HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked the largest air group of 5th Generation fighters ever put to sea.

Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Commodore Steve Moorhouse, tweeted:

“We embarked the largest air group of 5th generation fighters ever put to sea – finally silencing those who harp on about ‘carriers without jets’. UK F-35B numbers will grow, but the ability to operate UK & US jets interchangeably from a British deck offers massive flexibility.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth (and her 15 F-35B jets) was sailing with HMS Defender, HMS Diamond, HMS Northumberland, HMS Kent, RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tideforce in addition to the USS The Sullivans and Dutch vessel HNLMS Evertsen.

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
57 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Levi Goldsteinberg

Well…kind of. Our painfully slow buy rate of F35s does still leave us depending on the septics to fill up more than half of the air group

Paul42

Yes, although this is an achievement we can rightfully be proud of, it was an exercise. How many F35Bs will be embarked for the first operational deployment next year? Plus of course Crowsnest needs to be fully up and running.
Not to forget we have a second carrier with virtually nothing to put on her at all!

Robert Blay

The plan has always been to operate one carrier at readiness to fit around refits and maintenance. So we have one carrier available 365 day’s a year for operations.

Steve R

I can’t see why it’s so slow.

Surely we could get 12 within a year to srand up a 2nd squadron.

ETH

Waiting for the price to go down and for block 4 F35’s to be ready. Block 4 is the block which can integrate Meteor, SPEAR 3 and future weapons.

rec

Great progress with limited budget, as I have mentioned elsewhere, more Merlins and 2 dedicated RN F35 squadrons. We could argue that if the F35 was an RN asset, then fewer would be needed say 76. The RAF could go down the same route as the Germans, 24 more Typhoons and a squadron of F18 Growlers. This would keep BAE ticking over until Tempest. And what was Westland ticking over too. A win win in these tough economic times.

TrevorH

These Carriers are here for a 50 year life so over that time we will need quite a few more than 76 ??

rec

But who knows what will be required by 2035? By the F35 will be old school.

TrevorH

Will it? When did the first F15 fly? 1972.
The F18 first flew in 1978. SAAB Gripen flew in 1988 Tornado in 1994.

The F35 has a long life ahead of it. Its a platform and will be well developed. Just as all these other planes have continued to have.

Paul C

It will still be relatively young in 2035. Look how long the Harrier lasted in service.

Robert Blay

I think this is what they mean by 138 over the life of the project.

George Royce

No I’d say they’re here for 25-30. Hypersonic missiles might bring about a new era of naval warfare in which, the carrier is too slow, too vulnerable and too short-legged.

Robert Blay

That would cost even more money, for less capable aircraft. And F35 business is probably worth more to BAE the hundredsof suppliersaroundthe UK. Keeping Typhoon production going would be great, but it would be a false economy for carrier strike.

Andrew Smith

The Typhoon is old kit and needs to be supplemented by newer aircraft. F35A as they are cheaper than the B, and it’s odd to pay for a carrier variant once we have enough Bs for a carrier or two

ETH

We will never have enough B’s for ‘a carrier or two’ unless the full order of 138 is carried through. That was the number projected to sustain carrier strike.

Typhoon is certainly not ‘old tech’. It’s very much cutting edge tech in a modern airframe – see ECRS Mk2 under development, intended to be one of the most powerful and advanced AESA radars on a jet with a focus on electronic warfare.

rec

I would feel more comfortable a out this, if

1) That long term the 2 planned RN badged squadrons are for carrier only for carrier ops and have 14 aircraft in each. Even if that means the RAF badged squadrons have 9 aircraft per squadron.

2) Short term, the shortage of Merlin HM2 is addressed. With 12 to 15 new builds

Robert Blay

It’s a joint RAF/RN force, they will all be carrier going sqns, as well as land based operations. Totally flexibility.

rec

History shoes that doesnt work, cf 1920 and 1930s where the FAA was under RAF control, by 1939 we had good aircraft carriers but no high spec carrier aircraft. Joint is good as long as there are two dedicated Carrier squadrons. Aircraft can ony be in in place at a time. No other serious power with carriers does not have maritime only squadrons (even Italy) . Sorry joint force yes but only with 2 dedicated RN squadrons to go alongside 2 or 3 RAF ones.

Robert Blay

We operated Joint Force Harrier very successfully, with all sqns operating at sea, and land based operations. That inherent flexibility brought a great amount of experience, and options for force commanders, when we don’t have the mass of the USN as an example.

rec

Yes ip to a point. But the end result was no carrier based aircraft post 2010, and prior to that CR7, which was inferior to the Sea Harrier in the air defence role. So joint tes but.

