In advance of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s departure, an interview with the Queen Elizabeth Class Team Leader Ian Jackson was conducted by BAE Systems.

It’s important to note that this interview was conducted by BAE Systems.

Jon Pearson, Warship Support Director for BAE Systems at Portsmouth Naval Base, says:

Interview with Ian Jackson, Queen Elizabeth Class Team Leader at BAE Systems

What were the significant activities that you carried out to enable HMS Queen Elizabeth take part this landmark group exercise (GroupEx)?

“Everything we’ve installed, maintained and upgraded on HMS Queen Elizabeth over the summer – and indeed since she was commissioned three years ago– has been building up to these exercises. It’s the moment we get to prove that she can do exactly what these ships were designed for – to carry, control and command the F-35B and Merlin aircraft at sea and lead a maritime task group.

This work has included making HMS Queen Elizabeth the first aircraft carrier in the world that is interoperable with the United States Marine Corps’ F-35Bs.

Specific pieces of work we’ve done to accommodate the US Marine Corps F-35Bs include installing IT systems and an IT suite for the US squadron including the associated power and networks points for new operators. Over 70km of fibre optic cable has gone in as part of these IT infrastructure upgrades this summer.

In addition, HMS Queen Elizabeth will need to accommodate up to 1,700 sailors, airmen and marines for this exercise. To ensure their safety, we’ve increased the ship’s life raft capacity to cater for the increased number of personnel on board.”

Tell me something particularly exciting about BAE Systems’ most recent work on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“No other ship or nation in the world has the capability to work hand in glove and operate another nation’s fighter aircraft from their aircraft carrier in the way HMS Queen Elizabeth can with the US Marines’ F-35Bs. This is something we’re really proud of and took a lot of effort and collaboration to get over the line.”

How are things looking for Carrier Strike Group/Maritime Task Group operations in 2021?

“Everything we’re doing now is geared towards making HMS Queen Elizabeth ready to lead carrier strike operations in 2021, from our IT infrastructure and increasing our personnel capacity to installing high-tech weapons and environmental awareness systems.

In the bigger picture, BAE Systems is additionally responsible for maintaining several other classes of vessel that may support, protect and sail alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of its task group in 2021. This includes Type 45 and Type 23 class warships, plus many of the radar, combat systems, torpedoes, small boats, and other technologies on board these ships. And of course we play a central role in running, maintaining and upgrading their home port, HMNB Portsmouth, on which these amazing ships and their sailors rely on, day in day out.

This is a major enterprise and we are proud to deliver these ships on time and on budget for this first iteration of a modern carrier strike force.”

How do the team feel about being a critical part of standing up the Carrier Strike Group/Maritime Task Group operations in 2021?

“It’s an incredible thing to be a part of. BAE Systems has been a part of the carrier strike story since the beginning. Thousands of us have had some part in seeing HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales evolve from ship build to join Type 45s, Type 23s and Minehunters here in their Portsmouth homeport before they head out to sea together. We’re incredibly proud to finally begin to see these amazing vessels do what they were designed and built to do out on global operations.”

How is the Prince of Wales shaping up at the moment?

“It’s a really exciting time over on the Prince of Wales. We’re undergoing many capability upgrades, in line with the activity you’ve seen on the Queen Elizabeth Carrier. We look forward to seeing her deploy on sea trials in the near future and putting this kit through its paces.”

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I wonder if the US Navy has made similar provisions for hosting British F35Bs and crews on their carriers?


They will likely have made some changes, but not on the scale we’ve seen with HMS QE, and likely PoW too. Mainly because, while plenty of cases can be made for interoperability, I think we’ve mainly done it because, at the moment, we don’t have the ability to form a full air wing with just British Aircraft. Of course we will be able to in the coming years, but I think even then the carrier will more often than not sail with a mixed bag of operators, maybe even embarking Italian and S Korean aircraft and crews. However, if you… Read more »


It’s likely that the USS Bonhomme Richard will be written off. Therefore, I can see both the QE and PoW being used more regularly by the USMC, in the short term.


Nothing would have been done to USN Carriers as they will never host a F35B squadron, the wasps and America’s May get some modification but reading between the lines it sounds more like they’ve given the USMC their own server and 110v power but obviously needs to be jazzed up for the interview


Good observations. Thanks, both of you.


Why would they need to or do that? They fly f35c variant. And they have a lot of them. If you are talking about the USMC ,they already have a lot of the same planes and we could land on those ships in a pinch anyway. Our pilots were initially trained on those vessels anyway


When we sail into the South China Sea we should have none of our escorts lacking up to date anti ship missiles & have QE’s anti air defence beefed up with Sea Ceptor.

The PLAN has acheived a huge advanced fleet & all that work trashing atolls to make them into military bases is a serious danger. I wonder how many AShMs it takes to overwhelm a CTGs defences?

Derek Bates

We must fit the third phalanx ciws, and I agree with you on Sea Ceptor system too.