The Ministry of Defence have clarified the details regarding the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and their complement of aircraft.

Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35 in 2018.

Merlins will start simple flight activities from the deck of the supercarrier later in 2017 and the UK is on target for its new F-35B aircraft to reach initial operating capability by 2018 and expects to have 24 of the jets available for service on the carrier by the year 2023.

According to the Ministry of Defence:

“We are fully committed to both the F-35 and the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programmes -both of which are on track to enter initial maritime operating capability in December 2020 as planned.

We expect Queen Elizabeth carrier to commence sea trials in 2017, and have been clear that UK F-35 aircraft will begin flying from Queen Elizabeth in 2018.”

It has also been revealed that the first of the two new Queen Elizabeth carriers will conduct F-35 flight trials off the eastern coast of the US in 2018.

Ian Booth, managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said:

“Pretty much everything is now installed in the ship and working. We’ve had lots of prior factory testing before putting systems on board and so far, it’s all looking pretty good.

Over the next few months we will finish compartment handovers, and complete work to coat the flight deck. We will also conduct harbour events and acceptance trials for virtually all systems – propulsion, steering, navigation, or communications – here [at Rosyth] before we go.”

Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said:

“As Britain’s pre-eminent operational partner, including in our current fight against Daesh, the inter-operability of British and American  forces is crucial. Having British and US F35s alongside each other aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on its first operational tour, will further cement our close defence ties as Britain steps up internationally.

Britain and America’s longstanding defence and intelligence sharing epitomises the special relationship that helps keeps both our nations safer and more secure.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to start sea trials in March, followed by sister ship HMS Prince of Wales in the coming years.

Uniquely for a vessel of this type, it will be common to see the jump-jet F-35B appear to land conventionally. This is a process called Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL). It is a process designed to land jump-jet aircraft that uses both the vertical thrust from the jet engine and lift from the wings, thus maximising the payload an aircraft can return with and stopping the financial waste that comes with dropping expensive weaponry in the sea in order to land vertically.

SRVL landing is under development for use with the F-35B when it enters service with the Royal Navy in 2018. Rolling landings will enable the F-35B to land on these carriers with an increased weapon and fuel load and will use the aircraft’s computer controlled disc brakes. However, a number of defence analysts have suggested that operational SRVL landings may only be possible within a limited range of sea states and weather conditions.

What will the vessels carry?

The term now used for the carriers embarked squadrons is ‘Carrier Air Wing’ (CVW). The vessels are capable of deploying a variety of aircraft in large numbers, up to a maximum in the upper fifties in surge conditions.


Captain Jerry Kyd, 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.”

In addition to the joint force of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy F-35Bs and their pilots, the air wing is expected to be composed of a ‘Maritime Force Protection’ package of nine anti-submarine Merlin HM2 and four or five Merlin for airborne early warning; alternatively a ‘Littoral Manoeuvre’ package could include a mix of RAF Chinooks, Army Apaches, Merlin HC4 and Wildcat HM2. We understand that vessel would still carry at least one F-35 squadron aboard in such circumstances to offer air defence as well as support to the helicopter assault activities.

The Crowsnest AEW&C aircraft will come from a number of the embarked Merlins (any of which can be fitted with the sensor package), the number again scaling with requirements.

Around the time the first carrier deploys operationally, 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.

Recently, the Ministry of Defence confirmed plans for the deployment of American F-35 aircraft alongside British jets aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The addition of US Marine Corps aircraft will see HMS Queen Elizabeth sail with 24 or so F-35Bs in addition to around 14 or so helicopters for her maiden deployment. It is understood that the US aircraft will augment British jets on coalition operations.

We understand that the composition of the CVW is a balance between ship capacity and squadron availability. Squadrons assigned or ‘programmed’ to sail on deployment will mostly in the case of the aircraft carrier be unique to it, for example the airborne early warning helicopters that have no other purpose but to serve the carrier force.

In addition, we have also been told by a senior source that we will shortly see decisions like this for the F-35B and “maybe a utility helicopter (or tilt-rotor in future) type”.

