Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier

The Queen Elizabeth class is a class of two aircraft carriers currently under construction for the Royal Navy. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was named on 4 July 2014, with her ship commissioning planned for 2017, and an initial operating capability expected in 2020. The second, HMS Prince of Wales, is scheduled to be launched around 2017, followed by commissioning in 2020 and service thereafter. On 5 September 2014, at the NATO 2014 Wales summit, the Prime Minister announced that the second carrier will be brought into service, ending years of uncertainty surrounding its future.

The contract for the vessels was announced on 25 July 2007, by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring. The contracts were 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.

QE aircraft carrier blocks scheme

The vessels currently have a displacement of approximately 70,600 tonnes (69,500 long tons), but the design anticipates growth over the lifetime of the ships. The ships will be 280 metres (920 ft) long and have a tailored air group of up to forty aircraft (though are capable of carrying up to fifty at full load). They will be the largest warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. The projected cost of the programme is £6.2 billion.

The carriers will be completed as originally planned, in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) configuration, deploying the Lockheed Martin F-35B. Following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the British government had intended to purchase the F-35C carrier version of this aircraft, and adopted plans for Prince of Wales to be built to a Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) configuration. After the projected costs of the CATOBAR system rose to around twice the original estimate, the government announced that it would revert to the original design on 10 May 2012.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Leaves Babcock Dock in Rosyth, UK


General characteristics

The ships’ company is 679 rising to 1,600 with air element added. A more recent parliamentary reply stated the average crew size will be 672.They will have a displacement of 65,000 tonnes on delivery, but the design allows for this to reach over 70,000 tonnes as the ship is upgraded through its lifetime.

Size of the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier

They have an overall length of 280 metres (920 ft), a width at deck level of 70 metres (230 ft), a height of 56 metres (184 ft), a draught of 11 metres (36 ft) and a range of 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km).

Two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW (48,000 hp) gas turbine generator units

The Ministry of Defence decided not to use nuclear propulsion due to its high cost, so power is supplied by two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW (48,000 hp) gas turbine generator units and four Wärtsilä diesel generator sets (two 9 MW or 12,000 hp and two 11 MW or 15,000 hp sets). The Trents and diesels are the largest ever supplied to the Royal Navy, and together they feed the low-voltage electrical systems as well as four GE Power Conversion’s 20 MW Advanced Induction Motor (arranged in tandem) electric propulsion motors that drive the twin fixed-pitch propellers.

Wärtsilä diesel generator sets two 9 MW or 12,000 hp  Wärtsilä diesel generator sets two 11 MW or 15,000 hp Four GE Power Conversion’s 20 MW Advanced Induction Motor (arranged in tandem) electric propulsion motors QE aircraft carriers propulsion scheme

Instead of a single island superstructure containing both the ship’s navigation bridge and flying control (flyco) centres, the ships will have these operations divided between two structures, with the forward island for navigating the ship and the aft island for controlling flying operations.

Under the flight deck are a further nine decks. The hangar deck measures 155 by 33.5 metres (509 by 110 ft) with a height of 6.7 to 10 metres (22 to 33 ft), large enough to accommodate up to twenty fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

To transfer aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck, the ships have two large lifts, each of which is capable of lifting two F-35-sized aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck in sixty seconds. The ships’ only announced self-defence weapons are currently the Phalanx CIWS for airborne threats, with miniguns and 30 mm cannon to counter seaborne threats.

7.62mm Miniguns 30mm Gun Remote fully automated mount


The ship’s radars will be the BAE Systems and Thales S1850M, the same as fitted to the Type 45 destroyers, for long-range wide-area search, the BAE Systems Artisan 3D Type 997 maritime medium-range active electronically scanned array radar, and a navigation radar.

S1850M long-range radar passive electronically scanned array radar for wide area search capable of tracking 1,000 targets at a range of 400 kilometres (250 mi). It is also claimed to be highly capable of detecting stealth targets, and is able to detect and track outeratmosphere objects at short range, making it capable of forming part of a Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence systemBAE Systems Artisan 3D Type 997 maritime medium-range active electronically scanned array radar. Actual capabilities remain classifiedbut it is reportedly capable of tracking in excess of 800 objects at a range of 200km. HMS Daring Operations Room

BAE claims the S1850M has a fully automatic detection and track initiation that can track up to 1,000 air targets at a range of around 400 kilometres (250 mi).  Artisan can “track a target the size of a snooker ball over 20 kilometres (12 mi) away”, with a maximum range of 200 km. (Artisan will also be fitted to Type 23 frigates, the assault ships HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark and HMS Ocean.) They will also be fitted with the Ultra Electronics Series 2500 Electro Optical System (EOS) and Glide Path Camera (GPC).

Ultra Electronics Series 2500 Electro Optical System (EOS) and Glide Path Camera (GPC) The stabilised sensor is called the Electro-Optical Director (EOD) and this is linked to a system console called the platform Control Cubicle (PCC). The system can be cued manually or automatically (including from radar and other systems), track moving objects with its long range TV and Infra-Redsensors, perform target identification and provide ballistic fire control information for the ships gunnery equipment.

Munitions and ammunition handling is accomplished using a highly mechanised weapons handling system (HMWHS). This is a first naval application of a common land-based warehouse system. The HMWHS moves palletised munitions from the magazines and weapon preparation areas, along track ways and via several lifts, forward and aft or port and starboard. The tracks can carry a pallet to magazines, the hangar, weapons preparation areas, and the flight deck.

The HMWHS system consists of a network of two versions of these prime movers, which traverse forward and aft (longitudinal, version one) or port and starboard (athwartships, version two), each able to lift and move a payload to locations within its predefined area of travel. The moles can transfer payloads between each other, so the payloads can be located anywhere within the magazine. The two mole versions are different shapes to enable lifting and lowering of the palletised munitions in the correct orientation, ontothe set stowage and transfer positions, and are equipped with electric traverse and lift drives, allowing accurate positional control within the magazine.

