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Very good article thanks

Bobs Baradur

Congrats to the RN for having a CV that actually works,
compared to the USS Ford. Can you build it with cats & traps,
if so I’ll take 6, asking for friend.


The class is designed to accommodate both CATOBAR and STOVL, I’d assume therefore STOBAR is also possible if you want it.

Edmonton Ironmaker

Oh come on, Ever been around technology development?


Jesus! Missiles are so dam expensive! 2 million for one meteor! You can buy multiple Aston martins and Ferrari’s for on missile! Crazy! Why can’t they make a cheap but effective missile? Oh yeah the makers won’t make any money! Well why doesn’t the uk MOD build its own cheaper missiles, oh yeah the development costs astronomical! Can’t win! Oh yeah we can we are a very rich nation so can afford the best, maybe not allot of the best but still the best.


Cheap missiles don’t tend to work very well….
£2m is the initial cost as it has just entered full production.
The enemy fighters that it is designed to kill cost at least £50m……to kill a £50m fighter you need a £2m missile, particularly if you don’t want your £100m fighter within their weapons range.


Yeah I supose, I jst didn’t realise how expensive missiles are.


When you see graphics of “A single Airstrike in Syria costs X” that’s usually the #1 cost that has been factored in…. never mind the fact that the missile is bought and paid for whether you fire it or not…


They’re expensive because it’s a ramjet that can do over four times the speed of sound, over distances of over 180 miles, arriving with more energy to intercept the target than any other air to air missile in the world, with every missile having its own onboard radar to do that, with a high resistance to any electronic countermeasures. It can be guided by the parent aircraft, or even other aircraft – one plane can fire it, then another completely different plane can take over half way through the flight and update the course to the target, or even set it onto a completely different target. All in a missile that requires almost no maintenance compared to prior missiles – it can be flown on a plane for 1,000 hours before you have to look at it. And bear in mind, it’s going to spend some of that time being flown around at supersonic speeds, or pulling 9+ gees – which makes everything in the missile weigh nine times what it normally does.

In short, it’s a supersonic death machine and probably the best air to air missile in the world by a large margin. Little wonder it costs so much.

As a more general point, bear in mind that the development costs of a missile are spread over a relatively small number of them. You might spend a hundred million developing a new car, but you’re probably going to sell tens of millions of them over the next few years and that spreads the cost out. In comparison the costs of a missile are spread over hundreds, maybe thousands of missiles. Not millions. Which makes them much more expensive than they would otherwise be. The same is true of a lot of military equipment.


What isn’t mentioned is that it can also be used in a passive mode. This is where it will home in on to a selected radar, such as an AWACS type aircraft or ground based radar.
I’m surprised it hasn’t been looked at as a ground launched SAM but then MBDA makes Aster.


MBDA did exhibit a green painted Meteor on their Land Precision Fires concept recently. Quite what role it had they didn’t mention…
But it would be a very expensive capability as anything other than a SAM.

Simon m

Great article and it’s great to see innovation an RN at the cutting edge.
If required could the hmws move storm shadow/replacement? and is there any comment from the RN as to why they think such an important 1st day of war weapon is not included in f35 weapons fit? We only have very limited numbers of tlam for SSNs


In most planed “first day” situations storm shadow can be delivered by typhoon on long multi refuelled missions. As money is tight and integrating weapons is very expensive would adding the weapon to the F35 be best use of resources?


Storm Shadow was originally in the F-35 integration list but got cut over 5 years ago. Partly that is as a result of the delays and the consequent movement of stores integration right.

But its also due to the fact that Storm Shadow has an OSD of 2030. It would only be integrated onto F-35 in 2025 at the earliest. So for a huge cost we would end up with a missile for 5 years (I suspect SS will actually last until 2035 with the MLU).

Far better to wait until 2030ish and integrate the MBDA FCASW replacement missiles onto F-35B for the long haul. That looks likely to be 2 missiles, 1 stealthy Storm Shadow replacement and 1 Super/Hyper sonic missile.

Simon m

That’s ok as long as we don’t have a war before then and if the new weapon is on time! I did think Storm Shadow had just or was just about to go through a midlife update?

Considering the overruns on meteor, brimstone, sea venom, even the simplish martlet the 2030ish is likely to be 2035ish.

