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 primarily increased flight deck area and reduced air turbulence. Flight control in the aft island is positioned perfectly for aircraft approaches and deck landings.

In addition to the joint force of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy F-35Bs and their pilots, the air wing is expected to be composed of a ‘Maritime Force Protection’ package of nine anti-submarine Merlin HM2 and four or five Merlin for airborne early warning; alternatively a ‘Littoral Manoeuvre’ package could include a mix of RAF Chinooks, Army Apaches, Merlin HC4 and Wildcat HM2.

We understand that vessel would still carry at least one F-35 squadron aboard in such circumstances to offer air defence as well as support to the helicopter assault activities.

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.

12 COMMENTS

  1. A fantastic article.

    You forgot to add, though, that the ship just looks fantastic!!!!!!

    Can’t wait to see it in full operation with F-35s carrying out flying ops.

    Please, please can a TV company start a series on-board so we can all share in this momentous development.

  2. The article forgot to mention the biggest advantage of all – it’s provides an ideal place for stringing out the washing lines.

  3. I suppose it’s actually an improvement on the capability lost when HMS Ocean retires.

    A 70000 tonne assault ship, that litteral manoeuvre package sounds awesome.

    So that’s 2 carriers, one strike, one amphibious operation/assault along with Albion, Bullwark and the Bay Classes. There aint a lot of Navies that can muster up that sort of amphibious operation, probably only the US.

  4. I thought it also increased “survivability” because the key command and control centers weren’t all bunched up together?

    • Yes, it’d be interesting to know if both islands can take over the other’s function, even if at reduced levels.

  5. What hasn’t been said is the fact that the UK government haven’t left enough serving navel personnel to actually man the craft in a fully operational role, and that we’re as yet not in possession of the aircraft for the carrier, so it just going to be an empty floating aircraft hanger with essential crew to man it

  6. The real reason it seems for the two islands is. If the ship was nuclear powered it would only need one island that would be smaller than the combined size of the two islands. The reason for it not being nuclear powered was cost.

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