Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sir JackMarr

Just for clarification, is it PoW that is not yet fitted with JPALS or is it that MOJAVE isn’t yet integrated with it? (Or both)


I believe that for landing in a carrier the Mojave would use JPALS. However, the only carrier with JPALS is Queen Elizabeth. Which suggests PoW will initially be used for testing take-offs using the ramp.
It’s possible though that a JPALS could be installed by the Americans on PoW for testing – it’s their kit.


I’m not sure this is an “American” initiative, it may just be GA. So will RN stump up for JPALS? There are other systems such as UCARS and you can even launch and land it using a laptop (according to GA’s blurb on the STOL MQ-9B).


Yeah interesting the Royal Navy slide at the presentation on project Ark Royal mentioned a 90m large UAS catapult and arrestor wires for drones as an intermediary step and an eventual goal if funded in 2025 defence review of F-35C, Rafale and F-18 operations with a 200m runway, presumably cross decking with allies. Project Ark Royal was supposedly initiated in response to the F-18 ski jump trials for India.

Last edited 1 year ago by Watcherzero

Ok, so RN says it may be rare if ever that we can put a full airgroup of 36 x F35B on a carrier – WHY? In theory we are ordering enough airframes to be able to do that, or are we back to the old Jont Force Harrier days with RAF hogging the available airframes? Let’s be honest here, our F35Bs are currently spending far more time ashore than at sea, including being in Estonia and numerous other locations?
There needs to be a clear understanding of what these aircraft were purchased for and control handed over to the Navy.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul42

Because any more than 24 embarked F35s means some have to sit on the flight deck – the hanger deck only has room for 24. As the USN has discovered, sea-air isn’t good for stealth coatings.


You don’t think quite a few of these drones will have stealth coatings?


Only Vixen might have stealth, would be no point for the rest.


That’s a cool story… And a very convenient made up excuse.


‘USN has discovered, sea-air isn’t good for stealth coatings.”

tell that to the Marine F35B that operate off amphib carriers

brown discolouration seen on fuselage of F35C doesnt seem to be seen on the Marine( and RN) version

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

Because the USMC and RN park their F35Bs in the hanger deck. It’s the USN that leaves F35Cs on packed flight decks and then wonders why it’s has issues with the stealth coatings.


Marines park their F35Bs on the deck, the RN also do that. Plenty of pictures show this


Not all the time though


There is zero appetite – or manpower – to run the airgroup from the hangar deck.


No idea what you’re attempting to say in your bad English, I am simply reporting what has already happened so far on all QE deployments.


On the sole substantial deployment QNLZ has undertaken with F35s embarked, they lived on the roof, unless struck down for maintenance.

That you don’t understand the relationship between aircraft movements and manpower is telling.

Supportive Bloke

The exemplar of how not to do it were the Invincibles.

Cramped dumbell shaped hangar deck that took huge manpower to shuffle jets and cabs.

QEC are lean manned. So there isn’t the manpower to shift F35 or Cabs around endlessly.

So if you pack any hangar deck it turns into giant game of Tetris. Intellectually this may seem like fun but it destroys sortie rare etc.

So anything that launches, on demand, lives on the roof.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

The exemplar of how not to do it were the Invincibles.

Cabs live on the roof aboard a USN CVN.

Never enough space.


The hangar is 155 metres long. It can carry 50 fighters.


No RN graphics show 24, you might have got 50 Harriers but the F35 is a much bigger beast.


All F35B’s should be Fleet Air Arm. There primary mission should be force protection and projection from our carriers and not sitting on an airbase in Norfolk.


surely the great uk advantage is flexibility the f35bs can go where needed land or sea all aircrew able to land on carriers. the carriers positioned where needed, planes flown to them to add force within days.

David Steeper

The RN doesn’t have the budget to be sole operator of F35’s. It has the fleet, RM, RFA as well as Naval air to fund.


Easily sorted. As it was done just before WW2 when the RAF ‘owned’ the FAA planes


So, essentially:

.F-35: F-35B, FOC of 24 in a CSG, sounds of a upcoming 2nd tranche

. ARK ROYAL: Aircraft carrier modification possibilities being looked into by project ark royal

. VAMPIRE: Qinetiq banshee 80+ has been procured as a thread simulation drone and replacement for the HAWK T1’s disbanded. 736 NAS. But this is intended to be its first role only. VAMPIRE is looking at fitting ISR (EO?IR and a small conformal AESA radar) equipment onto them. Launched currently be a movable catapult on the deck of QE and PoW. No recovery as of yet.

.VIXEN. Long term ambition for a fixed wing, multi-role drone with large payload possibilities to contribute to strike, MUMT, Loyal wingman, and other roles.

. MOJAVE: Resent announcement for 7 months of evaluations with GA-ASI for a STOL solution. Trials late 2023 onboard HMS PoW alongside other drone and F-35B, specifically SRVL. Initial trials with GA-ASI custom Mojave aircraft but it is perceived to be that id a product is eventually procured then it would be MQ-9B with Mojave STOL kit. This project will explore just how far you can go interms of drone size and weight without having to modify the ship. GA-ASI has said it could fit 2x AESA radars for MQ-9B to undertake the role as AEW aircraft, succeeding Merlin which is very lacking in the role and also retires in 5-7 years.

