Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier: Wikis


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Class overview
Builders: BAE Systems Surface Ships
Thales Group
Babcock Marine
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Invincible class
Succeeded by: N/A
In service: Expected to enter service between 2016-2018[1]
Building: 2
Planned: Queen Elizabeth[2]
Prince of Wales[2]
Completed: 0
General characteristics
Displacement: 65,600 tonnes (full)[3]
Length: 284 metres (932 ft)[3]
Beam: 39 metres (waterline)
73 metres overall[3]
Draught: 11 metres[4]
Decks: 16,000 square metres[3]
Speed: 25+ knots
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km)
Capacity: 1,450
Complement: 600
Aircraft carried:

40 (50 full load) aircraft, including:

The Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (formerly the CV Future[nb 1] or CVF project) are a two-ship class of aircraft carrier being built for the Royal Navy. HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter service in May 2016;[5] HMS Prince of Wales in 2018. The vessels will displace about 65,000 tonnes (full load), be 280 metres (920 ft) long and capable of carrying up to 50 aircraft.

The need to replace the ageing Invincible class aircraft carriers was confirmed by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. From six contractors, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Thales and BAE Systems in late 1999 to compete for the final contract. In September 2002 the MoD announced that the Royal Navy and RAF will operate the STOVL F-35B Lightning II variant and further that the carriers would take the form of large, conventional carriers, which will initially be adapted for STOVL operations. On 30 January 2003 the MoD announced that the Thales design had won the competition but that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor. The two companies are now part of a "carrier alliance" with the MoD and other companies.

The contract for the vessels was announced on 25 July 2007 by the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring.[6] The cost is estimated to be £3.9 billion.[2] The contracts were officially signed one year later on 3 July 2008 after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group's VT Shipbuilding which was a requirement of the UK Government.[7]

On December 11, 2008, Defence Secretary John Hutton announced that the two ships would enter service one or two years later than the originally planned dates of 2014 and 2016.[8]



The CVF carriers will be closer in size to a Nimitz class carrier (left) than the Invincible class ships they replace (right)


The 22,000 tonne Invincible class aircraft carriers, Invincible, Illustrious and Ark Royal, were designed for Cold War anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic as part of a combined NATO fleet and have limited space for STOVL fixed-wing aircraft. The 1982 Falklands War demonstrated the need to maintain aircraft carriers to support the United Kingdom's foreign policy.

Since the end of the Cold War the Invincible class ships have operated in a more traditional aircraft carrier mission, that of power projection. As a result the Royal Air Force's Harrier GR7s have been routinely deployed on the carriers which have been modified to carry more aircraft and ammunition (notably with the removal of the Sea Dart defensive weapon system). Despite the shortcomings of the Invincible class in this role, formal studies did not begin until 1994 regarding the replacement of the ships.

Strategic Defence Review

In May 1997, the newly-elected Labour government launched the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) which re-evaluated every weapon system (active or in procurement) with the exception of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines. The report, published in July 1998 concluded that aircraft carriers offered the following:[9]

  • Ability to operate offensive aircraft abroad when foreign basing may be denied.
  • All required space and infrastructure; where foreign bases are available they are not always available early in a conflict and infrastructure is often lacking.
  • A coercive and deterrent effect when deployed to a trouble spot.

The report concluded: "the emphasis is now on increased offensive air power, and an ability to operate the largest possible range of aircraft in the widest possible range of roles. When the current carrier force reaches the end of its planned life, we plan to replace it with two larger vessels. Work will now begin to refine our requirements but present thinking suggests that they might be of the order of 30,000–40,000  tonnes and capable of deploying up to 50 aircraft, including helicopters."[9]

It is planned that advanced design and maintenance techniques will eliminate the present requirement for major refits. In addition, HMS Ocean, a specialised helicopter landing platform, fills a role previously undertaken by the Invincible class carriers.