The source we spoke to told us that his expectation is that the vessels will sail with a larger number of F-35 than previously expected because “It is not that they can’t do land based operations, just that there is a need to get the return on investment for the well found forward deployed bases that these aircraft carriers that form the centre of the CSG are” and that “the capacity of the F-35B force in the near years in particular is very limited and it is unwise to do other deployments”.

We discussed this with retired Air Marshal Greg Bagwell who expressed doubt that the composition of the CVW would develop this way initially, referring to the idea of set numbers being assigned so far in advance he said:

“There is absolutely no need to fix a flexible capability so far in advance – it hems politicians in unnecessarily.”

Another source we spoke to, currently flying the jet, explained to us that the vessels will deploy with the number and type of aircraft required for a specific deployments:

“Where F-35B is based is entirely down to the most suitable basing option for the tasks/missions is being sent to do. If that’s a well-founded host nation base, great; if it’s the Carrier, great; if it’s an austere location, fine.

Range, logistics and other ‘enablers’ such as AAR and connectivity will determine what’s the best option.”

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.


    • In the age we live in some people prefer to believe the myths than the facts as outlned in this excellent article.
      You can’t stop people living in their own reality.
      The two carriers will give us a capability, flexibility and presence on the seas and oceans we haven’t had for a generation.

      • Totally agree however, there are no doubt a lot of people in the MOD who will be amazed we went so long without carrier borne aircraft. Scrapping the Invincible Class was a highly risky policy.

        From what I have read, QE could operate F35’s in 2018 using US Marine planes if they were required in a crisis situation? At least we wont be bereft of sea air power in the coming years. As long a US and UK foreign policy is aligned, it make consummate sense to share sea platforms.

  1. One of the advantages of buying the stovl version of the F35 is that deck landing skills do not have to be kept at the same high standard as would the catobar version. The embarked aircraft can therefore be more easily supplemented by land based flights. There have been recent reports that the USAF will not be ramping up purchases as quickly as anticipated. Presumably this will free up slots for aircraft headed to this side of the pond.

  2. There is still the issue of the unsympathetic RAF controlling the aircraft – they will ALWAYS campaign for RAF and not RN.

  3. The article says sea trials to commence in 2017, whereas I’d previously seen them scheduled for 2016. Is that a mistake or a schedule change?

  4. These will be very impressive ships… Able to carry F35’s, Crowsnest AEW, Anti sub helicopters, Apache Helc’s plus commando helicopters with up to 900 marines and aviation crews. Fantastic multi-purpose ships. My Uncle served in the Royal Navy for many years on board carriers and the Royal Yacht, I know he is very much looking forward to seeing the ships in Portsmouth… ships to be proud of..

  5. A very good article. However, I am very curious as to why the squadron numbers don’t appear to be in the F.A.A’s tradition ie, 700 series, training and 800 series operational??????

  6. Its a shame they were not built with a catapult and through deck hook landing capability? We could then have a greater choice of aircraft carried?

    • stupid in the extreme when you consider the cost of 1 f-35 $78mill against a super hornet $64million, cancel 1 f-35 and use the money for catobar systems.the french rafale or operationally proven super hornets are a by far better option thanthe vstol f-35b

      • Where on earth do you get the idea that catobar equipment costs $78mil? Is that for both carriers so maybe only $38m for each ship? I doubt that would even pay for 1 year’s maintenance costs to keep the equipment running once installed let alone design, build and install it. Then there’s the extra costs of keeping sufficient pilots certified for catobar operations. Of course catobar would have been nice in an ideal world but we aren’t a super power any more and this is what we can afford. It’s still a very worthwhile capability provided that it doesn’t end up absorbing so much of the budget that it ends up with the RN being a single carrier group and nothing else. Also, before the CdG comparisons start coming out, we are getting 2 carriers so the ability to hopefully always have 1 available compared to the French with impressive capability when CdG is available but also long periods of capability gap when she isn’t.

    • especiallygiven that the new u,s carrier gerald fords cat system was£102 million. q.e and p.o.w could easily have been catobar fitted an able to carry mor and cheaper aircraft like the f-18 and rafale

  7. Sound article, its just a shame this information has to be perpetually pushed out. One point though at 70 600t, 280m long and 70m wide I would hardly call them small carriers. They are large carriers, very large carriers, the only carriers built outside the USN that are classed as Super Carriers. Flexible to UK requirements in time, with enough aircraft, they will be capable of delivering sortie rates similar to the Nimitz class but at a fraction of the cost. These ships are marvels and will cement the UK as a major global military power for decades to come; bring it on!

