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Henry Piecrust

Great picture of the two together!


Yeah it is, I’m wondering what the dark patches on Hms Pow deck is though! It seems it’s darker on both decks at roughly the same place and squares.


It is the thermal coating for the F-35’s


I know all about that, and that’s most of the deck isn’t it, but I’m on about the other darker squares on the deck, it’s not everywhere jst some areas and it’s not in some areas where thermal coatings needed so it’s nit that.


I believe the dark areas are the coated areas. They are the parts of the deck that get sustained high temp jet exhaust, mostly the vertical landing areas.


Yeah but You can see HMS QE and see where the jets have landed and they have landed outside the darkest areas or squares. Anyway I was just wondering thanks for replying ?

Captain Nemo

Maybe they’re finding they need bigger squares.
Not sure if the colour is a result of the process or if it’s a visual aid for the pilots (or both).
Naval Technology 2016 article states that “Of the total 19,000m² flight deck area of QEC carriers, the coating is applied on the sections measuring 2,000m²”


You can also see a section of thermal insulation on QEC’s starboard bow, beside the ramp. I have wondered if this is to allow engine tests to be run on parked aircraft without interfering with other flight deck ops, but PWLs doesn’t have this feature, so perhaps they’ve now decided, based on experience, that it isn’t necessary or optimal. Given how expensive the thermal coating must be, you wouldn’t want to splash it around, unnecessarily!

Supportive Bloke

Great to see them both together.

Well done UK PLC

Also good to hear that all the trials work is going well.

This is where UK was sensible in letting USMC do all of this first so a lot of the debugging was done before UKPLC had to pick up the bill.

Same with the initial buy rate – who wants numbers of aircraft from early tranches that are not identical, not upgradable and much more expensive. Hopefully now things have settle down the buy rate graph can be tweaked upwards.

I’m also very supportive of the B/C buy in that the issues around keeping a cadre of pilots CATOBAR qualified is eyewateringly expensive and it would not be quick and easy to surge RAF pilots to the carriers with the rest of the airframes if needs be.

These are very potent assets even with 16 state of the art aircraft embarked.


The UK are not buying any C models. Or am I misunderstanding your comment?

Supportive Bloke

My fault my comment was unclear.

I was stating that I did not agree with the idea of ever having the C variant.

On grounds of costs and complexity.

UK did the right thing going 100% B variant IMHO.

Sorry for misleading!


The USMC is buying F-35C models as part of their mission to have some squadrons integrated with Naval Air wings.
However the rationale “if” the UK buys F35C in the future, its exclusively for longer range/bigger weapons load RAF operations and they wouldnt go to sea, and they just might be nuclear capable as well.
Personally I dont think the current setup , with the F35B acting like a ‘shared house’ among the 2 services will work out well. Much better to have their own specific F-35 types, and only share training and maintenance


Great move basing the Commando Merlins on auxiliaries. Any idea how many we would deploy in a strike group? We have 25 on order.

John Clark

All looking good. I’ve no particular concerns with the USMC elements aboard either.

Most operations will be Anglo American, we need the extra assets and this is a cheap way for the Americans to place another Carrier Strike group on the map.

It’s a win win quite frankly.

Thinking laterally, it would actually be cheaper for Uncle Sam to gift us 50 F35B’s, as an extra CVS would cost the US tax payer massively more!




Wouldn’t be the first time. My favourite book is Phoenix Squadron, which indicates a major rationale for maintaining Ark Royal through the 1970s was so she could form the centre of a NATO carrier group, allowing the US more flexibility in sending carriers to Vietnam. Given the seeming pressure on the current US carrier force, especially the difficulties they are having with Ford, having a ready made and operational replacement from an ally seems logical.


Are they new Merlins or reworking existing airframes

Max Jones

It’s interesting – RFA Fort Victoria can carry three merlins and a Wave-class can hold one, so I’m guessing around 2-4 Merlin Mk.4s in total. It’s a good idea since it allows them to be more spread out for SAR and clears up space for faster operations on HMS QE, however considering the main air wing is only about 24 aircraft when the carrier is built for 50, even 38 on regular operations, it is a bit disappointing that total couldn’t be a bit higher.


