Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mike Penning, was welcomed on board the the Queen Elizabeth class supercarriers in Rosyth.

Minister for the Armed Forces, Mike Penning MP, said:

“These magnificent ships have created thousands of jobs in Rosyth and across the UK, and I am proud to meet the men and women who are bringing them into service.

These carriers will spearhead Britain’s sea power for the next 50 years, keeping our nation safe at home and protecting our interests abroad. They are just part of our investment in a growing Royal Navy, backed by a defence budget that will rise every year for the rest of the decade.”

Jerry Kyd, the Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said:

“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.”

Jon Pearson, Delivery Director for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said:

“The scale and complexity of the QE Class programme demonstrates the ability of British Industry to deliver world-class products and capability to our Armed Forces.

Both ships are at an highly advanced state, and it was a pleasure to host the Minister on HMS Queen Elizabeth as the Aircraft Carrier Alliance prepares her for the Ship’s Company living on board early next year.”

Currently in the final stages of completion, HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to go sea for contractor trials in the New Year.

She’ll return to the Forth once those are done for a final period of fitting out and testing.

She is due in Portsmouth around the 9th of May 2017.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“Work on the Carriers is a national undertaking, with shipyards across the country, from Scotland to Devon, lending Great British brainpower and skills to the programme.”

Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35.

The Queen Elizabeth is due to start sea trials next year before its first deployment in 2021, followed by its sister ship, the Prince of Wales.

It was stated that the Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018.

Former First Sea Lord George Zambellas said:

“When the first of our new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, deploys on her first mission in a few years, with fifth generation fighters and drones embarked, she will scotch at a stroke any talk of Britain’s retreat from the world.”

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.

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. The carriers are useless without their air compliment and escorts.

    Time to commit to both the type 26 and type 31. Personally I would build a frigate every year indefinitely as even a Fremm/Iver Huitfeldt costs £500m. Not sure where Britain gets its huge costs from, we can afford to buy one of these and a major support vessel each year

  2. The way I hear it, the higher a radar is – the further it can see.

    The QE’s are taller than T45’s.

    Why not put a AAW radar on the QE/PoW, and turn the T31 into not much more than sailing missile silos. Network the sensors from the carriers into the missiles on the escorts. Free up the T45’s for other roles. (Protecting an amphibious landing maybe)

    Just a thought.

  3. The 12 figure quoted by the media is not entirely false, even if it is misleading, since we just won’t have enough jets to have more than maybe 12 on them at anyone time outside a serious conflict.

    To me it is stupid that we are building such large carriers and then providing them on average with a quarter of the planes that they can carry. But as with the news story it is all policitics to make it look like we are a major military power on paper.

    If i understand correctly we will have 4 squadrons of 12 planes or 48, plus effectively another ‘standby’ squadron of 12, so a total of 60, which means that we can not even surge fill the 2 carriers, as we will have max 30 jets each, assuming 100% availablity which is insanely unlikely and we will have enough pilots available.

    Yes, there needs to be room for helicopters, but in the event of a major conflict, other support ships can carry the helicopters, whilst the carriers are the only ones that can carry the f35s.

    When it comes to it, this whole project seems poorly thought out and focused on smoke and mirrors. You don’t see the US carriers reguarly deploying with a quarter of their potential capacity, i am not sure about the french etc.

    Hopefully over time they will rethink that 12 squadron idea and increase it to use more of the 138 total that we are meant to be buying.

    • With Illustrious going there isn’t much else that can actually carry plus crucially also support/maintain a helicopter as opposed to simply providing a lillypad for one. Albion class? No hangers. Bay class? No hangers (or one temporary one on occassion). Argus? Probably soon to be retired. Frigates & destroyers? OK, 1 or 2 each but probably only enough to provide fleet ASW and ASuW protection so not much capacity left over for transport cabs. Yes, there are a few hangars scattered around some of the RFA ships but it’s not a lot and most of those would probably be tied up with provisioning.

      I’m not saying it’s a good situation but given the position that successive governments have put the RN into I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s stupid. Right now we have to accept that these carries will also need to host a significant helicopter fleet in time of crisis. If we ever rationalise and update our amphibious assets then at that point maybe the carrier space could be freed up to take on a purer strike role and at that time we might even be further into the F35B buying cycle so might be able to add a squadron or two but for now the current plan actually seems to me to be the most intelligent way to make the best of a bad situation.

      • “a few hangars scattered around some of the OTHER RFA ships” since I realise that Argus and the Bays are RFA ships. I meant primarily the Forts having decent hangar facilities.

        • I think the main issue is connected to ‘what if’ situation.

          Let’s say we had a major conflict, something like the falklands again, which seems insanely unlikely, or we had to use the carriers to defend norway as was the plan during the cold war or another country.

          Panic stations, navy task force is launched and they then fudge it with the helicopter platforms, they could even pull in civilan ships to use as launch platforms, pretty quickly.