. PROTEUS: Not to be confused with RFA Proteus, due to fly in 2025, it is an uncrewed helicopter being developed by Leonardo at yeovil and will have a MTOW of 7,000 lbs/ 3+ Metric tonnes with a large payload. Aiming to contribute in AEW and ASW, supporting Merlin. Also MCM missions being looked into.

. PRIMUS: Heavy lift drone(s), planned to be supported by a NAVYPODS container, with the ability to move lads between ships and ships to shore, Doing roles such as VERTIREP, carrier to other CSG assets. and carrier onboard delivery. These roles are ones that don’t specifically require a helicopter and can be done more cheaply by a drone.
Royal Navy selects Animal Dynamics parafoil UAV for second phase of Heavy Lift challenge | Shephard
Drones deliver in trials by Royal Navy

. PEREGRINE: Flexible tactical UAS, A shiebel S100 helicopter with EO/IR and Thales I-master search radar.

Anything I missed?

Last edited 1 year ago by fvf

There are some lightweights – no radar EO/IR only: Puma lightweight fixed-wing, in service, and they were trialling Sky Mantis small rotary on HMS Protector.

I’m not sure what’s going on with heavy lift. Panther/Primus? There used to be two separate requirements, one for inter-theatre lift and one for intra-theatre lift. I think the ongoing heavy lift competition covers both.


Admire the ambition but I thought this was only going as far as looking to add arrestor wires and barriers for lightweight UAV’s. Now were back to talking about catapults and a significant reconfiguration of the flight-deck for manned fixed wing aircraft! Even implemented in very gradual stages it’ll surely still cost a pretty penny.

Fixed wing drones for AEW and rotary lift for COD make complete sense and should be useful, relatively cheap, low risk testbeds for future developments but I’m not sure we should look to run before we can walk in trying to get them to do everything!

With half the RFA tied up for lack of manpower and the RN struggling to keep it’s frigates running perhaps a greater emphasis on crew retention and accelerating existing construction programs should be the priorities.

Supportive Bloke

I do think that RFA pay levels need to be looked at.

This seems very aspirational (read expensive) to me.


Yes. Its starting to look like a repeat of the early 60s, with constant serious modifications of the existing carriers.
Hermes for instance wenet from a strike carrier with deck edge lift ( wrong place) -with trials to operate F-4!- to a commando carrier to anti submarine helicopter carrier to a STO Harrier carrier

It seemed to be a whole ‘industry’ in concepts and plans, conversions which swallowed up money and operational time instead


Couldn’t agree more.

If there is funding available, purchase kit which is real that we need: more Merlin’s, more F35, more T26.

The modifications to the ships will be incredibly expensive and in themselves will add little capability… we already have a big deck with not enough stuff to fly off it. We should spend what little money we have maximising the investments already made


The present arrangements arent working too well with RAF having 80% usage. Besides UAV is the way to go have no doubt about it for any number of reasons as the Ukraine War is showing us.
It not going to be as expensive as you think fixing wires and Cats.


Have you seen what the french are paying for just the emals equipment alone…and that’s for fitting in a new build which the UK can’t do . Then double all those numbers for both QEC class and add as much again for fitting into existing hulls and upgrading power generation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

We aren’t going to equip both carriers simultaneously would we? As I see it we fit a level 1 set of Cat and Traps then if the funding is available we go further. Seems this is all spurred on by Indo-Pacific future scenarios. In 10 years several Powers in that area could be looking for carriers to support the US CVNs.
Its just we have conventional carriers that USA, Australia, Japan and India could use as test beds. Where the funding comes from is open to question but spreading the costs is likely. It wont come for free but why duplicate everything.


That wont work to have only one fitted. Its both or nothing for obvious reasons


How about Base porting PoW at Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney and ramping up the Five Powers Defence Agreement (over 50 years old) and encouraging Australia and Singapore to purchase a mix of F-35As and F-35Bs instead of just F-35As. They could then operate from PoW as USMC did oboard QE during CSG 21. We could also encourage cross-decking with JMSDF and ROKN (the 30FF Mogami and Daegu class Frigates both use the RR MT30 GT).


Australia has its own pair of ski jump carriers/amphib
UK should stick to its primary area of interest in Western hemisphere and leave the pacific to US Japan Australia Canada etc
Singapore has already bought F35B- with 12 delivered or on order


Australia doesn’t have ski jump carriers. It has LHD’s. The US’s primary area of interest is the Pacific and Asia, the majority of its surface and submarine forces are assigned there.


They have ski jumps but clearly not the F35B to operate on them , yet

The Spanish version Juan Carlos ( Turkish version is TCG Andalou)

10-12 F35B is possible

Supportive Bloke

It was looked at – the cost of modifying them to F35B standard was huge. Deck plating needs to be thicker + lift larger and higher capacity + internal rearrangements.

Juan Carlos was designed as a Harrier and cab carrier – F35B is massive compared to a Harrier.

AUS sensibly decided that they would be good at what they do rather than try and do a UK and do everything.

Carrier aviation is a big ticket thing: some play at it like Spain and Italy but what effect does that really have?


