The US Marines are likely to deploy MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft alongside their F-35s aboard Britains new Queen Elizabeth class carriers.
It is understood that the deployment will not be permanent but will likely be routine.
This comes as plans for frequent deployment of American F-35 aircraft alongside British jets aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth have been confirmed by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed that the US will deploy F-35B aircraft on board the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth when it comes into service, with British jets expected to do the same on US vessels when required “in the fullness of time”.
The following image shows how an air group on the vessel might be configured.
The image above comes from the following presentation by Captain Nick Walker of the Royal Navy and discusses carrier strike aviation. The slides show how the service plan to operate the vessels and their air group.
The slideshow can be found here.
The Ministry of Defence have also clarified the details surrounding the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and their complement of F-35 aircraft, no doubt in response to the plethora of claims that the vessels will sail with “no aircraft”, “no crew”, no sandwiches in the galley etc.
There has been speculation in the media that there has been a change in the delivery programme for the F-35B that may result in delays to the roll out of the Carrier Strike capability and that US jets may fly from the Carriers until the UK F-35 fleet is ready.
This is not the case.
- It was always the intention to take a phased approach to ordering F-35.
- The UK is committed to both the F-35 and the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programmes, both of which are on track to enter initial maritime operating capability in December 2020 as planned.
- Queen Elizabeth will commence sea trials in 2017, and UK F-35 aircraft will be used for first of class flying trials in 2018.
- US aircraft will augment British jets on coalition operations, not replace them and they will not fly from the vessel first.
Tabloids often like to quote 12 as the maximum number of F-35Bs the carrier will be able to carry (despite the intention to purchase 138 in the long term), however this, as you probably know, is nonsense.
The carriers, in peacetime, will usually deploy with 12 F-35Bs as a minimum and a number of various helicopters. To reduce costs and free aircraft for other commitments, the maximum aircraft complement will not usually be carried in peacetime, it instead will be supplied as required or deployed to the vessels in the event of a crisis.
Rather than funding a large and permanent Carrier Air Group, the relatively new concept of a Tailored Air Group rather than fixed Carrier Air Group will be adopted for the Queen Elizabeth class with the exact types and numbers of aircraft embarked being adjusted to meet current requirements and threats. I don’t see there being much call for 36 F-35B’s if delivering humanitarian aid, do you?
The Queen Elizabeth class mark a change from expressing carrier power in terms of number of aircraft carried, to the number of sortie’s that can be generated from the deck.
The class are not the largest class of carrier in the world but they are most likely the smallest and least expensive carrier the Royal Navy could build which still have the advantages that large carriers offer.