Currently in the final stages of completion, HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to go to sea for 11 weeks of trials in summer before arriving in Portsmouth around autumn if all goes to plan.

She’ll return to the Forth once the sea trials are done for a final period of fitting out and testing.

Ian Booth, managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said:

“Pretty much everything is now installed in the ship and working. We’ve had lots of prior factory testing before putting systems on board and so far, it’s all looking pretty good.

Over the next few months we will finish compartment handovers, and complete work to coat the flight deck. We will also conduct harbour events and acceptance trials for virtually all systems – propulsion, steering, navigation, or communications – here [at Rosyth] before we go.”

According to Bob Hawkins MBE, First Lieutenant of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth the plan was for the carrier to sail in March, he was quoted here (in mid 2016):

“The build process continues up here in Rosyth. Some of you may have experienced this from the RN side of the house, perhaps in a new class of ship, in a new build. The frustrations are many and varied. Add to this the sheer scale and complexity of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers and you can imagine that each day brings a new challenge in moving towards Ships Staff Move On Board (SSMOB) then its sequel, Ready For Sea Date (RFSD).

SSMOB is planned for 9 January; RFSD 10 March. Using Andrew St George’s 12 principles of Leadership in the Royal Navy, I subscribe to his No.2, Cheerfulness. A glass half empty as opposed to a glass half full approach is a choice, and I choose to remain optimistic. Draw from that what you will.

Timing of First Entry Portsmouth (FEP) is dependent upon achieving RFSD and the subsequent success of Power and Propulsion Trials. This initial Contractor Sea Trials period we call euphemistically ‘5-1-5’, i.e. from RFSD, five weeks at sea, one week alongside (Invergordon), five weeks at sea, then FEP: a standard package that must be executed in full from whichever start date we achieve.

Clearly, FEP will shift right if RFSD does, or indeed if ‘5-1-5’ needs to be extended to accommodate any set-backs thrown up during the trials.”


Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35. Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018.

Recently, the news that HMS Queen Elizabeth will now sail for sea trials in Summer instead of Spring entered public perception. In such complex engineering projects, this type of occurrence isn’t a cause for concern nor is it unusual. HMS Queen Elizabeth, after all, is essentially a prototype and the Ministry of Defence can’t afford to get it wrong.

The news of the slip started to pick up traction when Former shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP enquired in Parliament about sea trials being moved back from Spring to Summer:

“In the 2015 SDSR and again in December of last year, in the first annual report of the SDSR, the government were very clear that the sea trials for HMS Queen Elizabeth would begin in spring of this year.

In response to a parliamentary question last week, she informed me that they would no longer take place, but would take place in summer of this year. What are the reasons for this, and what is going to be the operational service date for Queen Elizabeth?”

Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence Harriet Baldwin said:

“I would just like to confirm to him that she will commence her sea trials this Summer, and she will enter into the same programme so that she can sail into Portsmouth later this year.”

Defence secretary Michael Fallon said:

“It has always been our intention that Queen Elizabeth should be accepted into the Royal Navy before the end of this year. We are not giving specific dates as to when the sea trials are likely to commence.

The Queen Elizabeth will set out on those sea trials when she is ready to do so.”

Defence Procurement Minister Harriett Baldwin faced the Commons Defence Committee today, she was asked Madeleine Moon what was behind the delay and responded by saying:

“The carrier is due in Portsmouth this year but what I can’t give the committee is the specific days of the week.

By the very definition of what you’re going through when you’re going through trials is that you’re potentially in that trial process have to make some corrections to something, that’s the whole point of a trial.”

The minister added that the crew was ready.

Lt Gen. Mark Poffley, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff for Military Capability, said:

“There have been a series of technical issues associated with bringing the vessel to the point where she can commence her sea trials.”

It is understood that this minor delay is ‘not outside the tolerance’ of the programme.

There has been a small slip in the timing of the vessel leaving Rosyth for trials, this really isn’t something to worry about as the vessel remains on track to enter service with the Royal Navy on time.

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. The class are not the largest class of carrier in the world but they are most likely the smallest and least expensive carrier the Royal Navy could build which still have the advantages that large carriers offer.


