HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned home to Portsmouth for the first time as a “fully-trained aircraft carrier”, say the Royal Navy.

HMS Queen Elizabeth cleared her penultimate hurdle for front-line duties after ten hugely-demanding weeks around the UK, preparing for her maiden deployment in the new year.

“A final package of training in the autumn – working alongside NATO and US allies – will confirm her ability to act as a task group flagship, so that she can lead a potent carrier strike force on front-line operations anywhere in the world.”

The Royal Navy say that in view of the size and complexity of the carrier, she received a dedicated training package, initially off the south coast, to test the ability of all 1,100 men and women on board to deal with everything they might expect to face in peace and war. The training package reached its climax with 18 fictional fire and flood incidents raging simultaneously – with the ship expected to continue flying operations while damage control teams toiled in the carrier’s depths.

F-35Bs on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said:

“HMS Queen Elizabeth is an extraordinary ship crewed by extraordinary people from both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. They deployed at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak and have remained at sea for over 10 weeks so that they could complete their operational training with the minimal risk of infection.

They’ve put their duty to our country ahead of spending time with their families during the pandemic and in the process, they’ve taken us a step closer to, once again, having a carrier strike capability with the capacity to project British influence across the globe.”

The Royal Navy say that HMS Queen Elizabeth will now enjoy planned maintenance in Portsmouth before task group training later in the year, which will also see the ship work with two F-35 squadrons for the first time. You can read more on this from the Royal Navy here.

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DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago

Well done to the crew and those involved, does that mean the ship and aircraft combination are at the IOC stage?

The next question would be about next years World Tour. If the ship has the embarked USMC F35s, I take it the USN will include at least an AB and perhaps a supply ship as well. Would their supply ship be able to RAS with the carrier?

Helions
Helions
2 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Yes, they UNREP with the USN’s carriers and large assault ships all the time.

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Cheers!

Ron5
Ron5
2 months ago
Reply to  Helions

That wasn’t the question.

Helions
Helions
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

?

Iain
Iain
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

To which the answer is yes. They have practiced taking on stores and fuel from US support ships in the previous two WestLant deployments

Helions
Helions
2 months ago
Reply to  Iain

Thank you Iain,

That’s what I was trying to say. Our respective navy’s replenishment ships are fully interoperable with any NATO warship regarding UNREP. A NATO carrier is a NATO carrier…

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Cheers

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago
Reply to  Helions

Awesome, cheers guys. I had my suspicions they could. Perhaps if a US Navy ship was assigned as part of next years task group, it may get us out of the cack if there’s a problem with the Fort.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
2 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Ref your other question, the recent NAO report states Lightning II and Carrier Strike IOC as December 2020, with Crowsnest IOC September, 2021. I presume that might require operating a full squadron of 12 aircraft from the carrier, along with the Autumn inter-operational training requirements. I haven’t seen mention of any other formal IOC as an interim subset/step-along-the-way, which I guess is what you may be asking.

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

Considering the statement that not all the existing jets would get upgraded to batch 4 spec, what missiles/bombs can the current jets utilise?

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

ASRAAM/AMRAAM and paveway 4. both internal and under the wing’s.

ETH
ETH
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

I presume block 4 would see the final integration of Meteor and SPEAR?

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  ETH

Yes, I think that’s the plan. 👍

Joe16
Joe16
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

That’s my understanding too.
If I understand correctly, we would also theoretically be able to utilise LRASM and JSM as the software required would be on our aircraft as well. We’d just have to have the weapons and (maybe) train the pilots to use them, although I expect the engagement process is more dictated by the aircraft interface than the weapon.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

According to Lockheed Martin, the Block 4 upgrade incorporates 53 upgrades of which 80% is new software, whilst the remaining 20% is hardware. In advance of Block 4, most existing F-35s are getting new hardware, including new cockpit displays, more system memory, and faster processors, in a package called Technology Refresh 3. New weapons Block 4 will support: 1. The Stormbreaker smart glide bomb (formerly known as Small Diameter Bomb II). 2. The UK’s ASRAAM and Meteor missiles. 3. Turkey and Lockheed Martin’s Standoff Missile (SOM-J). 4. The Kongsberg/Raytheon Joint Strike Missile, a new missile capable of land attack and… Read more »

julian1
julian1
2 months ago

does anyone know the plans for PoW this year – all the action seems to be had by QE

Cam
Cam
2 months ago
Reply to  julian1

Isn’t it just a mirror of QE but a year or so behind.

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago

I have thought, and it’s an idle speculation, why are squadrons fixed at 12? Why not offer a bit of flexibility with say squadrons of 8 grouped in “wings” of 3. 24 aircraft, but only say 16 planes under standard operational purposes. This would rotate the squadrons, and would allow rotation, rest training and upgrades. Two full wings would be 48 planes. And 2 “part” wings would put 32 planes in the air at a fair lick on a hot assignment. Put a couple of spares or 3 (planes and pilots) in the mix … and a full compliment on… Read more »

GWM
GWM
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

The numbers of aircraft in a squadron vary and is not fixed the F35 is currently 8 I believe.There are rumours that the second FAA badged squadron will not now be formed and we we will have 1 bigger one with flights assigned from it as needed as a cost saving.
I doubt we will ever see 24 UK aircraft on a carrier unless its a wartime requirement , more likely to be 12 with the odd surge to 16 ,the current clowns in government are not carrier friendly.