          What we can’t fix quikcly is the lack of jets and the corresponding lack of pilots (we could beg another f35b country to borrow some planes, but who is going to fly them).

          However, I guess 50 years is a long time and there is plenty of time to either have one carrier sold/mothballed (most likely and would mean plenty of jets to surge one carrier) or to buy more jets at some point in the future.

          • Falkland campaign had 42 Harriers and were really stretching the sortie sustainment rate of the carriers. Your figures for F-35B, as I understand it, are absolutely correct so 48 front line and 60 if the OCU squadron is included and that’s on carriers that can easily support word-class sortie rates on that number of airframes. Things really aren’t going to be the doom and gloom that some predict, at least if current plans are implemented successfully.

  4. Excellent report, I am jealous of those people who live in Portsmouth who be able to see her sail into port.
    The QEC will provide the RN and the other UK armed forces a capability which we haven’t had for a generation.

  5. The carriers were designed to be able to launch 90 strike missions a day over a 5 day period. I doubt we will ever have enough F35B to fulfill that mission for one carrier let alone two. The RAF wants to procure the F35A instead of the F35B, so be lucky to get more than 50 B’s. This then makes these very large ships pointless, as there will never be enough aircraft for them to fulfil the original justification for buying them. Yet another procurement mess care of the UK MOD.

    • RAF wants the A version (cheaper, greater weapon lift and much longer range than the B version), which cannot be used by the carriers, A split buy is most likely , 48 B and 90 A this would make the decision to build such large carriers the wrong one. The original 1998 SDR called for 2 carriers in 35000-40000 weight range, yet again the UK loses control of a defence procurement project.
      We spend £6bn plus on two carriers, yet we expect our troops to ride around in 50 year armoured vehicles (FV432/Bulldog) that highly vulnerable to IED/RPG attack.
      Its all a question of priorities and getting the best value for our money.

      • The RAF may want F35A’s but i doubt they will get them. There would need to be a big need case for them to justify it, which in turn could not undermine the need for the carriers.

        • The key here is not value for money, but policitics.

          If they accept that we need the longer range/payload, they will be effectively admitting that the decision not to go for the F35C’s was a mistake.

          They would also be bringing into question the need for carriers, which i think would be a valid discussion, but one that is too late to have.

          • The RAF wants the A version on grounds of capability, add in the lower buy and ownerships costs it would seem certain they achieve their ambition. I think the RN should be happy to get 48 B, as it will at least give them some offensive capability that has been lacking since the premature retirement of SHAR. The procurement of two very large carriers was a mistake, but we are stuck with them for the next 50 years while other parts of our armed forces will not equipped with the right equipment because this mistake

  6. Excellent we’re getting the two carriers but… how about trying something simple!. The FAA gets 60, or maybe a few more, and they operate 3 or4 squadrons them from the carriers. Meanwhile the RAF gets 60 or so F35A’s and forms 3 or 4 squadrons to operate them. Roughly 138 aircraft. As Sergei would say… it’s so simples!

  7. Only buying 48 F35B’s would compound the ‘mistake’ over the 2 large carriers, since it would guarantee that we could never even surge one, let know fully equip 2.

    As such they need at least 60-80 to make the carriers viable.

    Also bringing 2 different jets, means extra training and parts etc and so extra costs.

    I just can’t see us doing a split buy, it just adds too much to the cost and the policitical/PR fall out would be too big.

    • Also effectively the navy and the airforce are sharing pilots under the F35B plan. I don’t know how much different the A vs B are to fly, but i reason there must be some differences and this would mean lower flight time as we would be operating 3 different combat jets (typhoon, f35a, f35b).

  8. I would not have chosen the carriers to have a ski jump and then be stuck at using F-35B. I would have chosen a through deck and then the ability to use any type of aircraft. The carriers could then have used any number of combat aircraft designs, and also could accommodate allied aircraft in times of need, such as F/A-18, Rafale or F-35C.

  9. I have seen no reports that the RAF have requested the F35A, however, they should and leave the Fleet Air Arm to own all the required F35B’s to fly from the carriers and it will be done properly. When Admiral Zambelis states in peacetime the aircraft numbers will normally be 12, freeing up others for other duties says it all. Translating to what it really means is…the RAF will only have their aircraft on the carriers if they really have to, preferring to be nice and cosy on their land base at Marham. It needs the MOD to grow some balls, give the RAF some A models, which would be cheaper anyway, let the FAA fly all the required B models from the carriers which is what in the real world is their bread and butter. Every other carrier capable nation sensibly adopts this philosophy. Those who don’t think the carriers are necessary are living in a bubble, it won’t be too many years before they will have to eat their words, the recent Libyan campaign proved that only too well.

  10. The carriers can still be fitted with catapults. It was too expensive because we would have to invest in R&D Untill the US Ford class finish the testing. Just procure F-35c beyond this batch

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