Also as everyone seems to be wetting themselves over S400 do we really trust stealth enough to allow f35 go to within SPEAR 3 range (if that missile is on time).

Why is weapons integration still so expensive I thought data buses etc sophisticated stores management were supposedly making things quicker?
Surely we need to get the process cheaper and quicker.

I know aero needs considering but if I remember correctly storm shadow is dropped and then powers itself. So surely once aircraft handling covered and a couple of test fires Job done?

Surely the simulation software has gotten much better am I being really dim here or are we making things overcomplicated? And making a lot of people rich?

Captain Nemo

I’d be tempted to drop Storm Shadow off of A400M myself, I wondered why that’s not a thing when you can’t afford long range bombers.
Atlas could fly 6000km and then throw a dozen Storm Shadow another 500, as a day one exercise you understand and based on threat assessment, but freeing up your other assets.


A palletised arrangement was looked at as part of FOAS for C-17. The pallet would be extracted like a parachute load would be via a drogue. Once clear the Storm Shadow would detach and power away.
As a concept I always thought it had legs, but you could imagine that training would be a rare event for it.

Meirion X

Storm Shadow is Too big for either version of the F-35 , for it to be carried in the internal bays, because it is 5 metres long.
Like the Typhoon, which can carry 2 Storm Shadows on external warpons pylons, the same would apply to any version of a F-35.
There would be weight constraints when deployed by a F-35b, it would be equivalent to fully loaded bays of warpons or more.
I would prefer the Storm Shadow(SCALP)
to be launched from a T45 VLS using A70 cells.

Meirion X

The answer is Yes, especially if a carrier is a long way from home!


Yes it could. One of the requirements was to be able to move Storm Shadow as it was, at the time, to be integrated onto F-35B. That’s no longer happening, but the requirements for the HMWHS were set when that was removed from F-35 integration. It will handle bigger munitions than Storm Shadow as well as it has to be able to function for future weapons whose size is not yet known, consequently it will have more capacity than necessary at present.

Captain Nemo

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Looking at that F35 and just as a general wondering for someone more technically savvy than me, would it not be possible to design droppable wing pylons? The two points nearest the fuselage are plumbed for fuel I understand and combat radius crops up a lot.
I realise they’re designed to hang a lot of weight but it must be within the wit of man to design drop tanks that would allow an F35 to continue on to its target with its stealth intact.


Wing pylons can be detached in an emergency. However, the airframe could still be non-stealthy due to the attachment points. It could in fact be less stealthy than a well designed pylon.

But no-one drops tanks anymore, unless in dire straits, they cost too much , are usually in short supply. Fuel tanks as a consumable is a long dead concept.

An external tank is being developed, but it won’t be stealthy. The Israeli’s were looking at conformal pods. But that has gone quiet. You have to wonder if the plumbing is there and attachment points.

Captain Nemo

Many thanks for the reply,
I think we’re possibly looking at a self fulfilling prophecy in pre 5th gen aircraft, because they see no advantage in dropping tanks the cost is perceived as high because they don’t drop them and because they don’t drop them the unit cost is high.
Weighing the cost of the tanks against the overall mission cost, the cost of the ordnance in the belly you’re about to drop and the ability to hit a target you might not otherwise be able to reach I’d posit that it’s actually a relatively inconsequential number.
More efficient engines will go some way to extending range but it will remain a problem for the F35b and I’d like to think there are solutions other than waiting for an aerial refuelling capability for the navy which may never materialise or using land based tankers which peer nations such as the Chinese are already planning to hunt.
Regards, Nemo


Truth is external tanks don’t add as much range as the fuel carried suggest they do. The increased drag from the tanks and the pylons count a lot against fuel efficiency. To the extent that a significant amount of the fuel in a tank is actually there to provide more fuel to the aircraft just to overcome the extra drag that the tanks and pylons add. In addition the extra weight of the fuel reduces range…it becomes a bit of an ever decreasing circle. In some external tank installations 70% of the additional fuel is used by the aircraft to overcome the extra drag and weight. Meaning only a 3rd of the fuel carried in the tank is really additional fuel to the platform. You could be carrying 4,000lb of fuel in tanks but only 1,200lb of it is really additional. That’s why air to air refuelling becomes so attractive. Conformal tanks, because of their better aerodynamics do improve the fraction somewhat, but usually at a cost of not being detachable in extremis.
There were truly disposable tanks developed in WW2. Even with the profligacy of that war dumping expensive aluminium tanks was too costly. The UK and US developed a tank that was made out of card and resin I believe. It was one time use and could only hold fuel for about 2 hours before it started to leak and disintegrate. The idea was that the P-51’s would take off with it and immediately use that tank ahead of any others, once empty it would be jettisoned over the sea to save on drag.

