HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship are attracting a lot of attention and one of the most common questions is, why does she have two islands?

Instead of a traditional single island, the carrier has two smaller islands. The forward island is for ship control functions and the aft (FLYCO) island is for flying control.

The reason for two islands is, simply put, due to the gas turbine exhausts. The design would have either had two small islands or one large, long island. The two smaller islands were chosen. The location and alignment of the islands are based around the 2.4 metre diameter gas turbine exhausts which were pre-fitted in the island and below in the ship superstructure.

Advantages of the two island configuration are increased flight deck area, reduced air turbulence over the flight deck and increased flexibility of space allocation in the lower decks. The flight control centre in the aft island is in the optimum position for control of the critical aircraft approach and deck landings.

According to the manufacturers, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the benefits are significant:

“The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are the first carriers to incorporate a twin island design, which separates the running of the ship from the flying operations resulting in greater visibility of operations and increases survivability. There are live communication links between the two islands however to allow them to work together.

The advantages of the unique design include the more efficient use of space across the flight deck, hangar and lifts, as well as the reduction in air turbulence over the flight deck. The twin island design also reflects design improvements further below deck, including the decision to separate power generation machinery in order to increase survivability.

There are two sets of power propulsion systems (a gas turbine and two diesel engines), located in different areas of the ship separated by watertight doors. This means there are also two exhaust stacks, one forward and one aft, which are masked within the twin islands. Survivability is increased further by the islands being designed with the capability to assume each other’s role in an emergency.”

The Queen Elizabeth class mark a change from expressing carrier power in terms of number of aircraft carried, to the number of sorties 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. Perhaps the two island approach is simply continuing the traditional UK carrier advances. After all every advancement there has been has been initiated by Britain.

    • Totally. Makes you feel proud to support the Royal Navy. It is good to see the originator of the aircraft carrier coming back into the fold. It has been too long missing from our inventory. Although the Invincible class were excellent ships, and the Harriers they hosted top of their class, it is a long time since we have had the global airpower reach. It may be a few years before the vision is realised, but we can already see the potential of the design. Keep up the hard work RN and out us hope that the Government continue to support their role.

  2. You are right there Jason.
    All except EMLS about to be fitted and put into service on USN Ford class. All other carrier advances come from UK designs.

      • Which are for prestige and serve little use. Doesn’t matter how long you can same for if you need to turn into port for supplies and wait for escorts to refuel as well.

        • Prestige and little use? I seem to recall them bombing the ever loving sh** out of enemies of the United States from Vietnam to Libya and everywhere in between. Nuclear power is the only decision that makes since. To believe otherwise is either being cheap or being a tree hugging environmentalist. Born of either valuing aesthetics or your own pocketbook over the lives of your fellow Citizens.
          In addition it is illogical to argue against Nuclear carriers. While simultaneously arguing in favor of SSNs. After all by your logic the crews need to eat. So build SSKs.
          Every innovation really?
          The Forrestal class Supercarriers – US. First demonstration of concept.
          The use of carriers as the main weapon of the fleet. – Japanese invention.
          Big deck amphibs? USMC
          You can’t even build a conventional carrier that can go as fast as the Forrestals and Kittyhawks . Despite the Kittyhawks being far older and larger. They only move as fast as an amphib. If a carrier is in transit and not either intimidating/reassuring locals or bombing the enemy it is like every other boat or ship but on a grand scale. – A hole in the water you throw money in.

  3. The positioning of a single island is always going to be a compromise of best for sea keeping and best for air ops. The French chose a forward position and the Americans chose one aft. The necessity of separating the funnels on the QEs has been the mother of invention.

  4. She maybe the first but just like the ski jump, she won’t be the last.

    Eventually, everyone copies our ideas when it comes to carrier design.

  5. A fantastic addition to the most important of our armed services. We are an island nation which history shows has and always will have the need for a powerfull and relevant navy. When the chips are down the only sure fire safety net for this country is a strong upto date British armed forces. Cut backs in any of the armed forces budgets is a crazy policy which will cost our country dearly in the long run.


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