It has been confirmed that the aircraft carrier “will be ready” for her planned return to operations by May this year.

In May 2020, Prince of Wales experienced flooding which the Royal Navy described (at the time) as “minor”.

This was followed by more “significant” flooding in October 2020 which caused damage to her electrical cabling. The damage was so bad that the ship was unable to sail to America for training.

She is currently alongside in Portsmouth unable to deploy until repairs are completed.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin confirmed the costs of the works in response to a written Parliamentary question from the Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan.

“The estimated incremental cost of the repair work is £3.3 million. Remedial work being conducted on both Queen Elizabeth-class carriers to help prevent a repetition of this event is expected to cost £2.2m.”

When will the vessel be ready for operations?

James Heappey, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, recently stated:

“I can confirm that HMS PRINCE OF WALES will be ready for her planned return to operations by May 2021, when she will undertake activities in UK waters prior to her commencing NATO Command duties in 2022.”

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Geoffrey Roach

Well…that proves we can run both carriers at the same time. Now we need to work up an air group to go with her.

James H

What is the time frame for when we could operate both carriers at the same time with decent numbers of F35s? Wiki says 36 is the maximum.

Geoff Baker

Early 2030s at best with our own Airwing, in theory 2024/2025 if we use the OCU and the USMC to make up the numbers on top of 617 ad 809 sqdn. We have to order those additional 12 to get us to 60 for the third frontline unit followed by the other 18 to make up the 72 with some spare for the full 4 squadrons plus the 2nd line squadrons. However we also have Project viper in the works so rather than 36 aka 3 squadrons of F-35B it may be closer to 24 F-35B and 12 or more… Read more »

Ron

Project Viper? Is that the loyal wingman project?

James Fennell

Project Vixen – Navy eqivalent.

Challenger

Realistically assuming we had an eventual fleet of 80 the most you’d see embarked if both carriers had to deploy would be 36 on QE and then a smaller number of around 12 on PoW (or vice versa) with the rest of the space being used for ASW or Commando helicopters.

We haven’t operated carriers with more than 30-35 fast-jets since the 1950s with Korea and Suez – no need to try and max out both with 72 short of WW3!

Meirion X

I am sure the plan for a 2nd carrier to be a LPH amphibian was dropped?

Last edited 26 days ago by Meirion X
Paul.P

Its looking that way. LPDs, LSDs and LPH’s all seem destined to give way to ‘littoral support’ ships.

Sonik

Reading between the lines from various sources my understanding now is that 2x LSS role will be fulfilled temporarily by the conversion of a single LSD for Med and East of Suez Group, plus one LPD unconverted for Northern/Baltic Group

In time (early 2030s) all of LPD, LSD, LPH and LSS will be replaced by a single class of 6x MRSS that can cover all roles, hence the classification Multi Role. I know Argus isn’t really a LPH but if you work that out it’s a one for one replacement.

Paul.P

Yes, agree.

Matt C

It looks to me like they’re giving up on even landing anything bigger than a single battalion of squids at once… IF that much.

Sonik

That depends what type of ship MRSS turns out to be and how many. There has been mention of BMT Ellida concept:

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/the-future-multi-role-support-ships/

If it ends up something like that total capacity (Accomodation, LIM, LCU) of 6x MRSS would actually be slightly more than currently, but spread equally over 6 identical ships.

Obviously a more flexible overall fleet and smaller ships than the LPDs which are too big a target and expensive to run hence one in extended readynes.

Of course the proposal is still 10 years or more off so who knows what else might change in the meantime!

Last edited 26 days ago by Sonik
Challenger

Yes I believe you’re correct on that front, so both carriers will be configured the same.

But in a large scale operation that required the full spectrum of capabilities it would make logical sense to have each carrier focus on different roles – similar to how in 1982 whilst there was of course some cross over Invincible was primarily tasked with air and anti-submarine defence around the task force whilst the larger Hermes focused more on offensive operations with a larger Harrier squadron and Commando Sea Kings over the islands.

Peter S

Yes a planned £40 m alteration for POW was dropped. Bulwark is scheduled to go into refit later this year. If that goes ahead then an LPH role for PoW seems unlikely. But given the small numbers of F35, it may look like one for a time.

Meirion X

Yes, and both carriers will alternative roles as flag ship. With PoW becoming fully operational in 2023, he could pay a visit to Australia then? Maybe the Trade Deal could be ready for signing by then?

QE will most likely go in for a refit 2023-4 to get her Bedford arrays fitted, and maybe CATs & traps! It maybe be too early of a timeline to get them by 2024?

Last edited 26 days ago by Meirion X
Max Jones

It has but in the scenario where both were available together and an attempt at deploying all aircraft across a large space was planned (Falklands scenario), it is likely to maximise deck space and efficiency they could be used for carrying additional HC4s and other helicopters on top of their strike carrier roles.

TrevorH

My own thoughts…. 3 Squadrons or flights of 8 with a wing of 24 and generally operating with 16. So with that, if the air wing can be properly serviced we can have 2 carriers being quite viable and rotate the aircraft.