Captain Nemo

True there’s a percentage to pay in terms of weight and drag, but if it was radically detrimental it wouldn’t explain their existence, which perhaps most famously allowed fighters to escort bombers into Germany.
Your statistics probably represent hanging on to the tank over the duration of a sortie, the reality is that the fuel in those tanks is used first and if they’re then dropped and that is seen in operational terms as part of any long range sortie then your F35 receives a welcome kick up the arse.
I’m not clinging to the idea through some sort of demented love of drop tanks, simply trying to address the F35b range issue and happy to see any practicable solution that has a reasonable chance of being implemented. A two carrier Royal Navy battlegroup would encompass several thousand souls and twenty billion in assets, if you don’t have range to play with you’re either impotent or you’re moving closer to the enemy and you’re also fixing your carriers in a given area for recovery.


It may be best to wait for the joint Israeli/Lockheed Martin stealthy conformal fuel tanks. Admittedly these are being developed for the A version, but I’m pretty certain due to the demand for the B version a similar tank will be developed. The USMC admitted as much when they did an CAP and air strike in Afghan earlier in the year with their B’s, as the mission round trip required two tanker refuels.
BAE have also been developing a multi-use weapons pod that is stealthy that could hold ASRAAM, CVR7 etc. Not sure how far in development it is, but it was part of a BAE slideshow at last years DSEI.


60 year Evolution of the system the County class had for their Sea Slugs ? except far safer and in a less vulnerable position hopefully.

Lee Parnell

One thing to note – the bombs being loaded on the video are not Paveway IV, as the caption states, but the older, visually similar, GBU-12 laser guided bomb. Note the absence of Paveway IV’s distinctive hardback, strbd side nose cowl and the GPS and HOBS sensors on the seeker (all of which can be seen on the photos of Paveway IV later in the article under “trolleyed” and “armed” tabs of the gallery). Instead we have a slick bomb and simple seeker.

I believe US GFX stocks from the JSF program were used for the trial. Close enough for government work (and not so expensive to dump at the end of the test!)

Lee Parnell

No worries! It’s easily missed.

I should say thanks for writing such a well researched and detailed article. It’s been circulated around the office as it’s a good primer for the engineers on shipborne considerations!


Also a shame there is no deadicated Anti Ship Missile for F-35B. As mentioned the SPEAR 3 is good for smaller enemy vessels but not against an advanced warship.
The Cousins have JSM version of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile that will fit the F-35C bay but the lift fan means we can’t fit it. I wonder what the Italians and Japanese and South Koreans are going to use?


Are the South Koreans getting the F35b?


In due course they will. They recently announced their next LHD (due 2030) will be carrying F-35B.

As will the Japanese Izumo Class.

Meirion X

Yes, they are!

Gavin Gordon

I imagine the Spear 3 concept will aquit itself pretty well. For a good many real world scenarios it’s range is fine and discrimination abilities fairly advanced, I gather. As hinted, although optimised for smaller surface targets, having half a dozen of so heading an adversary’s way should seriously test ‘calm under pressure’ no matter what the vessel’s size.

Simon m

Can’t it just go on the wings? Launches would surely be normally made outside of ships radar range?


Apologies for a slightly off topic question, but is that “maximum-sized ‘CV wing’ of up to 36 F-35 jets and around 24 helicopters” limited to just 36 fixed wing or can they disembark the helicopters and operate 60 fixed wing (should Santa give the RN extra F-35B’s at Christmas) ?

I do like the emphasis on logistics in the design phase, far too often an afterthought, and double kudos for keeping crew size down to help with the lifecycle costs while still allowing for spare hotel load and space to increase crew size as needed.

