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According to BAE, HMS Queen Elizabeth has a maximum speed of 25 knots but typically in projects like this these maximums are understated.

The 70,600 tonne vessel reached a speed of 27.1 knots according to AIS.

The automatic identification system (AIS) is a tracking system used for collision avoidance on ships and by vessel traffic services. Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, position, course, and speed, can be displayed on a screen or in a simpler format on many websites.

Each ship features two power MT30 Gas turbines, that according to Rolls Royce are part of their efforts pioneering the use of aero-derivative gas turbines:

“Rolls-Royce pioneered the use of aero-derivative gas turbines in marine propulsion, primarily for naval vessels. The MT30 Gas turbines that power the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are the most powerful in-service gas turbines in the world.

Designed for the 21st century navies, the MT30 integrates the very latest in gas turbine technology to give efficiency and reliability with a market leading power to weight ratio. It has been designed to minimise maintenance costs and first entered service in 2008 powering the US Navy’s first littoral combat ship – USS Freedom.

Produced in Bristol, the MT30 Gas turbine and alternator sets are each located under one of the ships islands.”

Navies rarely give accurate estimations of speed, preferring to keep potential opponents guessing, but HMS Queen Elizabeth has comfortably exceeded her original maximum and it’s estimated by some that the design is capable of 32 knots.

55 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not knocking QEC, I’m a definite fan of these ships, the design choices made and am optimistic about how they will perform in sea trials and beyond but, to give another perspective …

    People who seem to know what they’re talking about on another forum have commented that exceeding the top published design speed on these sea trials is to be expected, in fact required. Apparently the “maximum speed” is the design figure (at least the publicly disclosed one) for top speed under full load and with worst-case hull fouling (i.e. maximum expected barnacle and other build-up on the hull before she goes in for de-fouling) so with a clean hull and not at full load (as she is on the sea trials at the moment) we really should expect to see design speed easily met with a decent margin to spare.

    There’s also speculation that we (the public) are not going to see the actual full speed when clean on these tests because when they do the really serious tests to determine maximum speed they will turn off the AIS.

    • Not sure there would be a big difference in top speed between fully loaded (aircraft, fuel, people) and now. I mean, what’s the weight difference between the two, probably not even 5%.

      • Take a look at the waterline marking (plimsoll line) in the picture on this article to see how much deeper she will sink into the water when fully loaded. And if you think that’s just the wake exposing it then google for other pictures in the last few weeks with her stationary. It’s clear she’s at nothing like full load.

        Adding aircraft, fuel for them to sustain the sort of sortie generation rates she is designed for (about 1 tonne per sortie), a whole load of munitions (Paveway at 1,000lbs each excluding any storage and handling frames), food for 1,600 crew, spares, loading the ships own bunkers to full capacity, etc, etc and it will be a lot more than 5% extra on her weight now.

    • The serious measured mile speed test used to be done in the Clyde on the course near Ailsa Craig. Not sure if it still is though.

    • HMS EAGLE in 1952 achieved 36 over the measured mile. No aircraft or full stores on board….so not so funny. It required 32 knots of wind over the deck to get free take off for the piston powered aircraft (Firebrands, Firefly, Sea Hornets).
      Maybe a bit before your time though!…. :¬))

      • Because another carrier did 36 knots, so will the QE. Mmmm great logic. I guess my car can do 200 mph because a Ferrari can.

        QE’s contracted max is 25 knots full load at the end of commission, i.e. deep and dirty. Talk of 32 knots is pure wishful thinking like the 34/36 knot type 23’s.

        • You have carrier/ sea experience?
          No mention was made the the QE would fo 36. I was pointing out that it was possible for the ship to do more than design specified and no doubt the MOD would keep the expected top speed very quiet..
          This morning (26/7) at 02.56 it did 27 knots.

          • She’s empty and clean so 27 knots. Full & dirty, she’ll be 25. What don’t you understand?

  2. I’m assuming running at top speed consumes fuel at an alarming rate and is only really used in times of all out war.

    • From what ìve heard carriers often go up to higher speeds to help aircraft takeoffs. Increasing the speed of the ship increases airspeed over the deck and therefore lift for the aircraft.

      I’m sure someone else can explain it better and more accurately than I have. Keeping up with carrier groups may also be why the new RFA replenishment ships have significantly higher top speeds than the ones they’re replacing.

  3. can anyone explain why there are zero defensive phalanx platforms on HMS Queen Elizabeth …shes a sitting duck.

    • It’s on builders sea trials and not yet commissioned, so won’t be heading into harms way. The North Sea is pretty safe!

      Queen Elizabeth will have three Phalanx CIWS when it’s handed over to the Royal Navy.

    • Because my friend we have a doughnut eating government, who only care about the next doughnut, and not the defense of a brand-new carrier. The fact that it’s only got some machine guns is mind boggling.

