The Queen Elizabeth class carriers will embark more amphibious assault forces than HMS Ocean, a minister has claimed.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will take over the role of deploying amphibious forces when HMS Ocean is decommissioned in 2018. Defence procurement minister Philip Dunne said each ship would house a force of 900 marines and aviation personnel – 210 more than Ocean.

The following is a response from Philip Dunne to a written parliamentary question, the question can be found here.

As stated in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (Cm9161), we will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carrier to support our amphibious capability. Together with existing amphibious ships of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, this will provide the capacity and capability to deploy our amphibious forces.

HMS OCEAN can carry up to 690 Embarked Military Forces (EMF) – Royal Marines and Aviation Group personnel – in addition to her ship’s company. She can deploy a variety of helicopter types in multiple combinations as required by her mission and role.

The QEC aircraft carriers can embark up to 900 EMF, in addition to their ship’s company, in support of their missions and tasks and a flexible mix of helicopters subject to the operational tasking.”

It is also understood that enhancing the vessels, means that storage for additional marines and more equipment will be provided and some key corridors widened too.

HMS Prince of Wales will be first as she’s still in build and then HMS Queen Elizabeth will receive these modifications when in refit.


  1. It seems there expecting to much of her. If we had only the QE and had to do a Falklands style operation would she be able to cope. I mean anti sub, air defenses, troop transport and ground attack. Plus the f 35B only has four weapon hard point, no gun and there’s only going to be 25 f 35 if I’m correct.

  2. It’s a fantastic capability, definitely worth ensuring the ships can take on the assault role. Though I think we should replace Ocean, Albion, and Bulwark with 2 straight deck assault cruisers, similar perhaps to HMAS Canberra.
    And who knows, maybe in some future refit the QE class will get some EMAL style cats and traps.

    • Possibly, though the way I understand it (and the way you would expect it to be), EMALS requires a lot of energy to operate at the same efficiency (as in how quickly it can launch aircraft) as a traditional steam catapult – the kind of excess energy that you have lying around when your carrier is powered by multiple nuclear reactors. I do however agree with you that the addition of a couple of similar vessels to the Canberra-class LHD’s – even at the expense of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark would make the future Royal Navy even more potent and versatile.

  3. You don’t use a aircraft carrier just for one mission its multi mission capable as for the F35 once spear or the SBD is integrated the f35 in non stealth set up will be able to carry up to 16 precision munitions and 4 air to air missiles

  4. We expect 50 yrs of service with American carriers, these additions to the RN bring legitimate power globally. Today, besides the US, none can truly boast that. Sure, we hope their power is not needed, but for decades going forward, it is nice there is an option if they are needed.

  5. What I don’t like about the design is how limited it is for future purchases when the F35 needs replacing, or if air to air refuelling planes need to be added, not everything can go up a ski jump.

  6. Surely it makes sense to replace Argus with HMS Ocean to enhance our reserve….Argus is older and less equipped!….Is this not be obvious or am I missing something here?

    • Ocean was built to civilian standards. By all accounts it’s knackered. Engines are an old design with spares now increasingly hard to find.

  7. Substituting a carrier (suitably enhanced, which QE will be, but POW won’t) for the helicopter assault role of Ocean is fine. But suggesting doing away Albion and Bulwark is not. They are assault ships with a flooding dock allowing deployment of large landing craft – something a carrier cannot do. Also, the carrier will have no light landing craft either, which Ocean does.

    • 1. A previous reply to your post.
      2. Fair play, I didn’t know that. But then that was not really my point anyway.
      In an expeditionary amphibious assault, you typically need a number of functions, these include (depending on target insertion) large landing craft and/heavy lift helicopters, plus (and this is important) combat air cover. Ocean serve an important role, as a command ship, plus helicopter support to the landing ships. A carrier can do that too, but it has to be (at last to a certain extent) at the visit of combat air support.
      Bottom line, it’s a compromise, but probably a good one.
      My real point, however, is that you can’t conclude that the assault ships are now also no longer required – because they are. (So, not aimed at you, UKDJ 😉 ).