With the plan to embark USMC F-35s will any modifications to the magazines be needed for equivalent weapons AIM9X for example)?.


I’m not sure you would want to disembark all of the helicopters though seeing as they do much of the ASW and early warning radar work for the carrier group. You might be able to loose a few but not many.


That is the Exact. Same. Mistake the RN made with the CVA-01/Type 82’s in the 1960’s: helicopters can fly off the escorts (although I do concede that, here and now, the RN has an escort shortage), but the only ship in the battlegroup that can fly off fixed wing fleet air defence or strike aircraft is the carrier – you build your escorts to be as aviation capable as your budget allows and then you put as many of your helicopters as possible on the escorts to maximise the number of AD and strike assets that your very expensive carrier battle group can take into action.


The QE Class could ‘operate’ 70+ aircraft. But efficiency would be impacted. 36 F-35B and a standard loadout of Merlin c10 would be around about the sweet spot.

Not all helicopters are the same either. A couple of Chinook onboard would severely mess up aircraft handling due to their size (particularly if the blades aren’t folded).


Also remember that as a policy the RN doesn’t really “deck park” it’s fighters, while the US does. Makes a difference in max fighter counts…


To be completely and totally honest I wasn’t really thinking about the RN, I was more thinking about the export market, there are three countries that might be in the market for new carriers in the next 15 years. France (which lets remember has a share of the QE class’s IP), India and Brazil. None will operate the RN’s air wing mix.


“France (which lets remember has a share of the QE class’s IP),”

The French paid c£100m to ‘access’ the design when they were thinking of progressing with PA.2.
However I’m not sure how long that contract lasted or whether it was just to access to view or purchasing a copy outright. I suspect if the French wanted to actually use the QE design it would cost them a lot more if they proceeded further than design reviews.


BAE built them but they lost the design competition and had to build the design from the other bidder, Thales, and Thales is a French company. You can believe that Thales had a very good Chinese wall up and that copies didn’t get to Paris if you want, I wouldn’t bet your life or mine on it though. Saying that, the RN version is based on the D spec, not the original A spec, and I’m not 100% sure when BAE took over the design work so it’s quite possible the French don’t have access to the IP of the ships as they were finally built but they wouldn’t build to the exact same design anyway (cat and traps are more their thing after all).


This is a common misconception.

Thales were the prime in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance. BAe became a member.
But it wasn’t Thales in general. It was Thales UK. Most of the design work was undertaken in Bristol, BMT were the main designers….
It was more than Chinese walls. UK MoD kept a very tight rein on IP. Hence the reason why the French needed to pay £100m (non-refundable) to be able to access the design. I know people who were there at the time…
Cat and Traps was only ever going to significantly alter the top two decks. The version chose is irrelevant as they were just initial designs used for costing, no detailed design work was undertaken.

Paul Bestwick

I was under the impression that with the QE class this was going to be more the norm.


For quite a few years the information put out about CVF stated 40 aircraft as the standard compliment with 50 being the ‘surge’ capacity. More recently there has been a couple of quotes referencing 70 as the max load. I guess the 36 F35 and 4 Merlin’s came from the assumption of them operating as pure strike carriers.

They’ll be an optimal, comfortable number of aircraft they are designed to sustain with fuel, ammunition and support indefinitely with the ability to physically operate more in short-term bursts.

Post Falklands the RN experimented with how many Harriers they could fit onto the Invincible’s – and the maximum number was i think 22-24, but in reality an absolute maximum of 18 could be fielded on active operations as anymore would cause some pretty hazardous traffic jams in the hangar and on the flight deck.

Effectively the only way to know the maximum amount/mix of jets and helicopters they can carry would be to do that sort of live trial, and sadly whilst in no way being a part of the anti-carrier brigade i can’t see us having enough air-frames to give it a go for a very long time.

