Since her departure from Rosyth, HMS Queen Elizabeth has already had shots fired across her bow even before becoming operational.
Thankfully they are only verbal shots, as she currently has limited defensive capabilities and escorts due to undertaking sea trials.
Her first trip into open water has left some in awe of the vast size and sheer complexity of a project that has taken 8 years to build, however she has still managed to come under considerable scrutiny and defamation from a multitude of military and government officials, all wanting to voice their perspective. The 70,600 Tonne Aircraft Carrier has been criticised by some for being ‘a white elephant’, mocked by the Russians ‘for being a convenient target’ and even slated ‘for having no aircraft’ by various groups.
Despite all this negativity, most defence minded people are remaining optimistic and until she becomes fully operational around the early 2020s, we won’t truly comprehend the full benefits and capabilities of this grand vessel.
So what might we expect HMS Queen Elizabeth operations to cover?
Well, unlike its US counterparts we can assume it will be a much more flexible asset, used as a conventional Fleet Carrier for some missions and a dual purpose lead Ship for others.
The versatility that the Navy expects of its new £3 Billion acquisition means it could take over from a US Navy Carrier Group in the Middle East, providing air cover or strike missions against terrorist organisations, supported by its own fleet of escorts, either RN vessels or an international coalition.
It could then be required to support the UN in peacekeeping operations in Africa, or elsewhere in the world, in which case it can hold 250 Royal Marines on-board with the ability to deploy in an amphibious capacity.
Another role it may fulfil is supporting during a humanitarian mission, whether it be a migrant crisis similar to the one currently in the Mediterranean or when natural disasters occur, like searching for a downed Airliner or earthquakes in South America.
No matter what the government tasks its new carrier to do, it is clear to see she is crucial to the Royal Navy’s expeditionary warfare role and will also enable the UK to tackle multiple and changing threats across the globe.