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.

PHOTO: Royal Navy, via official slideshow.
PHOTO: Royal Navy, via official slideshow.

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.

HMS Illustrious took part in V-22 trials.
HMS Illustrious took part in V-22 trials.

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.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting slide show, would have liked to have heard the commentary that went with them. It hadn’t sunk in before that full operational capability would not be reached for another 10 years, in 2026. The ships will need a refit by then!! 🙂

  2. If I look at the diagram of the flight deck there are 36 parked aircraft (F35 and MV22) with substantial unused parking space on the port side for another 12 F35 (?). Given that the hanger can hold 20 F35s (IIRC) would lead to an airgroup of 68 aircraft while leaving the actual runway clear and space to manoeuvre the airframes on deck. Unlike an angle deck and steam catapults you do not need to reconfigure the deck every time you change from launch to recovery mode.

  3. The QEC have a need for cmv-22b s to perform the cod role plus in-flight refuelling. Perhaps the MOD think they can get this capability fulfilled on the cheap by inviting the USMC along for the ride.

    • COD & refueling by V22 will be interesting and something that I really hope we can see demonstrated if/when any USMC V22s are embarked. COD should be there immediately and a ro-ro V22 refueling rig is being developed so hopefully also likely. The other big thing that V22 could bring to the carriers though is AWACS because it could get Crowsnest 10,000 feet higher although admittedly its unpressurised so everyone would need to be on oxygen and/or some sort of pressurised environment created for at least the operators. Sadly though V22 AWACS would be a UK-specific requirement and would need development to adapt the Crowsnest kit to a V22 so I doubt we’ll see that demonstrated any time soon unless the UK purchases its own V22s. If it did though, with ro-ro kits for refueling and for Crowsnest, we could get a lot of utility out of a few V22s on board.

  4. Yet another “step back” from the original “Carrier Strike” concept for these ships. To be at all effective, true aircraft carriers must be steeped, continuously, in a fully integrated operational mode so that ship and air group etc. are worked up to undertake combat missions at very short notice. Any deflection from this role will make them highly vulnerable and ineffective to the point of not allowing them to operate without the risk of destruction.

  5. There is no date set for the ships to carry a full complement of UK F-35B’s. The MoD has NO plan to buy more then 2 squadrons i.e. 24 aircraft when the carriers can easily contain 36 & more.

    The latest statistics from the MoD show that the UK have bought 4, yes FOUR, F-35’s so far.

    What is the point of buying such a large ship to only deploy half full? Ludicrous defence penny pinching that will come back and bite the UK.

    • You really do not have a clue what these ships are all about and what they are designed and built to do. They are not designed and built to just be strike carriers, they are built and designed to be extremely flexible and versatile multi purpose platforms that can perform various roles as future circumstances determine and require. These roles include, among others, that of a large front line strike carrier with F35B’s, a helicopter assault ship with chinook / apache helicopters and a large contingent of marines, a disaster relief or hospital ship, a major ASW asset with large numbers of ASW helicopters, etc. etc. or any combinations of these or other roles. Consequently the number of F35B’s carried will be tailored and range from zero to 40+ depending on what the mission roles require. These multifunctional ships have the ability to become game changers in carrier design and examples of naval excellence as their forbears, the WW1 Queen Elizabeth class battleships , did in their time.

  6. And once again George tells his self perpetuating falsehood that the tabloids claim the carriers can only accommodate 12 aircraft.

    PROVE IT GEORGE!

    I’ve read many tabloid articles that quite rightly ask the question, why have such big 50 aircraft capacity carriers when they’ll only routinely carry 12? It’s a darn good question that the MoD can only answer with “we’re too cheap to buy enough aircraft to defend the UK so we’ll give the Americans a free ride with theirs in order to promote American interests”.

    Meanwhile the US president says the UK must go to the back of the queue for trade deals.

    Brilliant.

    • Well if we are not in a war time situation then why would we need to carry 50 plus f35’s. If we were to go to war then they would simply fly more jets over to the ship to compliment the 12 that are already there. ?? Keeps costs down. Not rocket science

  7. The UK is buying 138. In times of national emergency (Falklands II) the nice peace time plans are scrapped! With 138 nominal airframes it would be credible to have over 100 deployed! I remember one of the reasons that the US provided tanker support to UK in home waters during 1982 was that the UK deployed all the Victors to Ascension. We did not ask NATO’s approval! Just like the US supplied more AIM-9L because we just took NATO warstocks! There is always a massive difference between plans and actual capability.

    • From what I understood 138 is wildly inaccurate as it is likely purchase over the lifetime of production, so likely to be cut in future or just not actually happy aka shadow cuts. It also means that new frames will replace old which will be scrapped or sold off if history tells us anything. We could have more than the base amount available if f2 happens but I suspect no where near the 100. Also don’t forget we need pilot, which we don’t have huge numbers in spare.

      • When the UK ordered Apache helicopters, after delivery, most sat around in hangars for years because the training and support services had not been put in place. It strikes me as sensible, not to go ordering loads of F35s before they are needed when there are ample other projects that need the money now. We may only own a handful of aircraft at the moment, but we benefit from development testing and training taking place over the combined allied fleet.

  8. Slide 5, top right hand corner list air complement of 24 F35, 9 merlin and 5 Crowsnest. Sounds like a standard ASW and strike configuration not unlike complement of old Ark Royal. Pretty useful for most situations I would have thought. Plus enough space for friends.

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