In a change from normal procedures the magazines are unmanned, the movement of pallets is controlled from a central location, and manpower is only required when munitions are being initially stored or prepared for use. This system speeds up delivery and reduces the size of the crew by automation.

Carrier air group

The vessels are expected to be capable of carrying forty aircraft, a maximum of thirty-six F-35s and four helicopters. The 2010 SDSR anticipated the routine deployment of twelve F-35Bs, rising to a surge force of 24 F-35Bs and a number of helicopters. Fourteen Merlin HM2 will be available as a Maritime Force Protection package on the carriers with typically nine in anti-submarine configuration and five with Crowsnest for airborne early warning; alternatively a Littoral Manoeuvre package could include a mix of RAF Chinooks, Army Apaches, Merlin HC4 and Wildcat HM2.

As of September 2013 six landing spots are planned, but the deck could be marked out for the operation of ten medium helicopters at once, allowing the lift of a company of 250 troops. The hangars are designed for CH-47 Chinook operations without blade folding and the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, whilst the aircraft lifts can accommodate two Chinooks with unfolded blades.

RAF Chinooks

See Details of Apache

Army ApachesMerlin HC4

See Details of Wildcat HM2

Wildcat HM2 HMS Queen Elizabeth

Fixed-wing aircraft

Although the size of the Queen Elizabeth class would enable it to accommodate most current and projected carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft, the lack of arresting gear means that, as initially completed, it is only capable of operating either STOVL aircraft, such as the AV-8B Harrier or F-35B Lightning, tiltrotor aircraft such as the V-22 Osprey, or aircraft that do not require either catapult assisted take-off or arrested recovery.

F-35B Lightning AV-8B Harrier V-22 Osprey

F-35 Lightning II

See details of F-35 Lighting II

With the retirement of the Harrier GR7/9 in 2010, there remained no carrier-capable fixed-wing aircraft available to the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. Their expected replacement is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

As originally intended, the ships will carry the STOVL version, the F-35B. The aircraft will be flown by pilots from the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force. The aircraft are expected to begin trials flying from Queen Elizabeth in 2018 with a carrier air wing fully operational by 2020.


Although the F-35B is fully capable of performing vertical landing, in a similar fashion to the way that the Harrier and Sea Harrier operated, this method of operation places limitations on the loads that the aircraft is capable of returning to the ship with. As a consequence, to avoid the costly disposal at sea of both fuel and munitions, the Royal Navy is developing the Shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) technique for its operation of the Lightning II. SRVL is a hybrid landing technique that utilises the Lightning’s vectored thrust capability to slow its forward speed to around 70 knots to allow it to make a rolling landing, using its disc brakes, without the need of an arrestor wire.



The AgustaWestland AW101 is a medium-sized multi-role helicopter. Two versions are in service with the UK armed forces, where it is known as Merlin. The utility version can carry up to thirty-eight troops or sixteen stretcher patients and the HM2 anti-submarine warfare variant has a dipping sonar and sonar-buoys, and a complete electronic warfare suite.
AgustaWestland AW101

Both versions use a common airframe, with three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines, their range and endurance using only a two engine cruise option, is 750 nautical miles (1,390 km; 860 mi), or six hours. However, range can be extended further when the five underfloor fuel tanks are supplemented with auxiliary fuel tanks fitted in the cabin. Armament depends on mission, but includes anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, three door-mounted machine guns, multi-purpose rocket, cannon pods, air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface missiles. At least 14 Merlin MK2s will be assigned to the carrier.

Merlin MK2s door-mounted machine guns


AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat with torpedoes
 The AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat is scheduled to enter service with the Royal Navy in 2015. The Wildcat can be equipped with several mission sensors, which can include: radar, active dipping sonar, electro-optical imaging, electronic surveillance measures and an integrated self-defence suite. The HM2 maritime version can be armed with air-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, depth charges, cannons and heavy machine guns. The aircraft has a maximum range of 520 nautical miles (960 km; 600 mi) and an endurance of four and a half hours.

Airborne early warning and control

The 1982 Falklands War made clear the importance of airborne early warning and control and led to the development of the Sea King AEW2, which was succeeded by the Sea King ASaC7.

Sea King ASaC7 (

This will be retired in the second half of 2018 and planning for its replacement was identified at an early stage as an integral part of the next-generation aircraft carrier. The programme became known as the “Future Organic Airborne Early Warning” (FOAEW), and contracts were placed with BAE / Northrop Grumman and Thales in April 2001. 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 and Control (MASC). The MASC assessment phase began in September 2005 and by May 2006 three study contracts were awarded for MASC platform and mission systems options: one to Lockheed Martin UK for a Merlin helicopter fitted with AEW mission systems, another to AgustaWestland to maintain the present Sea King ASaC7 and finally to Thales UK to upgrade the Sea King’s mission systems.

The 2010 SDSR delayed the project which became a competition between Thales and Lockheed to supply Crowsnest, a bolt-on sensor package that can be carried by any Merlin HM2. The Thales pod is based on the Sea King’s Searchwater 2000; Lockheed had intended to use a derivative of the F-35’s APG-81 radar but is now believed to be using an Elta system.

Merlin HM2 with Crowsnest

Both systems will begin flight trials in the summer of 2014 ahead of Main Gate in 2016. Ten pods are planned with IOC in 2019. Until the Crowsnest system is available, a small force of Sea King ASaC.7 helicopters will remain in service with 849 Naval Air Squadron after the final withdrawal of the remainder of the Royal Navy’s Sea Kings.

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Source: from the internet/BAE Systems


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