HMS Queen Elizabeth is progressing through flight trials with her F-35 jets.

In military aviation, a sortie is a combat mission of an individual aircraft, starting when the aircraft takes off. For example, one mission involving six aircraft would tally six sorties.

Aircraft Carrier Alliance Chief Engineer, Martin Douglass, discussed HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sortie rate last year.

“The Queen Elizabeth Class can fly 72 fast jet sorties per day – which can be increased if needed – and will give the UK a world class carrier strike capability for many years to come. She also has increased survivability because of the separation and distribution of power generation machinery throughout each ship.

The ship’s Artisan radar can track up to 800 potential targets at the same time and cut through radio ‘clutter’ generated by the equivalent of 10,000 mobile phones. The long range radar can track up to 1,000 contacts across a 250 mile radius both in the air or at sea. It’s an application of technology that’s already been proven on the Type 45s, but this time is linked to the Carrier’s organic capability to control a wide area of air and sea.”

The Queen Elizabeth class mark a change from expressing carrier power in terms of number of aircraft carried, to the number of sortie’s that can be generated from the deck.

Read more here.

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A brilliant TV series of last year’s Westland just showed the level of enthusiasm of all involved in getting the QE up to combat readiness. Both carriers will pose a significant threat to those who oppose them and rightly so. Sadly, the inordinately long build period for both Type26 & 31’s to give them a thoroughly modern escort, is years away.


Hi maurice10,

Do you or anyone else know if Chris Terrill sailed on this trip? I would love to see 4 F35’s take off in quick succession. It would really demonstrate how quick it can be to line up a go for it without the need to be hooked up to a cat. Cheers.


This is one of the benefits of not having cat launched aircraft. The QE can launch its air wing far quicker than a cat launch carrier. Obviously there are also downsides but it is easy to overlook the upsides.


No, He has said he wasn’t on Westland 19, But he will be on board Lizzy on her first deployment.


Thanks, one to look forward to…


Hi Again, Just seen this article on the Type 31 programme on Save the Royal Navy. It seems that there has been a crafty change in wording for the major milestone for the T31. What was described as “in service in 2023” is now “in the water in 2023”. Given that in the water is when the ship is launched that is a biiggg change, say about 2 years! So T31 not likely in service until 2025 and that assumes no issues with the first of class. There are a couple of high risk points in the programme not… Read more »


Cards on the table time. I reckon the first 31’s won’t be fully commissioned before 2026, so that will mean the old 23’s will have to labour on until 2033/34 before they are paid off. The type23’s are great ships but by the end of the next decade, they will be held together with gaffer tape! One other factor will be Scottish Independence, and the UK Government policy of only building warships in the UK. The logistic consequences of moving the fleet of new ship builds could result in many years of delay? Maybe, the policy of where warships are… Read more »


Yup, I’d agree with that. I was letting me optimism out for a little airing given all the good news the QEC programme has given us the last couple of years, but yeh the frigates are still a challenge that needs sorting out. As for Scottish independence I think you are right. There would be significant issues to overcome. I have been thinking about that for sometime. The biggest issue is training new engineers at all levels. Assuming some of the Clyde work force don’t follow the work we’d have to train a lot of people from scratch. That’s 15… Read more »


Or simply deny Jimmy Krankie the referendum rerun she wants and remind her what happened in Catalonia when they ran an illegal independence referendum…

Daniele Mandelli

Referenda are advisory, remember!
Just ignore the result.


Wouldn’t be there first time either…

Bloke down the pub

I remember seeing it suggested that Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth were likely to meet up at sea, once QE had returned from the States and prior to PWLS first entry into Portsmouth. According to ship tracker, PWLS is now off the IOW, so I presume this plan has now changed?

Nick C

There was a picture of POW off Dartmouth in yesterday’s Times, so she is obviously doing her trials quite locally. Does anyone know when she is scheduled to enter Portsmouth for the first time, or indeed when QE is due back? Also any good sources of video of the trials would be gratefully received.


POW is due to enter Portsmouth tomorrow (16/11/2019) passing the tower at 14:00. Her Twitter feed has some videos and photos up of her time at sea.

Shame there isn’t a photo op yet for them both at sea together, though I’m sure there will be in the future.

Nick C

Thanks Lusty. Sadly I won’t be able to be there. I was one of the thousands that turned out for QE two years ago, I expect there will be quite a lot out tomorrow.


No worries. I’ve not been up for an entry yet – I’ve only seen QE when she has twice visited Mounts Bay in Cornwall. To answer your other question, QE is due back before Christmas, though I’m not too sure if a precise date is publically available yet.


I have been so impressed in the way this ship and the programme as a whole has progressed and developed since the dark days of uncertainty surrounding the PoW. Helped of course by Chris Terrill’s great documentary, you get the feeling that someone somewhere in the ACA / MoD / Royal Navy have actually done some very long term planning and preparation for the regeneration of our big deck carrier capability. We should be so proud of what so many people have achieved. Awsome.

As they say,”Prior, Preparation and Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance.” 😉


72 sorties a day, which means 3 an hour.
Or 3 per day for each of the 24 F35’s – the standard complement.
Sounds like the quoted sortie rate is limited by the jets on board, and sortie time plus the time required to turn one round and get it ready for the next?..


I think it is planned on 36 aircraft on board. I’d be surprised if we turned more than 2 per day.


I thought it was 24, but if it is 36, all the better. Which would reduce sorties per aircraft/pilot to a more sensible 2 a day.

I wonder what maximum number they could fly a day in under surge conditions: would depend on how many of the 70 aircraft were F35’s and how many helicopters.
That said, I hope that’s never necessary.


In reality it will only be 24 for normal deployments but in Gulf War 3 scenario the carriers could comfortably host 36 and push themselves to 48 at full capacity. So 72 sorties to me is based on 2 sorties each for 36 aircraft.


I just did some back of an envelope calculations based on the F35b. Depending on the speed that is used to estimate / determine the 505nm combat radius just getting there and back could take nearly 2.5hrs assuming subsonic cruise. Super cruise bring it down to about 90 minutes. All of that excludes any combat phase. That’s a long time to be in an intense combat environment and you have to add your briefing and debriefing times onto the sortie count. I recon 2 sorties per pilot, from a carrier is a surge effort to say the least. Now if… Read more »


There seems to me a massive still unanswered issue re rolling landings in anything but calm seas and dry weather.


That’s a big issue. It was my one issues with the final episode of this 2nd series of “Britain’s Biggest Warship”. They made a big deal of the F-35 making its first “bomb run” (with concrete dummy bombs) and at the end of the program even included in the summary the number of sorties flown and the number of bombs “dropped”. I put “dropped” in quotes because I wonder if this was a bit of TV spin and “jettisoned” might have been the more accurate term. Since that first deployment only took the first steps on SRVL testing (that we… Read more »


The issue with the test pilot taking three attempts is due to the flight software not being tied down for SRVLs. This is so they can narrow down the parameters. Don’t forget this test was done in pretty benign conditions, so they will continue to get the parameters just so and expand the weather envelope. I would expect a form of automation once the regime is finalised. What was interesting though is how short the aircraft stopped, about level with air control. Therefore they should be able to do it at a faster speed or heavier load and still have… Read more »


Yes, I thought the short landing was interesting and impressive.
I hope that with parameters set and computerised it will be easier.


Contracts for T31 have just been signed, let’s hope for a fast issue free construction




A simple way to get “increased survivability” would be adding a couple of tiers to their SAM defences, such as RAM & sea ceptor. Bad things happen in war & you can’t ever guarentee having enough functional escorts.