What do you mean ? It was a Spanish carrier design easily converted to F35B.
It seems far more useful than 2 large LHD capability which dont seem to figure in their future plans much either


Australia will not be buying F-35B’s. They won’t be buying more F-35A’s for that matter. The recent DSR didn’t expand airframe numbers for the RAAF.


Of course current plans ( that is this years version) dont include any , but plans change and Im sure in 5-6yrs they will but who knows
It was suggested this alternative to the even more unlikely one of a QEC was based at Sydney.

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

Wow… The answer to that would be no on all levels.


How about get the laundry done a bit quicker, good lad.


Look again at the graphics, the launch distances for all the catapults are for UAVs, not manned aircraft. It’s the fantasy fleet admirals that are reading into this more than there is.

Bloke down the pub

Presuming any uas has sufficient control authourity to take off over the ski-jump, there is also the option of placing a catapult down the main axis of the deck, though as you point out that might conflict with F35b operations.


No undercarriage would be capable of withstanding the force of hitting the ski jump at takeoff speeds.

Supportive Bloke

You mean like Harrier or F35B or F18 undercarts that can’t withstand ski ramp launches?


Yes. The landing is the real hard part for undercarriages- for all planes even airliners, but really hard for carrier landings The takeoff is easy as the wings are providing lift well before the ski jump

Dave Wolfy
Supportive Bloke

The report states

“1.3 Flight Dynamics Directorate Effort
Knowledge of the Navy success in ski-jump launch prompted the Flight Dynamics Directorate to propose the same method of launch for ground based aircraft”

So a wide range of aircraft were successfully launched from the USN test ski jump.

“2.3 Ski-Jump Laurch Criteria
tire load stroke curve during acceleration for
subject to gear loads not
A computer program was
exceeding developed to
When the Navy first considered
objective was to reduce or eliminate the aircraft sinking below the flight deck level…..This same criteria could not be T-2C, F-14 and F-18 because they were launched from a ramp that began at ground level…..would be equivalent to sinking below ground level.”

So the issue was that they were using an artificially high level of up force/velocity to prevent the the off ramp drop…..if you look at F35B it does off ramp drop by a considered amount?

Given that baseline assumption the final output of the report don’t seem that relevant to the usage case in question – which is that controlled off ramp drop is allowable over the bows of a QEC?


Plane drop after leaving the deck is a feature not a bug of carrier launch. If you want to gain altitude something else must give which would be forward speed. They lose altitude so the forward speed can increase, which gives more lift . Its a feature of cat launch as the plane cant rotate-tail pushed down which raises nose- to give the discrete lift bump for takeoff.
The ski jump changes that so the angle of attack is changed by the small ‘rotation’ of the plane. Heavy takeoffs will still have some drop

Supportive Bloke

Yes, I know that. That is why I stated it.

Which is why I stated that this USAF study which was for concrete ramps was not relevant as it was putting forward zero drop with a commensurately huge up force.

Supportive Bloke

Also this study takes no account of the wind over bows lift effect of driving the carrier hard into a headwind for aircraft launch.

Even driving it hard into still air makes a bigger difference than the simple velocity of the air as the front of the carrier is design to cause aerodynamic uplift.

It is a very interesting read but it is a great example of an attempt to prove something impossible rather than to actively solve a problem or enable a solution!

Colin Brooks

You can see Jeremy the Hunt refusing to pay for any of this, We walk on 500 years of shale gas, 300 years of coal and untold oil reserves all of which are in high demand in the real world but the government can not be bothered with them.

Supportive Bloke

Too busy virtue signalling by making that harder.

I do think we should continue with North Sea extraction but make the oil majors invest in renewables to displace the need for fossil fuels. That way we have a virtuous circle which generates the capital to decarbonise without trashing the economy. As it is ‘all about the enemy stupid!’

That said using solar and wind to reduce fossil fuel reliance can only be a good thing.


We need to keep extracting oil from the North Sea anyway, we just need to stop burning it as fuel. What Labour fails to realise is that if we stop extracting oil we won’t have many plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc, etc. which all come from oil.

Supportive Bloke

Quite the petrochemicals industry is rather important.

Burning fossil fuels in cars is idiotic: I’ve been an EV driver since 2018 and not looked back. Even on drives into Italy.


God I love ichthammol….a smelly brown gulp you get for distilling shale oil….stinking nasty stuff..but was a good for iffy infected small wound sites….you could pretty guarantee if you came into our ED with a puncture wound or bit or cellulitis…some nurse would come along and cover you in the stuff…


Agree it’s the burning it what’s going to do us in and we are far better using our limited oil reserves for making stuff we need..not burning it.


Apparently it’s preferable to shut down North Sea extraction and leave all of our domestic shale where it is and instead rely on fossil fuels imported from thousands of miles away. Very eco friendly!

Same government that said it wasn’t their fault energy bills went through the roof after more than a decade of letting the nuclear industry wither, decommissioned gas storage and put nowhere near enough focus and investment into wind, solar, hydro and insulation….so hardly a surprise.


In the case of oil and coal it’s to reduce the impact of climate-change. It’s going to be pretty disastrous as it is.
With shale gas it’s prevent earth tremors and release of methane into the aquifers.