  8. It will be interesting to see how the reality compares with the spin.

    I have no doubt we will have some aircraft to fly off them, but will we have enough fully trained pilots and planes to actually do anything more than we could have done with the old invisible class and how they compare with what france can put out with its carrier.

    I am still unclear why we didn’t just build 2 or 3 smaller carriers, when it is clear that we have for many years been unable to field many aircraft. Hopefully the F35’s will solve that, but I am unclear how much it is equipment and how much it is a question of lacking pilots and aircrews.

    • when you consider that the american super carriers kitty hawk are in reserve, and the JFK on hold for a museum donation, the purchase of either or both of them instead of the QE class, with tailored air wings as part of the deal would surely have saved the taxpayer money to divert to the type 26 programme and would have been operational in quick time. its depressing when you hear that h.m.s dreadaught was built from scratch in under 12 months at portsmouth, how long have Q.E and P.O.W. been building for? if you google bmt venator you will see a design which i have no doubt the type 31 plans will incorporate

      • That is perhaps the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of. The Kitty Hawk is obsolete in extremus. The refurb costs and running costs would be obscene, for a less capable carrier.

        ” its depressing when you hear that h.m.s dreadaught was built from scratch in under 12 months at portsmouth”

        Because it was a vastly simpler vessel from decades ago, you honestly think that modern complex vessels are somehow on that sort of level? Jesus christ.

          • LOL – does the term “pot” & “kettle” mean anything to you? The Kitty Hawk suggestion is the most stupid thing I’ve heard on here for a good long time. Why didn’t you just go the whole hog and suggest taking the old Hermes back as the Indian Navy has just finished with it!!!

      • Off the top of my head, don’t the U.S super carriers require 3000 – 5000 personnel on board each to crew them. We just ain’t got the people to do that, short of a miraculously successful recruitment campaign

      • Just need drafty to find 5600 people per carrier, some with boiler front experience (Kitty Hawk) and nuclear engineers (JFK) and Bob’s your uncle!

    • Steel is relatively cheap. It’s all the tech that costs money and that’s required whatever the size of carrier. They decided to spend a little more for a bigger and much more flexible carrier. A surprisingly sensible MOD decision for once.

  9. I am still annoyed that as the sole Tier One partner in the F35 programme who are the 2nd biggest purchaser and the biggest foreign investor ($2.3 Billion) we weren’t given the Assembly line or the European maintenance base (which was touted as Marham) which both went to Italy. Who even with the Dutch aircrfat they are building is fewer than we are buying! And again why aren’t our aircraft being produced sooner? Now as I have said before I don’t have a problem with USMC aircraft testing the QE. Indeed I see many benefits of an experienced body testing a new team. But I feel we have been shafted by the Americans and Italians.

    • i’m angry knowing the uk sold 30 decomisioned harriers for just 14 much 2nd hand u.s. carrier airwing equipment could we have got for that 14 million?

    • @Chish – “I am still annoyed that as the sole Tier One partner in the F35 programme who are the 2nd biggest purchaser and the biggest foreign investor ($2.3 Billion) we weren’t given the Assembly line or the European maintenance base (which was touted as Marham) which both went to Italy.”

      So it’s not just me then :). That’s always bugged the hell out of me as well!

    • Chish, 15% of ALL F35’s sold in the US and right around the world will be built in the UK. That’s a LOT of aircraft.
      This is what being the only tier one partner gives us and it will be worth a lot more to British industry than a simple production line.
      Please don’t worry about the UK being shafted, we haven’t been.

    • Because the ‘special relationship’ is manure. But the F35 isn’t the worst of it. We’re due another ‘blood sacrifice’ like Iraq or Afghanistan. Then get mad. Not with the US but with our leaders.

  10. I don’t think we have been shafted by the Americans or any other government. The issue is that we didn’t place a firm order until much later than the others. We can’t expect to get priority if we don’t actually order the things.