This is a real win for US Marine Corp aviation to have the F35b fly off of purpose built carriers. The US Navy’s LHA/LHD ships cannot provide all the support for the F35b the Royal Navy carriers provide. Long term it seems the Royal Navy needs increased staffing and more support ships like the Type 45, Type 26 and Type 31e to support all of the UK’s interests globally.


Great progress update. Some quick points:

3 Merlin for AEW doesn’t sound enough to maintain around the clock surveillance in a high threat situation.

Unless we follow the Israelis and fit drop tanks to the F35 then we risk needing to have the carrier dangerously close to the shore and land based SSM’s in order to conduct operations.

Unless Storm Shadow is fitted to the F35 and an ASM procured and fitted then the aircraft will have to be hoping its stealth capability lives up to the billing as it will need to go inside the engagement envelope of enemy area defence SAM’s to strike land or maritime targets.


2021 is very early in the life of the AEW Merlin. We are less than 18 months from the task groups departure and the AEW Merlin is still in flight test. 3 may be the most that can be made ready with worked up crews.
I think this first big trip of QE will be partly final training as much as really operational.


Fair point mate. Let’s hope 3 is a number driven by availability at that stage rather than a view of the intended number in the longer term

Max Jones

Perhaps we could invite the Italians to end over a couple of their’s to fill in, similar to the USMC Lightnings. They have four AEW variants so might be able to spare one or two as a joint operations deployment.

Supportive Bloke

Hmme the drop tanks thing.

The issue with drop tanks is weight and ideally the plane takes off with a light fuel load and heavy weapons load with empty drop tanks.

The plane then AAF’s to capacity including the drop tanks.

Don’t forget
– Max takeoff weigh; and
– max cruise loading weight; and
– max landing weight

Are all different

You try an minimise the first and last to extend airframe/engine life.

Taking off with drop tanks doesn’t help a lot unless the intention is less weapons load!


On drop tanks On a stealth-critical scenario wouldn’t the only stations with munitions loaded be the internal bays (I’m thinking first day strike against peer to take out air defences, command & control etc) so drop tanks would, takeoff-weight-wise, be instead of weapons mounted on external hard points rather than in addition to?

Theoretically, although I know we can’t afford it, getting access to the USMC V-22 Osprey AAR rig could help even with heavier loads by taking on fuel after takeoff as you mention. Maybe with USMC involvement and mention in the article that V-22 hosting was still not decided there might be hope of at least temporary access to that to see how beneficial it might be in practice.

Supportive Bloke

My *hope* would be that USMC bring their AAR toys with them and we then decide they are so well worked out we buy a few off the line. What the AAR toy is frankly make zero difference *if* it provides a robust capability.

It is one of the great things about having USMC on board QEC that this kind of dynamic R&D on their dollar but with our platform becomes very sensible.

A derisked buy (This what you need and fixed price for another one is X) is much more appealing than an “I have a great idea” that might just work.

The only BUT in this is that the other reason the B variant is better is its ability to take off in higher sea states and the AAR needs to match that…


Absolutely agree that exactly what the AAR is doesn’t matter provided it does the job. I simply mentioned V-22 AAR because as I understand it the development of that is quite advanced now with USMC having already demonstrated the capability in action so, at least as a prototype, it already exists.

You paint a compelling picture re R&D on USMC dollar (or perhaps in some cases mostly if not entirely) with QE carriers as host for testing and leading to de-risked buys on new stuff. I do hope this is how it works out in practice.


Osprey AAR is not even being mooted, and if ever purchased, would probably not be for another ten years. In the meantime, if payload and range concerns become acute, why not buddy tanking from another F-35? This meets the criteria of a tanker that can operate in the same sea states.

Gavin Gordon

The proposed V22 AEWC version, if funded, would add another layer of flexibility. The F35s wont be total also-rans in this context, either.


The Merlin is a better fit for this, as the US isnt interested in making a V22 AEWC. The Merlin is much better capability than the US Navy standard SH60 airframe


As well there is lightweight drone helicopters able to be launched from support ships or a carrier for a high altitude radar warning a good distance out.
The MQ8B Fire Scout based on the Schweizer 330 is 1500kg MTOW with on station 5 hrs at radius of 110nm , a RR engine and RDR-1700 X-band synthetic aperture radar . This is just a sample of what could be coming.
It compares with a AW159 Wildcat with MTOW of 6000kg.