But for now I’ve read the PoW is going to test UAVs. May be it will be the first to get suitable catapult…?

Meirion X

No plan for a major refit of PoW until at least 2025/6. Most likely a mini bolt-on deck cat can be fitted for launching drones.
PoW becomes flag ship from 2023 with a world tour!

QE is to go into refit in 2023.

Last edited 27 days ago by Meirion X
TrevorH

Yes. Fair comments. I was not thinking any cats would be spec’d designed and tested before that.

Max Jones

The maximum realistic wartime load even with unlimited aircraft is around 14-16 Merlins (mix of Crowsnest, ASW and a few HC4s) with 36-42 F-35Bs for around 50-60 total.

36 + 14 is the practical max and that might be possible for one with the current plans in the event of a major Falklands-style conflict where all assets are committed to naval warfare.

The two are unlikely to operate simultaneously and so appropriate aircraft to support this are not being facilitated.

Max Jones

*In terms of dates, getting 36 deployable could happen around late 2020s or early 2030s, but only in a situation where it is the military’s sole priority for the jets. Even with all planned possible aircraft purchased (up to 80), it is not likely we will see 36 deployed together unless it is really needed.

James H

Thank you, that seems a long way off, what i don’t quite get from the review is that the carriers are very much the centre of the plans yet what makes it a formidable force is at low numbers with no plans to have sizable numbers anytime soon.
If we want to be taken seriously especially in the indo Pacific region then we should be looking to have the capability to have both carriers full equipped as soon as possible.

Geoff Baker

Interesting to see that PWLS will operate in the UK this year and then NATO in 2022, no mention of carrier qualification in the USA, or will that have to be done in the UK now

Ron

Thats being done in UK waters.

Supportive Bloke

Great to know we will soon be back to two carriers.

I’m assuming that sailing both carriers at the same time is a deliberate message. I’m guessing that PoW will sail with a T45 and a T23 (low threat so no need to double up) just to get the message across fully?

Let’s face it if the cost of fixing and preventatives is only £5M it can’t actually have been that big a deal.

Meirion X

Most likely supported by other NATO warships, when on NATO tasking.

Supportive Bloke

Very true

Pacman27

do both carriers now have the Bedford array installed, I thought it was only the POW?

I do think if you spend 3.2bn on something you should use it to its fullest capability

32/36 F35b’s should be the normal fit out for these carriers – as crew needs to get used to working with a reasonably loaded carrier, remember these can surge to 70+ each so 36 +12 helicopters isn’t a stretch,also the escorts and RFA can realistically have the helicopter force if need be.

Meirion X

QE does not have the Bedford array fitted yet. She will have to wait for the 2023/4 refit.

Last edited 27 days ago by Meirion X
Max Jones

Surge doesn’t mean the best air wing though. A carrier with 36-42 F-35Bs + 12-16 helicopters would probably be the most efficient option in terms of combining redundancy with sortie rates.

No carriers are expected to regularly operate at wartime capacities, though, are none really do. Maybe the Invincible-class, which were often reaching the upper limits of their capacity but then again they were a third of the size of the QE-class so they had a lot more to do.

Pacman27

Agreed and let’s not forget all the escorts that can be housed on the assigned escorts / task force fleet.

personally I like squadrons to be 16 strong as we always despatch pairs or quads on sorties. And I like the 4 on, 4 ready, 4 maintenance, 4 deep maintenance model used by the navy.

Nigel Collins

Some more potential good news, the AW149 multirole utility helicopter!

26 MARCH 2021
Leonardo encouraged by UK commitment to new medium-lift helicopter and national industry

“Leonardo is encouraged by the UK government’s recent announcements that it is to recapitalise the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) medium-lift helicopter fleet, at the same time as supporting national industry in fulfilling that and other future requirements.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/leonardo-encouraged-by-uk-commitment-to-new-medium-lift-helicopter-and-national-industry

Captain P Wash

Saw it mentioned in the review a few days back, looks like replacements for Puma, Gazelle and Bell.

Nigel Collins

It certainly does and secures thousands of jobs in the process.
The difficult part is getting on with it!

“With an active supply chain already in place for the AW149, Whitney noted that Leonardo Helicopters UK would be able to deliver to the RAF a military off-the-shelf aircraft in less than 24 months from a contract date.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/leonardo-pitches-uk-built-aw149-as-puma-replacement-for-raf

Paul.P

and I think ‘the older’ Chinooks ( which with sleight of hand will be passed to the army). This would justify Wallace’s reference to the army replacing 4 types with a single type. Tommy Cooper would be proud 🙂

Challenger

Seems like a very sensible move. It’ll be a good litmus test of how series the UK Government actually is about taking industry and the wider supply chain into consideration with procurement decisions.

Herodotus

An excellent beefed up version of a proven and reliable helicopter. These were offered some years ago but it was decided that a Puma update was more cost effective…really. I would like to see a couple of dozen make their way to the AAC and repurpose their Wildcats for the RN.

Nigel Collins

Agreed Herodotus.

