cone. You drop chaff to confuse it, drop decoys to pull off the homing head and go max speed at an angle to the inbound missile. If it all works the missile wont see you or home on you because you wont be where its going to be looking.
      Of course whilst this is all going on you have fighters killing the launch aircraft or ships, subs firing torpedoes , surface ships launching missiles and Gunners shooting guns off in every direction.

      • Thanks for the indepth answer. Some of it I knew, some I did not.

        I still alway find it amazing that, “If you need to get lost in it it is actually surprisingly easy” considering the level of sophistication of today’s technology. But I suppose it works both ways.

        • The issue is any fighter even with long range missiles trying to target a carrier at sea has to fly at an extremely low level to avoid detection. This means they have poor over the horizon radar visibility as well. They also have to maintain strict radio silence and keep radio waves to a minimum (apparently AESA radars can’t be detected but they must send some sort of electronic signal so who knows).
          In the Falklands the argentine pilots used a compass and a stop watch to find the RN all while flying feet of the ocean. They where helped because they knew the RN would have to be stationed off the Falklands east coast.

          • The problem with this is that during the falklands the untrackable sat phones were tracked and it seems that the Russians used the same trick to track the ships during the first falklands war. I don’t think the idea of task groups hiding in a big ocean works anymore, due to so much sig int. You would expect that any near peer opponent would be tracking our rather small navy using satellites, even in peace time, and so i doubt they would have a huge amount of ocean to search if the worst happens (my guess a few hours sailing at most).

            My expectation is there is a huge gap between capabilities that we are told about and what exists in reality, both from a positive stand point (keeping tech secret to avoid counter measures) and negative (tech not working as advertised).

            Using lazers to dazzle pilots in the falklands is on the positive front and patriot completely failing during Iraq1 is a negative sign.

    • As everybody has answered re EW I shall answer re SeaCeptor. Take a look at the Cavour to where her Aster silos are positioned. SeaCeptor silos aren’t that large compared with 70k tonnes of ships. I should imagine the area abaft the port sponson would be the most likely place. There won’t be positioned in the flight deck as the Russians do with their missiles in aviation ships. And they won’t be anywhere near the lifts or islands.

  15. Did anyone else catch last night’s edition of ‘Mega Shippers’ on Quest? It followed the preparation, flood up and ‘launch’ out into the basin of Prince of Wales. Some really interesting stuff about how the engineers did the job. Eg I never knew they were moving 6 ton blocks of concrete around the Flight Deck with fork lifts just to keep her level on flood up. And one part of the hull was the width of an engineer’s shoulders away from the wall of the dock! ‘Close’ doesn’t describe it!

    Bit chuffed to be British to be honest. We CAN do the clever and big stuff …

    • Of course we can. I really shake my head in despair at just WHERE this mentality has come from that infests so many in our nation. We Cannot. We are poor. We are small. We cannot cope. We cannot. Schools perhaps? PC agenda?

      The only thing Great Britain is little in is geographical area.

      • I remember the last time I was in higher education the two schools which I belonged to were completely enamoured with the Chinese. Yet the Chinese couldn’t screw together a carrier like QEC. And their nuclear submarines are in many ways comparable to those we had in the sixties. Note I said comparable not better. 🙂

        For me the great crime against our navy committed by the New Labour project was the way they messed about with the submarine production ‘drumbeat’. For what you get they are actually for their sticker price (as the Yanks say) quite cheap. But it is the skills base and industry they support where their true value lies. I would be a lot happier with 8 Astutes than the rather odd number which ended up. As I have said before here one wonders if submarines were built on the Clyde whether politicians would be so anti……….

          • There should have been a one for one replacement of the S and T boats. Submarines are complicated beasts you need to operate them on a four for one basis even today. I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons why the RAN have trouble with the Collins is that they pushed the 6 they have to do the work of 8. The other problem with submarines is crewing them; they have never been truly ‘volunteer’ only. Operating and fully supporting a flotilla of 12/16 boats would put us as the top of ‘every other navy that isn’t the USN’ list. Of course this is all about sea denial vs sea control.

