Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

A beautiful designed ship .

A tribute to the designers and the shipyards around the UK who helped build her .


These are NOT beautifully designed ships. They are cut-price, under-armed, under-powered rust buckets. They will not last 15 years never mind the 50 years they were supposed to. I detest the RAF interference in the F35b programme but I am beginning to think that they got it right. The Royal Navy will never again send to sea a fully functioning, properly escorted, properly supported, Aircraft Carrier Task Force.


The delay in construction added cost but helped in avoiding either a long period as a helicopter only carrier or the purchase of a lot of expensive/low capabilitie F35b. The last 12/15 months is about as early as you would want to start buying the F35b in bulk.


A few queries:

a) The article states that the final flight deck area as 13,000 m2 yet most current MOD final design literature refer to 16,000 m2 or 4 acres. Which is correct ?

b) The article shows shorter in-line runways yet most CATOBAR carriers use angled decks to support what the USN calls “Bolters” How was it possible, in the final design, to have space for EMALs and AAGs on an angled flight deck over an in-line hanger ?

c) Given the current hanger ceiling height is supposed to only just accommodate Chinook and/or V-22 Osprey aircraft with folded, rotors where is the space for these EMALS etc. to be installed ?

The reason I am asking these nominal questions, and there are more that could be asked, is to try and understand if it was true that the EMALS /AAGs option was actually ever reasonably available as a viable option in the early stages of the QE Class project. I believe this to be a very pertinent question to ask now given the huge number of criticisms that have been made, both past and present, by large numbers of people since those early days.

Personally, I do not consider it was ever an option, except, maybe, in the initial design period before construction started.

Fortunately, the UK government’s decision not to change to EMALS/AAG’s instead of SRVL/STOVL at the time can now only be described as brilliant given the fact that currently there are still no reliably working EMALS/AAG’s systems available world wide. This is clearly demonstrated by reference to USS Gerald R Ford’s current position where not only has it’s EMALS/AAG’s systems significantly failed it’s reliability tests but also her 11No internal maintenance/ammunition elevators are now all out of action due to the fact that they too are evidently powered by similarly unreliable EMALS technology.

Necessary Evil

I think CATOBAR is unlikely now because of the cost, including the procurement costs of the f35b. From the different designs above however, it does seem possible to have both CATOBAR and stovl on the same ship. This would be a typically British compromise, but groundbreaking in its own way. It seems we could put a catapult on the right next to the ski jump, and another on the port side, and only lose about 5 aircraft in terms of capacity. This might be made up for by increased range from CATOBAR and the ability to fly drones. If there was money, I think a air wing around 2030 of 12 tempest (or the French version if ours is not carrier capable/does not exist), 12 f35b, 3 e2d, 4 stealthy drones (maybe an evolution of stingray, if not something more capable), and 3 osprey for tanking/csar/cod would be reasonable. This is a very similar sized airwing to that of ark royal, which seems like a poor return for a much bigger carrier, but it would still be as capable as any other carrier bar a us supercarrier. If we do not want to go into the Pacific Ocean though, what we have at the moment should be good enough until Russia gets its act together (which seems unlikely to happen for quite a while).


A few things to point out. Firstly, it is highly unlikely Tempest will ever fly from any carrier. It’s design concept is big multirole replacement for Typhoon, making it carrier-capable would hinder performance just to fill role it’s unlikely to ever be used in.

Secondly, I assume you’re comparing your CATOBAR QEC build to Ark Royal R09, not the smaller R07. You’re making the mistake of comparing aircraft numbers with no consideration for the change in size or capability of aircraft, or how the QECs bigger size allows them to make better use of those numbers.

Necessary Evil

Actually I did consider that, but Im not sure you are right about size, since the phantom and buccaneer were both fairly large, and you obviously didn’t read the part about buying the Franco German 6th gen if ours isn’t capable. It wasn’t a criticism of the carriers so much as a defence of reducing their aircraft numbers to ark royal levels in order to enable greater no of types (and thereby greater capability). Also, capability is a silly thing to compare across eras, and has no impact on deck space.