Bell has the V-247 Vigilant concept –

Payload quoted at 5,900kg fuel & weapons/sensors with one example of 11 – 15 hours on station with a 270kg payload. Good AEW sensors would presumably need more than 270kg (but maybe not?) but that’s a good endurance starting point to start trading off on in return for more sensor payload. Service ceiling 25,000 feet so very usefully more than Merlin’s 15,000 feet.

All just a concept and all figures just Wikipedia data but perhaps another interesting pointer to where this direction of travel might take us. V-247 MTOW quoted as 13,000 kg in that Wikipedia article BTW for comparison with the data in your (Duker) post.


One suspects that the number is driven by :

1. Low number of HMA2 in the forward fleet
2. Initial production rate of Crowsnest systems
3. Abysmal serviceability rate of HMA2 in general

Don’t forget, the CSG will probably have 8 HMA2 on QNLZ, plus another couple on the two T23. That’s 10 from a forward fleet of 18-20. From which 824NAS needs cabs for training and 814 needs some for other T23. Presumably 849 will also need a couple at Culdrose for Crowsnest training and tactical development.

There’s a decent argument for another buy of around a dozen HMA2 and an aircrew/maintainer uplift, but not holding my breath.


Another 6 HMA2 would do a world of good really, since more airframes are now needed for training as there are now two different roles for the crews, and Merlin’s still in production but probably not for much longer.


Appreciate the RN likes to operate a tailored air-group and it’ll no doubt change but up until recently the official information stated that the normal configuration would include 9 ASW Merlin and 5 AEW.

Does seem like a bit of a tall order though out of 30 air-frames.


24 sounds good to me, shame we have to wait so long….also, is that 24 regularly embarked on both HMS QE and HMS PoW when they deploy, or just HMS QE?


The number will vary with the objective of the particular deployment. Also air assets may come and go during a long trip.

Simon m

What’s not clear is if the 24 are UK jets or 12 UK 12 USMC? if it is the later for me that would be disappointing having a carrier that can carry 36+

Max Jones

I think the regular deployment on operations like this one (either low-intensity combat in the Middle East or power projection and demonstration of force) is around 38 total – 14 merlins (9 ASW, 5 AEW) and 24 F-35Bs. This seems a bit light to me – I assumed we would be looking at 12 USMC and 12 FAA jets.

With the Invincible class, it was clear that the standard air wing fluctuates significantly, so it will likely be rare that the air wing is ever exactly 38, but hopefully it should be somewhere in that ballpark, whatever the structure.


Why is there vote labour plastered all over this page?!

Gavin Gordon

Doesn’t matter!


Adverts that appear on this site are automated and tailored to the individual, based on your browsing history. Blame GoogleAd algorithms!


Should a super carrier be judged by the sheer tonnage or should it be judged by the number or aircraft it holds?, probably both actually but with the QE class probably never holding more than 40 aircraft Max with a mix of choppers and F35bs is it a true supercarrier? and should it still be called one?


The true measure is the number of meaningful sorties it can generate and the period over which it can sustain that.

Max Jones

50 is the typical wartime deployment so it will definitely work with more than 40 if necessary.


16 jets for the first deployment – not great but not as bad as the 6-12 previously feared.

Have no problem with them regularly embarking a USMC squadron, so long as the ability and critical mass to deploy with 24+ UK F35’s is practiced and maintained.

Guess it makes sense to put the commando Merlin’s on the RFA’s so as to not overcrowd the carrier given that 24 jets and helicopters already on-board is a pretty big jump from what we’ve seen this year.

Can’t wait to see the 7 RN/RFA vessels in formation! Presumably a SSN will tag along (too risky to deploy without one) but they don’t comment on submarine movements so we’ll only know when one is pictured accompanying them.


No overcrowding , as the carrier design objectives were a maximum ‘surge’ mix of all types in the 50s


No i’m well aware that QE & PoW are designed to handle 50ish aircraft.