    • No one is going to attack it in the North Sea and if they were they wouldnt use a tracable Anti Ship missile.

      • Whilst of course true, isn’t this all about testing the vessel, and shouldn’t its defensive abilities be part of this, even as limited as they are.

        Bright side is we now have a carrier in the sea, so in the worst case we have her to use. Ok we only have a couple of f35b’s in the country to be able to use, but its a start.

    • Because they haven’t been fitted yet. The RN signed a £20m contract with babcock in 2014 for 4 phalanx 1b’s, with 3 of those earmarked for the QE

    • Built for but not with ? Would agree CIWS would be good to have but she’s a Carrier. Her best defence both for herself and her escorts are her aircraft. They should be first on the shopping list.

  4. AIS…akways taught to view with caution. Did she have a following current/ tide, SOG, STW,? Where was the wind ? Coming from astern? Not.enough info to get excited about…Comments about ballast, etc also.pertinent. On a positive note it’s a good start…

  5. In my view We should have defensive as well as offensive capabilities she will be sailing the world’s oceans and in arms way

  6. Bemoaning the lack of Sea Ceptor aside, does anyone know why only 3 Phalanx CIWS are planned to be added? I would have thought at least 4 would be needed – two each side – to give effective covering fire. With only one, there is no backup in case of a malfunction, ammo depletion, etc.,.

    Please tell me this is not yet another penny-pinching move to save money……….

    • the reason for 4 is normally to avoid the ships infrastructure getting in the way of line of sight. Maybe with it being much thinner at the front this isn’t a problem.

      • Gotcha Steve – thanks . I still don’t feel comfortable with just one covering half the ship in case of failure or somehow it is incapacitated – then what? I just think it’s ludicrous to not adequately protect the largest and most expensive naval assets in our history. Baffling!!

    • 3 Phalanx will give it hemispherical coverage. All the mounts will talk to each other anyway to work out which one has the best kill percentage chance.
      You don’t want to be firing phalanx over the flight deck anyway.
      The FOD hazard from orange plastic sabots and aluminum pushers is huge, not some thing you want to suck up a jets intake any way.

    • i don’t see one today, but defence is about being prepared in case you do not spot them in time to react and build up, which would take well over a decade to do. A years or even a day before the Falklands, I doubt if 99% of the population saw Argentina as the aggressor or had heard of the small islands.

    • How about the group that nutjob belongs to who bombed innocent kids watching a pop concert in one of our cities, do you not see them as an enemy TH?

    • Terrorist training camps wherever they might crop up, probably in countries that at some time in the future become failed states and rule of law breaks down to the extent that terrorist groups establish such training and planning facilities relatively unmolested. The ability to project power that these carriers gives us allows either intervention to prevent the state failure in the first place and/or to attack such camps and disrupt terrorist safe havens before they can become established.

  7. I know nothing of naval matters so please dont pillory me if this question is stupid.
    I read there were around 14 SHARS being used for deck handling training at Culdrose. Is there any possibility that these could be brought back into service as an interim measure until the F35 start to arrive in numbers?

  8. Stated 25 Kts is top speed through the water. AIS shows speed over the ground. So potentially that is 25 + 2.1 knots of tide. Am I wrong?

  9. So what happened to the reported 9mm out of synch drive shaft to one of the Propellers reported two or three days ago. and the Poster who claimed he worked on the Carrier a couple of years ago and there were problems then . i dont think so , a couple of years ago the drive shafts wern,t even running. Fake news perhaps

  10. Another point I understood these Carriers were 50,000 ton displacement but the headline above quotes 76,000ton , it appears to have put on some weight,just like me

    • I’ve never seen the 50,000 ton figure but the figure for a long time in multiple places that I saw was 65,000 tonnes and I think you also have a typo because the new figure is 70,600 tonnes not 76,000.

      I’m not sure where the extra weight came from (or if it’s real) although, given that I believe 70,000 tonnes is the point at which a carrier starts being considered to be a “super carrier”, the cynic in me does wonder whether Fallon recently ordered 5,600 tonnes of ballast to be added so that he had another soundbite to add to his “£178 billion equipment budget” one.

  11. I know the prospective weight went up during design but I would have assumed relatively speaking it would have been baked in for some time now. 70,000 or thereabouts (never less than that figure) is always the figure that I have heard mentioned since that original design stage, some minor variations can/will no doubt occur post that depending upon final fitments which can obviously change.

  12. Think this thing will need a hand held GPS to get around on never mind the usual sectional drawing notices…. :))

  13. I think it is a case, as always with the Royal Navy, give the smallest dimensions in lenght (round down to 280 metres or make the bow look cut off short, which it does) or give lenght between perpendiculars, width at the light load waterline, lightest displacement or any other type of measurement that gives the lowest figure. Of course, give the lowest speed. These ships look like they will in the future easily be suitable for a hull lenghtening bock too, given their lenght to width ratio. Never big yourself up.

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