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  GWM

The question is when is there ever going to be more an 24? The French one rarely has more than 24 and 36 means it’s full.

My point is at with 8 in a “squadron” it offers a coherent organised way to be flexible. And as I say, these planes can be land based if needed.

Even if only 1 carrier is on operations at a time. the planes and pilots need down time, hence pointing out having 2 “wings”.

Bill
Bill
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

What do you mean ‘even if’ only one carrier is operated at a time?? How can two possibly operate simaltaneously?The French btw, never sail with less than 24 and have carried their full complement previously. The QE class despite grand talk will likely never have two British squadrons i e. 24 jets embarked. Sailing these huge monoliths with 12 frontline (British) jets is likely their realistic future. For the investment made in the carriers and the F35b variant this is a wholly unsatisfactory return. We have more than twice the number of trained pilots than available aircraft now. Let’s hope… Read more »

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill

it didn’t carry any aircraft when it was recording…

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

…refitting

Andrew
Andrew
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Trevor, that’s a pretty pedantic answer….

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

Well the intention of the UK is to have 2 carriers which can keep 1 ship viable for operations all the time. The French make a major compromise.

Plus, not hoping to be pedantic, the CdeG was laid down in 1989 and sailed on it first operation in 2001. A very long time. We British have been more efficient and have 2 bigger ships. And better aircraft. And the CdeG has had endless problems limiting it’s service.

So it’s fair to point out that numbers of planes is only 1 criterion.

OOA
OOA
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Bill, if what you’re saying is true regarding CDG always sailing with at least 24 jets, how can they do that with a total fleet of 44 Rafale M when also you say will only able to routinely field 12 jets from a fleet of 48?

Steve R
Steve R
2 months ago
Reply to  OOA

I disagree with Bill

During a normal, peacetime tour there might be only 12 on board, plus helicopters – so probably between 20-30 total aircraft – but any conflict scenario would see 24 F35s loaded onto the carrier.

If we’re up against a peer enemy then this is more likely 30-36, though this is brown-trousers time!

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

To be honest, the number of aircraft assigned to a squadron is pretty irrelevant , as they operate as a whole force concept. meaning aircraft move between sqns as they are needed for tasking and operations. it’s a bit like the RAF’s expeditionary force structure, for setting up a mini RAF base with everything they need for extended operations overseas.

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

This is all true. A plane is a plane as are its numbers after all.
I just make an idle speculation that putting smaller squadrons together as “wings” applies logic and coherency as well as flexibility. Currently we seem to send out sorties of no more than 4… but I may be getting that wrong.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

The number will increase, by 2023 we will be able to deploy 24 British F35’s. but even that number in this day and age is pretty impressive. You would have to go back all the way to the 2003 gulf war, was the last time we deployed a single fast jet type in greater numbers then 24, think we sent 32 Tornado GR4’s to the gulf. And even a small number of F35’s is a serious capability.

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

We can only hope the top brass don’t get their wish to split buy the F35 between A/ B models. A serious move towards the ‘A’ model in the late 2020’s, would mean an abandonment of Tempest project, probably cancelled before it goes any further. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly likely. Such a decision will degrade and limit Carrier Strike for the first 30 years of their lives. Persistent rumours of abandoning the QE class Royal Marines embarkation modifications, also make grim reading for the future of the Royal Marines. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Marines reduced to 4,000 in… Read more »

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

It’s 2.1% currently.

France it’s 1.8%. France has missile subs, marines and aircraft carrier.

To be fair we have better planes, thanks to the F35.

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

And PS, Tempest is a replacement for Typhoon.

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Hi Trevor, France (rightly or wrongly) tends to go for cheaper options all round. They have a carrier, yes, but, availability is not great, with predictable periods of being unavailable due to refits, refueling etc. This makes the French Carrier of dubious value. I’ll give you a copper bottomed guarantee Trevor, if the RAF get the F35A, there won’t be a Tempest, it will be quietly disposed of and disappear into the mist. I would sumise that some elements within the RAF, see the Tempest as a potential massive money eating monster, that will drain resources away and invariably be… Read more »

TrevorH
TrevorH
2 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Tempest is a long way away and the F35 has already had a long gestation period.
Typhoon will need replacing and the the question is what is needed in respect of a air superiority plane?

