The two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers currently in build in Rosyth are to get a flypast from F-35 aircraft on Friday.
A flight of F-35B jets will fly past the carriers at 2pm, with two flights past the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is in the final phases of fitting out in Rosyth. The flight deck of the 70,600 tonne vessels flight deck is nearly finished. Now a captain of one of the UK’s last aircraft carriers, the former HMS Illustrious, has told of his delight at the future flagship’s milestone.
Vice-Admiral Bob Cooling told The Portsmouth News:
“All the maritime community are absolutely delighted to see this magnificent ship becoming a reality. She puts us back in to the first division of major military nations. And it is right and proper her home port should be Portsmouth, which has been the home of the navy’s capital ships and air power ships for decades.”
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.”
Tabloids often like to quote 12 as the maximum number of F-35B’s the carrier will be able to carry (despite the intention to purchase 138 in the long term), however this, as you probably know, is nonsense. The carriers, in peacetime, will usually deploy with 12 F-35B’s as a minimum and a number of various helicopters. To reduce costs and free aircraft for other commitments, the maximum aircraft complement will not usually be carried in peacetime, it instead will be supplied as required or deployed to the vessels in the event of a crisis. Rather than funding a large and permanent Carrier Air Group, the relatively new concept of a Tailored Air Group rather than fixed Carrier Air Group will be adopted for the Queen Elizabeth class with the exact types and numbers of aircraft embarked being adjusted to meet current requirements and threats. I don’t see there being much call for 36 F-35B’s if delivering humanitarian aid, do you?
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.
Crew are currently moving aboard the supercarrier, sea trials begin in the New Year and the vessel moves to Portsmouth in Spring 2017.