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Drones carriers are going to be ‘a thing’. The Turkish navy started talking about this some years ago, and are already well on their way to deploying several types on their ‘carrier’.

Looking forward to seeing the Mojave UAS tested on her later this year. It could be a significant force multiplier for both ISR, ASW and possibly AEW.


Turkey has no choice due to the F35 order being cancelled.


Turkey never planned to buy the F35B they wanted F35A.


They had their order for the F35B cancelled. They built the carrier for the F35B, the F35A is of no use for carrier operations.


You’re half right and i’m half wrong they wanted both.


They did want both, but they didn’t plan to use the F35A with the their carrier.


They most certainly did, The carrier was built to fly them, they even included the ramp. Research before commenting.


‘What a fascinating modern age we live in’
Captain Jack Aubrey


Modern age with prehistoric designs. There is nothing new. There are too many copies.
If Vincent Burnelli can see It….

The Whale Island Zookeeper

I spent some time seeing what fixed wing aircraft would take off within QE’s length.

I suppose this is interesting.

I would be more interesting if it were a ‘float plane’ and was being craned over the side of an escort..

The Whale Island Zookeeper

With folded wings lighter and shorter than a Merlin by some margin…..
comment image


Looks a good proof of concept ???? and almost certainly cheaper than sending a wildcat which is I’d imagine the current alternative. Thanks for sharing the video.


Why not add a crash barrier to separate the “runway” and “parking area”? Then, almost all the associated risks for drones/MALEs landing on CVF and hitting the precious F35B and Merlins will be cleared.

Rose Compass

The following article, published on 04/09/23, sets this trial into context:

The article states:

…as per US Navy statistics, 90% of logistics missions for aircraft carriers, conducted by V-22 Ospreys and C-2 Greyhounds, involve parcels weighing under 25 kg (often crucial electronic components or parts for system repair and maintenance)…

This might be a little misleading, however, as the Ospreys and Greyhounds could be carrying any number (up to capacity) of individual parcels weighing under 25kg.

Neverthless, it could illustrate how over shorter ranges and in fair conditions, using an aircraft like an Osprey or a Greyhound amounts to a wasteful employment of resources.

Rose Compass

I forgot to mention the volume occupied by the items being transported too – mass is not the only consideration. Larger transport vehicles are spacious. A 20kg load could be very bulky and a 90kg load relatively small. Tons of feathers vs tons of coal!

Oh dear

The only fixed wing at sea aircraft to have ‘ROYAL NAVY’ on it.
I had hope to see this with the F35Bs. But the raf swiped them all as part of its manic ‘if it flies it belongs to us’ mantra.
” The sailors can play with model aeroplanes while we lantern jawed supermen from 617 fly the big stuff!” they will no doubt say.


They don’t have “ROYAL AIR FORCE” on them either. They have the roundall, which is used by the RAF, FAA, and AAC.
That’s what matters.


Not to mention only the RAF 617 squadron has been stood up and aboard the carriers so far.
Wait and see what’s on 809 NAS when it becomes operational, it’s possible they might have a RN fin flash.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Merlin is harder to fly than Bravo.


Now you’ve made me check that RN’s Pumas don’t have Royal Navy printed on the side. They don’t. They also just have the roundel. However the Banshees do.


RN doesnt have Pumas, do you mean Merlins

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Puma drone………

comment image?rev=95fb28c0fa874a629f4e079a62ddd0fa


I suspect that drones are marked so that anyone finding them can return them to their rightful owner.

Ian Mitchell

In 30 -40 years time this flight I suspect this will be see as an historic moment in naval aviation and the start point for the significant development of Naval UAVs conducting a range of missions

The Whale Island Zookeeper

It won’t. What has it done that hasn’t been done before? How does landing an overgrown RC plane with lots of life compare to say this?


This is not remote control (RC). It’s autonomous. That’s why it’s such a big deal. And presumably why the landing was a little ropey.

An RC drone was landed on the Queen Elizabeth (and took off again) at Invergorden by an enthusiast during her trials. As you say, that’s not a big deal.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

So it decides when to take off and when to come back and even where it s going then? No human in the loop at all then? Nobody? So truly, truly autonomous?