Robert Blay

Yes, but as we were concentrated on a land locked insurgency campaign, carrier born air defence was not seen as the priority. F35 will provide both air air and ground attack capabilitys. The capability is key, not who operates it, or what sqn number is used. 617sqn has a Royal Navy boss for example, and the sqn’s will be 50/50 RAF/RN manned.

Paul C

Correct, and if the truth be known we gave up on fixed-wing naval aviation in 2007. From then on the two remaining Invincibles were to all intents and purposes helicopter carriers.

Andrew Smith

The A varient is much cheaper. There is no good reason for the entire purchase to be Bs

Geoff

They have to serve for a long time. 50 years perhaps, since thats the lifetime of the carriers. I dont see the carriers being refitted for catapults and arrestors. And the RAF havent replaced the Harrier GR9 use case. I think they should all remain B version. Whether they do or not, or whether we really get 138, is another question. And of course, with 48 we have no ability to surge 2 carriers (whether its planned or not) without USMC or maybe Italian help….

Geoff

I guess Tempest has killed an A-version order.

RobW

For all our moaning about hull numbers etc you have to admire the RN for getting on with things despite all the issues and especially Covid. They keep going day after day fulfilling all their tasks at a rate few other navies can match. Good on them. Imagine what they could do with just a little more investment.

Paul42

Indeed, even a little more funding could go a long way. Certain issues need to be addressed, shortage of Merlins, lack of an effective SSM and slow buy rate of F35Bs amongst them. But meantime we can stand proud of what has been achieved to date!!!

Robert Blay

That is why we have the best Navy in the world. Not the biggest, but the best. And it is envied and respected the world over 🇬🇧

George

Hi folks, Robert W,
Yes quite right, and many countries try to aspire to have the level of professional as the UK has.
You don’t have to be the biggest to be the best.

Gavin Gordon

How about Glass Half Full, ffs

Trevor W Hogg

Yes Gavin but you have already drank the first half so Win Win

Geoffrey Roach

We should rightly feel pleased and proud that this milestone has been passed. However, I’m afraid that we are going to end up with another ” fitted for ” fiasco…this time because of the lack of aircraft. We need to order another twenty F35,s NOW.. Five squadrons of ten plus the o.c.u. . We should be able to maintain three squadrons of ten onboard the principal carrier and have the forth on the second carrier to be joined by the fifth and the o.c.u in time of crisis . Unless the Navy has 60 plus aircraft for it’s own use… Read more »

Steve Martin

The thing is though, as far as I can find there is still a 2026 delivery date on the Block 4 software and costs are continually rising. You wouldn’t buy a Laptop if it ran on a hugely buggy operating system, why would the MOD order F-35’s knowing they’ll be pre-Block 4 and thus pretty buggy? They would quite probably end up costing more.

ChariotRider

As I have pointed out in the past the slow buy rate of F35 could well work out for us in the long run. The early and current standard of build have issues not just with the software, which gets all of the talk, but also on airframe life. This is a particular problem for the F35b and relates to the wing route structure. Work is on going to improve not only the software related capabilities but also the in service life of the airframes. There is talk of the USMC potentially needing a major life extension programme way sooner… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Steve/CR.. I take your very well made points onboard but if we do not order soon I can see it taking ten years to fully enable both carriers. If that is the case what are they to do in the meantime. Two huge aircraft carriers with a handful of aircraft. or two amphibious carriers with not enough helicopters and no troop capacity . What if we have another Falklands type conflict. Are the U S Marines staying onboard? Can we really imagine a situation where Q E is sent off with 15 or 20 aircraft ?…. and that’s stretching it… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Geoffrey, Yup, that is the position we find ourselves but as I said above we are where we are. Recovering such a key capability takes a lot of time and patience, there is just no other way. The risk was taken with the loss of the Invincibles and Harriers. The RN managed to maintain a cadre of personel with the knowledge and experience required to rebuild the capability, but these experienced people will now have to bring on the next generation as well as learn to operate and entirely new ship and new aircraft. I looked up the RAF… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Good posts CR. People in their enthusiasm want everything and they want it today, but overlook both the advantages of a short delay for improved equipment and especially the experienced manning at all ranks necessary to support the aircraft. As far as the review goes, I could see a commitment to a further 20-25 or so aircraft by 2030, which would bring the total up to the much rumoured 70 or so in service. With upgrades to the rest of the fleet (outside the oldest aircraft likely kept in OCU) to add Block 4 weapons support. It seems unlikely, just… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

“people in their enthusiasm want everything” No…what I want is for an order to be placed so that additional air frames are in the pipeline, not to wait until ?? and then put in an order.
At he moment we have only 25 or so potentially front line aircraft.to equip two carriers and allow for two RAF squadrons that may be needed elsewhere and not be available for the navy.
I may be missing something but please explain how this situation makes sense.