Design studies

F-35 verticle landing.ogg
A X-35B landing vertically

On 25 January 1999 six companies were invited to tender for the assessment phase of the project; Boeing, British Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Marconi Electronic Systems, Raytheon and Thomson-CSF.[10] On 23 November 1999 the MoD awarded detailed assessment studies to two consortia, one led by BAe (renamed BAE Systems on 30 November 1999) and one led by Thomson-CSF (renamed Thales Group in 2000). The brief required up to six designs from each consortium with airgroups of 30 to 40 Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA). The contracts were split into phases; The first £5.9 million phase was for design assessment which would form part of the aircraft selection, the second £23.5 million phase involved "risk reduction on the preferred carrier design option."[11]

In the course of the design period, several different configurations were considered and submissions included large and small air groups based around three types of vessel.

A carrier operating Short Take Off and Vertical Landing aircraft could dispense with the costly steam catapults and arrestor gear of a conventional (CATOBAR) carrier. This would also take advantage of the UK experience in STOVL technology. This is at the expense of aircraft range and payload capability (for an equal size CATOBAR carrier). The aircraft would be similar to the F-35B Lightning II However the difference in capability between an F-35B and F-35C is slight compared to the gap in capability between the Harrier and, for example, the F/A-18.[12][13][14]
Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) again removes the requirement for the expense of catapults but uses arrestor gear. In this way conventional aircraft (albeit modified) can be used. Any STOBAR design would most likely have used a navalised version of the Eurofighter Typhoon on order for the RAF. the modifications would require strengthened landing gear, modified flight control system and inclusion of an stronger arrestor hook suitable for carrier use. The advantages of this would be increased range, manoeuvrability, greater weapons stand-off and payload compared to a STOVL design and higher operating efficiency than a CATOBAR design.
A Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) CVF would use catapults and arrestor cables and an angled flight deck with existing naval aircraft, most likely the F/A-18 or Rafale-M. This had the advantage of reducing technical risk for development of both the aircraft and carriers and offering maximum payload and range capabilities. There are disadvantages however, including higher operating costs and the minimal British involvement in development of the aircraft due to the "off-the-shelf" purchase.

In addition BAE made a submission of hybrid configuration, featuring a STOVL ski-jump and a angled flight deck, catapults and arrestor cables.[15] Advantages of this design include the ability to operate STOVL offensive aircraft and also conventional aircraft. This would allow the operation of established, and therefore cheaper, designs of AEW aircraft e.g. the E-2 Hawkeye rather than new development.

Aircraft and carrier format selection

On 17 January 2001 the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for full participation in the Joint Strike Fighter programme, confirming the JSF as the FJCA. This gave the UK input into aircraft design and the choice between the Lockheed X-35 and Boeing X-32. On 26 October 2001 the DoD announced that Lockheed Martin had won the JSF contract.

On 30 September 2002 the MoD announced that the Royal Navy and RAF will operate the STOVL F-35B variant. At the same time it was announced that the carriers would take the form of large, conventional carriers, initially adapted for STOVL operations. The carriers, expected to remain in service for 50 years, are designed for, but not with, catapults and arrestor wires. The carrier is thus said to be "future proof", allowing it to operate a generation of CATOBAR aircraft beyond the F-35.

On 30 January 2003 the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that the Thales Group design had won the competition but that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor.[16] In the course of this some equipment specificed for the BAE design replaced that of the Thales group.

As of August 2009, speculation mounts that the UK may drop the F-35B for the F-35C model, which would mean the carriers being built to operate conventional (CV) take off and landing aircraft using the US-designed non-steam EMALS catapults.[17][18]


The vessels will displace approximately 65,600 tonnes each,[3] over three times the displacement of the current Invincible class. They will be the largest warships ever built in the UK and the most capable aircraft carriers outside of the U.S. Navy.[19] Nothing of the scale has been proposed for the Royal Navy since the cancelled 1960s CVA-01 programme. Giving evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West explained that interoperability with the United States Navy was a factor in deciding of the size of the carriers as the firepower of the carrier's airwing:

[for a] deep strike package, we have done ...quite detailed calculations and we have come out with the figure of 36 joint strike fighters ...that is the thing that has made us arrive at that size of deck and that size of ship, to enable that to happen. I have talked with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) in America. He is very keen for us to get these because he sees us slotting in with his carrier groups. He really wants us to have these, but he wants us to have the same sort of clout as one of their carriers.