You forgot to mention we have enough nuclear reactor waste at Sellafield for use in fast-breeder reactors to generate 500 years of electricity…


The pace of change is excruciating. 2 years before waiting for a decision in IR2025 and cats and traps at best 2030. The initial RFI for that was was 2020/21? I don’t get why don’t we start buying the odd drone eg Schiebel 100 and maybe some goats bats and slowly tear by year increase the capability and assets – these are proven and off the shelf. Get them (with containerised controls) whilst in parallel working out better integration. Do we need JPALS for Mojave to land? Can’t we get that training done at Patuxent River on the pretend ramp that is there and used for f35B certification and then land properly on the POW? What happen when you don’t have JPALS? If you don’t practice manual landing one day you will have to ditch your expensive toys.


The RN is already buying Schiebel S-100 Camcopters, to be known as Peregrine in RN service.

Ghost Bat isn’t proven, especially not with regards to carrier use. Buying it now would potentially be a huge waste of money.

General Atomics are designing Mojave to use JPALS for landing.
The ramp at Patuxent River is of no-use for practicing landings, only take-offs. Even then it’s static, whereas a flight-deck and ski-jump on a carrier move.


Good response thanks… some further thoughts:

The S100 is trials only, or at least that is how I read it. £20m for integration plus we couldn’t work out how many sets of s100 (normal cost £2m per set of 2 in a container) we get but again what is the date you are going to get those by 2027? Why not now 10 sets per river/ T21 containerised and then integrate in parallel.

Ghost bat is more proven than other types – US it trying it out for their platforms, unfortunately all the BAE testing 10 plus years ago with mantis came to nothing.

Mojave again is trials. The point is we just seem to try and not buy and always want gold plated rather than it does 80% and good enough.

The buy is never slow and incremental but big bang so then significant item to try to budget. Eg why don’t we buy a Merlin or two per year and slowly renew significant amount keeping production lines going and refreshing airframes so then not a (as) big capital expense.

And the last point on JPALS is that some day it will not work so you will need to land on manual, so why are we not trialling that?

Moan over 🙂


I don’t think it’s exactly a trial of Pergerine or a hardware purchase either. I think we are buying a capability for a number of years. It should still have all the training, maintenance and support of a capability. I expect there’ll be an option to buy at the end.


BAE are involved with Ghost Bat. Boeing have the lead, but it is far from a Boeing only effort. The flight control computers, navigation systems, ‘swarming’ ability etc is BAE centric. Boeing also still manufactures carrier based fighters, so they are well aware of what it takes. It’s an option worth looking at.

John Hartley

I note that one of the options India was looking at for a future aircraft carrier, was the QE/PoW design in a STOBAR configuration.
I know it won’t happen, but I still think the RN needs a handful of CMV-22B to do long range ship to shore.
I do fear all these UAV prototypes will not end up with an in service item.


Those CMV-22B each cost as much as a F-35B, I know what would be the better choice

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker
John Hartley

They were $105m a few years ago. The latest price, about a week ago, is $120m each. Only a CMV-22B can maintain a ship to shore link of 1100+ miles. We only need 4 or 5.


Plus a training and engineering system, plus squadron staff plus plus plus. Soon you end up at a Billion plus operational costs. Small fleets cost a disproportionately large amount.


The Merlin in the utility/commando version with extended range tanks can do 750nm/860 mi

John Hartley

But not the 1100+ mile range of the CMV-22B.


Its not required by RN to have that range. The CMV-22B was still less than the C2 Greyhound it replaced , so theres always compromises.
Its just so unobtainable to go the way of V-22 at all.
Anyway who needs ‘mail delivery’ these days.
The other factor is the US navy has by RN standards very long deployments for its carriers , 6-9 months or so with long periods between port calls , and that needs personnel changes and some high priority parts delivered.

John Hartley

The RN only has two carriers, so may need them to be on station (in a crisis) for quite a while.


RN doesnt have a global remit like the US does. Even Falklands was around 2 months operations.

David Steeper

This is all nice and good to learn about. But. Armed forces manpower, recruitment and retention across the board is below target and increasingly so. Hard to believe I know but the biggest issue in the RN and RFA is shortage of people not money. It is getting worse not better. To all intents and puroses if you’re young and physically fit we have full employment indeed judging by the migration numbers more than full employment. An across the board pay rise plus upgrades for understrength specialties is desperately needed and it wil not be cheap. There’s no point spending more cash on platforms and systems if there won’t be anyone to maintain and operate them.

Gary j Purser

Buy a few cheaper F35 Cs for the RAF to replace Tornado.Cheaper with a bigger payload than the C. Also means can land on US carriers.Then the Bs can all be carrier based.


Not so much the C version for the RAF but a better strike fighter for UK , Germany , Canada, Australia too, which is the A version with the C extra length wing ‘ extensions’ which due to aerodynamics gives longer range.
The F35C version has bigger wing flaps and larger area horizontal tailplanes amoung other stuff for the carrier cat and trap mission- not needed for land only long range strike optimised stealth aircraft


I don’t see why we would ever land on US carriers. F18s have never been on CdG and Rafales only fly off US carriers when CdG is in refit to keep up training. USMC F35B however would regularly deploy on QE.


Yes they have had F18C operated from CdG, it was a while back, around 2005


Plus the F18E on CdG, and the Rafale on the Eisenhower ,it was a deployment in 2020


I stand corrected. My point was more that it’s not as regular occurrence as USMC deployments on QEC would be.