Peter S

How does it locate a moving carrier?

The Whale Island Zookeeper

By using it autonomous super power.


I was also wondering about that. And what if the carrier is there, but moving in an unexpected direction? What about air traffic control?


Perhaps it had the help of its pals? JPALS provides range and bearing from up to 200 Nm, and precision landing guidance from about 10 Nm out. Given speed and duration, it wouldn’t have started more than about 25 Nm from the carrier in the first place.


SKYNET has been around since 1969. They’re already developing Skynet 6.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

That made I larf.


I know it might sound a bit mean, but the aircraft in this story looks to be knocked up in some ones backyard/garage. Are those trailer springs on the landing gear?

I have to agree, your youtube video of 10 years ago is instructive. If this is cutting edge for the RN, it unfortunately only serves to highlight how far behind they are in this area. 


The airframe isn’t cutting edge it’s the software to control it that usually is.
Have seen what France has for fixed wing drone
Us has a catapult launched drone maybe 30 x the weight and 1000 x the cost


I’m disappointed by the airframe. The UK doesn’t seem to think it important to use advanced aerodynamics. Why is this? I could do a lot better.


It’s a delivery drone, not a loyal wingman supersonic stealth drone. It doesn’t need “advanced aerodynamics”. It needs aerodynamics appropriate to its role, which is why B52s, Hercules, A400’s etc don’t look like F22s.


Nor does my postman (not that I’m fat shaming you understand).

The Whale Island Zookeeper

By not going CTOL the RN has cut itself off from all that USN development. And many current platforms like E2 and other force multipliers that make manned aircraft viable today.

Somebody always pops up then to speak utter rubbish about F35b being able to land itself and other duff information. Forgetting that CTOL planes land themselves now.

Armchair Admiral

I rather like this look. It DOES look home made but thats sort of the point. It does the job at minimum cost (pending rougher weather trials). If it looked better it would be twice the price. The landing gear is great…bits of bent steel and small shocks, probably motorcycle disc brakes, nothing fancy. Check out WW2 DH Mosquito landing gear, genius, easy to make, cheap.


I agree. I’ve seen lots of mockery of this online but 1000Km range and fully autonomous is not to be sniffed at. It’s made for a job and that’s what it does. It’s been shown time and again that cheap and does the job is what wins wars.


As well as the autonomous vs RPAS point, half of the X-47Bs four test landing attempts were aborted due to systems failures. WAS is batting one for one so far.


In 30 to 40 years, I hope the Royal Navy will have come to their senses and build and operate CATOBAR carriers. That would enable the RN to fully operate with US and French navies.

Fer de lance

You are assuming that there will still be an RN with carriers.


The RN can currently fully operate with US and French navies. If you mean cross-deck between carriers then F35B already allows cross-decking with the US navy, and potentially cross-decking with Italian, Japanese, South Korean and Turkish* navies.

* Talks are ongoing about Turkeys being readmitted to the F35 programme.


Which carrier was that which had the F-35B on board .

The USMC has someting like 60-70 F-35C earmarked for carrier duty, but not the B version there
They have loaded up an amphib with F35B, but thats their normal base , just the extra numbers
This is USS Tripoli


The amphibious assault ships that host the USMC F35B’s are on par with most other navies carriers. And the bulk of the USMC’s F35 fleet will be the B variant (353) compared to the C (67 only).

In case you hadn’t noticed the USMC had a squadron aboard QE for CSG21.


Ok then . No F-35B cross decking with Nimitz style super carrier or even little De Gaulle


Not the Nimitz but the 8 Wasp and 11 America class ships. You wouldn’t cross deck with Nimitz or Charles de Gaulle because they have no STOVL ability/experience.
Pretty obvious if you bother to think about it.


Greyhounds are out, CMV-22Bs are operational. Plenty of STOVL experience on the US supercarriers now (even if you don’t count all the VTOL rotaries).

Perhaps the issue is the heat damage to unprepared decking. It has been said that the PANG will have heat resistant landing points for F-35B cross decking, but it’s probably too far out to bet money on it.