The design features two small island structures, one devoted to ship navigation, and the other to air operations. This allows optimal placement of bridges for both tasks: navigation calls for a bridge placed forward (as on the Charles De Gaulle), while air operations are made easier with a bridge placed abaft (as seen on the US Nimitz class). Two deck lifts will be used, both on the starboard side.

Carrier Air Group

The vessels are expected to be capable of carrying 40 fixed wing and rotary aircraft; approximately 36 F-35B Lightning II strike fighters as well as helicopters or V-22 Osprey aircraft.[20] In context, one carrier's air wing is almost three times the size of the Tornado GR.1 force deployed in Operation Desert Fox and the same number as the Tornado GR.4/Harrier GR.7 offensive fleet which participated in Operation Telic. Both of these land based deployments required the agreement of a local friendly nation. Inititially it was expected that the carriers would operate Harrier GR9s until around 2018, as the RN would not have a complete F-35 group until then.[21]

The Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) component began as "Future Organic Airborne Early Warning" (FOAEW), with contracts being placed with BAE/Northrop Grumman and Thales in April 2001.[22] In April 2002 BAE and Northrop Grumman received a follow-on study contract for Phase II of the project by then renamed Maritime Airborne Surveillance & Control (MASC).[23]


The MoD decided not to use nuclear propulsion due to its high costs.[24] The carrier's propulsion system will be Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP) with Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW gas turbine generator units.

The design places one gas turbine generator unit under each island in the starboard sponson. This relatively high placement removes the requirement for air downtakes/exhausts deep into the ship. The unrefuelled range of the carrier will be 10,000 nautical miles (18 520 km).


Many of the systems remain unspecified, but most of the designs that have been released so far show a BAE Systems Insyte/Thales S1850M long range radar on the forward island structure. However, it was announced on 4 August 2008 that they would also be fitted with BAE Systems Insyte Artisan 3D Radars as a medium range radar fitted to the aft island.[25]


During a speech on 21 July 2004 Geoff Hoon announced a one year delay to allow contractual and cost issues to be resolved. The building of the carriers was confirmed in December 2005. The building is to be across four shipyards with final assembly at Rosyth. In preparation for the construction phase of the project, long-lead items were ordered in Autumn 2007, including key parts of the main and emergency propulsion systems for the new aircraft carriers from Wärtsilä.[26]

On 4 March 2008 contracts for the supply of 80,000 tonnes of steel were awarded with an estimated value of £65 million. Other contracts included £3 million for fibre optic cable, over £1 million for reverse osmosis equipment to provide over 500 tonnes of fresh water daily, and £4 million for aviation fuel systems.[27] On 3 April 2008 a contract for the manufacture of aircraft lifts (worth £13m) was awarded to MacTaggart Scott of Loanhead, Scotland.[28]

In mid May 2008, the Treasury announced that it would be making available further funds on top of the regular defence budget, reportedly allowing the construction of the carriers to begin.[29] This was followed, on 20 May 2008, by the government giving the "green light" for construction of Queen Elizabeth class, stating that it was ready to sign the contracts for full production once the creation of the planned shipbuilding joint venture between BAE Systems and the VT Group had taken place.[30] This joint venture, BVT Surface Fleet, became operational on On 1 July 2008.[31] VT Group later sold its share to BAE Systems which renamed the unit BAE Systems Surface Ships. It will undertake approximately 40% of the project workload.[32]