  1. Probably taking time for the Queen Elizabeth to load all that close in weapon system ammunition takes along time to load 30mm ammo. Is she still going to the South China sea for first deployment that will be a laugh warm water and no air to air missiles. And no escort ships China new carrier laid down in 2015 military expert as saying that the aircraft carrier will be in service by 2020. she should be there waiting to greet the QE

    • “warm water” – what are you talking about?

      “and no air to air missiles” – she’s an aircraft carrier not an aircraft!

  2. Thank you “Colin” for that virtually nonsensical comment.

    I congratulate you for pulling together such a variety of dis-information, mistakenly attributed class specific issues and irrelevant minutiae in one piece of propaganda.

    I can only think that AS the QE class represents the world first stealth carrier, AND the South China Sea is quite large ( at around a million and a half square miles). The Chinese Carrier Liaoning could be waiting for some time to see her ?

  3. Well said Beno. Its time people who have a genuine interest in the defence of the UK, especially these imporatnt capital ships, tried to be less cynical and just try for cheap shots. If they are to comment constructively and critically, they should try and properly undertsand facts about an issue rather than regurgitate fallacies and malformed media claptrap.

  4. Will be super carriers to have in the Royal Navy… Look forward to seeing them in service, and yes they will have escorts to protect them.

  5. Yes indeed, it will be great to see her on sea trials soon. Still, Colin did hit on one thing – I am concerned about the distinct lack of adequate self-defence capabilities. To me, three CIWS is woefully insufficient. Every other carrier operating nation sees a need for point defence missiles – even the US and France too with Aster 15 on the CdG. Are we missing something?? I haven’t seen anything even to say she is ‘fitted for but not with’. Having made such a huge investment in our two carriers, it seems remiss of the MoD to somehow not have the foresight or funding – or both – to fit them.

    • 100% Agree re CIWS David.

      As a layman I have been admiring these Russian Kashtan CIWS for some time thinking they would be much better than Phalanx on carriers (air / helo), support ships, LCDs etc

      Anyone with real knowledge on these things care to share their thoughts? Is Kashtan as good as it looks?

  6. Exciting times and can’t wait to see her out in the water but watch for the guaranteed headlines from the gutter press when she embarks her first Merlin at the beginning of aircraft trials…
    “New Carrier goes to sea with just One Helicopter!”

    • Exactly Geoff, I have given up on getting any sensible reporting from the British media with regards to defence matters.
      There is a debate to be had on the number of escorts etc.
      This feeds into people like Colin who repeat half truths and rubbish from the media without thinking for themselves.

    • Speaking for myself Colin, whilst it’s true I have not served in the RN this fact doesn’t negate an ability to speak intelligently on defence related matters. From your comment, I assume you have served which if true, is commendable and deserving of thanks. If you have ‘insider’ knowledge that myself and the others are not privileged to, by all means share.

  7. Excellent ship. Just need enough escorts and submarines to guarantee her and her sister POW protection and then the RN will really be able to state it is one of the top navies in the world.

  8. I think the major concern with these new Carriers is that of manning. Even the latest Nimitz class (Gerald R Ford class) requires approximately 4500 men including airmen, and that’s with manpower savings. The QE’s are roughly two thirds the size. That’s still a lot of people.

  9. It will be interesting to see how the powers that be allow the two carriers to operate. With the ongoing concerns over man power and of course defence spending, there are bound to be restrictions that will seem fairly stringent. As for Mr. Bell’s hope of the RN being one of the world’s top navies, personnel wise the RN will always be a top navy in the world: the presence and volume of ships I fear will obstruct that hope. After spending some 25 years in the RN I find it quite sad at the way the fleet has been denigrated to its present state, but then as they say,”Once Navy always Navy”

  10. As someone who having the privilege to work on her I can honestly say she may seem to have some short comings due to government penny pinching, she will still be one awesome asset to a sea blind country. Roll on Sea Trials!

    Duncan Mc Innes P/JX 144238

  12. For the carrier’s protection presumably its own Merlin (ASW) helicopters against submarines and JSF’s against airborne and surface threats.Manning wise I doubt that both carriers will ever be deployed simultaneously,one will be in dock and one on deployment.Still great to see awesome sea-power flying the White Ensign again.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here