    It seems to me that our home based defence building industry is in pretty much tatters now, not only because of the lack of companies but also the raw material.

    The only reason for propping up these industries (other than vote creation via jobs) is to have them in case we need in the situation of all out war, however if they aren’t now capable of that, then why bother building things here, better to build aboard and save money to properly equip and man our armed forces and not have a repeat of the embarrassments we had in Iraq and Afgan when it came to lack of basic gear. Probably, in reality, if we saved on the more costly gear by offshoring them, we could increase the armed forces numbers and in turn create even more jobs.

    • our defence industry is in tatters because BAE have been given a virtual monopoly on the u.k defence programmes the fact that the bath iron works in the u.s can churn out 3 destroyers a year, while the mickey mouse yards on the clyde will struggle to do one the MOD needs to start playing hardball with the clyde get the ships turned out at that rate per year.

  11. If they had been built with catapult and through deck hook landing capability we could have bought a decent AEW aircraft to protect these carriers when deployed we could have bought the E2D instead of Crownest which in nothing more than a bolt on system to Helos which they done in 1982. The Uk still hasnt thought about the protection of these carriers like a carrier battle group and how many ships it will take to protect these ships when deployed that includes submarines tasked to stay with the carriers like the USA carriers
    One big target for the Kh-35U (NATO designation AS-20 ‘Kayak’

    • if the R.N. uses the same model of a carrier group, we would need 1astute submarine 1 or 2 type 45 destroyers, a logistic ship and several frigates, in other words, the rest of the fleet.

    • Great point Colin. How is it our carriers will be the only ones afloat that do NOT have any sort of self defense missiles?? If every other carrier operator large and small deems it necessary even though they will have escorts, what makes us so special to think we don’t need them??? In today’s modern threat environment 3 CIWS is woefully inadequate. I read in another article on this site that it might be possible to ‘bolt on’ containerised CAMM – which we all know will never happen because there is no money – but going back to your point, self-defense seems a mere afterthought. When we read that we plan to sail our shinny new toys up the South China Sea in front of a very pissed off China, this is shortsighted in the extreme!

  12. @colin

    We will need a minimum of 6 escorts for these carriers 2 x T45 and 4 ASW (T23). Even in peacetime these are big targets and we are not the US rogue elements will think nothing of sinking our brand new capital ships.

    Add in a sub, a couple of tankers and an LPD and you have a carrier battle group of 8+ ships in times of peace. we should not sail with less but I suspect we will and I also suspect we will be attacked.

    • The USN does it with fewer hulls in a CSG. One Tico, 2 Burkes and an SSN when needed but there is no generic screen it depends on the task and threat. It could be 2 Ticos, 3 Burkes and no sub for example, or 2 subs could be attached to screen and where they go, nobody knows.
      We are never going to have 4 T-23s and 2 T-45s screening a UK CSG in my view, my guess would be 2 T-23s , 1 T-45 and an Astute, again depends on the mission.

  13. I would like to know how it is that the UK’s F35B concept is to provide “Carrier Strike” and yet the programme is being lead by the Royal Air Force and the current training squadron in the USA is a Royal Air Force squadron. The first front line squadron is going to be 617 (Dambusters) RAF at RAF Marham. I’m not sure what history of Carrier Strike 617 Squadron has? The Royal Navy, with an illustrious history of “fighting from the sea” has been sidelined by the “junior” Service once again! Having served on two of our Invincible class Carriers with embarked RAF Harriers I can testify that the RAF do not like going at sea! They take twice as many stores and people and hate the austere conditions which the RN thrive on! The Government should have let the Carrier Strike professionals lead the programme and let the RAF do what it does best. “Horses for courses!”

    • As the `Crabs` havn`t shot an adversary since 1948 maybe they think being at sea with the professionals will give them a better chance !