John Clark

Absolutely……

James Fennell

Yes – these have lots of uses. Would expect 1 Combat Air Bde to get some for 16X, also good for VERTREP from the RFAs, and the Special Ops Bde and SF need some. Wildcats can be transferred to RN and RM for new frigates and LSS and to support MCM missions. The RAF Sqn at Akrotiri could go to Army, and have duel role (SAR / Combat Lift) like the Wessex before them. Expect them to replace the SAS and RN Dauphins too.

Daniele Mandelli

Sold.

Jonathan

What’s really important is that Leonardo have said they will move the whole AW149 production to the U.K. if the MOD buy the AW149. That’s really big news as this rotor is a really good export opportunity. At present the U.K. production lines are based around the merlin and Wildcat, neither of which are going to generate much in the way of exports.

plus the fact as medium rotors go the AW149 is a really modern airframe.

Nigel Collins
Herodotus

Transference of the production line was offered some years ago if the MOD selected the type for UK armed forces. Turkey was a potential customer but bought the Blackhawk instead. As far as numbers go, surely the establishment of a production line implies that Leonardo is expecting a substantial order from the UK. Has the MOD got its arse together at last? Smiley faces all round if this goes ahead! I wonder if Rolls will get in on the engines…I believe that they gave up their interest to Safran some time back. AW149 – Leonardo – Aerospace, Defence and Security… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Herodotus
James

It’s pointless to have 2 carriers with each less than 30 jets . Some are acting as if adversaries are not aware of British escort numbers weakness and lack of F35 numbers for their carriers . Someone in a village in the Amazon with internet is aware of that let alone states with intelligence and big militaries

Robert Blay.

How many 5th gen fighters can Russia or China put to sea??

Daveyb

Don’t forget for big “exercises” etc, the ships will likely be sailing with a USMC squadron aboard as well as two UK squadrons. At least for the foreseeable future, until the USN replace the Bonhomme Richard.

Paul.P

CGG has deployed with a maximum of 30 Rafale. A normal complement is less.
This one is 20.
https://atalayar.com/en/content/french-aircraft-carrier-charles-de-gaulle-docks-abu-dhabi-port.
With USMC contribution 2×24 carriers at sea should be possible.

Max Jones

Typical air wing for Charles De Gaulle is usually around 18-24 aircraft. Admittedly they have Hawkeyes which are better individually than Merlin but with just 1-2 at a time it’s not incredible.

James Fennell

We only had 31 Sea Harriers in 1982. They proved to be far from pointless.

Lusty

As I’ve said to people before: It’s also worth noting that in addition to what was on the carriers, Atlantic Conveyor carried a mix of Sea Harriers (8) and GR.3s (6). Ten GR.3s made the journey to Ascension, but one had to turn back due to a fault. Of the nine remaining airframes, six went to Atlantic Conveyor, and three were retained at Ascension for local area defence. An additional four were sent on the Contender Bezant (which would become RFA Argus), though I can’t remember what type they were. At least 28 Sea Harriers went down south in total… Read more »

Dern

Better tell the Invincibles they where pointless with their 12-18 jets then…

A&Daccountant

I ‘heard’ a ‘rumour’ that the costs were quite a bit higher than this

Mark B

Discussions about the effectiveness of the carriers cannot in my opinion be reduced to numbers of F35s. Drones, missiles, etc. need to come into the mix don’t they? They need to be cheap, cheerful and plentiful. If that is the case the carriers could pack quite a punch?

James Fennell

Yes of course. UCAVs, in-flight refuelling and upgrades to F-35 to carry Spear 3, EA, anti-ship and cruise missiles and of course Meteor (and software upgrades in line with USMC) will significantly increase capability. Adding a few more airframes will have less effect if they can’t field the full range of capabilites and weapons.

Mike

Will there be any fixed wing airplanes on board?

captain p wash

Yes, 48 Sea Typhoons, 4 TSR2’s and a couple of Vulcans.

John Clark

Love to Sea a Vulcan take to the ski jump Captain!

captain p wash

Ha…… Wouldn’t want to be in the way when it landed !

Jonathan

Don’t forget the sea vixens.

Geoffrey Roach

If anybody would like a read I’ve put a couple of ideas forward in East of Suez and the Royal Navy under Analysis Opinion. I’m not trying to plug me…I’m just trying to avoid typing it again.

Andrew

These ships were over 3 billion there should give them a full air group so there can be used to there full potential .Been told of cuts to come so for God’s sake do not mess this up for RN ,and would love to see air group all British.

Robert Blay.

Having 2 carrier’s means 1 will be available 365 to deploy. And to work around refits and maintenance. So we always have a carrier available. unlike the French.

Geoffrey Roach

Realistically a carrier can operate for about 200 days a year but we can have both carriers in service overlapping.and we could manage with 55 to 60 F35,s, all R.N.
The on station ship would operate with two squadrons of ten F35’s (U.S.pattern), alongside a USMC squadron of ten. Merlin ASW and AEW.
The second or supporting carrier would carry a nominal squadron of ten F35’s plus Merlin. Another 15 to 20 air frames to provide for an OCU, and a fourth squadron allowing for rotation and surge situations.