Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35.

The information comes from a senior official at the Farnborough air show.

The Queen Elizabeth is due to start sea trials next year before its first deployment in 2021, followed by its sister ship, the Prince of Wales.

It was stated that the Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018, F-35 begins flying from the deck later in the year.

It has been reported that all Merlins will also be modified to carry the Crowsnest airborne early warning and control radar although a contract has yet to be finalised.

Former First Sea Lord George Zambellas said:

“When the first of our new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, deploys on her first mission in a few years, with fifth generation fighters and drones embarked, she will scotch at a stroke any talk of Britain’s retreat from the world.”

The carriers will typically deploy with around 24 F-35B’s and a significant number of various helicopter types.

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.

Crew are currently moving aboard the supercarrier, sea trials after the New Year and the vessel moves to Portsmouth in Spring 2017.

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Mark Smith

This is really interesting, but could you please stop padding out your articles with paragraphs and paragraphs of previously published spiel? Thanks!

Eddie Garlick

It all looks good!

Trev Shepherd

Be nice to see one on her deck when she enters Portsmouth!

Michael Cleary

Be nice to see more than one.

andy reeves

a full car park will send the best message.

Darren Butt

A helicopter doesn’t count ?

David Anthony Simpson


Micky Donnelly

It looks greAt.

Paul Jones

I reckon it’ll be a USMC harrier

UK Defence Journal

It’s not going to be.

andy reeves

it should have been an upgraded harrier , which we already had and could have deployed with a full complement, escorted by the gosport ferry

Richard Parry

Really… You all know it’s behind schedule right…

UK Defence Journal

Yes, this is the revised date but thanks anyway.

andy reeves

it should have been an upgraded harrier , which we already had and could have deployed with a full complement, escorted by the gosport ferry

Justin Lee

To be fair a lot of the delays were to due to constant changes. Firstly ski jump, then to CATOBAR and then back to ski jump. I still don’t understand the reason for not installing CATOBAR.

UK Defence Journal

Cost and delay versus utility.

Tom Myzak

She has a 50 year shelf life, a few delays at the start of her service is no big deal 🙂

andy reeves

we’ve waited 20 years , hms drednaught on ww1 was built in pompey inside 12 months!! not going to be easy to get a hotel in pompey when she comes in for the first time

Nigel K Hughes

Why is it coming into service in 2021 ?

Paul Laycock

Because it’s an incredibly complex system that needs to be properly tested.

It will be in service by early 2018 but will take quite a while to work up to full operational capability in all respects

Dave Stone

I’d like to see one or two Ospreys added to the air group

Simon Reece

Drones ??

andy reeves

navy are losing drones

Gary Mackenzie Snr

Its the new titanic.

I don’t think icebergs will present a major threat….

Philip Cannadine

Are u sure it wont be a Stringbag lol

Paul Bostock

Really, Really ugly, don’t you think?

I don’t think carriers ever look very pretty. However some frigates are decidedly sexy.


I agree some frigates are sexy, I think this carrier is sexy enough though.

David Anthony Simpson

No not all

Stewart Burns

Ally Gray hope you can make it up to see it

Ally Gray

That sounds like a fantastic trip Stewart

Jason Canning

Craig Brown

Anthony Williams

Hahahahaha do me a favour!!! Spring? Hahaha you’re having a laugh

Bob Nichols

Bring it on ASAP we need these 2 Carriers operational

Paul Keable

We need extra funding .. more troops more ships more suport

Max Baker


UK Defence Journal

What about it?

Max Baker

Is that when qe aircraft carrier is comming into service

UK Defence Journal


Max Baker


Anthony Waldron

Who needs housing schools or hospitals when we have this

LOL – ignorance must be such bliss

UK Defence Journal

Where I live they’ve built lots of new schools and lots of new hospitals (including a billion pound superhospital). Seems they’re managing both and I should think so, the health and education pot is far larger than that of defence.

Anthony Waldron

Nation wide i dont think so. Britain should keep its nose out of others affairs and this waste of money wouldnt be needed.

You simply don’t understand how the UK has commitments and alliances which rightly protect us and also extend our influence in this globalised world. Your approach is the very isolationist and Little Englander attitude we need to avoid at all costs.

Anthony Waldron

Yeah its done great so far i didnt mention isolation just a step from the global stage. I find it funny how there are thousands of people homless in london many are veterans who the government cant or wont house but they can afford a boat for the next generation of homeless vets??????

Jonathan Knights

So you don’t think defending the country is important then Anthony? How about we all just stop what we’re doing and see what happens

John Self

Yeah, the Merlins will definitely need the bow ramp. A very expensive platform to deliver vertical takeoff planes. Hang on, didn’t we have a fighter that could have done that?

David Anthony Simpson

Give it up….

UK Defence Journal

John, it’s almost as if you’ve actively decided to ignore the rest of the article where you’d have learned they’ll closely be followed by other aircraft, including F-35.

andy reeves

cancel 2 f35’s , use the dosh for CATOBAR and buy the super hornet for half the price

John Self

UK Defence Journal Well, I’m alluding, in part, to the fact that if the Harrier hadn’t been canned they could have flown off the carrier while waiting for the troubled F-35 to arrive for integration. During the bombing of Libya that could have saved a lot of Tornado flights with inflight refuelling etc. Just saying.


Troubled huh?…


It is going to be interesting to see how we use these carriers. Have we been in any conflicts in the last 20 years where we really needed a carrier and couldn’t make do without. The problem with spending so much on them, is we have to use them for something other than flag flying, but most of our ‘value’ to NATO comes from our int/drone assets, which can’t be sea launched. If we have to have a friendly airfield available for them, then why can’t we use it for the jets also, at which point the carriers are not… Read more »

Engaging Strategy

You may not know it but F-35B is a Combat ISTAR platform.. Therefore they aren’t nearly as reliant on land-based ISTAR assets as you make out. There’s “making do without” and then there’s playing a useful role in operations. Sure we can fly a few token Tornadoes from Marham to strike targets in Libya, but that’s a very expensive and inefficient way of doing things that doesn’t produce a whole lot of effect. Park a decent carrier in the Med (as the USMC did with the USS Kearsarge and it’s AV-8Bs) and suddenly you’re looking at much higher sortie rates… Read more »

andy reeves

i was in the falklands on antrim, i’ve always believed that proper air cover may have saved ardent and antelope, the argies would have have got to them. its important to see how they’ll be escorted isle of wight and gosport ferries maybe.

Stuart Gardner

Damian Knode

Neil Duckers

I hope it’s a sopwith pup! 😀 beautiful looking carrier though.


What is the UK doing about COG aircraft ? was looking into V22 can the new carriers carry these aircraft and also what are we doing about EW Electronic warfare aircraft the US has the Growler are we getting any aircraft to support these roles

Bobby Miller


richard wright

Product design robot trooper buddy javelin sniper drones patrol guard duty cloak fleet fight or flight.