All of this reminds me of Justin Bronk’s suggestion that GCAP should be about developing an unmanned strike aircraft instead of the manned Tempest aircraft. Such an unmanned aircraft would be cheaper to acquire and much cheaper to operate than a Typhoon successor. If navalised, the strike aircraft would increase the strike range of the carriers considerably and increase the offensive output of the Navy.

I image Middle Eastern nations would be more interested in purchasing an unmanned aircraft than a manned one, as training pilots is a hurdle for them.

Joe Bloggs

An unmanned version of GCAP, in both land and naval variants, makes a lot of sense imo. In the meantime how about RATO-launched Valkyrie, Ghost Bat, Kızıelma and Taranis drones? Why we didn’t put Taranis into production years ago boggles my mind. Kızıelma is unique in that it has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capability.


I am generally in favour of increased defence spending. But I think it is time to stop frittering away more resources on the carriers. I didn’t think a credible case was made for them in 2004 when the decision in principle was taken and the overspends on ships and the F35s are worse than I expected. Zambellas wanted the carriers arguing that they would force HMG to increase spending on escorts.( That worked out well) West wanted a sortie rate above 100 per day so that we could be really useful to the USN. Neither articulated a compelling case for the UK to buy them for UK interests. So we are stuck with 2 huge carriers dependent on a single aircraft type we can’t afford to buy in the original planned numbers.
This would seem to be a disastrous outcome but in reality it isn’t because we never really needed them in the first place.
Meanwhile, our frigate fleet is falling apart, the RAF has half the combat aircraft it had in 2010 and cannot train enough pilots and army equipment needs wholesale replacement. Tempest will require massive funding and has to succeed or UK will be out of the combat jet business. As others have stressed, we have serious manpower problems that will require resources to rectify.
HMG has stated we will buy more F35s, enough in an emergency to allow a meaningful force on each carrier. I believe there are far more important things for a stretched budget to be spent on than further projects, several of which will be very expensive, to make the carriers look less of a mistake.


The main, non-nuclear offensive power of the Royal Navy comes from the aircraft on the carriers. So the question is how important the RN being on the offense is to the global interests of the UK. If the combat output of carriers can be easily be replaced by say land-based aircraft, then of course the carriers are a waste of money. But the global trend is towards more carriers, not fewer. See China, India, Japan and Italy for countries that are putting more resources into carriers.


The carriers are a problem as well as an asset. Personally, I would be looking at SAAB for manned &/or Boeing for unmanned STOBAR fighters. F35B has availability problems (all F35 do). Only 24 F35B on a 65,000t carrier does not make sense. Basically all carrier fighters can operate in STOBAR mode with a ski jump (both Boeing & Dassault have tested this), weapon load out & fuel being big constraints. Go STOBAR with SAAB & a couple of Ghost Bats for CAP & use the F35B for strike. It’s hard to hide a carrier, so don’t try. If a carrier exists, it’s CAP also exists. Use F35 (Joint Strike Fighter) for what it was designed for.


Sorry, I didn’t make clear that it was not carriers as such that I think were a mistake but these carriers. You mention Italy, with a population and GDP rather smaller than UK, and Japan with around twice. Italy has spent around €1b on Trieste ( Cavour was €1.5b) to deliver a multi role vessel with full sensor and weapons suite that can operate the numbers of F35s the QEs are likely to deploy routinely. Japan is tweaking 2 helicopter carriers, original cost $1b each, to operate a similar number of F35s. The QEs cost £3.5b each to carry what looks likely to be a similar total of F35s and gave us vessels that lack the additional capabilities of the Italian and Japanese ships.
Although too large and expensive, the QEs have been paid for and we will get enough F35s to make them more powerful than any carrier we have had before. The aspirations for further, mainly unmanned platforms seem to be driven more by embarrassment about the under utilisation of the capacity we have built than any compelling military necessity.


Except aircraft like Ghost Bat are expected to to come in around 10-20% the upfront cost of a F35, without the horrendous flight hour costs that makes the F35 so expensive to operate. When flying CAP, a considerable amount of the stealth of these aircraft gets compromised by the flight paths they are forced to fly.


There are some quite good articles on this.
I don’t have information on the other two but if we use Cavour as an example now.
QE has a sortie surge of 110+ whilst Cavour has a sortie surge of around 40. That means you’d need 3 Cavours on station to have the same effect as a QEC.
This means you either have a split fleet with 3x the escorts and supply ships. The downsides are, a much larger percentage of the total aircraft are needed on CAP for each carrier group.
Or you have one large carrier group, but it makes little sense as you have double the crew as a single carrier.
None of the carriers you mentioned can carry anywhere near the numbers of aircraft a QEC can, and we are ordering more F35B than Italy and Japan combined.

Why would the MOD spend money to avoid embarrassment? They never usually have a problem embarrassing themselves and spending money isn’t what they are known for.
Drones will be better than manned aircraft for AEW due to very long loiter times.


The USS Forrestal class were the same size as the QEs and were the optimum for that era. If drones are a down size then I expect we got it about right.
Everyone here makes a big deal of them being too large. I strongly disagree so do lots in the USN. I think they are brilliant. Affording the best has always been a struggle for the RN.