On 1 September 2008, the MOD announced a £51 million package of important equipment contracts; £34 million for the Highly Mechanised Weapons Handling System for the two ships, £8 million for supply of uptake and downtake systems for both ships, £5 million for Air Traffic Control software, £3 million for supply of pumps and associated systems engineering, and £1 million for emergency diesel generators.[33] On 6 October 2008, it was announced that contracts had been placed for "the carriers' Rolls-Royce gas turbines, generators, motors, power distribution equipment, platform management systems, propellers, shafts, steering gear, rudders and stabilisers".[34] On 11 February 2009, Thales indicated that the S1850M radar will be used on the carriers.[35]

Construction of Lower blocks 3 and 4 began at BAE Systems Clyde in July 2009 (the first steel cut for the project) and January 2010 respectively,[36] while construction of the bow Lower Block 1 is being carried at Appledore, North Devon and expected to be completed in March 2010. When the four lower blocks are completed they will be transported to Rosyth to be assembled.[37]

It was announced on 25 January 2010 that the Cammell Laird shipyard of Birkenhead has secured a £44 million contract to build the flight decks of the carriers.[38] On the same date 25 February 2010 construction began in Portsmouth of the Lower Block 2, one of the large structures, that forms part of the hull of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The structure will house machinery spaces, stores, switchboards and some of the ship's accommodation. The block will weigh around 6,000 tonnes and will stand over 18 metres (59 ft) tall, 70 metres (230 ft) long and 40 metres (130 ft) wide.[39]

See also


  1. ^ The designation 'CV' does not have a simple explanation. It has its origins in U.S. Navy ship designations. The USN often saw carriers as a vessel similar to a cruiser since many early carriers around the world were converted from cruisers. Since cruiser designations began with C, it was logical to use the same letter for an aircraft carrier. However, a direct abbreviation of "carrier aviation" was not possible since the designation "CA" was already used for heavy cruisers. The U.S. Navy instead chose to use the second letter in aviation to create the designation "CV."("Aircraft Carrier Designations". www.aerospaceweb.org. http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/hydrodynamics/q0226.shtml. Retrieved 12 February 2010. ) The Royal Navy adopted the U.S. Navy 'CV' designation when it began to design the CVA-01 project in the late 1960s. CV is not an acronym, but a type designator for aircraft carrier, and the Royal Navy is using it as such.


