A delay to the start of sea trials of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth have been branded a “farce” by a Labour Lord.

Lord Touhig said in a House of Lords session regarding the aircraft carrier:

“My Lords, we were told in the review of the SDSR that the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would begin sea trials in the spring.

Alas, in ​the words of Ella Fitzgerald, “spring will be a little late this year”, because Ministers now say that that will happen in the summer. But lo and behold, just two weeks ago, when my noble friend Lord West of Spithead asked whether summer was,

“defined as … from the summer solstice to the September equinox, or … June to August”,

he was told by the Minister that summer “was not defined” and that rather, it was a,

“broad indication of the likely timetable”.

This milestone in Britain’s maritime history is turning into a farce. I invite the Minister to come clean, tell us what has caused the delay and give us a firm date for the sea trials.”

Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, Earl Howe, said:

“My Lords, perhaps I can clarify the timetable a little bit. “The summer” means “a little later than shortly”. To address the substance of his question, this is about the need to test systems.

The Queen Elizabeth class carriers are the largest and most complex warships ever built in this country. It is essential that we thoroughly test the ship’s many complex systems before she begins sea trials. None of the issues now being tested will affect acceptance of contract of HMS “Queen Elizabeth” later this year. The work is within the tolerance that we had anticipated in the contract schedule.”

Defence Procurement Minister Harriett Baldwin faced the Commons Defence Committee earlier in the year, 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 of the aircraft carrier 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.

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 (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.”

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.”

It is my personal opinion that while there has been a 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.

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.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Desperate Labour peers trying to find anything to hang the government on.

    Delivery of the new carriers is an enormous task which is proceeding amazingly well. Consider the delays and waste expended on the Eurofighter and Nimrod programmes (that latter cancelled under Labour I recall – though perhaps it should never have been started).

    A slippage by a couple of months is not bad given the scale of this project.

  2. Labour peers seem to forget that their party had a slightly more than a “walk on” part in this particular farce

  3. i would rather everything was checked and rechecked a dozen times and if that means delays on sea trials then so be it,better than it ending up in a big farce or at the bottom of the sea which would be an even bigger embarassment…unlike these Lords and peers claiming £300 a day just to attend the house of lords or should i say oap day centre

  4. Lord Touhig should remember that his farcical Labour party was SIX YEARS LATE placing the order so I don’t think we should concern ourselves too much about a few weeks. In fact, given their history it might be better if Labour politicians said nothing at all about defence.

  5. Lets rush it through like the Daring Class, we can then bring it back in and repair every few weeks

  6. Really important she sails into service and not a massive refit.
    What about some updated pictures or other footage? We have two carriers in build is there an update on PoW? The ACA site is scant. Please UK Defence Journal can you pull some strings and get some hot off the press?
    Speaking of pulling strings…is there any update on the Sea Ceptor fit?

    • The ACA site is a disgrace. When you consider the size of the project and the vast sums involved you would think they could spend the pittance required for a weekly update! UK Defence Journal rocks-not flattery-genuine admiration for the best Defence related site on the internet.
      With regard to Sea Ceptor-I read 2020!! Another huge capability gap with the demise of Sea Skua!!

  7. Labour…. lol.

    They can barely hide their hatred for the military while there being no Jihadi they won’t support.

  8. I do believe it was one Mr. Gordon Brown who shrunk the Type 45 program from 12 to 8 and then to 6 so much so that the price of the six remaining ships doubled – so instead of getting 12 for 6Bn, we got 6. It was also one Mr Gordon Brown that raided the equipment budget to pay for Afghanistan and left our servicemen without enough helicopters. Labour?…. please!!

  9. Of course Labour paid BAE to slow the build of the carriers down increasing their cost by £1bn. But then up popped DC and scrapped the Harriers to save a couple of quid, which was unfortunately the only aircraft that could bridge the gap and save money as we built up the numbers of the F35B. Of course this latter strategy is something anyone who needs to “”make do” because things are a bit tight would do as a matter of common sense.
    It is a good thing Defence is not important.

  10. The weapons automation system needs to be tested properly you have to imagine that getting missles loaded onto rails and elevators and then fuel bullets and other things transferred from ships inventory up to a F35 fighter jet that waits up on deck and all this with a smaller more efficient crew, this kind of automation has never been seen before and the American ford class builders and Chinese will be watching thesesea trials very closely for tips on how to improve modern aircraft carriers.
    MPs… Especially labour MPs need to take a nice big cup of SHUT THE FUCK UP

  11. Very large complex piece of equipment. It will take at least 5 more years until it’s anywhere near fit for action. It will spend most of its life having expensive refits.
    It won’t be properly defended, oweing to a lack of aircraft and ships to support it.
    If anyone is foolish enough to send it into action, it will be the focus of our enemies attention and will be quickly sunk.
    Being very complex it’s not very survivable, it can easily be put out of action without necessarily sinking it.
    Other nations will not be impressed, deterrence needs to be convincing.