Exactly, of all the failings of the MOD, aircraft carriers being ‘too big’ surely isn’t one of them.
Lots of people want the RN to be larger in numbers, for me it is all about quality of ships. We may have less to offer but the task force we provide is top notch.
We have the best ASW, best AAW, best SSN.
It is much easier to increase numbers of a high tier ship than to increase capability on lots of lower tier ships.


The Izumo class carriers will routine operate 12 aircraft and 28 maximum.

The Trieste will routinely carry 12 aircraft with a surge maximum of 36 aircraft.

The QE class can comfortably carry 24 on the hanger deck alone, with a theoretical surge capacity using the flight deck of 72 if need be.

On CSG21 HMS QE carried 28 aircraft.

Hardly comparable.


Not comparable in theoretical maximum capacity as you say but comparable in the likely numbers to be operated in practice.. That’s really my point. As I tried to clarify, I think if we do, as promised order additional F35s ( a total of 72/74?) the carriers will be able to deliver what we need.
The only really necessary development is a successor to Crowsnest which, though finally operational, is less than ideal for AEW. Mohave might be an option but I’m not sure whether it can supply sufficient power for the sensors and data links. A tiltrotor platform would be consistent with the STOVL design.


My reading between the lines of the ‘total buy’ of F-35B would suggest that the first 8-10 , maybe even 14 or so wont be upgraded to latest standard and become parted out. This is because of the high cost of conversion for the very early planes


I don’t think so. My understanding was all would be upgraded to Block 4 standard, other than the first three. Lot 5 onwards can be upgraded.
Probably one of the benefits of the Navy messing about with STOVL and CATOBAR is that we lost all our production slots so our aircraft are from later lots, meaning they will be cheaper to upgrade.


yeah . How did that work out for the Typhoon 1st tranche.
The numbers to be upgraded to B.4 isnt for all the early builds at all.
Actual requirements might only be be in the 50 plus range remembering a carrier will normally have only 12-15 at one time and looking at the maintenance and training fleets.


No not comparable in “LIKELY numbers” because that is purely you subjective speculation to push your viewpoint.
The funding for the second tranche of F35s has been delegated and negotiations are underway as to which production lots, etc, etc.
There is no reason to doubt that we’ll regularly see 24 F35Bs aboard a QE carrier, together with all the helicopters required for both SAR and AEW, with perhaps Apaches and drones too.


No. The Fleet Air Arm needs to be at least 90 – 100 to permit two (2) full squadrons (24 aircraft) per carrier as the regular air wing, plus a training squadron and sufficient airframes for a surge to around 30-36 per flattop in a war emergency situation. There is also the issue of accident and combat attrition replacements.

Adding capable drones will help, provided the technology is sufficiently mature and lethal. But you’re not really in the supercarrier – international power projection game unless you can field both QE’s with a full complement of F-35B’s, or something close to that, should the need arise. I’m sorry, you’re just not.

Last edited 11 months ago by Will

Just a minor update to that useful information on the aircraft and the mix
The 18 F-35 jets of VMFA-211 and 617 Squadron flew 1,278 sorties,..[during CSG21]


UAV use is not restricted to the carriers. Peregrine will be flown first from HMS Lancaster. Other than Vixen and Mojave/Protector they can all be worked off smaller vessels and there will be nothing to stop a version of Vixen being flown from land, just like Protector already has been.


What nonsense. Not one iota of fact to back up your vent. Suggest you do some comparative research before your next splurge. We operate the second most capable maritime force on the planet (no it’s not China) so enough with this declinist nonsense.


I notice that you do not mention a single instance of factual error in my comment. As for “declinist nonsense”, how anyone can look at the current size and condition of UK armed forces and not see a serious decline over each of the last 3 decades, escapes me.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

We operate the second most capable maritime force on the planet 

1) In what way is the RN better than the PLAN, JMSDF, ROKN, MN, RAN, UCSCG, or MM? Apart from a handful of SSNs we have aged ships that are under armed and discontent sailors.


RAN isn’t a serious suggestion, nor is the US coast guard if that’s what UCSCG stands for.


RN will have 1 more SSN that are superior. Plans to greatly increase SSN fleet
France has only 2 destroyers compared to 6 RN and the French vessels are inferior
FDI is supposedly a ‘first rank frigate’ but is barely better than T31, only trumping it on having a proper sonar, but being slower, having less missiles, and a smaller range than T31.
6 ASW ships compared to 8. Additionally Merlin is a much better ASW helicopter and RN have more experience in the field.
2 larger carriers with 5th gen aircraft and 24/7 AEW compared to 1 smaller carrier with 4.5th gen aircraft and only 2 AEW aircraft.
Amphibious warfare is in MN’s favour.
RFA is better


RN has SSN.
2 much worse and 2 a bit worse destroyers compared to 6 destroyers
2 very small carriers with no AEW. 30 F35B compared to 30.
Only 4 ASW ships (granted there isn’t much difference between GP and ASW FREMM)
Amphibious warfare is in MM favour
RFA is better


8 Aegis destroyers compared to 6
whilst it has 10 ASW ships, they are vastly inferior with CODOG and CODAG propulsion, making them noisier
No carrier aircraft
Better Amphibious
RFA is better


4 destroyers similar to T45, nothing else really comparable
No carriers
9 very good ASW ships, none of the others are as good.
Better Amphibious
RFA is better

The last two both are regional powers, their auxiliary fleet is tiny compared to their active ships. They also have a lot of sub-par destroyers and frigates.