My point was that it makes sense for them to gradually, incrementally up the amount of aircraft on-board. So this year QE had roughly a dozen jets and helicopters at one point, with it effectively being doubled to 24 in 2021, but they may feel like that’s enough for the moment and it makes sense to put the 3 or 4 commando Merlin’s onto the RFA’s to give them some practice and not go for broke on the carrier too quickly.


Good points. As well I understand fast jet carrier operations are built around the launch and recovery cycles and helicopters that are around have a support role for that . Any other helicopters have to stay well clear, however deployed on another ship they can operate and train accordingly.


Will USMC aircraft use the ramp or only VTOL when on-board the QEC class?


They would be using ramp, its very similar to the rolling takeoff on US ships , the software handles the slight changes in technique from having a ski jump.


Does the helicopter-on-RFA aspect mean that the MoD needs to get a move on with the new FSS? Right now the only vessels with multi-aircraft hangars are Fort Victoria and the Waves I think where only FV is specifically adapted for QEC replenishment? Does that mean that, until at least one of the next-gen FSS is available, serious compromises would be involved in solid support if FV were to be unavailable and a Wave had to step in? Also, if basing Mk4s on RFA vessels rather than the carrier is a permanent thing rather than a stage in the work-up to only gradually build up hangar/deck congestion then does that set a minimum expectation for hangar size in the new FSS design?


For the FSS If the Hangar could take a Chinnook with rotors spread and the flight deck was double spot merlin capable.


It won’t. The specification does not include hangaring the Chinook.

Putting HC4 on RFA is only worth doing for Vertrep and should be in addition to HC4 on the carrier. There is no need to disperse them – in fact it adds to the difficulty of sorting out JPR – which is part of the rationale for having some of 42 Cdo aboard the carrier.


Commando Merlin’s on the RFA makes sense and I think would be the norm for all carrier ops. Part of their remit is downed pilot rescue. This would mean that during F-35 ops they would need to be ready to go at a moments notice. Basing them on the carrier would reduce deck space for F35 AEW etc ops and if a pilot was downed and they needed to go then other flight ops would be interrupted to allow them to launch. Basing them on RFA leaves them clear to go on a moments notice and leaves the Carrier free to surge F35 etc to overwatch the downed pilot.

John Bartolomew

Just read the Times article on the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales (Max Hastings) are there any constructive comments to be made Fore And Against
I am sure there is a wealth of knowledge in this group that would of interest to us all


I’ve not read the full article, but understand it’s rather critical of the carriers while saying that more should be spent on the army. There’s now been an article posted with a response, so I won’t cover that ground again, but I’ll take a slightly different angle at it.
I am all for increased spending on the army, and have a great deal of pride and respect for that branch. But most of what I’ve read recently suggests they need to sort out a fair few bits and pieces before they go gunning for a slice of the navy’s budget.
The long-term/strategic planning for the armed forces as a whole is refined by SDSRs every 5-10 years. Unfortunately they’re also often used to reduce MOD funding, but they also lay out what the main threats the UK are seen to be, and how the UK armed forces are to be used to counter those threats and further UKPLC’s interests around the world. For a long time now, that has taken the form of maintaining the rules-based international order and fostering strategic alliances around the world which will support trade ties etc. To do that, the plan has been to maintain an ability to provide kinetic and soft power anywhere in the world at relatively short notice, while maintaining the ability to defend both the British Isles and foreign territories, but also allies in Europe (NATO and otherwise, although not specifically EU). To do this, especially with the defence budget we have, the 3 services need to work together to deliver; hence the RN and RAF packing a lot of logistical enablers into their force structure. The decision to use F-35B for everything is another, as is the intended use of the carriers in littoral strike configuration with RAF and AAC helicopters on board. The carriers also provide a hugely valuable addition to our allies; not just as an additional CSG for the US, but as the core of a NATO CSG (a capability they have not really had in that way before), or providing the Australians/Canadians with the nucleus of a CSG that they can add their escorts and even submarines to.
The army also does a lot of good stuff, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Baltic states, as well as training and humanitarian work elsewhere. But if you look at what they’re planning on bringing to the table in the way of Strike Brigades and all that stuff, it just doesn’t fit very well and isn’t even survivable in the conflicts that the SDSR is predicting that we’ll be involved in. Compared to the allies who operate similar forces (the French and Americans for example), and most certainly potential enemies (Russia), the Strike Brigades are massively under-armed and limited in their ability to fight the kind of battles they’re supposed to be involved in, and that’s a big problem. On top of that, tracked vehicle programmes are either over budget, delayed, limited in what they deliver or a combination of the 3. There are currently no plans to improve our stock of artillery that I’m aware of, despite everybody else doing just that, and despite Russia proving very conclusively in Ukraine that their artillery guided by drones is a real killer. What the British army do seem able to bring to the fight are quite a lot of excellent light infantry and a few rather good yet dated armoured vehicles that are unlikely to arrive at the fight before it’s over.
Hastings needs to realise that he’s standing in a glass house surrounded by priceless porcelain while he’s throwing these stones of his. The RAF and RN have forces far better aligned with the UK’s strategic requirements and plans than the army does, and it’s not going to be solved by throwing a load of money at generals- they need to rethink their force structure first.