No STOVL on the US super carriers at all.
The Marines have the F-35C, say 4 sqd worth for catapult launches when based on the super carriers


Harriers were integrated into the Nimitz class F.D. Roosevelt’s airwing in the mid 1970s. Rumours say it was such a success the USMC was afraid it would have half its amphibs cancelled, and the USN was afraid its carriers would lose half their catapults. They quietly agreed never to do it again.


*Correction: Midway class


Thanks for that .
One off Harriers on the other Roosevelt – Teddy in 1996
Two AV-8B Harrier IIs flying from Nassau landed onto and launched from the flight deck of Theodore Roosevelt several times on 7 December. The Marines carried out their flight operations in order to familiarize sailors with the distinctive aircraft.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

I think what will keep the carriers in service will be the USMC not UK national needs. Though as things progress it seems increasingly that our needs are now the US needs.

Yes it would have been interesting for the UK to have CTOL FJ and cross deck with the USN and MN but I can’t see it happening. Perhaps if the UK purchased a squadron or two of Charlie for work over the Norwegian C? Who knows but I doubt it

Ian Mitchell

Apologies for the poorly written post by the way – is there a way of editing this one a post after you have made it?. Interesting comments. By the way the original naval aircraft were pretty rudimentary. I wonder what Professor Geoff Till – probably the UK’s leading RN aviation historian thinks of this development

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Right bottom hand corner of the text box there is an icon that offers limited editing.

Can be temperamental dependent on browser in use.

The site needs a better commenting system.


I’m sorry but that bug had a family ???? ????????????


It will be interesting to see how the BAE Strix drone (supposedly 2027 availability) goes at sea. VTOL & optimised for strike, but payload of 160kg & 800km range. Then there is the potential of the Ghost Bat drone & Turkey is working on carrier capable drones as well. Drone options are coming from everywhere.


The Strix is an interesting design, essentially tilt-rotor like, but rather than titling the engines or props the entire craft tilts. Should be superior in performance to an ordinary rotor drone. Just wondering though about the launch/recovery on a pitching deck for the transition time between being vertical on 2 wheels and horizontal on 4 wheels.


Bring on the mini DH Hornet strike squadrons. Capt ‘Winkle’ Brown would approve. If we are going to do it do it in style! Long Live FAA. This is a big step forward no doubt.

Tai Pai Tong

By the way, just as a comparison, the British Army has already spent £1.173 billion, as of October 2021 on Watchkeeper that does not work properly, and an additional £1.149 billion will be required to bring it up to the standards set in the original 2007 contract,

The Watchkeeper was selected in 2004, took till 2010 for the first flight, and in 2014 was declared operational even though it failed to meet 11 Key User Requirements.
It was supposed to operate 6,000 flight hours per year but between November 2018 and November 2022, the total hours flown was only 1,191.

Moreover, at least eight Watchkeepers out of a total fleet of 54 are known to have crashed, several of which were due to weather or system failures.

Watchkeeper has spent much time outside of the U.K. for training, this is at least in part because Watchkeepers could not deal with the poor British weather. The British Army was worried about the effect of the British climate on the airframe. At least one Watchkeeper was lost due to poor weather, crashed in 2017 just off the coast of Wales because of precipitation affecting the ability of the aircraft to determine its airspeed. Thus, warmer and drier climates were required.

All in all another fiasco.


Watchkeeper does seem to be the ‘Ajax of the air’ and another procurement failure by the army.
By comparison the RAF has done well with the SkyGuardian/Protector drone acquisition.
If the POW trials of Mojave go well then we could see two of our armed services operating drones derived from the GA Predator.


Announced in 2015, Protector was expected operational in 2018, but the delivery of the initail order of 16 was soon put back to 2021, with the original commitment of at least 20 quietly dropped. MOD estimates in May suggest Protector won’t enter RAF service until the end of next year with IOC in 2025.

It’s the major project proportionately furthest over originally approved budget. The MOD deliberately put it off for two years because there was no money (it was massively over the preapproval estimates too), and as usual that made it cost yet more and things just went downhill from there. In 2016 it was reannounced with an estimated cost of £100m for 20. Latest estimates are £1.35bn for 16.