I will concede that the PLAN is better than the RN simply due to size but it is all about power projection. The only other Navy on that list including PLAN to have sent a carrier group across the world on deployment is the MN, with MM planning to do it later this year.

The last time any one of those navies fought a peer enemy was the Falklands. JMSDF hasn’t since it was the Imperial Japanese Navy. ROKN hasn’t. MM hasn’t really ever fought a war outside of the Mediterranean and MN would have to be WW2 but even then it wasn’t for long.

Edit: I forgot ITS Cavour did deploy to the Indian Ocean in 2011-2012, but Taranto to the Indian Ocean isn’t as far as Portsmouth to Japan.
Also RN has lots of experience with ASW, and carrier operations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Louis
The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Thank you.


@Louis you are conflating operational and non operational ships at your convenience…

Frigates. RN have only old T23 and 6 T45

Italy have 8 FREMM, 2 PPA still some Maestrale with VDS.
Italian FREMM all can fire Aster 30 and are employed in ABM tests.
Their smaller ships like Comandanti are also better equipped than the Rivers.
So Italians can deploy 10 ships that can fire Aster 30. RN 6.

French FDI are not operational should not be included. So they have FREEM including 2 air defence FREMM. Plus 4 2nd rank frigates La Fayette.

RN wins in carriers, SSN’s and RFA like you said.
Italy wins in frigates, amphibious and smaller ships.

For carrier i still prefer French CdG until QE have AEW

It is clear for me that RN ambition is larger that its budget capacity and make for an unbalanced fleet. Some of it is reflected in hiatus phases seems RN goes up und down.
Harriers – hiatus – F-35
T23 – hiatus – next T26.


The other line you should stop spreading is that the carriers are dependent on one aircraft type — especially as you are arguing that we shouldn’t buy other aircraft types. You can’t have it both ways.

But if you ignored the Merlins, Wildcats, Ospreys etc, that have already flown from HMSQNLZ, and all the drone programmes you don’t like, and were willing to go 4th gen, you could run FA-18s or Rafales STOBAR from the QE class without stumping up for the uber-expensive EMALS. Then look at the Turkish drone programme that resulted from them not being able to access the F-35. We could work with Turkey to make their drone Kizilelma/MIUS programme more autonomous and end up with a very useful combat UAV that is designed from scratch to fly STOBAR. However, we’ll probably end up with carrier-capable Ghost Bats in a decade or more.

The point is we have a lot of options aren’t dependent on the F-35Bs alone.


No. As constructed, the only manned fixed wing combat jet the QEs can operate is the F35b. True also for Japan and Italy. To operate any other type, an arrestor system would have to be installed and sponsons added to angle the deck. And to avoid the limitations on take off weight imposed by STOBAR, an EMALs system would be needed.
Obviously, rotary wing aircraft can operate and a tilt rotor replacement for Crowsnest ought to be low risk.


Yes. The F35B and its advantages allows the other nations to have a credible– at the lower end.- carrier jet force on smaller ships The RN for many reasons didnt chose the catapult takeoff and for different reasons wont be going back to that type of carrier again.
Interesting its a RM Colonel that flies that kite about reversion rather than a FAA Captain.


The RM Colonel was a Sea Harrier Pilot.


I had already considered he would have his ‘wings’
There was a number of RM pilots who flew the Sea Harrier and GR7

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

currently only 1 cat launched 5th gen carrier fighter, lets see how France gets on developing theirs. uk in good position right now obviously need more f35b block 4 but all reasonable. as you say tilt rotor is coming and drone emals is a likely wrong turn.


Let’s put aside the fact that Harriers are still being flown and strike versions of the Osprey could be ordered. It’s not an inherent dependency of the carrier that the “only manned fixed wing combat jet” it flies is an F-35B. The F-35s are what we wanted. We didn’t want to buy 4th gen planes any more than we wanted to go back to flying Harriers.

Of course the carrier would need modification if we decided to fly something else, just like the US carriers needed modification to fly F-35s. Nobody said, oh no, the Nimitz and Ford classes are “dependent” on 4th gen planes and can’t fly 5th gen planes “as constructed”. When the US decided to operate 5th gen they bought the planes then made the necessary mods to the carriers (and Wasps). If we decide to fly Mojave we’ll probably add JPALS. If we go for Turkish Kizilelmas we’d add arrestors.

It’s an artifical distinction and not an inherent limitation of carriers designed to last 50 years.


in reality an serous global navy needs a carrier force..if your opponent has fixed wing navel aviation and you don’t and it’s outside of your land based air umbrella you’ve lost…there have for a long time in navel warfare been some fundamental classes of ship that so out classed all others that without them you could not win…it’s very much like the need for battleships throughout the 18,19,20 Century..Nelson’s wooden walls were only really useful for attack other ships of the line…frigates and other smaller vessels were eminently better at almost all navel tasks…but if you did not have ships of the line all the frigates in the world would not save you from losing…it was the same with iron clads of the late 19c … in the mid 19c French built 4 small iron frigates…and the entire Royal Navy home fleet was essentially at risk of destruction until it built its own iron warships in response ( those four frigates would have simply eliminated the entire line of battle and all the navy’s ships of the line) then it was dreadnoughts in the early 20c….their only purpose was to fight each other, but if you did not have them you lost.