David Stephen

I can’t see 60 aircraft of any type ever being embarked, even if we had 1000s to spare. The hanger can fit 22 F-35Bs. Are we going to put 14 F-35Bs and 24 helicopters on the deck? Even if you have 4 F-35s and 4/5 helicopters up that still leaves 10 fighters and 19 helicopters on deck. It’s a big deck but not that big. I think she will be full with 36 fighters and 4/5 helicopters. Is it possible to conduct flight ops with almost 30 aircraft parked on deck? Not including the 6 that are landing or taking off. Plus I think it would be quite difficult to move and swap that many aircraft about for maintenance and operations. I hope they can fit 60 aircraft but just don’t see how.


Great article. I have a question, can anyone tell me if the U.S. Marine corps F 35 b’s have a different weopons load out to the U.K. version as it looks like they will be on board Q E quite often and will this have any bearing on stowing weopons on board. It would be nice to know the various changes made on board to accommodate our American cousins.


USMC F-35B will use entirely different weapons. With the possible exception of Amraam and the gun pod. Paveway IV, Spear and Asraam are all UK only at present.
The magazines and handling arrangements will be to NATO standards so no issue handling munitions. The USMC will have a dedicated area on board ship as their own area, this is seperate to the usual berthing and squadron areas. What they may need to do when they deploy onboard is bring some additional personnel (at least initially) as their weaponry will need to be built and UK personnel will not be experienced in those particular US systems.

Rob E

Excellent article. Does anyone know whether the recent leak will impact on the timescale for the upcoming trip across the pond?

Meirion X

I have not heard much since the return to port either! Or of any repairs done to bulkhead and a stairway. QE was rotated round last week.


So,to paraphrase, you don’t know anything.


Without storm shadow there won’t be nearly enough stand off range to defend against the Quaher 313.


Grubbie, the Quaher 313 is nothing more than a fake mock up by the Iranians to make us believe they will have capabilities that they won’t. The pictures in press releases have been proven by aeronautical engineers to be models and trashed the planes features as both unworkable and non stealthy. Or was your comment just a joke?


What do you think?

Meirion X

To T.S
Troll G will not accept your argument, as he has Not accepted reasonable arguments
in past articles. And therefore he is ideologically opposed to British defence interests.
In other words he is an Adversary!


Meirion, see I ignored the moron! I’m doing my best, but reading such slavering drool covered chuff is hard not to tie the piss out of the clown ?


Possibly a bit mental


You’re not mad James are you?

Captain Nemo

Think he’s paid by the downvote, mans gotta eat.
The Qaher 313 is one of the reasons I said we were in clown territory with the Iranians, I would have loved to have taken that tanker back with marines in jetpacks just for the lols.

Yes I’m aware of the current development status of jetpacks.


They are highly ingenious when it comes to IEDs,reputedly they are behind most of the designs encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq. You don’t admire the Qaher 313 then?

Captain Nemo

Evades radar, even seems to evade actual flight; possibly useful for short commutes, school run and the like, bit small for a weekly shop.
They should turn their genius towards being less biblically apocalyptic, perhaps a nice cheesecake would be a good place to start.

Meirion X

Captain Nemo
I think also he is paid by down votes!?
He is also trying to tempt posters to start off a nonsense debate!
Vary much so a Fantasie!


Pretty sure Grubbie is just Iqbal posting under a different name.


Correct Dern!


Have you got a model of a Quahar 313 (which interestingly so do the Iranians) which you touch, stroke, take to bed and call it sally?


Quaher 313 lol. Takes more than an aptitude for model making to design and build a stealth aircraft.

Meirion X

Please Ignore the last poster, Troll G.
It does Not have the STRN objectives at heart!
It means harm to the RN!
Give it No existence!
Just 0 it!


What size is the crew complement?How have the RN suddenly found room for 350 extra crew?

Meirion X

Thanks So Much, Cheers!


What is the difference between the QE’s HMWHS and the Ford’s weapon handling/lift system? Apart from ours works and there’s doesn’t.

GP Elevators Chennai

I got a info from your article on Elevators that “USS Ford has 11 electromagnetic lifts designed deliver munitions at double the speed of conventional design”. Love to read that.

Thanks by,
GP Elevators Chennai


Several questions, but two points first. To Bobs Baradur, the QE has or was designed also for Cats and Traps as well as a 9 degree angled flight deck. I have even seen a design concept where it has been stretched by about 50m and with three aircraft lifts. The stretch and extra lift was placed between the two bridge structures. The French did look at the Cats and Traps variant but nothing happened. You would get three-four QEs with Cat and Trap for one Ford class so it would be a good mix and cost effective two QEs for every Ford forms a carrier strike group. For a 12 carrier fleet (4 Fords+8 QEs) would save the US about $60 billion. We could even build them here in the UK for you at cost price.

