The builders are hoping HMS Prince of Wales will be leaving Rosyth dockyard for sea trials this time next year.

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance are confident she will be ready for sea trials by November 2019.

Sir Simon Lister of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said the ship is physically complete.

“We’re now at that stage of fitting out all the equipment inside the ship. Wiring it up, plumbing it up, and setting all that equipment to work. One of the powerful things about this contact is that any budgetary over-run is shared between the industry and government, so there is a very strong pressure to get this done at minimum cost to the taxpayer and companies,” he said.

It’s our objective to finish this programme on time and as close to budget as we can.”

People I spoke to on-board the vessel on my last visit told me that building HMS Prince of Wales has been “20% to 25%” faster than building its sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth. When on HMS Queen Elizabeth two years ago, we were told that the build of HMS Prince of Wales was expected to be around 8 months quicker thanks to “lessons learned” in the build process.

The builders are already applying lessons from including improvements to the process of preparing its heat-resistant flight deck and installing an improved F-35 landing light systems earlier in the build process.

Recently, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance has successfully handed over the HMS Prince of Wales Navigation Bridge to the Royal Navy, a milestone originally planned for March 2019.

According to a news release:

“In the spring of 2018, we took the decision to bring this milestone forward, and since then the production team lead by Harry McCluskey and Mike Ballantine have worked tirelessly with multiple trades to bring this compartment up to the standard required for CCI. The Navigation Bridge is where the ship is commanded. When HMS Prince of Wales goes to sea, the bridge will be manned by the Ship’s Company and will include an Officer of the Watch aided by several Able Seaman acting as lookouts. The ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Moorhouse and his Navigator will also be present on the bridge.”

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance say that the bridge was completed on time through collaborative work between multiple trades including, Babcock production, Balfour Beatty, Ticon, the Mission Systems IPT and Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine.

HMS Prince of Wales is also expected to take over F-35 trials to allow HMS Queen Elizabeth to return to dock for her routine re-certification work.

Former Captain of the vessel Ian Groom told media that HMS Prince of Wales will need to be delivered during 2019 to allow flight trails to continue whilst Queen Elizabeth is undergoing inspection in dry dock.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps now would be a good time to be looking into adding an onboard missile defense system to HMS Queen Elizabeth before she returns for inspection?

    Fantastic news none the less and an incredible feat by all those who built her in double quick time!

    • I am sure there should be room for a few sea ceptor silos on board… they both need more than phalanx that’s for sure…

    • I agree with everyone who supports additional self-defence capabilities beyond a mere 3 Phalanx. Sadly, I just don’t see it happening. Like the Type 45s being fitted with Mk41 VLS; just another pipe dream. Utter short-sightedness that one day could cost us dear.

      I’m amazed that we design and build beautiful ships that have awesome potential only to completely underarm them compared to their peers! Astounding!

      Maybe the money will be found to add Sea Ceptor before she enters service but I won’t hold my breath……

    • Yes, together will be an amazing sight. Better though to be able to field at least one fully escorted carrier group while having enough escorts to cover all our other commitments, refits, repairs & a little slack for war casualties, so we have a viable force that won’t be quickly neutralised if it ball kicks off. 19 just doesn’t cover us.

      • We only have 17 frigates and destroyers, we lack the manpower to man the other 2.

        The QEC class require 300 more crew than originally forecast making the RN manning problems into a crisis.

        • Andrew the 3 Invincibles each needed 700 to crew the ship and 400 for the air group. The 2 QE’S need 700 to crew each ship and 800 for the air group. The maths don’t stand scrutiny. The manning problems in the RN stem from the moronic decision of the coalition govt to cut manpower in the full knowledge they’d have to reverse it. It saved 10’s of millions but will cost hundreds of millions to fix.

        • I think this is why we are seeing reports that foreigners will be recruited to serve in the UK military. No doubt 5 eyes nationals but Gurkhas should have a good pair of sea legs 🙂

