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.