The second poiont is with the F35B going to several countries each with there own weapons fit is it not then possible to share the weapons homologation software thereby saving millions to each country.

Now for my questions, 1. Is it possible to design the F35B further so it can have folding wings? 2. Why does the QE not have a crash barrier, it could be very useful if an aircraft is damaged. 3. Is rearming and refueling carried out in the hanger or on the flight deck? 4. Does the munitions lifts go straight down from the flight deck to the magazines or is there a break in them? 5. What happens if the automated magazine handling system is damaged, can the munitions still be man handled? 6. Is there a block and tackle system or ramps for ‘dolly carts’ in case the munitions lifts are out or commission.
Possibly silly questions for some but these are ships of war and as such are likly to face damage and whilst automation etc is all well and good old fashioned muscle power works when all else has failed.


“For a 12 carrier fleet (4 Fords+8 QEs) would save the US about $60 billion.”

The most sensible mix would be about 8-9 CVN’s. Cancel the last 2 and replace with 6 Catobar CVF. That way you could leave the 8 in the Pacific where nuclear power makes some sense given the vast distances, and also faces off against the most dangerous enemy, China. The 6 CVF could be based off the East Coast and cover the Atlantic, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean. In conjunction with 2 QE Class, CdG, Cavour and Trieste that would be more than enough to confront Russia and other threats. That would get the USN the mass it needs back in the Pacific and be cost neutral, it may even save money.

“The second poiont is with the F35B going to several countries each with there own weapons fit is it not then possible to share the weapons homologation software thereby saving millions to each country.”

This is already happening with UAI. Any weapon that gets fully integrated to F-35 is automatically available to all users. No need for national integration efforts, just a software update. UAI should simplify weapons integration on future platforms as well, its likely to become the main Western standard.

“Now for my questions, 1. Is it possible to design the F35B further so it can have folding wings”

Not really. Its a significant weight penalty that we could do without, its not that space inefficient as is. Because of the width of the tail you could only get benefit from folding the outer metre or so, There is a lot of ducting for the control system there. A lot of effort for not much gain. Any closer in and you get close to the middle pylon which can hand substantial weight on it, that’s when things get really complex. That’s why the F-35C wing fold is comparatively modest.

“2. Why does the QE not have a crash barrier, it could be very useful if an aircraft is damaged.”

Crash barriers are usually connected to the Arresting Gear system, they’re part and parcel. As a result there isn’t one developed for non arrestor gear use. The UK would have to front the development costs for the full system. Given the STOVL experience in the past the RN don’t see it as an issue. The SRVL approach may change that, but I suspect we won’t see that in use that often. Basically if an aircraft is damaged enough so it can’t do a vertical landing it certainly won’t be able to SRVL as all of the capabilities required for vertical landing are required for rolling vertical landing. If the aircraft is damaged they’ll either attempt a vertical landing, that is far less risky or eject.

“3. Is rearming and refueling carried out in the hanger or on the flight deck?”

Flight deck usually. Weapons elevators emerge onto the deck at the starboard side of the islands. But weapons elevators also access the hangar so re-arming is possible there as well.

“4. Does the munitions lifts go straight down from the flight deck to the magazines or is there a break in them?”

All the way down I believe, but there are numerous armoured doors on the way.

“5. What happens if the automated magazine handling system is damaged, can the munitions still be man handled?”

There is a manual backup. But it will be very, very slow. Probably enough to get self defence munitions up.

“6. Is there a block and tackle system or ramps for ‘dolly carts’ in case the munitions lifts are out or commission.”

No idea.

Gordon Parker

As an old veteran Jack Dusty, I find it fascinating that loading of stores & munitions is largely automated. In my day albeit on Frigates where there was less room, it was all manual handling, the responses below seem to be about the missiles rather than the fantastic achievements in handling and storing.

Matt OBrien

I’m sure the enemy like to have a video walk through of the ship and it’s workings.. clowns..