I read the part about using the European 6th gen fighter, but it’s an even more preposterous idea than using a carrier-capable Tempest. You’re assuming the EU, which only has a single fleet carrier, will develop a massively expensive 6th gen carrier fighter when it needs a land based aircraft.

In regard to the size issue, you’re correct. I’m so used to arguing QEC versus Invincible and Lightning versus Harrier that I default to that point, for which I apologise. I’m aware it wasn’t a criticism of the carriers, I was just trying to correct some flawed assumptions I thought you’d made.

I do still disagree with you about capability however, it’s an important factor to consider. 1970s Ark Royal had aircraft for separate roles: 14 strike aircraft, 12 air defence, some AEW, etc. The Lightning fulfills multiple roles simultaneously (including limited AEW with sensor fusion), which is a force multiplier in itself. If you don’t consider the capability differences, a WWII carrier with 80 aircraft looks better equipped than either Ark Royal or Queen Elizabeth. Also, while capability doesn’t directly affect deck space, the more specialised aircraft you embark, the less of another you carry, and you also have to stock spares, keep those aircraft combat ready, etc. One platform fulfilling multiple roles eases the logistics side of things significantly

Necessary Evil

France did the same for Rafael. OK, if you aren’t happy with those, we might be able to buy the Us navy fighter. Of course, we will likely not have the money, or the need, I which case the f 35 will do just fine.

Its a good point about planes being multi role now, but it doesn’t really affect the question of whether we are getting the correct size of air wing with these carriers (which I think we are).


I agree that the FCAS is almost certainly not going to be carrier capable (as much as the French might want it, Germany would have no use for such a thing). However, I think there is a strong case to be made for the Tempest to be designed, if not outright compatible with a CATOBAR system, to be designed in such a way that a conversion would take minimal modifications.
Basically it comes down to cost, if there’s been 1 clear thing in the past 20 years of the armed forces is that there is not enough money being allocated for the size of forces and capabilities that’s required. The announcement that the “usual” load of F-35s would be just 12 (ie a single squaadron) really illustrates this, with the plan being that RAF F-35s would make up the numbers in a crisis (and so much for dedicated branches of the armed forces). A carrier Tempest would mean there was only the need to produce 1 fighter for both the air force and navy, rather than 1 for each of them. Basically following on from the precident of the RAF/RN F-35 situation, and not dissimilar to the French Rafale too.
It would make the Tempest more expensive to develop, but if you only had to design 1 type of aircraft, rather than the additional cost of developing 2, it would save money in the long run.
With regards to effects on performance, I am well aware that the aditional weight would impede maneuverability, but the trend is for longer and longer range engagements now (where maneuverability plays little part), plus the Tempest’s stated design goals suggests that aerobatic performance is not a top priority anymore.


The QEC was meant to convertible to cats and traps but it was never taken seriously. There is space to do it but the exspense is eyewatering.
The USN Ford has stores system has failed due to power issues tripping the safety protcols.
The cats worked fine on land but working at sea it a moving vessel has thrown up a few problems with keeping contact with the rail.

Apparently the designers forgot the ocean moves up and down.


If I went to a car dealer to purchase a mini and came back with a very expensive range rover,that would be a failure.I wouldn’t be able to pay for it or run it.I wouldn’t be able to use its capability and I would end up having to sell my house making expensive hire puchase payments.


But if you went to a car dealer and bought a Mini and then had to go off road *you* would be a failure, you’d get stuck in the desert you tried to cross and die of thirst when you had to walk out. Congratulations.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind for the better product.


I’ve been told to shut up about this, and I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it now. The type 31e is a different matter, it’s too cheap and it’s still not to late to stop it and think through what we actually need.


The type 31 will never leave the drawing board as there is no money to pay for it, just like the type 26 will end up being a 4 ship class.
The procurement budget has a £26 billion shortfall and that is before the vanguard successor program has gotten into full stride.
The audit office has already raised concerns that the dreadnought program is already 15% over budget in the design stage and will cost 20% more than budgeted for.