  14. Get a grip please. Just because the yanks swan around with a dozen ships doesnt mean we will or should. A carrier battle group need not consist of anything like the number of ships you propose. Who do you think we will send it against? Russia? China? Without allied help? CVF needs 1 x Type 45 as dedicated AAW (remember the carrier will have 2-4 F35B aloft as CAP). 1 x Type 26 as the primary ASW asset (again remember that it is planned to have a full squadron of 9 Merlin ASW). These ships need to be replenished so 1 x Mars FSS to cover spares, ammo, food, etc and 1 x Tide to cover the fuel supplies. These 5 ships form a very credible task force alone. Then add 1/2 Type 31 corvettes which can supply (hopefully) 1/2 Wildcat and 1/2 sonars. Having an SSN attached is not a good idea, as comms with the sub would be difficult and it would also complicate the underwater picture for the escorts (especially if Astutes are as quite as claimed), better to leave any underwater contact to be prosecuted by escorts. If in the extremly unlikley event of a full scale shooting war then add more full fat escorts, depending on the threat level. Few countries have the capability to prosecute a proper attack on the group as they would have a multi tiered defence to breach. Who outside the countries mentioned above can launch more than a few aircraft or asm or subs (which would probably be deisel and to slow to be a real threat).

    • Sorry I didn’t see your reply. I would say that AIP Subs are a real threat, very quiet and can be deadly if used correctly, well, until they fire a weapon, then they are pretty much toast since they can be chased down by a fast SSN.

  15. All very well having F35-Bs and Merlins (eventually with Crowsnest, without which every other warfighting capability of the carrier is open to debate). What about COD? If we are ever going to operate the carriers away from friendly waters we are going to have to fly various stores and personnel in at range greater than Chinooks. Osprey is one option, but there has been little said by the MoD or RN on what COD capability they think is needed.

    • It`s not only COD,no one`s mentioned tankers,you can`t buddy tank from an F 35.
      The whole project is a BAE stitch up supplying the ships IT want`s to build to tie the RN to the ONLY aircraft capable of operating from it which ,surprise surprise! is a another massive BAE project. The F35 itself is also a seriously flawed naval aircraft concept anyway,single engine,single crew.It`s a long way back to `Mother`if your aircraft`s damaged,goes U/S or the driver`s wounded.

  16. I’m sure the decision to build the two carriers will proved to be a wise move on the part of the MOD. Within the next ten years or so, the Worlds oceans could come under increasing pressure from terrorism and dominance by major naval powers. Exclusive portage deals by certain nations, could reduce options for the rest of the trading nations? Such deals are already in place or being planned. The possibility of exclusion zones or restricted routes, can’t be ruled out. If such a climate was to be successful, it would be due in part, by the reluctance of some nations not to invest in ocean reach. Having a strong naval component could halt or slow down adventurism, or at least challenge those who would have the capability, to demonstrate some control of international waters. What comes around goes around, the British should know, they too have implemented restrictive practises on the oceans, in its illustrious naval past.

  17. F-35B aircraft to reach initial operating capability by 2018 and expects to have 24 of the jets available for service by the year 2023.
    24 jets in 6 years time,Ho bloody ho.
    If we dont need a defence force now why will we in 2023?
    I can not fathom government’s vision of the future,but then neither can they and it looks to me like our heads of military have little influence.
    David Steven comments (may 13) but needs to consider what would be the effect of a single nuclear bomb,cruise missile, mine or torpedo to his minuscule carrier group.

    1 type 45as dedicated AAW (currently not doing so well I understand) would, if damaged, be less than helpful and as for the term hopefully when referring to the support Type 31 corvettes could bring to the gunfight rather sums up the potential situation.
    Britain should consolidate its armed forces to a robust and over supplied well equipped trained and manned defence force.
    We have peaked and are waning as a world power and need to recognise it.

    • To date, I reckon this is the most relevant reply. Tactical devices are still employed by others, 1 would do it for a whole task force.

    • in the 2nd ww ‘flat tops’ were produced by removing the superstructure of merchant ships and putting a full deck on what was left, how about doing that with a bay class and use it as an ocean replacement?