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Don’t get me wrong Trevor, I’m all for team Tempest, but, I’ve been around long enough and watched the fools errand of haphazard UK procurement for decades, I have a good nose for were we are going! Tempest will be needed from 2035 ‘ish’, the F35 will like the F16 be in production for decades ahead, in increasingly capable forms. LM will be offering a very capable block 6 or 7 by then that will probably be ‘good enough’ and offered at half the cost of Tempest. It’s just very hard to see how Tempest can possibly be funded against… Read more »

Bill
Bill
2 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

France’s spending will increase with the new subs and new state of the art frigates. Incidentally, have you seen the defensive suite on the CDG? Still we have phalanx and gimpys as a last line of defence.

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill

True Bill, but they keep the displacement and sophistication of their ships and subs down in general, it keeps a lid on spending, though France has an armed forces with a somewhat patchy capability, due to cost cutting and limiting equipment fit. I suppose we are dipping our toe into the same water with T31, at least we have a platform big enough to up arm, if and when we can afford it. CDG is certainly well protected, with the limited number of escorts the Royal Navy has, I would like to see the QE class fitted with Sea Ceptor… Read more »

T.S
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill

The Italians small carrier even has 32 Aster 15 and 2 76mm guns by the look of it!

Steve R
Steve R
2 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

RAF top brass haven’t said that, what a handful of officers may say doesn’t reflect the whole RAF. Any A-model variants would only come if defence spending increased to the point where additional units could be ordered. To be honest, even if the Chancellor did throw a few extra billion at the RAF for additional F35s it would make more sense to still use the F35B; say we got all 138 in our inventory all together in service (fantasy I know, but for the sake of argument) we could stand up a 5th and 6th squadron from that, so 3… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Steve, I completely agree with you, just saying what I think will actually happen, as opposed to what I wish would happen.

The RAF will probably end up with the F35A and no Tempest, it’s just the inevitable direction of travel I think.

alloallo
alloallo
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

12 is more than enough. Stop wanting something that won’t happen. 12 is World.Beating.

We don’t need anymore than that. It is probably the most fantastic capability outside the USN.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  alloallo

That is very true.

Bill
Bill
2 months ago

Fully trained? For four jets and three helicopters simultaneously? Ridiculous statement. It will never sail with 50+ aircraft which it can cope with, but even with 24 jets and maybe up to 8 other aircraft that is a hell of a different proposition unless we are planning for next years cruise with just 4 jets embarked!

Badrobot
Badrobot
2 months ago

Good discussion but it’s nearly always from the perspective of what can the UK do compared to say France or operating alone and being vastly outnumbered. Whereas our defence posture is a collective one through NATO. So if we’re taking on any peer threats it will be carrier groups, with contributions from most members. Surely the deployed airwing from all participants would be far in excess of 24 in a scenario where 12 UK f35s were not sufficient.

AndyCee
AndyCee
2 months ago
Reply to  Badrobot

Aside from the USMC, which other of our likely allies have F35B? In Europe, are Italy and Spain getting any?
Further afield, Japan and Australia are the only other users of the B, aren’t they?

Badrobot
Badrobot
2 months ago
Reply to  AndyCee

Sorry, I meant in any scenario where 24 f35 is not enough…say if Russia turns up the heat on the Baltics and northern Scandinavia, I would have thought our CBG airwing would go up to 36 with usmc, the Charles DG and probably a US carrier would all surge together, with lots of escorts and subs from European countries. Ditto if the heat is in the med or black sea but with the Spanish and Italian light carriers too. So when the peer threat takes priority the air wing would be a nato airwing across multiple carriers of around a… Read more »

AndyCee
AndyCee
2 months ago
Reply to  Badrobot

Makes sense
Incidentally, I was wrong about Aus, but Korea and Singapore both have F35Bs along with Japan. I’d say it makes sense to have much cross decking when the QE is out in the Far East on deployment 🙂

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago
Reply to  AndyCee

Italy has bought (15 so far) F35Bs primarily for their new Trieste LHD carrier and the older Cavour. Although the Canberras of the Australian Navy have the ski jump, the deck does not have the thermal coating for the F35Bs. There are also rumours that the deck can’t take the weight. To that end Australia won’t be purchasing the F35B in the short term. Spain has for the time being cancelled the plans to replace its Harriers with F35Bs, which are having their lives extended to 2030. Japan, will be the only other carrier Nation with F35Bs. Although it looks… Read more »

OOA
OOA
2 months ago

I have a feeling it was critical that this deployment went well ahead of the forthcoming Defence review. Can you imagine how the dice would have been loaded by a foul-up? Well done to all involved I would say. On the defense review: I hope we don’t end-up with a fudge. We ideally need a credible ability to operate 2 decks simultaneously – albeit perhaps with slightly different airgroups – as the idea of having a vessel like QE or POW effectively as a spare is ridiculous. If this is unaffordable, I’d sooner end-up with a French style solution of… Read more »

Ian
Ian
2 months ago
Reply to  OOA

What do you mean by ‘spare’? Having one ship available at all times necessitates having at least two.

OOA
OOA
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian

You seem to have missed the point. I’m saying if we end up with 2 ships but only end up with money for enough people and planes for 1, then the second hull is underutilised. Having built 2 of them, I hope we can operate 2 some of the time. If we can’t it may be time to think again.