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.


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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  2. 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?

  3. 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 needed.

    It will be an interesting period. I am sure the Navy is coming up with lots of plans to make them seem worthwhile.

    • 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 that can create much greater effects on the ground.

    • 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.

  4. 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

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


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