Glass Half Full

What you said was you wanted to order them “NOW”. What’s the panic? ChariotRider already outlined the technical reasons for holding off on orders. You ignore in your comments the relationship with the USMC that adds aircraft, and you seem to be expecting that the UK routinely operates two carriers, which has never been the intent. We plan to have the last of the 48 F35Bs in 2025, with 37 by the time we reach Full Operating Capability for Carrier Strike late 2023. As it is, it seems possible, post defence review, that 20 or so may be ordered next… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

GHF We are obviously having a little difficulty here. First up please read my blog again for what I said about orders,then read what I said about the second carrier coming on stream, and I did not say anything about 24 aircraft going into a conflict I said 15 to 20 at best. I might add that it was people thinking that it wouldn’t happen was what caused the Falklands War. The Defence Committee, RUSI and the National Audit Office have all made the point I am making in recent weeks. I am only trying to push the agenda along… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Geoffrey, not to belabour the point, although we are probably past that at this point, these are three comments you made; “Unless the Navy has 60 plus aircraft for it’s own use the carriers will never be fully capable.” “We should be able to maintain three squadrons of ten onboard the principal carrier and have the forth on the second carrier to be joined by the fifth and the o.c.u in time of crisis.” “Can we really imagine a situation where Q E is sent off with 15 or 20 aircraft?…. and that’s stretching it at the moment.” In the… Read more »

Andy

No I don’t play fantasy fleets like some and true there is no point having old model f35 lying around. However you know as well as I do they are going to be an easy victim of difficult financial cuts. I mention the falklands not to suggest a specific scenario merely that situations arise suddenly which all so called experts think will never happen and call ludicrous ie ww1 ww2 falklands, we need to make sure f35 isn’t easy cut as its future of our sovereign capability. People cry never again will we go to war with out help! Ww2… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Did you mean to respond to me?

Geoffrey Roach

GHF There are times when having an argument,say at work, when after a lot of talk you find that both parties are saying the same thing but don’t understand each other! I think that’s where we are at. My primary argument is about numbers . Twenty four aircraft to equip two carriers, or even just one, and the RAF, albeit if the latter is operating independently, another 10 in five years? It is just not enough..If we don’t order soon it will be ten years before the needed aircraft are available. I think we can probably call it quits now… Read more »

Andy

Well we did similar when we sent every plane and ship to falklands including make shift carriers, begged borrowed and stolen airframes

Geoffrey Roach

….and that’s a good way to get ships sunk and damaged and people killed

Andy

Exactly we came out of falklands lucky

Geoff

Meanwhile elsewhere, the French are abusing our fishermen….We simply dont have enough properly-armed escorts to act as a sovereign group whilst fulfilling other commitments. And we dont have enough F-35Bs; we have enough to achieve IOC before tying the harbour queens up, and thats it.

ChariotRider

If we do harbour the queens up that would really pee the US off. Given their reaction to our threat to wind back on the Brexit deal, taking the queens away from the USMC would really irritate them as they have supported us for years with opportunities to serve on their carriers to maintain a cadre capability in the RN. That would not be a good move given we want a trade deal with them. Of course, nothing would surprise as anything is possible with our politicians (all of ’em). They are so short sighted I’m surprised they don’t come… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

Note the reports did not highlight (if) we were in French waters, which is very likely for scallops. In this instance, I’d have to sympathise with our ‘cousins’, especially as a Brexiteer.

ChariotRider

Check out these photos and videos on Save the Royal Navy. There are also some interesting little snippets in the captions.

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/hms-queen-elizabeth-and-carrier-strike-group-participate-in-exercise-joint-warrior/

Cheers CR

Gavin Gordon

Yes, indeed CR, like upcoming Ch5 Warship airing.

Daniele Mandelli

Great pics.

So she will finally get the 4 guns and the rest of her CIWS.

Also this, “Fitted with further equipment for USMC use” ?

Paul42

Pity its not 4 x Phalanx which she is actually designed to carry. QE has already been kitted out with some kit for the USMC, but there must be more to come. This kit is specific to the servicing and maintenance of the their F35Bs

Daniele Mandelli

Ah, ok. Cheers.

ETH

I really can’t see what difference a 4th phalanx could make. Would prefer Phalanx’s are available for much less protected RFA ships/type 45s on other duties.

Julian

It’s fantastic to see these pictures. Yes, the F-35s are still a work in progress but ultimately they should be extremely capable aircraft especially when Spear 3 & Meteor are integrated and to see 14 of them embarked is fantastic. I suppose the next milestone in term of aircraft numbers might be when the UK could do this same exercise using only UK aircraft but the milestone that I’m really looking forward to seeing achieved, and one that I really hope doesn’t fall victim to politic or other issues, is 1SL’s “24 by 24”. I really do hope that target… Read more »