  18. Will these ships be there to protect the UK or be sent over seas?? And I have had on good advice from a person within the Navy… We Have the ships and other craft… But no one to man them…Yet I see MOD staff on dry land all the time doing nothing……

  19. SOme of the comments here are what shall I say interesting…
    Combined arms operations and carrier airwing operating dictate that a capital ship such as the QE class needs defence in depth. So airborne arning and control to vector in CAP f35b’s.
    Type 45 destroyers for close air defence along a vector line of most risk- providing area air defence with aster 30 missiles and closer self defence with aster 15’s.
    The QE class does need a self-defence missile fit- Containerised CAMM (sea captor) would I think be mandatory.
    It would seem the f35b programme has been given a boost in terms of production rates which was desperately needed- I am encouraged by the fact that the QE class would be able to deploy with at least 24 f35bs by 2023- although I wish that timeframe was pulled forwards by a couple of years- simply because by 2023 both QE class would have been in RN service for several years.
    What is desperately needed is more surface warships to defend the QE without using our entire available navy to guard the QE class. A carrier battle group will require 1-2 type 45’s, 2-3 type 23/type 26’s and ideally a couple of type 31’s for close protection and surface strike missions.
    Yet again I am left asking myself why we cannot afford enough warships to provide the required hull numbers needed- simple maths time: 8 type 26 frigates fitted out as ASW specialists= £5-6billion. High-end warships fair enough, but could the RN not afford more?- perhaps cut foreign aid budget and pump this money directly into building more type 26’s- cutting foreign aid budget by £500 million a year= 1 type 26’s funded per year or equally importantly a replacement for HMS Ocean. If the RN must have the type 31 frigate then lets hope it ends up being a relatively high-end warship with sea ceptor, a small mk41 vl system for asroc, anti ship missiles and a medium weight gun + hangar for helicopter. Ideally also order in more than 5 of the vessels to justify expenditure on R+D and help to provide confidence in the type for export markets- the RN needs a polyvalent hull type to provide critical mass and a presence in lower risk threat areas- so 10-12 type 31 frigate hulls needed- alternatively go back to the type 26 programme and order a further 6 hulls optimised for surface strike and close air defence- eg shielding the QE carrier battlegroup.
    It is the RN now that needs the lions share of all future defence budget expansion and developmental costs- also give the RN it’s fleet air arm back as a separate entity away from the jealousy and pettiness of the RAF, that is simply concerned about big-ticket items of huge waste- see Voyager air tanker programme- what a waste of billions of pounds of precious defence budget money that could easily have built us a RN surface fleet to be proud off.

  20. It’s horrible that are government are forcing are services to be at each others throat for resources. In an ideal world we should continue with equipping four f35B squadrons, but give all to the Royal Navy. Along with the Germans we should upgrade are Tornado to last till 2025, while we purchase the f35A and withdraw a tornado squadron as we form a f35A one like for like.

  21. The article isn’t exactly reporting the facts.

    It states the carrier will be active from 2020 and the f35b’s from 2023, meaning the carriers will have minimal at best planes when they launch.

  22. I think 6 type 45’s, 8 type 26 and 10 type 31’s could do the job… 3-4 escorts for the carrier depending on the type of deployment, plus extra cover sometimes from other NATO navies..

    This would leave enough Frigates for other more standard deployments plus the patrol vessels for low risk deployments (anti piracy) for example. This would also allow for a surge of escorts for a major military operation in the gulf for example or Europe.

    • How effective a surge of escorts that allows does of course depend on the capabilities of T31, genuinely frigate-like or pimped up OPV, but in general I agree with you. With the statement on record being “at least 5” T31 though I fear that getting 10 might be a bit of a stretch but you never know.

  23. I had read recently the RN could have 8 type 31’s, i think with that number the RN could still just about manage..

    Agree with you Julian 10 is wishful thinking on my part but we will see. Whatever the numbers are in the end it will certainly be a enhancement for the RN to have the type 26 and type 31 frigates

    • Any increase over the 19 escorts we have now should be welcome. However my concern is when?? The government is already talking a potential increase in frigate numbers in the 2030s – that’s at least 13yrs from now and simply won’t do. The Type 23s are nearing end of life with some having been in service for 20+ yrs already. I hope the government really takes seriously the National Ship Building strategy put forward in November but don’t hold your breath!!