      • (Chris H) Daniele – I suspect its those who teach our kids ‘its wrong to win’ and those who decry our nation at every possible turn are the Remainers who seem to yearn for us to be failures and who are so keen to keep us subdued as 1/28th of a political construct called the EU….

    • Concrete is used as ‘permanent’ ballast in used in some ship where the naval architect didn’t quite get the measurements right, which happens as even today you can’t weigh a ship with much accuracy.

      • Not just getting the measurements wrong, e.g. apparently RFA Argus has a fairly significant amount of concrete ballast as a design feature…

        “Having been initially designed as a container ship, she would have been unstable when unloaded, making her motion at sea uncomfortable or even dangerous. Therefore, her superstructure is deliberately heavily built (weighing some 800 tons), and she has 1,800 tons of concrete ballast carried in former hatch covers, which have been inverted to form tray-like structures.”
        [ Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFA_Argus_(A135) ]

        Hopefully needing ballast to correct design errors will become less and less necessary since with accurate CAD models designers should be able to do accurate calculations more easily. That does of course rely on having accurate weights for everything (with presumably the CAD models giving the accurate locations.

        Re accurate weights, I remember in one of my old jobs I got a call from someone from the the European Space Agency who had obviously been given a complete component list for a satellite and told to call all the suppliers and get the weight for every component. We were supplying software and this guy clearly wasn’t technical because after 20 minutes of trying I’d still failed to get him to understand that software doesn’t actually weight anything. I eventually had to tell him that our software weighted exactly 1 gram to get him to go away. Hopefully that inaccuracy wasn’t enough to have caused the mission to fail!

  16. The funny, well sad really, fact is during the Falklands the navy was significantly larger and could put down a significantly deeper defensive circle around the 2 carriers and yet did any of the tech actually work? Rapier was a complete failure, final tally was maybe 1 successful shot, as was all the ship missile systems, some success but mainly failure. Pretty much all the downed planes were due to small arms fire or the harriers. That’s not to count the failure in tracking an ancient sub and the fact that Argentina air force was out of date.

    Could our significantly smaller navy reality defend a QE against a near peer opponent, I do wonder. If not it and it’s F35s are basically jsut an expensive event venue for global Britain.

    • Steve – others can comment better than me on the subject I’m sure but in 1982 the RN was in transition if you like from 1st gen SAM systems (Seaslug and Seacat) to 2nd gen (Seadart and Seawolf).Seadart should have been ,and was in some cases a gamechanger but it was hindered by a lack of long range AEW,plus in a moment of wisdom (??) the UK had managed to sell two Type 42’s to Argentina a few years previously so they knew what its capabilities and limitations were.Seawolf was a new system ,there were only 3 ships equipped with it as far as I know,and in use a few problems were found which were addressed in theatre.Agree Rapier was a disappointment for whatever reason- from what I read being a land based system its delicate electronics didn’t take to well to the long voyage south with sea air and salt etc.If nothing else the missiles launched while being in some cases no more than a distraction should have given the Argentinian pilots plenty to worry about rather than focusing on accurate bomb runs.Yes the systems we have now are much more capable in all regards but theres a massive difference in shooting down a drone on a missile range to shooting down Aircraft in actual combat.

  17. Back on original topic: I’m not in the Navy and never have been but have followed the carrier programme with keen interest since it’s inception. I’ll admit to having an almost nervous excitement at the prospect of the first UK fast jet carrier air ops in so many years. What a special thing it must be to be aboard on the way over and during the coming weeks.

    On a related point, I personally have no problem with the white elephant debate – it’s entirely legitimate but I also feel there’s a time and a place so majoring on negativity just as the capability is being stood up is frankly unhelpful – even (heaven forbid) if we were to decide to have a change of heart in some way.

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