Some very honest and brutal debates need to happen about the long term defence budget.


Brutality can be an act of kindness, not wanted in fairy land.


The brutal truth is that the defence budget needs to be 3%. Where to get that? From this eu empire? CFP, CAP fraud corruption needless regs, the UK contribution etc (Milne “Cost too far”, old but a good pointer). Direct costs to eu back in 2007 was said to be 60 billion with direct and indirect cost being in the order of 10% of our GDP. It’s more than 350 million pounds a week.

The labour years, while growth happened to the public sector (with a million extra jobs), defence it seems was not part of the public sector and received in effect cuts, but yet more conflicts to be involved in for Blair (on the Navy side, young Type 23’s in Fareham creek was a pointer for many). Yet, due to this banking financial sector inspired depression, this Country had cuts which were made to the public sector and then defence was then included in that which was appalling. No thought has been given to the potential of having more UK built ships in the RFA and RN that can have a knock on effect to the wider non defence economy in re-invigorating industry and services too. The winding down of the forces need not happened, but Labour were not interested in it, so the downward spiral happens in the forces and industry.

The fantasy land case is that having a nice Country with all the services that others are jealous does not mean much if we cannot protect it ourselves. I feel Britain as a Country is worth 3% funding and more to protect her. None of the above needed to happen, but a Country that lived off of asset bubbles the financial sector while everyone else worked in the public sector was complete fantasy and dangerous as Labour had no interest in manufacturing at that time (good article in the Guardian about that). The fantasy is in pretending we can do it for very little. That’s my take anyhow.

David G Smith

Fairy Land? Ah yes! Where the impeccably self-righteous supporters of our bloated £14bn per annum Overseas Aid spend reside.

Tony Rosier

Yes absolutely this has got to be stopped and the money utilized by the MOD for more ships and inshore patrol craft for border control. I know a lot of people would say not possible but a third carrier with cats and traps would be a interesting option I think that 3 would mean that we could always have 1 available whilst 2 is a disaster waiting to happen especially if they are of the same design !


I agree, the Type 31 is sounding more and more like a Type 21, pretty good for flying the flag, low key stuff and as a sacrificial lamb in real conflict.
Really proud at how the trials are progressing with the F35B on QE – well done to all involved.


Will the type 31’s have the equivalent of sea cat and the structural problems of type 21’s or put into those areas of danger as in the Falklands. Two type 42’s were lost also. It has to be assumed that the Type 31’s will have up to date air and sea defence missile systems, but not carry as many missiles or not have the long-range air or anti-ballistic missiles? Depends on what the main role is I guess.


Except a good portion of the Royal Navy’s responsibilities don’t require a warship that has world-class AAW or ASW capabilities.
Things like anti-piracy, or drug smuggling, protecting shipping, patrolling the Falklands, ferrying special forces etc.
Roles where you might want something more than an offshore patrol vessel, thanks to the greater range, speed, aviation facilities, and more substantial self-defence capabilities.
For that the Type 31 would be just fine, and frees up the “real warships” for frontline duty. And I think perhaps not in government (but thankfully they don’t design ships) but the Navy hasn’t forgotten the Type 21s just yet, and lessons will have been learnt.

Phillip Johnson

People tend to get carried away with the technicalities but defence is ultimately all about the money.
You don’t do anything without the funding and costs overruns within a project tend to be borne internally within an organisation. If Paul gets fat, Peter gets well and truly robbed.
The interesting comment in the article is that somebody guessed that the increasing of tonnage from 40K tonnes to 50K tonnes would only add 10% to the construction bill. How far out were they?…….and how much damage has it done to Peter?


Air is free, steel is cheap.It dosnt work like that, even if you don’t fill the space with anything useful. The engines have to be bigger for example.The admiralty are not stupid and know this perfectly well, they are just absolutely incapable of living within their means.The ships complement seems to have increased by 30per cent already,taking out at least one other major ship.


