The initial operating capability for carrier strike, which is scheduled for December 2020, will consist of one carrier, one squadron of Lightnings and Crowsnest airborne early warning and control helicopters.

Earl Howe, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords said during a debate in the House of Lords:

“My Lords, the initial operating capability for carrier strike, which is scheduled for no later than December 2020, will consist of one carrier, one squadron of Lightnings and Crowsnest.”

Captain Jerry Kyd, commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth, commented last year on the initial deployment and the gradual increase in air wing numbers:

“We’re constrained by the F-35 buy-rate even though that was accelerated in SDSR in 2015, so initial operating capability numbers in 2020 are going to be very modest indeed.

We will flesh it out with helicopters, and a lot depends on how many USMC F-35s come on our first deployment in 2021.

But by 2023, we are committed to 24 UK jets onboard, and after that it’s too far away to say.”

Around 2023, the Ministry of Defence have indicated that the UK will have 42 F-35 aircraft with 24 being ‘front-line fighters’ and the remaining 18 will be used for training (at least 5 on the OCU), be in reserve or in maintenance.

Recently, the Ministry of Defence confirmed plans for the deployment of American F-35 aircraft alongside British jets aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. The addition of US Marine Corps aircraft will see HMS Queen Elizabeth sail with 24 or so F-35Bs in addition to around 14 or so helicopters for her maiden deployment. It is understood that the US aircraft will augment British on the carriers first deployment.

The term now used for the carriers embarked squadrons is ‘Carrier Air Wing’ (CVW). The vessels are capable of deploying a variety of aircraft in large numbers, up to a maximum in the upper fifties in surge conditions although this is unlikely to happen short of a major conflict.

Captain Jerry Kyd also spoke about the vessels:

“The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are the product of a pioneering partnership between UK industry and the Ministry of Defence. As the Royal Navy’s flagships for the next 50 years, these ships will employ cutting edge technology to deliver fighting power at sea and over land.

Symbolising our nation in both steel and spirit, the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will be powerful ambassadors for Britain on the global stage, in both peace time and times of conflict. These ships truly will be at the forefront of British military power projection for decades for generations to come.”

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Pacman27
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Pacman27

This is embarrassing – we have a budget twice the size of the USMC and they will be getting nearly 400 F35B’s and the UK will get less than a third of this amount. Not only do the Americans have to sell us stuff cheap – they now have to actually man our services What is the point of having the worlds 4th largest defence budget if it isn’t actually spent on defence. Let’s hope we don’t have to fight anyone, yet another depressing day in the life of those interested in the UK military. Radical thought but when will… Read more »

David
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David

@Pacman27 Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more! It is embarrassing to have another country’s aircraft essentially based on our aircraft carrier. I have said it before and will no doubt again; HMG committed to a 138 F-35 buy – over the life of the program. Those last words are the VERY small print in SDSR 2015. Given the life of the program will extend to 20-30 yrs, HMG is purchasing aircraft at a pathetically low rate. Incorporating USMC into the QEC air wing is nothing more than HMG doing carrier strike on the cheap! Why should they buy more aircraft when… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

David USMC budget is audited at $26bn this year and has been around that for a while, they plan to purchase 420 F35’s and have a fighting force larger (192k) than the whole UK defence force (165k). Given that the average marine is equipped with $20k of personal equipment and the whole force is well equipped, it kind of puts into perspective what the UK does with its supposed $52bn budget that does include the navy. Let’s not forget the USMC has loads of helicopters, V22’s and still have fully audited accounts. An F35b costs circa £100m – why cant… Read more »

David
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David

It’s enough to make you weep!!! I wonder if the USMC will be that excited to have their aircraft and crews aboard QE when they see how precious few escorts we have to protect them!

Pacman27
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Pacman27

So that will be the next piece of the puzzle, it will definitely be the case that other NATO members will have to help out with the escorts.

Not much point in having a JEF really if not enough escorts.

The worst part of this is that the budget should be big enough for what is a modest force, it is just not credible that we are actually spending what is stated on defence, when the assets are so poor and so few.

Former UK special forces Officer
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Former UK special forces Officer

At one time the UK was buying 138 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II jets of course like all things MOD let kick the CAN a little longer it makes me sad to see navy in suck a bloody bad state and when i left the army in 2008 after 23 years all can say is when i joined it was lot better back then UK has become a bloody banana replica and way were going we end like the bloody Italian armed forces or even worse Belgium or Germany

Anthony
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Anthony

Longer you wait, cheaper the price so that’s a key aspect. The MOD wont spend a penny more than they need, although manage to waste about half of their budget. Then the fact that the US will always get delivery priority.

andy reeves9
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andy reeves9

as the ONLY LEVEL 1 PARTNeR, the u.k. should insist on priority for the u.k be given to the manufacturer as it should have been when the order was made.

