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The new Queen Elizabeth class supercarriers will represent a “powerful and important strategic conventional deterrent” according to the First Sea Lord.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said at a ceremony announcing the naming of No. 207 Squadron as the F-35 OCU squadron:

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first carrier in the world designed from the outset to operate a fifth generation combat aircraft. Crucially, a second ship – HMS Prince of Wales – is on its way, which will give the UK a continuous Carrier Strike capability.

I have every expectation that, in time, this combination of carriers and jets will represent a powerful and important strategic conventional deterrent.”

The ships former commanding officer, Captain Simon Petitt, pointed out that there is a lot of symbolism in modern warfare and that having a ship the size of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will be the navy’s biggest ever, was significant.

The sight of a heavily equipped 70,000 tonne carrier, which is almost 300 metres long, heading towards a potential enemy had a deterrent effect that is essential if the UK wants to project influence across the world Petitt claims.

“It is massively visible, you can range back in history and see the value of this. Everything from Nelson deterring Admiral Villeneuve from leaving Cadiz all the way to the big battleships of early 20th century, to what we are doing now.

The Americans use it all the time. We currently haven’t got this level of carrier capability. The bigger the capability the more influence you have to bear.”

So great is the impact of larger vessels as a deterrent, they’re often used as a geopolitical chess piece. American governments have, since the second world war, moved aircraft carriers around to demonstrate American resolve.

The particular benefits of using carriers in this way are that they operate on the high seas, where permission is not needed from other countries.

Indeed, since modern US carriers are large and imposing they “show the flag” to great effect due to their sheer size alone. Equally, it is often argued that had the Royal Navy had two full sized carriers in 1982 it is more than possible that Argentina would not have attempted to take the Falklands in the first place.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to start fixed-wing flight trials with F-35Bs off the eastern coast of the US towards the end of the summer of 2018.

24 COMMENTS

  1. ‘it is often argued that had the Royal Navy had two full sized carriers in 1982 it is more than possible that Argentina would not have attempted to take the Falklands in the first place’

    Very likely, but if ‘Mrs T’ hadn’t signalled her disinterest in the place by planning to scrap Endurance to save peanuts the question would never have come up.

  2. If only the MOD and goverments of the last 50 years studied naval history they would realise that the threat ” of a gun boat over the horizon” has sorted out many sticky situations and reduced potential conflicts. Looks like they are just starting to learn the lessons of the past and a carrier battle group is the modern gun boat, something a Trident boat can’t do and be a visual deterrent.

    • Having just watched a U-Tube video of her passing some shoreline buildings, I can say she looks imposing to say the least. In a post Brexit world, her presents in territories where we seek or have treaties, QE will visually reassure. That is exactly what the RN has done for centuries. Turning up with a signal frigate may be okay, but this new carrier will certainly under wright any assurances. She also represents a country determined to fly its flag, in any part of the globe, and not one to shy away from its determination to be seen and heard.

  3. I might be inclined to agree, however it cannot be the case as the vessel itself has next to no self defence and it will not have any aerial protection for another 3-4 years (at best!!).

    Sheer lunacy!!

    • Absolutely Rob – The QE carriers are only deterrents if they are properly resourced with their full air wing and carrier battle group – ie, enough escorts. Anything less and our potential foes know we aren’t serious or don’t have the money and are only playing at being a major power. Unfortunately for us, both are true with the recent spat of governments we have and have had.

      As for QE’s ‘weapons test’?? ….. that should as long as needed to put a GPMG on a mantel! As you said, she has NONE! Based on CG images we all have seen posted on the internet, she won’t even have a Phalanx on each corner – she will only have 3. Seriously?? That’s how skint we are??

      Forget Sea Ceptor being added later – never going to happen. Typical British naval procurement: late, over budget and under-armed!!! Sickening!