      • Agree that any increase on 19 escorts is welcome. Apart from the T31 being a credible frigate rather than a pimped OPV numbers is the other key factor for the program making sense. If we only get 5 then T31 is just smoke and mirrors so that HMG can hide the fact that it let the T26 projects and costs get out of control. If we get 6 then that’s really only a slight political sweetener on the same smoke and mirrors. If we get 8 that’s the point where the trade off between capability and getting more hulls begins to look genuine and any more than 8 would be even better and validate T31 program further. Time will tell and I agree with David too – time(scales); that’s another big concern. Sad final thought is that hull numbers of zero is also a possible outcome where T31 is pushed out so far that it is quietly forgotten by whatever government is in power at the time leaving us with 14 escorts. I hope that really is the nightmare scenario that won’t happen but, especially with things like the NHS crisis, it is a possibility.

  24. When reading these comments it is incredible to reflect on the Royal Navy in 1962. In that year the Defence budget was 7% of GDP. We also had 42 ships under construction, they included 5 guided missile destroyers, 2 nuclear submarines, 10 Leander class frigates, 2 fast replenishment ships, 2 assault ships, 7 conventional submarines, 6 Tribal class frigates and 8 smaller craft. It seems like a different country, nobody complained about the defence budget and we still ran the NHS! Of course we were not in Europe and we did not have an overseas aid budget!!

  25. This article is just passing on a wish list from a chatty Navy type. The impression the author wishes to create is that this is all MoD official plans and policies.

    It isn’t.

    Truth is that the UK will half about half the number of F-35’s in service by 2023 than Australia.

    Truth is the UK is reliant on the USA to provide F-35’s to make up the numbers.

    For the world’s fifth biggest economy that is beyond pathetic. What other country operates like this??

    • Totally agree Ron – especially when it comes to ‘allowing’ USMC F-35s to operate off our QECs. This is nothing more than an excuse for the government to order as few of our own F-35s as possible! This government merely continues the policies of those prior – Labour and Conservative – by choosing to spend as little on defence as absolutely possible. Somehow we still are able to find billions ever year to piss away on foreign aid so we can’t say there isn’t any money. Bloody ridiculous!!

  26. well don’t forget the NHS, Schools, railways and so on.. would be great to have more money for the military but there are a lot of other things that need sorting out also… even though im very pro our military forces, quite a few members of my family have served in the military so i like to keep a close eye on what’s happening with our forces, we have to be realistic about the money that can be spent on the military.. If foreign aid was cut should go to the NHS first..

    when it comes to the carriers i think it’s great that US jet’s will be serving alongside our jets. I’m just glad we will have two large carriers again, no other country in Europe will have two large carriers so all good as far as im concerned..

    Look forward to seeing teh first of teh carriers make it way down to Portsmouth this year !!!

  27. It was not that long ago that the armchair admirals were saying the carriers would never be built…now proved wrong. Now they are saying they won’t have aircraft….shortly to be prov d wrong. However, I nor surprised ex Air Marshal Bagwell is trying to pour cold water on the requirement to have a full complement of aircraft on the carrier at an early stage. The RAF should have NO input, as most of us know they would wrather operate from the comfort of their land bases than the rigours of carrier operations.

  28. Sorry chaps to disagree with some of you but..
    The UK can afford to rebuild the RN something like an additional 7 billion on top of current agreed expenditure would suffice.
    £500-600 million to build a replacement for HMS Ocean
    4 more type 26 frigates optimised entirely for surface strike covering land strike and anti ship combat with some close range air defence using sea ceptor. 2.4 billion
    10 type 31 frigates if fitted out as a relatively high end warship circa 4500-5000 tons. Needs sea ceptor, 24 cell mk41 vl system, hangar for lynx flight deck capable of landing merlin sized helps and a CIWS + medium gun.=2.5-3 billion.
    i think the way to fund uk plc better is unfortunately more tax. Currently we are a high personal income low tax society. Put income tax up by 5p in the pound and put additional money into nhs, social care, education, defence and infrastructure.
    An easy win would be to fit strike length mk41 vl systems to the type 45s to really give them some teeth £1 billion for all 6 including missiles asroc,lrasm,tomahawk. It costs to have adequate national defence and public services and as a nation we simply all need to pay more to HMG to deliver the services everyone wants.

  29. A lot of good comments here.

    Regarding the comments on the acquisition of Rafale and F-18 Hornet.

