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I’m looking forward to the video of the first rolling landing technique they are going to use.

Paul Bestwick

Very interesting article, thanks for the detail


Look forward to the documentary, good luck all and fair winds and following seas

Alan Johnson

Another good briefing article- many thanks


I imagine she’s going to be quite popular with a lot of personnel in Norfolk. There’s still the debate about what shape the USN carrier fleet should take: ever bigger and more expensive supercarriers in small numbers, or smaller and cheaper fleet carriers similar to HMS Queen Elizabeth, procured in greater numbers to give the USN more versatility and options regarding warfighting.

Personally, I’d say go for a high-low mix. Assuming the USNs plan is eventually for 11 Ford class supercarriers, instead trade perhaps 4 of those for 8+ catapult QECs


I agree that they could well end up building less Ford’s which are ferociously expensive and opting for something similar to the QECs.

It shouldn’t be forgotten though that they plan to have a fleet of 11 America class which at 45,000 tons and the capacity to embark 20 F35B will be as or more capable than most of the world’s fleet carriers.


I read a Senate report which says the America class can support 32 F35B for limited periods .
The lead ship of the Ford class has a few issues to resolve and at $12 billion a piece is exspensive real estate.


Fair point, but its worth remembering that the America class lack ski jumps and are ill-suited to sustained flight operations, so its wing of Lightnings would have an even more reduced fuel and weapons load.

Currently, the rest of the world has little to compare with the US carrier fleet, but there are a lot of significantly more capable vessels either under construction or being planned. Ignoring the highly unlikely Russian Shtorm design on the basis that its completely unaffordable, both China and India are moving towards CATOBAR carriers. NATO and our allies need to be able to show the flag in more places than we have capable ships for. Leave the assault ships to focus on helo ops, and build 8-12 catapult equipped conventional fleet carriers around 70-75,000 tonnes. In the name of saving money they could even go back and start from one of our original CVF designs for the QEC. It would obviously need modification, but its a good starting point


I agree with the consensus that it would be too expensive to convert QE class carrier to cats & traps at this point in time. Also taking into account the issue of launching and landing aircraft on CTOL carrier types in rough seas increases risks and reduced sortie rates.
As a STOVL carrier, QE class would have a potential to be a multi-role carrier, examples are: ASW platform, assault carrier, ‘Freedom of the Seas’ patrol carrier, war zone air dominance platform, disaster relief(LPH) platform.
But the QE class will not be able to fulfil some of the potential roles above, due to the limited types of aircraft procured. The MoD has taken a big risk by procuring only one type of STOVL fixed wing aircraft, the F-35b, optimize for strike and ground attack roles.
Why did not the MoD have the foresight to procure a specific STOVL ‘air defence/interceptor aircraft. This type of interceptor might be an advanced Sea Harrier, or a P1154 type of Harrier refined and modernized.
I find it difficult to believe the F-35b can fulfil the air defence role of a fleet. Could it beat back waves of 4 gen fighters(like the Falklands war)? Is it the reason why the US Marines procured the F-35 for it’s deep strike and ECW role? US Marines have already got F18’s for the air defence role.
Also the QE class need to be equipped with the V-22 Osprey, with having Crows-nest fitted to give greater AEW coverage.
Also potentially the V-22 could be used as a tanker to refuel other aircraft.

A lot of the technology to equipped a new type of Sea Harrier has already been developed for the Typhoon aircraft.

I look forward also to other common sense comments to the QE class carrier debate.


The USMC is currently attempting to convert a V22 into a tanker but is having problems with the weight and bladders.

Boeing has a mock up of a V22 AEW .


The Sea Harrier was, compared to other fleet defence aircraft like the F-14, incredibly lacking in most regards, it was a ground attack aircraft modified for AAW and only really intended to fight MPAs. It did so well in the Falklands because it was more maneuverable, had better radar and missiles, and our pilots were better trained, while the Argies were operating at the edge of their combat envelope with little fuel left for engagements.

In comparison, the Lightning is more capable than any Harrier ever was, so in comparison to the Harrier I can’t see where your concerns about its role as an air defence fighter come from. The F-35B is the modern P.1154: a supersonic V/STOL fighter. Any concept of an “advanced” Sea Harrier is flawed, as the result is either an aircraft that is already outdated or the F-35B, which was always intended to replace the Harrier.

I’m in full agreement with you regarding the V-22, although if the option is available the new V-280 Valor would be preferable (it has greater range, speed, weapons load, and modern design features that will make it cheaper to run, BUT I think its somewhat smaller than the V-22, which would make it less practical as a tanker and at-sea replenishment transport).


“The Sea Harrier was, compared to other fleet defence aircraft like the F-14, incredibly lacking in most regards,”

Actually Sea Harrier FRS.2 was widely regarded as one of the best air 2 air fighters in NATO. It’s radar was widely regarded as one of the best around and it actually deployed with Amraam significantly earlier than most other platforms.

Given the AIM-154’s appalling combat record and F-14 relying on Sparrow as its back up its likely that until F-14 got Amraam that Sea Harrier FRS.2 actually had a far better chance of making a kill at any range beyond visual range than F-14.


Have you actually got any sources for that? Because the Sea Harrier was a capable carrier aircraft, but it was inferior in many regards to other carrier fighters like the F-14 and F/A-18, and ESPECIALLY by land-based aircraft like the F-15.