      • You only need 3 Phalanx for hemispherical coverage. The mounts “Talk” to each other during engagements and carry out threat analysis between them to work out which mount has the best chance of downing the target.
        The latest pics from astern of the ship show mounts on the deck for Phalanx, 30mm AGS and the Torpedo Defense system.
        No doubt there will be 7.62 mini guns, GPMG’s, and 50 Cals dotted around the upperdeck as well.
        SeaCeptor would be a nice to have but launching missiles during flying ops is fraught with danger from as simple a thing as a FOD hazard ( Which Phalanx causes anyway with its sabots) to the complex issue of having to designate safe fly corridors for your aircraft. It probably is not worth the hassle.

        • She will be the only carrier in the world without sea ceptor equiv – the only one.

          I hope martlett will be added to 30mm from 2020.

  4. A wonderful majestic looking hull, but why are there no defensive phalanx …are these going to fitted at a later time seems so odd a super carrier has no defensive capabilities apart from her destroyer and frigates and astute boat.

  5. She has been built for but not with EVERY single component of carrier strike
    -no aircraft
    -not enough escorts
    -not enough submarines
    -from 2018 no supporting amphibious ready group with retirement of HMS Ocean
    -no ability to sink enemy ships with withdrawal without replacement of harpoon
    -no forward repair ship with scrapping of RFA diligence, quietly and without any announcement to parliament to gain consent
    -no maritime patrol aircraft until first 2 in 2019 and last of only 9 in service in 2021-2022
    – utterly inadequate self defence weaponry on QE. She is only reasonable sized carrier over 30,000 tons to have no SAM system in the World, 3 phalanxs is not enough.
    who makes these short sighted, incoherent and plain maddening strategically incompetent decisions?
    forget about being a deterrent at present the Russians are sadly right QE is just a big easy target.

  6. These comments are a joke! We’ve just got the first of 2 70.000tonne aircraft carrier’s and all you can do is slag them off, she starts trials next year with the f35, these things dont happen over night, operating a carrier with a large and capable airwing is a very complex and expensive operation, hence why so few countries operate vessels of this size. Just been grateful we are getting them at.

    • In no way are we levelling criticism at the door of the QE Class. It is clear that they are magnificent vessels. They truly are a wonder to behold – so graceful, well proportioned and we cannot wait to see these enter service with the RN. They really seem to be delivering on their promise to be a step change in carrier development from the originators of the format.

      What we are criticising, however, is the seeming lack of any joined up thinking in military planning over the last two decades.

      SDSR 2015 was a step in the right direction and has put in place some much needed developments, albeit several years too late. It will need to be followed up with some future plans which are significantly more detailed to redress some of the very real concerns we are facing.

      The capability gaps we have need to be resolved post haste.

      We also need a well resourced force to secure our border, no we have begun the exit from the EU. Something more akin to the US Coastguard. We need a presence in our local backyard to stop the multinational fishery organisations infringing on our interests. So we can stop smuggling of narcotics through our porous coastline. So we can once more stand on our own two feet as a nation.

      I can count on one hand the vessels our border force has at its disposal. I disagree with some commentators on this site who feel we should gift the first batch of River Class boats to this cause. I feel we could learn a lot from the RNLI. Fast, powerful and nimble cutters which can handle anything our temperate climate can offer. A fleet of boats akin to the 54ft Arran class policing our backyard would do wonders for improving the policing of our fair isle’s coastline.

      Bigger is not necessarily better. We need fast nimble but strong and safe vessels, which embark several armed agents to police our waters.

      Over and above that we will have our ‘home fleet’ to act as a shield to protect us from unwanted aggression from more organised opposition.

      Above the we will have our MPA, and the Predator and Watchkeeper drones. We also need a rotary based drone to fly from T23,T26, T31,River and QE.

      Time for us to wake up to the big bad world!

        • The Border Force is doing just this. I saw a picture a week ago of the first of the new 20m RIBs that BF has just got…

          https://www.facebook.com/littlehamptonharbour/photos/pb.180130608696723.-2207520000.1475971364./1186149978094776/?type=3&theater

          I saw the numbers somewhere as well but I think they are getting a few of these.

          I agree with you 100% re River B1 by the way – crew costs too high. In a 10-year view it would be better to get more smaller vessels (42m cutters and/or 20m RIBs assume the latter perform as needed).

