HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister are symbols of national power due to their ability to project power and capability all over the world.
This article is concerned with the cultural and symbolic significance of aircraft carriers in the early 21st century, and in particular HMS Queen Elizabeth. The might and innovation of the Royal Navy are symbolised in its technological and strategic assets. For years, the Royal Navy has punched above its weight while, relatively speaking, British power has declined.
However, the creation of this supercarrier has rejuvenated the image of Britain as a Great Power, with global military reach. The UK already has the fifth largest military spending in the world, and this symbolism is seen in the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
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.
Increasingly, international relations is being governed by the power and capabilities of navies worldwide. With the rise of China, as a revisionist power in the Asia-Pacific, European Powers, such as the United Kingdom have to show they can play a vital role with cutting-edge technologies. While the Dreadnought at the beginning of the 20th century embodied naval power, it was not until the Second World War, that the aircraft carrier became the symbol of power.
As such, aircraft carriers symbolise a nation’s power. It shows its ability to project its power and is an icon of power in this new technological age. During the Second World War, the United States proved that the aircraft carrier was the most important warship of all. Maritime doctrine during the Cold War was based on aircraft carriers and also submarine warfare. In the Post – Cold War world, we are witnessing the emergence of other nations such as Japan, China, and India investing in aircraft carrier capabilities, while other nations like France, Britain and the United States, have invested money in retaining and advancing their capabilities. This is significant as all these nations place a premium on aircraft carriers.
A modern aircraft carrier can carry a large amount of fuel and weapons anywhere in the world. It can be used for air support, destruction of enemy air defences and destruction of enemy ships. It flies the flag of the nation and is a formidable warship to be contended with. As such, it is a symbol of a Great Power and defines how a country views a nation which possesses such vessels. Let us discuss international relations and how an aircraft carrier can help bring about credibility to a nation.
For a nation to deploy an aircraft carrier, it is a show of strength to other nations. It shows the ability of a nation, and its ability to project power and capability at a moment’s notice. The display of sophisticated weaponry, aircraft, and the sheer size of the vessel is symbolic of power and capability.
To put it simply, a nation’s possession of a properly fitted out aircraft carrier helps cement its status as a great power.
The cost of aircraft carriers run into the billions and this is no exception for the Royal Navy. However, while in past Britain has based its power upon its smaller carriers such as the Invincible class, this new ship has a full flight deck with a lifespan of 50 years. While mini-carriers and amphibious landing craft can take on some of the roles of an aircraft carrier, the new HMS Queen Elizabeth symbolises the military might of Great Britain and its technological capabilities to other nations overseas. Its sheer and imposing size is to be marvelled at in relation to other Royal Navy aircraft carriers in the past.
In conclusion, for a nation to spend billions on a supercarrier demonstrates resolve and its conception of itself as a major power in the world, able to create a technologically sophisticated warship which has a formidable power projection capabilities. Its power and significance in international relations should not be under-estimated when regarding the rise of other powers such as China.
The UK is a global power and has reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.