Expected seven years late, 1250% over budget and delivering fewer aircraft, Protector is no better by the numbers than Watchkeeper. To say the RAF has done well (even by comparison) is a tad premature. Let’s revisit in a few years. I hope it will do well and its rocky introduction will be forgotten.


It flies, it doesn’t keep crashing, and can handle U.K. weather.
That’s a hat-trick it has over Watchkeeper, even before comparing features such as certification for congested airspace, payload etc.


Mr Tong, it would seem to me that anyone with the least grasp of arithmetic would understand that the numbers involved over the time period and drone numbers, going back to the infancy of drones, was a small price to pay. The US drone experience would not even notice this as a rounding error in wastage! People get excited over £Bn but fail to notice the 20 years! This is now dated obsolete technology, best sent to Ukraine.


Parliamentary written statement 8-March-2023 (for the taxpayer without arithmetic)–

Watchkeeper finances and value for money for the taxpayer. There is no conservable way that the watchkeeper program can be considered a return on investment, let alone a value for money. It has a contracted cost of ~£86.7K per day regardless of output. As watchkeeper has a very low fly rate, the cost per flying hour fluctuates but has been estimated at £88.4K. To put this in perspective, the operating cost11 of Watchkeeper is estimated to be about £8k per flying hour. So, the difference is purely due to inefficiency and waste in the programme.

The watchkeeper programme will end up costing the taxpayer between £2.5Bn and £3Bn. About £1.5bn has been sunk or is committed already, yet watchkeeper capability has not yet proven that it could meet the FOC definition and does not deliver on the ISTAR capability gap it was procured for.

Further funding of Watchkeeper is throwing good money after bad. The Programmes foundations are so weak that the majority of committed funds goes to fixing programme problems rather than growing the capability.

The Watchkeeper asset price is not excessive at ~£10.5M(~£5.3M per unit + ~£5M for the ground control station) however this must be placed in the context that this is for a capability that doesn’t currently deliver for the MOD and if it delivers it will be at 2007 technology levels. Comparisons of Baykar Bayraktar TB2 (Asset cost ~£6m per unit) or the RAF Protector Drone (~£15M per unit12). Demonstrate far better return on investment. This is modern technology that is already delivering a greater capability for comparable or cheaper cost. 

wilkinson sword

£3Bn for a nonfunctional system, or in old English money, the unit cost of a Queen Elizabeth class carrier, try to explain that to the taxpayers.

Some waste, some arithmetic,


So you are comparing a Tornado and an F 35 and saying that the Tornado is poor value for money?


Simple arithmetic, 54 Watchkeepers within 4 years’ time accumulate less than 1200 flight hours which is less than 6 hours per year, a total costing £3B is value for money?

Trying to find excuses and justifications for such a project is exactly the reason why taxpayers do not approve of defense spending.

Call a spade a spade


The P-8 average flying hours in RAF service is only 250 or so.
Hardly enough to keep an single aircrew current.


Despite the exaggerated figures provided, not sure if deception is intentional or not, the original costs of watchkeeper seem to be in the £5m ballpark and £15m when manufacturing is included;

In 2005, Thales UK was awarded a $300 million contract for 54 UAVs based upon a substantially modified Hermes 450 platform as part of an effort to replace the inadequate Phoenix UAV artillery location system.

Shephard estimates that the
Watchkeeper has a flyaway unit cost of around $20 million. The price is based on figures published by the UK’s National Audit Office in 2020, which showed the cost of the manufacturing phase for 54 aircraft would total £927 million ($1.14 billion).


Google X-47b and MQ-25 and compare.


Why compare drones that are engineered for completely different uses? The X-47B was designed for air combat, and the MQ-25 for airborne refuelling. They are both no doubt good at the jobs they were designed for would be very poor at hauling supplies between shore and ship; the purpose of the drone in this article.

Try comparing like for like if you want to be taken seriously.


