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24 jets is finally in the ballpark of where it needs to be. With the current state of the RFA, it won’t be deploying far.


Are any 30mm guns installed yet? Or still, keeping them in Portsmouth from rust corrosion?


Tanker are available and the ship can re stock in port every 5/6 weeks so whilst the situation isn’t in any way perfect it won’t stop any planed deployments.


24 Jets?


Thanks for the informative update. The only surprising thing is that Dauntless or Duncan aren’t going.


Possibly preparing one of them to relieve or supplement Diamond at some point perhaps.

Supportive Bloke

Or deploy around Easter with PoW with a load out of USMC jets?

I don’t see UK doing two deployments with jets in one year as it would knacker the training pipeline.


If there is a need to go to the Red Sea ops will be disrupted for a few years. Certainly a 25 aircraft deployment in 25 will be out of the question unless the plan is to totally break the F35 fleet.

Supportive Bloke

Which is why I’m suggesting the other carrier could be sent with one or two Darings a T23 and a load of USMC jets.

This will have been finely balanced and agreed by Mr Green when he was in Washington.

US will want alliance and UK contribution. It would work up the carrier component without stressing the air component.

It would be better for USMC operations to do this than use one of their own Gators as they can work with higher loadings.

Erich W

Glad they’re insisting on the 24 UK F-35Bs and doubling down on that. Still, the fact there isn’t an increase from eight here seems like a very odd choice. Considering it’s a more contained deployment you would think that driving numbers up at least slightly to 12 or preferably 16, even if just for a few weeks, would be pretty essential and not too costly as a workup for CSG25. Getting used to 8 jets on deck and then suddenly tripling it doesn’t seem like great preparation.


The current deployment is for 20 aircraft including fixed-wing and rotary. While the QE has a theoretical surge capacity of 72, the hanger deck has a capacity of around 20 aircraft, given the weather conditions in the Far North they may have decided to limit aircraft numbers so that they can all be accommodated – and worked on – in the hanger deck.

Erich W

I’m sure it makes things easier but if they’re preparing for up to 40 aircraft next year then in the workup exercise there might be reason to push that a bit. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure it’s more comfortable for a smaller number of aircraft that you can easily manage but it will likely just make things more difficult in the long term. The helicopter numbers are very solid though, particularly HM2s. It’s the F-35Bs mainly where I have a concern as the only instance of more than 8 being deployed was on and around CSG21 and there was some obvious issues there.


Remember the ship deploying in 25 is PoW with a different crew. So my guess is her work up will be the one that involves more F35’s.

Erich W

Yeah fair point.


Ultimately, the mix of fixed and rotor will have been determined by the requirements and purpose of this exercise. Some exercises will require more F35s others more rotary.


Will any other UK escorts participate or just Somerset?

Supportive Bloke

I am surprised that two Tides are involved in this….

Last edited 3 months ago by Supportive Bloke

Might be that with lack of Fort Victoria two Tides are needed to provide the necessary solid stores as they have limited supplies?


Agreed, the Tides are the only viable RFA asset for solid-stores currently. But far less carried than Fort Victoria and vertrep only, no RAS.


It is long overdue that these targets had a decent gun armament fitted; would the mark 4 Bofor’s with internal ammo fit on the 30mm sponsons?


Is there money to even study that? HMG made it clear in the Autumn spending statement that the MoD budget is being held at 2% GDP. This ant a time when GDP growth(if any) if much lower than defence equipment and wage inflation. This means defence purchasing power is being cut. Any new project will need the cancellation or delay of an existing project.


Given the situation in the Red Sea a UOR from central funds would be much cheaper than buying a new carrier and in fact up that to fit all possible units.


Held ?

Table 2.2 Defence[capital spending, billions] ( 22-23)20.3, (23-24)18.3, (24-25)18.9

thats quite a severe drop in defence capital spending

Last edited 3 months ago by Duker

MoD budget of 2% GDP covers both CAPEX (which you’re looking at) and OPEX. If CAPEX is down then looks like they are planning for a bigger spend on OPEX…


They have the Phalanx, which just saved the USS Graveley.
But it’s possible that the decision to fit the 40mm Bofors on the T31s has raised the question whether to fit these on other RN ships, such as the QEs. (It was Babcock that came up with the idea of using Bofors 40mm rather than Phalanx for CIWS on the T31.)

Last edited 3 months ago by Sean

That’s why they’re there and have been for the last 40 years


But it does signify a failure of the USS Gravely’s primary air-defences. You never want to be relying on CIWS because:
• That’s you’re last line of defence
• Even with a Phalanx shredding an incoming missile and its warhead, there’s a strong chance of parts of the missile continuing forward to hit the ship. That shrapnel won’t sink a ship, but it can damage radar panels, wreck comms, etc, etc with the result the ship being rendered mission ineffective.

You can guarantee there’ll be an investigation why it got close enough for the Phalanx to engage it.


If there is serious intention of deploying QE to relieve IKE, now I’s the time to get a decent jet load out on board and get the deck crew fully up to speed for operating a decent size airgroup in a combat zone. 8 jets won’t cut it in the Red Sea


Yes. The way the world is working out , 24 is the minimum operating number now and should be regular occasions when its say 32


A third operational squadron should come in time, even if it’s only so the two carriers can operate 24 on one carrier and 8-12 on the other in an emergency at the same time, as originally envisaged. But the potential use of drones to pad out mass could easily be used as an excuse not to operate larger numbers of F-35s. Along with inviting the USMC if we need more. This would be a mistake, I think, at least for the next twenty years.

The issue with only carrying smaller numbers is, how many will be needed to fly combat air patrol while others are on strike missions? We are back in the era of peer-to-peer operations and can’t assume that we won’t have to fight to keep clear airspace.


The 8 jets are for the exercise.
It’s not going to the Red Sea, so it doesn’t need 24 jets.


This aircraft mix for this particular exercise sounds a lot like the one the previous carriers were designed for. A Fleet air defence and anti submarine warfare roll rather than a strike roll. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just that is different to the roll commonly associated with the QE class.

Last edited 3 months ago by ATH

Yes, and you don’t “need” a supercarrier for basic fleet air defence and ASW.


The advantage of having such big carriers is that they are capable of doing multiple roles. Just select the appropriate mix of airframes for the role/exercise.

Jon Turner

Well, if they’re going “far north” they’re also doing the same anti-sub mission that the invincible-class carriers were designed for.

It just looks like the air group is tailored to the task in hand – but don’t forget that when we have onboard now is orders of magnitude better than what we had before.

Big bonus over the old invincible-class is that with such an airgroup, it can all be tucked away safely in the hangar when not in use. Those old hangers got very crowded, very quickly, and some airframes would’ve been kept on deck with all the associated problems that causes in the high north.

The airframes and the crew will welcome the change in working conditions.

Irate Taxpayer (Peter)

Just adding to what Jon has quite-rightly said, and also bringing his comments right up to date.

The F35 is a low observable (stealth) plane. Therefore it is very surprising what even a minor “silly mistake” made during routine maintenance can do to degrade the plane’s performance. For example, accidentally leaving a few screw heads protruding out from an access panel would significantly increase the plane’s overall radar signature.

Therefore maintaining these fifth generator planes indoors, inside a well lit hanger, is always far preferable to keeping them outdoors.

Accordingly the RN (and RAF) would be well advised to mandate a standard operating procedure that all maintenance of the F35 should always be undertaken down inside the QE hanger.

Irate Taxpayer (Peter)

PS. Thus move the gym and keep fit classes up to the flight deck….. I hasten to add = obviously not during flying ops!


Will the Tides be carrying a helicopter