  1. ^ Wilson, Amy (2010-02-28). "Can Britain afford not to build £5bn Royal Navy aircraft carriers?". Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/7338842/Can-Britain-afford-not-to-build-5bn-Royal-Navy-aircraft-carriers.html. 
  2. ^ a b c Evans, Michael (2007-07-25). "Go-ahead for £5bn aircraft carriers". The Times (Times Newspapers). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2141406.ece. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Royal Navy: A Global Force 2009 (PDF) p. 70; accessed 14 Feb 2010
  4. ^ Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) MOD website. retrieved 21 May 2008
  5. ^ "NAO Defence Major Projects Report 2009 Table 3 page 11 (15 of Pdf)" (PDF). The Stationary Office. December 2009. pp. 14. http://www.nao.org.uk/idoc.ashx?docId=85fb8bd9-95b8-4aab-85ed-787cd292d448&version=-1. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  6. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 2007-07-25
  7. ^ Keane, Kevin (2008-07-03). "New contract 'will secure Rosyth'". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7483942.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  8. ^ "Aircraft carriers delayed". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7776695.stm. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Strategic Defence Review" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. July 1998. pp. 143–144. http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/65F3D7AC-4340-4119-93A2-20825848E50E/0/sdr1998_complete.pdf. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  10. ^ Nicoll, Alexander (1999-01-26). "US companies bid for $2.5bn ships deal". Financial Times. 
  11. ^ "Shipyard in running for Navy contract". Belfast Telegraph (Belfast Telegraph Newspapers). 1999-11-24. 
  12. ^ F-35 Program brief (PDF)
  13. ^ F/A-18 US Navy fact file
  14. ^ F/A-18 Hornet page on Aerospaceweb.org
  15. ^ http://navy-matters.beedall.com/cvf1-07.htm
  16. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 2003-01-30
  17. ^ "Britain rethinks jump jet order". UPI.com. http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry/2009/08/12/Britain-rethinks-jump-jet-order/UPI-74301250107071/. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  18. ^ "Defence jobs at risk". Telegraph.co. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/defence/5978437/Defence-jobs-at-risk-as-MoD-drops-jump-jet-fighter-engine.html. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  19. ^ Rogers, James (2007-07-25). "Britain orders two massive new aircraft carriers". GLOBAL POWER EUROPE. http://www.globalpowereurope.eu/2007/07/britain-orders-two-massive-aircraft.html. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  20. ^ Adams, Christopher (2007-07-25). "MoD gives nod for aircraft carriers". Financial Times. 
  21. ^ Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence House of Commons Defence Select Committee
  22. ^ Penney, Stewart (2001-04-10). "UK Airborne Early Warning study contracts assigned". Flight International (Reed Business Information): p. 16. 
  23. ^ "BAE SYSTEMS, Northrop Grumman Awarded Follow-On Carrier AEW Study". Defense Daily (PBI Media). 2002-04-17. 
  24. ^ Morrocco, John. "U.K. Launches Future Aircraft Carrier Studies" Aviation. Week and Space Technology. The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1999-02-01. Retrieved on 2007-07-28.
  25. ^ "mod.uk". http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/NavyToGetNewRadar.htm. 
  26. ^ Scott, Richard (2007-09-12). "Wärtsilä powers ahead for UK carrier programme". Jane's Information Group. http://www.janes.com/events/exhibitions/dsei2007/sections/daily/wrtsil-powers-ahead-for-u.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  27. ^ "80,000 Tonnes of Steel Ordered For New Aircraft Carriers". Official Royal Navy website. http://www.royal-navy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.11711. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  28. ^ "Aircraft lifts ordered for new Navy carriers". MOD Defence news. 2008-04-04. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/AircraftLiftsOrderedForNewNavyCarriers.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  29. ^ Alleyne, Richard (2008-05-16). "MOD allowed funds for kit and aircraft carriers". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1965357/MOD-allowed-funds-for-kit-and-aircraft-carriers.html. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  30. ^ "Gov't gives go-ahead for two new aircraft carriers". AFP. 2008-05-20. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i09tIPKqZBPnl_Ol6qpkZXAHUmiA. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  31. ^ BAE Systems plc (2008-06-30). "BVT Surface Fleet Joint Venture becomes operational". Press release. http://www.baesystems.com/Newsroom/NewsReleases/autoGen_108530122154.html. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  32. ^ "CVF - Royal Navy Future Aircraft Carrier, United Kingdom". www.naval-technology.com. SPG Media Limited. 2008. http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/cvf/. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  33. ^ "mod.co.uk". http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/HitechWeaponsHandlingSystemForNewAircraftCarriers.htm. 
  34. ^ "£235M Contracts Propel Carrier Project Forward". Royal Navy. MOD. 2008-10-07. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.13897. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  35. ^ "United Kingdom selects Thales's S1850M radar for new aircraft carriers". 2009-02-11. http://www.thalesgroup.com/naval/Press-Room/Press-Release-search-all/Press-Release-search-result/Press-Release-Article.html?link=1c0e326f-3104-7c02-671a-776d20011d10:central&locale=EN-gb&Title=United+Kingdom+selects+Thales%27s+S1850M+radar+for+new+aircraft+carriers&dis=1. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  36. ^ "First steel cut on new carrier". The Manafacturer. http://www.themanufacturer.com/uk/content/10214/First_steel_cut_on_new_carrier. Retrieved 26-February-2010. 
  37. ^ "Shipyard completes key stage in aircraft carrier project". North Devon Journal. http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/news/Shipyard-completes-key-stage-aircraft-carrier-project/article-1823207-detail/article.html. Retrieved 26-February-2010. 
  38. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8479528.stm
  39. ^ "Construction begins at new UK carriers' base port". Defpro.News. http://www.defpro.com/news/details/13417/. Retrieved 6-February-2010. 

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