Look at the payload… And they and they have worked for years. This is a toy. The Royal Navy bit a fat pig on the ass when they did not go with cats and traps and now they get what they get. They were completely autonomous over 10 years ago. And you have a toy drone that can’t deliver a couple flats of beer. And that joke is not going to be able to deliver anything in the north Atlantic in the winter. But rule Britannia I guess. There’s a reason the real Navy is not really taken seriously anymore. You are 25 years behind….


MQ-25 and X-47 cost maybe $100 mill each and 40-45,000 lb max weight
They CANNOT take off without a catapult

This is France’s fixed wing naval drone


So after your disingenuous comparison of different drones for different purposes you launch into one of your usual unintelligible rants. Though to be fair, your poor grasp on the English language doesn’t help – have you asked for a refund from your tutor yet? Or is the tutoring provided free at the troll farm where you work?


You nauseate me. You are a racist clown. Which I find fascinating because just because of the silly internet name I picked you make assumptions which makes you look even dumber than I thought you are. Which is saying something. You are a complete fanboi that has a hard time dealing in reality. Really don’t need to go down the insult road with an idiot like yourself. Try to do better.


I nauseate you? Glad to hear it, though I’d prefer it if you were so violently ill as to be incapable of posting anymore of your racist rants.

I make no assumptions about you based on your name. That you think “Esteban” is a silly name just highlights you’re racist against Latinos as well as Anglo-Saxons. Sadly there are many native English speakers with a poor grasp of the language, but none as bad as yours.

No I suspect your name is more likely “Ivan” as Russia seems to have the most xenophobic racists around – and that was a direct quote from a Russian friend of mine.


Esteban try reading the latest congressional report on the $17bn work in progress that is the Ford and then come back with comments. The U.K. seriously dodged a bullet avoiding cats and traps despite the views of the armchair admirals.


The rest of the world is worried about capability not being 25 years behind. And patting ourselves on the back while we congratulate ourselves for being behind Iran and turkey and Azerbaijan and whoever else. Not winning….. The drones mentioned above are completely autonomous and have a payload measured in several thousand kilos… They can certainly land a few royal navy memorabilia items on board just like the toy drone that landed on the HMS don’t have any jets. Or whatever it’s name is.


Firstly the USN has a requirement for a carrier buddy refueler, as their main strike aircraft is the well known poor range F-18E/F. It also is a catapult launch
None of these requirements come for up the RN


And yet …this


What idiocy are you prattling on about now about Iran and Azerbaijan?

All the drones mentioned above are autonomous including the one the RN tested. You would know this if you’d bothered to read the article before commenting. Given your remedial grasp of English I appreciate that might take some time.

So where do you propose to store the 100kg of freight on the Stingray, in the fuel tank?!? You’re just making yourself look even more stupid trying to defend your original claim.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Yes. All of a question of budget, aspiration, and ‘realism’ (lower case r).

By going the route it has gone the UK has sliced itself from all the serious development.

We have lived for decades in an age where taking out a slow moving aircraft is a matter of ease.

The MoD see value in these trials. I doubt they will be much worth.

You say what you want to say.


One Russian troll being supportive of another one, how cute!

The Whale Island Zookeeper

The only troll here is you.

This isn’t your site. You cannot decide who says what. You seem to have appointed yourself the sole arbiter of fact. There is a vast world of opinion and thought out there beyond your rather limited mainstream media fed thoughts. It’s called free speech.

Shall I ask the site owner to ask you to ignore my posts? It seems to work in the past with the other trolls that have trooped through here.

You are nasty small minded bigoted bully. The site doesn’t gain anything from your presence.


Really? I’m a bully for pointing out that Esteban failed in his argument by comparing drones that are designed for purely difference purposes and was this completely disingenuous?

Or am I bully for pointing out that Esteban’s response was not why he thought the comparison was valid, but instead an incoherent rant with a load of insults?

Or am I a bully for having previously managed to get you to spill out your conspiracy beliefs that the pandemic wasn’t real, that climate change wasn’t real, and that NATO provoked Putin?


Why do you lower the tone by calling names? You lost the argument and have nothing sensible to say?

What do people call you?