Sticking with my initial comparison, the F-14 could carry twice the weapons load at more twice the speed, which isn’t just important for intercepting any aircraft, it gives launched weapons a huge kinematic launch advantage. While AIM-54 Phoenix didn’t have much success in US service, that was mostly due to highly restricted RoE and poor luck, in Iranian service its credited with 62 kills. It was also longer ranged than AMRAAMs original versions, which is still important even if the AMRAAM is clearly the superior weapon.

Sea Harriers did not deploy significantly earlier with AMRAAM? It entered service in ’91, and there were F-16s deployed with it it in the Gulf, so your claim is exaggerated at the very least.


“The US Marines have F-18’s for the air Defence roll”. The USMC flies the legacy Hornets, the old C models. Although the Marine pilots are trained in aireal combat, thier main mission in wartime would be expeditionary deployment with a main focus on supporting infantry by hitting ground targets.
As far as fleet Defence, the embarked navy FA/18 E+F airwing Hornets would be the platforms to carry out that roll.


The F35 has the advantage over the Harrier and F18 with its Stealth, a Low Probabilty of Intercept AESA radar which is light years ahead of the Harriers Blue Vixen and a step change over the F18s. It also has the next gen of IRST which is said to better than the excellent one fitted to Typhoon. Further, the aircraft has Network Enabled Capabilty which means one aircraft can control and use another aircraft’s weapons once it targets a threat. I believe the aircraft can carry internally four Meteors and two ASRAAM which although limited in capacity is still a formidable weapons load. I’m sure that underwing radar absorbant weapon pods will be developed to hold extra ASRAAMs to boast the weapons load.
Therefore “theoretically” the F35 should not need to engage in dog-fighting but predominantly beyond visual range engagements. An opposing 4th Gen fighter should never get within visual range of a F35. If the F35 is operating passively an just using the IRST, the opposing aircraft won’t know it has been targeted until the Meteors go active, which by then will be too late to counter fire. The F35 was never designed to be an out and out dog-fighter, but a first strike weapon system that can counter SAM networks and hide from AWACS style aircraft.
I think you should view the F35 in much the same role as the Tornado F35, which was predominantly a stand-off missile platform. I’m pretty certain that the F35 will be conducting the same role for fleet defence.
Apart from the V22 which is probably way too expensive for us to buy, Bell has three tilt-rotor aircraft also in development these are the V280 Valor, the V247 Vigilant and Eagle Eye UAVs. The V280 is the candidate to replace the Blackhawk in the US Army’s future medium lift aircraft whilst the V247 is being developed for the USMC as a strike/reconnaissance drone that can operate from ships. It can carry a payload of nearly 6000Kg, but apart from weapons can also sling load items below the aircraft. The wings and rotors are designed to fold much like the V22’s. The Eagle Eye is a smaller reconnaissance drone that’s currently used by the US Coast Guard. Perhaps the V280 and V247 would be better (cheaper) options for us to pursue.


. Thanks to All above in enlightening me to the F-35B! Is not the main disadvantage between a V/STOL F-35B and a CTOL F-35A is the payloads? Would it be feasible to use rocket-assist take-off or a propellant to boost thrust of F-35B? similar to that used for drag-racer cars? Also could not the range of the F-35B be increased by using non-metallic drop-tanks?


Great article.

I note USS Winston S. Churchill completed a recent RAS with RFA Tidespring in the Atlantic.

A good PR opportunity for QE group to meet up with these en route.

Or could USS Winston S. Churchill be a planned escort for QE?

Fat Dave

Might be the ideal chance to put the carrier in the shop window for the USMC to buy her. So the U.K. can reinvest the money and manpower back where it’s needed.
The U.K. simply doesn’t need aircraft carriers of this size and complexity, whereas the US can.

Paul Bestwick

And how would that get around the US law that all USN ships have to be built in the US. So your first point can’t happen. Secondly have you actually done any back ground reading as to why the carriers are the size they are? Search this size and go read up. If a nation wants to do carrier operations, this is the size a modern carrier needs to be, anything smaller is actually playing at it. I bet when the French replace the CDG is will be approx. the same size as the Queen Elizabeth class.


The French will never replace the CDG , they do not have the money .
There fleet train is a absolute mess and there port facilities are in permanent chaos.


Heh. Like the RN is doing much better…


Yes the RN has very little money just like the French, but it’s fleet train is in good order and it’s dockyards are regarded as highly efficient and well administered.

Unfortunately French naval dockyards are bastions of unfettered union power and it’s fleet train has been neglected for over 30 years.


Why would a country that has real carriers want a stop-gap like the QE? As long as China keeps loaning us the money, anyway…

Paul Bestwick

Cost and quantity. Any ship can only be in one place at once. If you have two ships for approx. the same money. One can be deployed whilst the other is in refit or being maintained.


Where’s moaning grubbie and Iqbal. This is about the carriers and they like to moan and whine, damn they will be gutted they missed out.


You had to say it, now they’re all over the next article like a Rash…
I’d hoped we’d gotten rid of them.

Shirley Thorniley

Thank you for the information. Appreciated

Frnacis Drake

Why has the HMS Queen Elizabeth a “new” mast in the front right, next to the sky jump?