Gerard
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Gerard

20 years of hammering the Two Carriers line worked out well. Next time maybe go for Two Carriers ample escorts, fighters and men.

They of course will look pretty being nowhere near possible danger. A distance that increase with every cut.

dadsarmy
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dadsarmy

Wow. All I can say is don’t give up, the UK is playing catch up after neglect and complacency years ago. I don’t dare mention one expensive program that should be abandoned, and that budget redistributed, in case I get accused of being a Nat.

will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH
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will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH

and tell nicola fish(sturgeon) that her referendum calling

dadsarmy
Guest
dadsarmy

This journal, by the way, is indeed excellent. Is that 6 articles in one day? I’m suffering from overload!

John Stevens
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John Stevens

52 billion budget is for the whole of the uk armed forces though… I do understand the point you are making, but you cannot really compare the uk spending with that of a super powers spending. I do agree with David’s view on one issue form a previous story… Some of the other European NATO members need to spend more on their defence forces, but i still think the UK does it’s bit, not too many countries in the world spend the amount we do.. I know i often end up disagreeing with quite a few of the comments made… Read more »

will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH
Guest
will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH

OR MAYBE YOU’RE JUST GRUMPY LOL

David Nicholls
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David Nicholls

If I am correct the USMC does not include the ships they serve on (or the the SSBNs!). It is a very trite comparison.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

David It’s not a trite comparison at all – and I state the USMC budget does not include USN assets. The comparison is the USMC has a larger force and more equipment than the whole UK defence force and does it on an audited $26-30bn p.a. Budget. The UK has nowhere near this capacity and spends double. As per my previous posts I have costed the RN budget to circa £9bn p.a. (Lets say $13bn) For a 30k sailor only force, but including the SSBN fleet. This still leave a sizeable amount available to spen on anything really. It’s actually… Read more »

Mark78
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Mark78

Maybe the UK MoD spends money on maintaining their equipment to ensure it is available, unlike the USMC. Recently they identified chronic problems with availability with 19% of the aircraft unavailable for use, some 158 aircraft. USMC seems to have gone through a stage of using their budget to purchase new aircraft such as V-22’s and F-35’s at the expense of maintenance. Their F/A-18s are falling out of he skies at an alarming rate which is why they are trying to accelerate their F-35 delivery rate. Also USMC have chronically under invested in their vehicles in recent times. their LAV’s… Read more »

Julian
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Julian

Depressing but it could have been so much worse. It’s worth remembering the days when there was all the talk of cancelling, mothballing or selling off one of the carriers. At least according to latest government pronouncements we are getting both carriers to give is a pretty much continual availability. It’s possible that HMG might see sense at some point and increase the buy rate on F35 but it would have been very unlikely that we would ever have been able to come back from a switch to a one-carrier-only plan implemented by cancellation or sell-off of one of them… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

I do think we may end up buying more when a) the price drops and b) they are proven.

I don’t think 142 will be the total buy – I think it will end up as the operational strength or close to it, but accept this may be wishful thinking.

John Stevens
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John Stevens

At least the UK will have 10 squadrons of fighters when it could of been down to 6 and as said above 2 carriers instead of 1 plus the 9 maritime patrol aircraft. But of course many of these extra assets will not be until the 2020’s, but at least we will receive those assets then. Have to take into account which party will be in power also over the coming years, looks like the current government will be in power at least up until 2025 which hopefully would mean the new pieces of kit will come in, if Labour… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

John, Your last point is really interesting and I have been giving a lot of though recently to how we can get cross party support for defence so that whichever government is in power certain spending commitments are honoured, as this is definitely a contributing factor to the lack of investment, cancelled orders and subsequent increase in individual asset cost (think T45 – it could have been £600m each instead of £1.045bn). Perhaps a joint oversight committee that manages the budget is the way to go and a clear commitment from all parties (in law perhaps) that these commitments once… Read more »

Ron5
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Ron5

The T45’s cost about 650 million each to build.

will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH
Guest
will PUT INTO QUESTION THE CLYDE WARSHIP CONTRACTS, JOBS AT FASLANE ROSYTH AND THE AIRBASE AT LOSSIEMOUTH

LABOUR COULDN’T SECOND PRIZE IN A TWO TEAM ONE LEGGED ARSE KICKING CONTEST.

John Stevens
Guest
John Stevens

Hope you’re right about the total buy of aircraft “Pacman27”

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

I am not betting on it John that’s for sure…..

John Stevens
Guest
John Stevens

Hi Pacman27.. You make some really good points there, agree with with you! really would benefit the armed forces.. But unfortunately i have my doubts that would happen..

