The Royal Navy say its Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will be interchangeable with US Navy carriers.
First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin was addressing the second Atlantic Future Forum, onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth while the ship was moored in the Chesapeake Bay just offshore of Annapolis, the US Naval Institute reported.
“As she has demonstrated already, we can successfully field a combined US, UK carrier strike group. I look forward to this developing further, moving to the point where we are not only talking about interoperability, but we are looking for interchangeability.”
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, reportedly told members of the media:
“What we’re trying to do is get beyond being interoperable. There are lots of nations that can do that. What we want to be here is absolutely integrated, so almost it doesn’t matter what flag you’re flying; the U.S. ship or aircraft can dock into our strike group seamlessly as though it was a British ship. We’ve made some huge strides this autumn getting into that.”
In 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth will deploy with two frigates, two destroyers, a nuclear submarine and support vessels. The ship will also carry 24 F-35B jets, including US Marine Corps aircraft, in addition to a number of helicopters.
Captain Jerry Kyd, former commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth, commented on the initial deployment and the gradual increase in air wing numbers:
“We are 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.”
After the deployment, by 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.