    -Both have additional operating cost for Maintenance and Carrier qualification training in comparison to the F-35B
    -Cost for both do not include precision targeting capability. Pods for both are separate not to mention IRST for the F-18 and no software integration of the these devices into a highly integrated situational awareness software suite that the F-35B has.
    -Both do not have Low Observable features and if they do the hanging of weapons negates these features.
    -Both Aircraft are not even in the same league of being Network Centric as the F-35. This alone is a unparalleled capability the RN nor the RAF have ever had. MADL is a quantum leap over Link 16.
    -The range of the F-35B is 300nm less than the Rafale but will get there faster than the Rafale and F-18. F-18/Rafale have severe drag limitation when laden with weapons. In a non-contested air environment the F-35B has a good payload. Lets not even go into comparison with the Harrier GR9a!!
    -The AN/APG-81 Radar is a brilliant piece of kit. Probably 3x as good as the AN/APG-81 on the F-18E/F, the PESA crap on the Rafale is no comparison.
    -HMD on the F-35 when sorted is again a quantum leap in comparison to the HMD that are in legacy aircraft. The difference in Technology is like the HUD to HMD of the last decade.

    Surely these and many more features for the extra cost will be worth it in the end, the F-18 and Rafale will never get these capabilities!

    Ok yes the Navy is under strength in terms of number of hulls in the Fleet.
    But the Royal Navy hasn’t been able to field a Carrier Strike Group in the likes of the US Navy since around 1993. It was lucky to go on Ops with 1 Type 42 and 1 Type 23 even in the days of Kosovo!

    Type 45 Crap propulsion system but great AAW 10x better than the system on the Type 42 as for complaining about the cost of them at the current exchange rate the type 45 are cheap compared to the Arleigh Burkes. Yes it would be good to get them to carry TLAM and Harpoon or any future Supersonic Anti Ship Missile. Rather than new Hulls.

    COD the RN haven’t had it so why are we bitching about it now? Though would be good to acquire 8-10 V-22’s these could also be employed in any CSAR Missions/AAR as well. If we buy 12-16 even better these can be also given an SF roll.

    SeaCeptor on QEC is a must what are they thinking of?? Why put Type 997 Artisan 3D when it doesn’t have any end use? What is the point having another burning and turning in the EM Spectrum when you will have 1 on the Type 45 and Type 26 being active as well as crows nest????

    I have mentioned AAR refuelling with V-22 COD but the RN has never had this capability ever, so why mention it??

    Astute yes more would be better I doubt the Royal Navy could field more than 2 at any given time,3 max. So to support the QEC highly unlikely. Three more hulls would be preferable this would give 3/4 hulls at any given time. More preferable to have more Astutes than have more Type 26 hulls. Lets face it the only Navies that are increasing number of submarines is Japan and Australia and before anyone says what about the new Russian Subs being built the actual numbers in comparison to the cold war is no way near levels pre-1991. The USA has 51 Virginia/Seawolf Class fleet planned and Russia has 12 Yasen Class planned. We will support he US Navy if and when.

    The Navy needs to reduce its total number of operations period to reflect the force size. Ditch the Carribean Patrol that is not our area of influence any more, reduce the number of times we are active in any anti-pirating missions let other nations take up the slack UK Plc does more than enough in its contribution to the world.

    Yes the Foreign Aid budget is way to high we spend more than Germany!!! Even if we reduce it by 50% we will be in line with France. This would give 5 Billion more to be spent on the NHS, Defence, Job Creation. Even if defence got 500 million this would be a 20% increase on the overall budget!!

    Oh some of you guys seem to think the RN and RAF are the be all and end all but unfortunately your sole purpose is to support the guys on the ground!!

    So quick recap

    -F-35 is the only aircraft, Britain will build a total of about 450 airframes (Eurofighter was 160)
    -RN needs to reduce commitments to be relative to force size. You can only fight the enemy if the numbers are there to fight. We will never go to war without NATO Allies.
    -Reduce the Foreign Aid Budget this will enable UK Plc pay for our needs at home.
    -More Astutes
    -Fully capable Type 45s
    -MV-22 for Navy/SF
    -AWACS Upgrades
    -Challenger 2 upgrade
    -Ajax lot3 buy
    -Puma replacement
    -Job Creation

    Hugs and Peace