  12. Just for the record and to be precise – the real reason these carriers are behind is down to the labour government of Gordon brown pushing it all back to save a small amount of money at the time, but increasing the total cost by over £1bn.

    So a few weeks now is totally insignificant given the cock up labour created.

  13. Well soon be in action in the sith china seas with other countries about time this country were told how close to ww3 we are now with China.
    Get it right get it safe for our lads to go do a good job and come home safe again.
    Things always worth waiting for a ship of high grade tec and big job todo in its early life keeping use safe from China and sera

  14. Got to agree, Labour making criticisms about anything to do with defence procurement really takes the warship’s weevil-infested biscuit. Not that the Conservative government before them were any better.

    It’s a very complex mix of systems, she’s huge, first in class, massive, ginormous, and the best way to get rid of problems in the integration of large complex systems is before they even start. It’s called “integration testing”. And the more time spent now, the less refits or repairs will be needed – hopefully.

  15. Labour are a joke when it comes to defence.. Never will trust them when it comes to defence spending. Thankfully i think it will be sometime before they get the chance to run the MOD again ‘phew’ Big Smile..

  16. Actually labour has historically been better than the tories for the navy , at least as far as cash is concerned. This is owing to union power, hence the unarmed nuclear submarine idea.

    • No … Labour have been appaulling in cancelleing and delaying defence projects, From TSR2 to delaying QE class carriers, a lifetime of cuts and taking us into needless conflict. All on the premise that defence is something that is not really on their agendas. 4 T45 destroyers not built, run down of the existing fleet, no investments in the future, poor procurement, remember we had years of Blair and Brown from 1997 who cut delayed and ruined the pride of Britain. Union power is a joke statement, unions striking have ruined more companies than helped the workers. Dont get me wrong i’m not a supporter of the Tories nor am i a supporter of Corbyn and Labour but at the moment the governmet is trying to get defence bac on track, i work in the industry and its hard for everyone.

    • Corbyn …… at the time when I heard about the unarmed nuclear sub proposal I thought for a second he was joking …………… until I found out he wasn’t!!! Pathetic and dangerous!!

  17. Hopefully the QE will get to Portsmouth this year, first of class and a complex build is a huge endeavour. However to support a carrier group we need escort frigates air defence destroyers and submarines and RFA logistics support, and that is the crux of the issue we havent got those sorted yet. I’d be confident that although the F35 is years away the Navy and Airforce are training pilots already with the US so we wont have further delays in getting operational fighters on board. With Brexit coming we need to ensure the defence of our nation as importantly as we deal with common policies for health welfare and education, thats where focus must be.

  18. I personally am happy with any delays to HMS QE going on sea trials. It is not like we have dozens of advanced jump jets waiting to be embarked.
    A delay army this stage should mean when she does go out on sea trials she will actually work.
    Labour are disastrous on defence, Blair and Brown cut, cut, cut for the peace dividend. Now we need to rearm and we have a Conservative government willfully ignoring any advice they must be getting from service personnel. We have now got defence capability gaps that in previous eras would have brought governments down.
    The RN soon will not be able to sink any enemy warships for Gods sake. Harpoon and sea skua going or gone without a replacement. Utter madness. Then consider the fact that we have not got enough warships to effectively escort the QE carrier or the RN manpower to man them both at the same time.
    Does anyone else out there not think we should cut foreign aid by 50% immediately to fund our armed forces adequately?
    Alternatively raise taxes instead of cutting them for big business and the rich (pending budget will prove this!)
    The UK defence journal is a great online resource, keep up the good work. Someone has to speak up for defence matters.

  19. Being a first of Class, and being ex RN myself, I fully understand the need to get it right BEFORE the ship sails. There are so many jobs that have to be signed off on before she begins her Contractors and If that means a small delay then that’s fine with me. This is a huge learning curve for all concerned, not only for the builders and the design teams, but also the new crew who are now in the process of joining their ship. Lessons are being learned continually and are being incorporated into the construction and completion of the second Carrier, Prince of Wales. It’s the bigger picture we should be looking at here. We are bringing into service two of the second largest Aircraft Carriers in the WORLD after America. This is the very first time that anything of this size and complexity has been attempted, and in my book this is nothing short of a huge achievement.

    • Have to agree as well. Of course what the Labour people failed to mention is a) they killed the best carrier of its time, CVA – 01, Type 82 Destroyers along with TSR2 in the ’60s. b) They delayed the start of the QE programme for too many years and when the start was given they put the brakes on for another 2 years adding £1 Bn, c) a delay of a few months is nothing provided the overall target dates are met and they will be and d) the PoW is actually ahead of schedule.

      These days when Labour speaks the response is normally stifled smirks or open laughter….

  20. Perhaps it should be remembered that the tories wanted to cancel this project. ..Full stop.

    Labour at least gave the backing in the first place to allow the build to happen

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