Esteban has a well known track record in here and UKDJ for posting sneering anti UK comments in the style of a troll and has been called out by numerous other postets. The Zookeeper was probably unaware of this when he posted a supportive comment. Sean is a regular poster on both sides and is a voice of reason that often counter balances the hysterics.

Devil's Advocate

It is an open site so there are bound to be people with various (in)holy opinions, unless you want this to be a single opinion site, like a one-party state, would that help?
Name-calling, personal insults, and acting like some defender of the truth only degrade the value.
Or is this a propaganda competition exercise?

if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen


Thanks for that, but I’m not going to bother going forwards…

Defence sites seem to have proportionally even more xenophobes, imperialists, crypto-fascists, trolls and conspiracy theorists than social media. Fortunately they are a tiny minority that will never have any impact on the real world, so there is little to be gained by trying to reason with them.


Cue the other Russian troll..

Ian Donald

I am more interested in how the Navy will be able to defend itself from enemy drones. It only takes one..


Same way its defended itself against dive bombers, torpedo bombers, ordinary bombers, cruise missiles ….

Captain realistic

So this thing can carry 100kg up to 1000km…
Hmmm how much does a martlet weigh.. 13kg? Just saying

Viceroy Tandoori

To feed 220 people will need about 100kg of meat and how many people are on the carriers?

Captain realistic

I suppose they could drop frozen meat on the enemy rather than a missile, wasn’t quite what I meant but could work 🙂


You’ve raised a possibility that will interest the crew…
drone delivered pizzas!


WAS drones aren’t meant for vertrep, or any kind of local replenishment for that matter. That’s what the FSSS are being built for. For vertrep of smaller loads the Malloy T-650 quadcopter can lift 300kg and make multiple ship-to-ship trips per day. It’s also hoped to be used for things as varied as casualty evacuation, dropping Sting Ray torpedoes, MCM, SAR, surveillance, and possibly close air support.

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)

Why do we need innovative drones (UAV’s), and/or maintenance intensive helicopters, and/or catapult launched USN Greyhounds for UK shore-to-Carrier VERTREP operations?

A simple, twin-engine STOL aircraft – such as a bog-standard British-built Britten Norman Islander (BN2-26) – is quite capable of both landing on and then taking off from the very short runway of either QE class carrier.

Indeed, one of these these proven and versatile STOL aircraft would be quite capable of taking off from one of these carriers when they are stationary. That may be a distinct advantage when Prince of Wales requires some urgent spare marine engine parts delivered to it.

All in all fixed wing STOL aircraft offer higher payloads, longer range and plenty of flexibility than any alterative on the market

One of these well-proven aircraft only requires an autonomous biological robot in the cockpit (obviously wearing the de-rigor Ray-Bans and a brown-coloured fur-lined flying jacket).

Peter The Irate taxpayer


On the way

Cleverly they are starting with an autonomous co pilot version to allow single pilot operation, something that is very very sellable

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)


Many thanks for the post: a very useful link.

When I wrote my post last week I simply wasn’t aware that Britten Norman were thinking of giving Biggles his P45 – and replacing him (or her) with a few microchip’s.

Therefore it is even more astonishing that the MOD have spent taxpayer’s money on developing a new UAV airframe for QE COD when:

  1. An existing well-proven aircraft would have done a better job!
  2. An updated existing aircraft would be (as you have just pointed out) greatly exceeded the required capability.

Therefore one can only hope that the RN soon organises some deck landing trials of the latest unmanned version of the faithfully BN Islander – as a Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft to the QE class carriers – in the near future.

Who needs USN Greyhounds and “Cats and Traps”? That all looks very old hat these days!

Peter the Irate Taxpayer



I am completely with you. The Islander seems like the best way forward. There seems to be an issue with either trying to reinvest the wheel or finding the ‘best’ but often resulting in either nothing. I personally am an avid follower of the KISS principle.

This has often repeated itself (look at the shambles of FRES) resulting in huge amounts spent and significant delays. Compare that to the French SCORPION program.

Could the Islander do the AEW job too or even AAR?



A bug didn’t land, it splatted on the lens, lol

Last edited 6 months ago by Reynoso