        • Andrew sorry my friend but you know nothing and seem to be an anti RN type. RAF or ex RAF or maybe a Putin not?
          Here are some facts. The RN manpower was reduced by Cameron and Osbourne in SDSR 2010-2015 by 2000 personnel. Having already been cut by Brown and Blair by 5000 more personnel in 2008-2009.
          So the manpower problem is of our own making.
          The QE class carriers are the most efficient fleet carriers in the world and are incredibly lean manned 1500 max crew for full load out versus over 5000 for a Nimitz or Ford class carrier whilst the QE deploys 75% the air wing of a Nimitz.
          I am actually surprised that Japan and Australia are not asking for options to purchase a QE class vessel for themselves.
          Compared to the 3 Invincible class preceding the QE the QE class each carry more air power than all 3 Invincible class combined.
          The lack of escorts is a national shame and the government should hang for any military defeat or losses as a result of their cut backs and lack of warships, weapons and importantly numbers. The correct process for HMG would be to revert to 13 type 26 frigates (8 ASA, 5 general purpose) add 5-10 light frigates aka type 31s and up arm the type 45s with mk41 vl strike cells. The build concurrently with Dreadnought programme an additional 3-4 more astute class to return the RN to the required 10+ SSNs needed.
          Until more subs are built I would refit and retain the final 3 Trafalgar class which are still as quiet as a fart in a library and a match against the best the Russian’s and Chinese can currently deploy.
          HMG state of money available. Really?
          Put up higher rate income tax then. Increase taxes paid for long haul flights over 1000 miles as far too many people in the UK are rich enough to live in £1 million+ houses, drive Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche cars and holiday 3-4 times a year. That level of expenditure is only possible because we are not taxing the rich enough. They enjoy all the freedoms of living in the UK but proportionally pay less to society for their largese.
          Put up corporation tax
          Go after the black economy and cash in hand jobs.
          Invest in infrastructure. Every £ spent on infrastructure has been shown to bring in £3-4 a year in return. So road repairs and improvements. Tram and rail lines. Power stations (tidal or wave powered). We need lots of electrical power to fuel the battery powered future of zero emissions vehicles.
          Lots of measures the government can do to increase tax revenue. Simply grow the economy and target tax avoidance ruthlessly then we should have billions a year more for defence.

          • Even if money was not an issue we could never man all those ships, unless you want to bring back press gangs. Yes the government can increase spending but without conscription it would be pointless, we can’t crew 17 escorts never mind 23.

  2. IIRC she was at one time scheduled to take over from QNLZ for further flying trials in 2019, and so first sea trials this time next year looks like a big schedule slip to me.

  3. I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s been explained why these ships will not be fitted with missile systems. Just get over it.

    These ships will be very ably defended from air attack by a task group consisting of (but not exclusively by) T45, T23/6 and also the onboard F35’s.

    • i just do hope they at least have anti torpedo defenses like the us carriers do….. that’s a far bigger concern imo cause there have been plenty of instances of subs winning in wargames….

      • @BadBehaviour
        The reasons I have heard or read about all seem soft. The idea that the missiles would cause debris on the ship etc is clealry non-sense. Firstly because a bit of debris is better than a lost ship, secondly because hermes was not designed for missiles and so lessons should have been learnt, how to avoid the issue and finally because we don’t have enough escorts to make up an effective layered defence. We just can’t afford to have more than a single destroyer ecorting them and that is inadequate for a number of reasons, not least because the carriers hull will cause a radar blind spot

        If we had enough destroyers to have 2-3 escorting and 4 ish frigates, I would agree no need for point defence missiles but as we don’t the arguements don’t stack up in my opinion.

        I don’t get why the missiled couldn’t be mounted on points below the deck, maybe level with the bottom of the lifts but to the side of them, and fired diagonal (45d or similar angle rather than straight up) to avoid debris. Yes it brings risk of other ships getting in the way like what happened to Coventry but the height of the carrier should mostly mitigate this and again I come back to better to risk it than have a sunk carrier.

        • Guys if any of you know of either an anti-air or anti-ship missile system superior in range to what the F35’s can provide you will have a point but to the best of my knowledge there isn’t one. The ships are carriers we have built them because they’re the best system to provide anti-air, ship and submarine warfare. If there are missile systems better we should not have built them.

          • Any point defence missile is better than the F35. Point defence is there as a last ditch backup after the umbrella probably by area defence has failed to spot an incoming missile or intercept it. Yes F35 is a great defensive aid but it’s not possible to have them in the air 24/7 and not possible to get one up fast enough for a last ditched defence.

            Layered defence is just that, many layers working together to guarantee protection. The F35 would be one of the outter layers.

        • We will always be part of a international task group, we would have other NATO Escorts with us as well as our own, we have had T45’s working with US Navy carriers and the French carrier, it’s very common these days. Everyone needs to get over these fantasy fleets and Tom Clancy inspired wars, the Navy knows what it is doing.

          • Robert. The navy top brass have said repeatedly to the commons defence select committee that the minimum number of escort warships needed now. In peacetime with no war waging is 26 frigates and destroyers just to match current commitments in peacetime. We have 17 in active service.
            They have also said that the last 2 SDSRs that cut 8000 personnel from the RN as well as 7 frigates and 4 nuclear subs need to be reversed. So yes theNavy knows what it is doing but is being constantly ignored by the bean counters in the treasury and spreadsheet Phill. Economy grew by 1.6% last year we should simply index link defence expenditure to economic growth. Holding expenditure when growth is restrained or in recession but growing the armed forces year on year with the economy.