Lord West knew when the design was signed off that it would need a crew of 1000 not the 670 figure quoted.
He knew the the navy would have to cut the RN escort fleet from 29 destroyers and frigates or cut the RFA to crew and pay for them .
He also knew that the decision to select the F35B was driven by treasury cost cutting even though it was cheaper long term to order the F35A and F35C and made more sense.
He was desperate to get the carriers that he destroyed the RN escort fleet and gutted the RFA in pursuit of his ego.

And now he says the navy has made a mistake in going with the F35B and the fleet is below critical mass.

Phillip Johnson

The steel is cheap argument is an old one, it isn’t true.
Steel is only cheap when it is lying in a steel yard. As you fabricate it into something the cost start rising and they keep rising throughout the life of the something.
The RN has a problem, it is unable to match its wants to the available budget. The result is ongoing down sizing.


Great article. I cannot feel that not enough kudos have been made out of this achievement to the world in building these carriers in terms of size, speed complexity and cost with all the problems officials threw at them. Well done to the main builders at Govan (Fairfield bae), Portsmouth (VT’s bae) Birkenhead (Cammell Laird), Appledore (Babcock), Hebburn (A & P) and the main assembly facility at Rosyth (Babcock). Plus steel plate from Appleby-Froddingham Scunthorpe (British Steel), Dalzell Glasgow (Liberty Steel), section/bulb flats from Skinningrove (British Steel), pipes/tubes from Hartlepool (Liberty Steel) and all the other UK steel suppliers and other UK suppliers in general who helped build these ships!

I cannot help feeling that the designers again, helped to get the big ship back in a clever way over the smaller more expensive designs, similar in which the through-deck cruiser was actually a way of making sure the Navy had some form of air power. The difference in dimension between Delta and Alpha is very little. Some sources stated the length of the earlier Alphas at about 288 meters that went up to 295 meters while the Queen Elizabeth’s are 284 meters. The Queen Elizabeth’s do not have the carefully sculptured rounded down deck aft for conventional landing or her natural length bow, so missing maybe up to around 30′? Even if the deck of the 200′ long take off ramp was 1″ thick, it would make the deck around 180 to 190 tons in weight alone. So with the ramp deck, sides, front and internal structure of the biggest take off ramp at sea, I can see why the bow was cut short (Natural length bow with weight and weight of the ramp with the added 10 to 15′ overhang, I am guessing would make the bow pitch and or stress that area of hull more than desired?).

The ten to nine decks does not make sense either. The Alpha compared to the Queen Elizabeth in some profiles of the internals show the same number of decks. No disrespect, but the graphic here is not accurate. The Alpha being 295 meters here, means the Delta is only 261 meters long. The scale of the Delta makes it too small., but what can be seen is that the Delta’s hull depth if given here the length of 284 meters, is the same depth, if not, a few feet deeper than the Alpha hull. This and the final Queen Elizabeth design lower down in colour is too small. When looking at the hull build and dimensions given for the A&P Tyne sections of hull, they were 20′ in height and nearly 132′ in width (which reflects the slight wedge or tapered hull. Coupled with the 65-70′ height of hull from Govan, the Queen Elizabeth’s hull is very deep and give these carriers the biggest width and draught/hull depth to length ratio of any carrier, I think.

All I am saying here is that I think the hiding of their true weight and size was done to keep ignorant civil servant officials and politicians happy. But there is so much more to come from these very impressive ships as they evolve over time with the inevitable increase in size and weight that seems to happen to many RN ships, including the hull getting longer in the future, stability, sponsons etc permitting. What this Country can do with proper funding in engineering is scary. We are very good at it. We just like to put ourselves down with this daft self-doubt. If people were not believers in UK shipbuilding, they should be now!

David G Smith

Iirc, QE emerged finally at 70,600 tonnes against a design displacement of 65,000. Yet oddly, also without any apparent reduction in intended freeboard… so you may very well be onto something there!