The other problem is that while there are supposed to be SDSR’s every 5-10 years recently the Army has been forced to restructure and re prioritize every 2-3 years. In the last 10 years the Army has gone from a focus on an expeditionary counter insurgency role, to a return to deploying heavy fighting forces on the continent, to needing to imitate the French medium weight, long march interventions in the Sahel, to a focus on “grey zone warfighting” to having to be able to do all of them. It’s not really surprising the army is having difficulty keeping up with this constant change in direction.

Remember that all these projects, Boxer IFV, new Artillery, expanding munition stocks, cost cash, cash that the Army does not have. You can’t expect the army to realign it’s force structure to conflicting priorities that are constantly shifting on a budget decrease. The Navy and RAF (existing as they do primarily to deliver the army on target) don’t have this problem to the same degree.


Would like to see more carrier self defense. the Phalanxs may be good for some low flying sea skimmers , aircraft and golden eagle suited amazons ( see ww84 trailer towards the end) But what about the hypersonic threat? Has any thought been given to Aster type vertical launch? Could they be installed at a cost that wont break the bank? This concerns me as China and Russia say they have such systems to deny access .


Yes thought has been given to them. Beyond breaking the bank fitting a missile system to a carrier has inherent problems such a FOD on the flight deck. Every time you fire it you have to cease carrier operations. So offload that system onto a escort where firing it doesn’t matter.

Humpty Dumpty

Has Sea Viper (or Sea Ceptor) been tested against hypersonic missiles? I don’t think any such test missiles exist, do they? So until we end up in a war with a peer or near-peer enemy, we won’t know if these systems work or not against hypersonic missiles. But they’re not the only threat, there’s also ballistic missiles and saturation attacks of even subsonic misiles to worry about.


Would be very interested to know more details about the role of the “US representative” who decides whether or not to veto USMC involvement.

When UK air and ground crews where deployed aboard active US carriers during the capability gap between the CVS’s being decommissioned, and CVF coming online, was there a similar arrangement, with a “UK representative” with the power of veto onboard the US carriers?



Max Jones

Those air wing figures are a bit disappointing – the air wing I was expecting was around 24 F-35s (12 US, 12 UK), 9 Merlin Mk.2s and 5 Crowsnest for a total of 38 aircraft.

At the moment it’s looking like 24-28 total with 16 F-35Bs, 8 Merlins of both varieties and maybe a few other aircraft.

The strike group itself with the escorts and auxiliary forces is very impressive though. Presumably this will be one of RFA Fort Victoria’s last operational deployments but she should be able to provide at least 2-3 Merlin Mk.4s for SAR.

Humpty Dumpty

And what are we going to do if the F-35Bs start going to the boneyard as early as 2026?
“During durability testing, the Marine and Navy F-35s have suffered so many cracks and received so many repairs and modifications that the test planes can’t complete their 8,000-hour life-expectancy tests. The Marine version’s airframe life could be so short that today’s F-35Bs might end up in the boneyard as early as 2026, 44 years before the program’s planned 2070 sunset.”