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

NO WAY SHOULD THE usmc be bigger than our defence availabilities 12 type 45 cut to 6 type 26 order cut to a point where maybe we should simply revert to building the type 23 with major upgrades again i’d buy the harriers back, the 3 type 23’s from chile.remove the superstructure from a bay class and fit a full length deck on it ind use it as a replacement for ocean.easily do able, yards should be put in direct competition first yard to get a t26 built, gets to build the next.

dadsarmy
Guest
dadsarmy

I certainly hope no return will be made to the idea of mothballing one. Compared to the US and its carriers in terms of population the UK’s contribution would be 2 carriers – both in operation. As for escorts, it seems to me that they would have one carrier strike group with both carriers in any major confrontation, meaning they would provide defence to each other, and alternate landing / take-off in case of damage, as well as pooling the escorts which should then be enough from the current and future assets including the T26. But not enough surface or… Read more »

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

if the U.S. recalls its carrier fleetthen we’ve no chance of getting our two to sea.

John Stevens
Guest
John Stevens

yes, agree with you ! dadsarmy

John Stevens
Guest
John Stevens

I think usually one carrier will be in operation, with one in reserve/maintenance. But if needed they could just about find the escorts to cover the two, possibly with some help from our allies but using two carriers would be unusual..

dadsarmy
Guest
dadsarmy

Yes I agree, just one normally. I also remember a T45 I think being used as one of the escorts for the Charles de Gaulle, so indeed some escort sharing would be sensible, reducing the need for the UK to provide all its own on joint operations. Ah, here’s a use of a T23 with the CdeG:

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/hms-st-albans-joins-fs-charles-de-gaulle-carrier-strike-group/

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

i think WE’LL try and do it on the cheap, 1x t45 1x t26 1 tx23 one astute and a tanker.

maurice10
Guest
maurice10

It’s not been plain sailing for the USS Ford either. All class leading vessels encounter teething problems, so I doubt this delay is nothing to get too concerned about. Let’s just hope our prospective adversaries can hold off until 2023?

Steve
Guest
Steve

The whole US MC spend less story is silly as we are not comparing Apple’s to Apple’s. First we need to understand what each budget actually includes equipment and manpower wise. Then we have to somehow strip out the fact that the USMC benefit from the much larger purchase numbers through combined orders with the rest of the US armed forces. If anyone has actual details of equipment in the various budgets or types of equipment we can start to compare. Its about as pointless as comparing British military expenditure to Russia, when Russia has a faction of the price… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

Not to mention that if you just strip out one arm of the military, you miss all the costs involved in overarching them. The military does not act in isolation and there has to be a command and control structure above the navy/army… to make sure they can combine together to make a realistic fighting force.

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

Steve, I think you are missing the point somewhat, there is plenty of apples v apples with the USMC and the UK and I understand that there are differences, but the fact remains they have an amazing force at a price point we just cannot match and in an outright fight they will defeat the UK. The other elements that are outside of the USMC budget – such as ships, nuclear assets does not actually stack up to the UK defence budget. The RN needs $13bn p.a. to run a force that could be comparable to that utilised by the… Read more »

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

cutting the technology snobbery of theU.K. forces, we want this most expensive system,we want that, one, makes a massive dent in the funds that could enable’more for less’ rather than ‘best for more’

Nick Bowman
Guest
Nick Bowman

UK politicians are fond of making statements about the impressive size of the UK’s defence budget. We are still not getting nearly enough bang for our buck. Of course, the reason is that we develop and build too much equipment domestically. It’s more about jobs and votes than value for money. We derive no economies of scale when we design and build six bespoke frigates. It’s no wonder we can’t fund enough F35s, enough escorts or enough soldiers.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Much of the defence budget is spent on non-defence items. Items that were moved into the budget by a series of dishonest chancellors.

Ian
Guest
Ian

Budget today – an hour of mildly entertaining jibes at Jeremy for £1b in social care next year and no new policy developments or initiatives. Wasted opportunity. It’s the hope that kills…

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

giving away the entire 72 plane harrier leet for the qeuivlent of a quarter of a million each when we’re prepared to spend twice as much for 1 aircraft tha its not even built yet, says it all really. my idea for onebay class conversion(remove the superstructure and put a full deck on it) as a replacement for ocean shows that an armchair admiral like me could make the whole R.N. budget go further.
but common sense wouldn’t fit in at th M.O.D.

Mark78
Guest
Mark78

How will that work in terms of hanger space for aircraft? I’m guessing the decks on the Bay class are totally wrong size for helicopters and once you start changing decks then you would compromise structural integrity of the vessel. Costs would soon spiral.

Mikec
Guest
Mikec

His why don’t we look forward to qec leaving rosyth for her sea trails and her next fifty years of service when her airing could progress to the sons of terrains

Mikec
Guest
Mikec

What does moderation mean

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Most expensive helicopter carrier in history.

andy reeves9
Guest
andy reeves9

without hope you’ve nothing.