Yes. I heard her quoted at around 72,000 tons too, on TV when entering Portsmouth and this figure is given sometimes online etc, so who knows. A couple of picky things I know, but I notice when the British give dimensions and performance figures etc, most things are rounded down and the odd few meters left out. Picky and nerdy again. The US hanger height I read stated at approx 25′ or 7.6 meters but they will say 8 meters. Not a big deal, but if this were a Brit stating this, they would probably just say 7 meters. The Queen Elizabeth’s hanger ranges from 22′ to 33′ I believe with some tween decks different ranging in height within the ship. The 9 decks 10 decks thing I am getting at here is this. The hanger height could roughly be three decks high, but from the looks of it, the hanger gallery deck was left out and that’s why there looks to be a very large tween deck in that area, I must admit, I thought there were three decks there as some lines appear in that area (during her build) that makes it look like three decks (which would give her 10 decks), but it is actually two with what looks like a very deep one. In other words, I am guessing the hull depth is the same as the original Alpha (which has what look like three (similar to the Fords) slightly lower tween decks in the hanger area. I just find it curious. Also, I read that ski ramp (the biggest to go to sea) was 120 tons. I tried to work out how to build a ramp like that for such little mass of steel unless very thin, but to take the forces created by those aircraft? I turned out that the biggest part of that ramp at the forward end weighs 300 tons (on the Government website). So 300 plus tons on a proper longer bow. No wonder her bow is cut/designed short by maybe 15′. You add the bow length and normal round down to smooth airflow at the stern, you come out with dimension nigh on the same as the original conventionally Alpha design. Only speculation and theories I know and I am probably wrong about all of it. But some things to me don’t always add up.


I think the higher hanger is more like 30′, and conventional, not conventionally.


Could the different displacement figures not just be referring to when empty and when loaded?


On the QEC’s shifting displacement figures, I think the RN quote 70,000 tons to the Press and 65,000t to the Treasury…


CATOBAR equipped ships would have been fantastic but unworkable given the era the ships have been built in, without opting for nuclear power or a reversion to steam propulsion. Choosing EMALS could have led to the entire project cancellation, if we had the same issues the US is having with the Ford.
Having said that, I did read a Chinese research paper that suggested a COGAS/COGES power system for a CATOBAR carrier, where steam generated using the gas turbine’s heat exhaust is bled off to power traditional steam catapults, as opposed to being fed back into the gas turbine in commercial COGAS vessels. But given no one else has tried it, and the Chinese PLAN’s future carrier development is looking to shadow the US approach, it’s unlikely no one will ever bother. One day EMALS will work fine and be ubiquitous, it’s unfortunate the requirement for the QEC came at a period of transition between technologies and therefore EMALS was impracticable at the time of design and construction.
That being said, the QEC will be very capable ships, arguably more capable than any previous RN vessel barring the Armaggedeon-inducing power of the SSBNs, if we can maintain a decent air wing.
On that front, I wouldn’t be adverse to a split buy of 138 F35A and 70 F35Bs, on the understanding the As are the RAF’s and the Bs the FAA’s alone. While that would involve purchasing more airframes and therefore appear to cost more, the cost saving from selecting the As would offset the additional numbers bought, esp. as the A’s price continues to fall, and its cheaper maintenance costs also ease the burden on the defence budget. 138 F35As would be a like-for-like replacement for the Tornado fleet, while 70 F35Bs would allow for two air wings of 30 aircraft to equip each carrier, with the remainder forming an NAS OCU. This number would also resemble a like-for-like replacement for the Sea Harrier fleet.
In this scenario, our combined fast jet fleet would be almost at turn of the century numbers (though RAF Jaguar and Harrier units would not have been replaced, their role is covered by the strike capabilities of the Typhoon FGR4 and it is therefore not necessary to directly replace them with new airframes) but with the most advanced aircraft the RAF and FAA have ever operated, and are some of the most advanced aircraft in the world.

Jerrod Garrett

All that for a ship with only 20 planes…. What a waste