    • I agree Paul, the carriers cannot and should not replace our amphibious assault ships. If the Argies did manage to gain a foothold on the Falklands, and deny us the use of the airfields, the carriers don’t have the capacity to carry out both roles at the same time. Especially as I believe we’d be hard pressed to deploy both carriers down there simultaneously and maintain combat operations.

    • No one has proposed the removal of the LPD Albion class from the fleet. The QE’s will act as much bigger LPHs when required (and carry far more kit, troops and helicopters than ever Ocean could). Even then a QE will be able to carry at least one sqn of F35B and maybe more. Its a compromise over a deicated LPH for sure, but not one worth worrying about. as it delivers much better assault air capability then we have ever been able to do previously.

    • Simon Taylor Why wouldnt a carrier 3 times the size of an I class, O class or the Hermes be able to carry out the roles of both carriers we had in the FI war of 82? Thats of course assuming we ever need such again. People need to think sideways and not just conventionally.

  8. The Bays are still fairly young and we should look to bring in a fleet of Aegir based Joint Support Ships like those of the Karel Doorman class of the netherlands.

    Failing that 7 Absolons also provide a fairly good capability.

  9. I understood it that these ships were designed from day one with wide corridors and large embarkation areas to accommodate the interests of the Royal Marines ?

  10. As much as I support the QE programme and believe a lot of the decisions made towards flexibility are sound this for me is a stretch to far!

    These ships will in effect become massive LHAs/LPHs not designed or suited for such a role. Such a high value asset being used close to shore for amphibious operations is dangerous and just wrong. This is a make do decision ignoring the obvious serious risks incurred.

    The simple and right decision would have been to return both Albion LPDs to full service; as a start. Of the three remaining Bays one is permanently on station in the gulf as a mine hunter mother ship. In effect one LPD and two LSDs are available and that does not include downtime for maintenance etc.

    In order to supply additional amphibious capability due to poor planning and investment the new QE carriers are to be compromised. This exact scenario had been proposed by naysayers of this project. I find myself astonished that they were in fact correct.

    There are no arguments that will convince me this is the right direction. To see this ambitious project reduced to this is not just sad it is extremely dangerous. We will be a laughing stock – Again!

  11. Mike,the hangars and lifts on the QEC are designed from day one to accommodate Chinnook helicopters which has a range of nearly 500 miles !
    Didn’t you even know that ?

    • Jack fitting the new carriers with light landing craft will mean that when operated in this way they will have to operate far closer to shore therefore significantly increasing risk to these ships – in effect an LPH. Utilising 70600 ton aircraft carriers in this role which they are simply not designed or suited for is the stretch to far. Given that it is only relatively recently that the ability to carry troops has been adopted a further increase in troop numbers is not necessarily a bad thing however troop deployment should, in my opinion, be by helicopter only. Bringing the second Albion back into full service is the wise thing to do, a ship designed to deliver troops and equipment to shore via landing craft and helicopter.

  12. Will the QE be reconfigured for amphibious Ops? Probably not, one size fits all? So where are all the marines going to be accommodated? We don’t want a situation where we have the hanger deck full of camp beds, as was the case with the Invincible class!

  13. I recall John Nott, the then defence sec, when visiting HMS Fearless during an exercise, (he was planning to scrap her), “I had no idea that these ships could do this.” Its the same with Albion & Bulwark, ministers have no idea what these ships are capable of!

  14. These two fantastic ships will be too valuably deployed in their primary roles as strike carriers in the Pacific for the next generation, to be used in the Amphibious role if ever required. Purpose built ships are required to carry out such operations. Two British adaptations of the Cavour class are what will be needed to stop further foolish Chinese and Russian territorial ambitions

  15. carriers are for planes not shipping troups just a waste if emplkoed in this guse,simply we havent learnt a thing, seablind and stupid to our basic naval needs no wonder they cost the mint and the tresury complans of overcosts just plain band planning anf thought,simply we need a seaminded goverment who dont listen to thr raf and army,without a navy ther stuck here on an island,this country became an empire by its command of the sea nothing else

  16. Completely unsuitable as an LPH. For carrying follow on forces, then fine. I suspect this capability will mostly be used in the humanitarian role, within a low risk environment, which is also fine. But you’d have to be a complete moron to put such a large, vulnerable asset near a contested shoreline. That’s why you need custom built amphibious shipping.


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