          I also think the BF should make more use of surveillance drones. There is some good stuff available (e.g. the Thales i-Master) that could be hosted on a variety of drones. It might need more work to optimise for sea environments but to me a worthwhile investment that could also act as a testbed for RN applications (e.g. to give the River B2s some extra surveillance options) and any necessary extra developments, e.g. perhaps maritime declutter algorithms, could be jointly funded. Everyone wins except for the bad guys.

          • Fair point. I can’t remember I’m afraid but I think it was more like “quite a few”. Maybe I’m remembering what I want to remember but I think it was into double figures.

          • I found some more information. I got carried away. Apparently the Border Force are getting 8 of these. I suppose when I first read it a while ago, having got used to token purchases and planned numbers being cut, getting 8 sounded like a whole lot to me. Still, I’d rather see more of these and maybe more 42m cutters and definitely more drones rather than saddling BF with the running and crew costs of the River Batch 1s.

      • “We also need a rotary based drone to fly from T23,T26, T31,River and QE.”.

        I so agree! Something like the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter looks good. It can even carry a couple of Martlet and is easily container-able. Something like that could add so much reach to River B2 for anti-smuggling and similar operations. That’s true for the other platforms (T23/T26/etc) of course but for River B2 the step-change in capability would be the most dramatic.

        S-100 isn’t quite there for an armed drone (not relevant for BF but would be good for RN) in that its payload isn’t enough to carry a comprehensive sensor suite such as Thales i-Master plus a couple of LMM (or 4 FFLMM), it would be either/or right now, but it is so close that a next-gen version should be able to push the current payload capacity up enough to do that.

    • Bravo! This is a huge step in the right direction. My congratulations to the RN and the U.K., you have every right to be proud. I’m proud of her and I’m not a Brit. She will be one hell of a lot more powerful than that Russian rust bucket. She is one of the most powerful warships in the world. It takes time and money to work everything out. Better to spend time and money than pay with blood and lose our freedom.

  7. I’m not a fan of the two island design. Seem like over kill and wasted space for exra deckspace for aircraft..

  8. Absolute tosh and a massive waste of taxpayers money as per usual.
    We simply cannot afford such luxuries as these two vessels where are the aircraft for them????
    To spend so much money on these carriers by our government is lunacy we’re having to penny pinch to man them the bloody aircraft for them cost over 100million apiece they’ll be lucky to get 2or3 each

  9. A step in the right direction for RN/ border force would be to retain all 3 of the River class batch 1 vessels, leave HMS Clyde in the Falklands and then we would have 9 ocean going patrol vessels able to protect the uks fisheries now we have declared we are taking back on sovereign territory from the bloody EU.
    French, German fishermen will try to ignore the withdrawal from the London treaty and try to enter our waters. They need to be met by an adequate vigilant patrol force enabled to enforce UK law.
    Agree about drones. They make utter sense. ScanEagle for example currently deployed on RN vessels costs £5k per hour to fly vs £20k+ for a helicopter and £10-12k for a surveillance aircraft/ turboprop. HMS Protector has recently deployed to Antarctica with a 3d printer able to print out drones at a cost of £2-3k per drone and just £500-600 per hour flight costs. Makes huge economic and military sense. Drones are the future and not just for surveillance but attack duties also. Tarranis, Reaper etc are very cost effective platforms.

  10. I think the QE class carriers are magnificent ships, they will form the core of the RN for many years to come.
    They have however unfortunately been “born” into a period, post Iraq/Afghanistan, that saw the RN gutted and left in the hollowed out state we see it today.
    Unless there is a real move to return the RN back to an (absolute minimum) of 25 frigates and destroyers, 30 would be better and a minimum SSN fleet of 10 (12 ideally), plus a boost in Merlin and Wildcat numbers and sufficient well paid and looked after personal to underpin it all, these superb carriers will never be properly utilised.

    With the force structure as it stands today, if we deployed a carrier strike group, the RN would need to effectively curtail all its other enduring commitments to furnish the required units and personal for the duration of any Operation.
    And that is simply not creating the enduring carrier capability, as the MOD claim.

    In fact the extra strain on an already overstretched RN will cause even more people to leave.

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