      • Agree the QEs need the Italian anti torpedo anti mine rocket system fitted to the Italian Fremm class frigates. Subsurface and missile strikes are the biggest threat to the QEs.

  4. Just a question from a simple career soldier. Where will the crew be dug out from? We all know the RN is suffering from severe manpower shortages (like we are thanks to Capita) or will she be sailed around for a few weeks for PR purposes then parked up in Portsmouth in reserve?

    • I think a lot of the crews are based on new recruits. From that documentary they did last year everyone looked very fresh faced, which probably makes sense considering the entire ship will be new to everyone. In that case I’m sure the RN hasn’t struggled to attract 700 youngsters to sign up to serve on board an aircraft carrier. I think the hardest task will be retaining them once they are skilled up.

  5. Oh Dear , that statement ” we will get as close to Budget as possible speaks volumes. Look out for a Budget over run

  6. Airborne

    Put simply – the RN is probably at least 6k sailors short of where it needs to be.

    the Army is short of its targets by about 8k. Seems to me that 8k needs to be assigned to the navy perhaps in exchange for the RM moving the other way.

    Our forces need rebalancing – but the top brass dont want to do it. Poor leadership in my mind.

    Ultimately there is no need for either to occur, there is a fantastic small country called Nepal that has high quality soldiers who would just love to be part of the British Army / Navy.

    We could and should provide our friends from this country the opportunity to join the navy /army and plug these gaps – even on a 5 year term it would probably be life changing for the individuals involved and their families.

    Again – our government and top brass probably wont do this, and that is both depressing and disappointing.

  7. Such a well populated country we are & yet we have manpower shortages in our armed forces.
    It’s a disgrace that we manage our personnel so badly that they don’t want to stay, especially highly trained engineers which are the lynch pin of the RN. We ask these sailors to risk life & limb for their country, yet refuse to reward them sufficiently or back them up. For far too long the accountants & idiotic politicians have run the forces into the ground.

    With such a weak escort fleet we can’t rely on having enough escorts to properly, even adequately, escort the QEs, so a SAM system is a must. No other large carrier is as poorly equipped in SAMs/CIWS as the QEs. The USN has 2 SAM systems(ESSM & RAM) on its carriers & assault carriers, with Phalanx as the last ditch.
    In war things inevitably go wrong & defences that theoretically should protect the ship are found wanting due to glitches & the unforeseen; but the more layers of defence you start with, the better survivability you have. It is bonkers to spend all that money building 2 big carriers only to skimp on the things that can protect them, both weapons & escorts. We owe it to the crew alone.

      • The problem is far far more complex.

        We are a developed country, with a raising middle class, with the lower paid jobs needing to be filled by immigrants from eastern europe, because the locals think the jobs are below them.

        The military has historically pulled from the working class, from families looking to better themselves (ignoring the officers) and that proportion of the population has significantly reduced over the last few decades and will continue to reduce. The working class is now predominately made up of immigrants, that have no connection to the UK and so don’t feel the patriotic urge to enlist.

        This is a reality of the western world, the US was having the same problem until sept 11, at which point they had a large influx of recruits (let’s not go down the route of the country being attacked to solve the problem), but is now having problems.

        Combine that with the military has always recruited on the basis of join up and see the world, but with cheap flights and holidays, that is not so valued anymore.

        There is not an easy solution to this.

        The solution is to cut the public sector pension (would never happen, would be constant strikes and the country would crash), switch it from a guaranteed scheme to more aligned with the public sector. The thinking behind this is because the public sector pension is a massively undervalued income by the young (new recruits and lets face it when we were young we never thought about our pensions) but realistically worth around 100% of their income (with low interest rates, probably worth more), so that when new recruits compare again public sector, they can look at the salary figure and see the military actually pays pretty well

    • And who exactly has the political will, and the technology to successfully engage a British or American aircraft carrier? How many have been fired at in the last 30 years,? Zero, that’s how many, SAM systems on carriers are a waste of money, looks good in the brochure, but that’s about it.i served for 14 years on Invincible class carriers, we had 3 phalanx, no missiles, and I felt safe as house’s. Because the layered defence system works extremely well, plus nobody puts a carrier within 300 miles of anyone that might seriously want to shoot at you, and people seriously underestimate how difficult it is to even find a carrier, let alone get a firing solution , and launch an attack.

  8. I think Sea Ceptor will be installed in due course, it does not need the guidence/ fire control nor associated radar, the missile can be linked directly to the fire control and sensors within the escorts. In due course I assume Sea Ceptor will replace the short range Astor 15 within the type 45 at which point additional SC launch facilities will be added to PoW and QE. Looking at the larger picture it is quite obvious that the commonality of UK missile systems is the driving force of developing the back bone of the fleet protection umbrella. It will take a while and some will comment on lack of missiles / protection, however it is going in the right direction.

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