It’s also a very significant deterrent and geopolitical tool..more so than any frigate or destroyer based navy and it has great ability to provide sustained power projection…an SSN or escort armed with strike missiles can undertake a very limited strike but then its done and has to go home.


putting drone cats and traps on F35 b carriers seams like a distraction. tilt wing will be coming, maned and unmanned.

Phillip Johnson

Does it have the money?

Rose Compass

I wonder why to the point of my submitting this observation at midday-forty five on 3 June, no one has mentioned Hawkeye? Col Phil Kelly was explicit: ‘…adding catapults would allow us to operate the heaviest aircraft you can imagine’. The Hawkeye is by no means the heaviest aircraft I can imagine capable of being put to sea – but it could, could I say, cure one of the Royal Navy’s headaches with tried and tested technology – and be a significant force multiplier. No?


Not worth it. Drones will be cheaper and better. The US is the only nation to operate E2 in numbers and are only progressing with upgrades because the airframe is already there. They would prefer a new aircraft.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) There are over 300 E2 airframes which is a lot for specialist military aeroplane.

2) There is no VTOL AEW/ASaC program I can see to match it.

3) If you take the crew out of the E2 it makes no difference as you will still need that size of sensor to be lofted so will still need a large carrier aircraft. Sensors may improve but it doesn’t follow you will need less. Plus other elements like controlling BVR AA missiles.

4) Whatever will replace E2 will still be a CTOL aircraft.
4a) Not having a CTOL carrier cuts the UK off from the mainstream of carrier aircraft development however good F35b is or not.

5) Drones still need pilots and maintenance crew I cannot see why they should automatically be cheaper just because they are unmanned.


In carrier operations, US is the only nation to operate E2 in numbers.
Drones have the advantage of a much longer endurance, you could have a drone up for 48 hours, meaning you need less on board, or multiple can be in the air at any one time. CTOL drones will obviously be the way forward, the original poster suggested heavier Cats for E2, but drones are lighter.
There are 4 allied nations with STOVL, only 2 with CATOBAR. I agree that cats are needed but the only manned aircraft that should be considered is F/A-XX.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) The US is the only state to operate fleet carriers and in numbers. Are you comparing the likes of QE and Cavour to an American CVN?

2) You could only have a drone in the air if you have the surface based pilots to fly it. Your drone appears to be able to do what your imagination wants it to do to prove your point.

3) I am unsure why the US operating E2 in numbers is a negative when there is no alternative aircraft, especially VTOL or drone, in operation that performs a similar role. You appear to be saying ignore what the largest operator of the largest carriers does in reality my imaginary drone is better.

4) How can for example Japan’s 18 E2, a plane with a proven record, be better than say the RN’s Crowsnest which is technically inferior? How many E2’s does there need to be in service before the platform has any worth for you?

Last edited 1 year ago by The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

First flight of the E-2A was 1960, so its still small numbers built in each of its major electronics new builds E-2A/B, E-2C and latest E-2D.
Its one of those things that look the same but nothing of the latest build standard would be in common with the original long retired


Your other reply seems to have gone missing so I will post my reply to this comment.
I was just pointing out that there is a lot more countries that want AEW drones for carriers
Drones are better than manned aircraft for multiple reasons.

1. Drones can operate for a long time. For now it’s 40+ hours but future developments can increase that, as well as refuelling. The drones can be operated from anywhere, so pilots could be in the UK operating the drones. Manned aircraft will never reach endurance anywhere near that long.

2. You need less aircraft to perform the same function for that same reason. Whereas 4-5 E2 means only one airborne at any one time, 2-3 drones could provide the same capability.

3. As autonomous capabilities gradually take over, less human involvement will be needed. Drones can already land and take-off of carriers autonomously so there is little issue with pilot training

4. With that, if you did have 5 drones on the carrier, 2-3 could be airborne at any one time. In fact they could all be in the air for long periods of time, landing on the carrier occasionally for maintenance. This offers better coverage as the oft repeated saying on this site goes one airframe can only be in one place at any one time.

5. Another important factor for radar is the horizon. E2 has a service ceiling of 34,000 feet and an operational altitude of between 25 and 30,000 feet. I’m not sure about MQ9B but MQ9A had a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, much higher than E2.
6. Vastly increased range means increased detection of threats. MQ9B has a range of over 11,000km.
An E2 will only be able to operate a certain distance from the carrier before returning, MQ9B could be thousands of kilometres away.

Last edited 1 year ago by Louis
The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Your other reply seems to have gone missing so I will post my reply to this comment.

1) It was late and I edited it too many times so the software declared it as spam. I should have left well alone it was late.

2) You appear to be fixated on E2. My point is solely is that whatever replaces E2 will be just as big and that it will be CTOL aircraft.
2a) Saying that your assertion that there are too few of them plainly doesn’t take into consideration that it is a specialist military platform.

3) None of these can be completely undermanned. Advanced technology still goes wrong. It still needs oversight.


2.I have said countless times a CTOL drone is best for the RN
3.Never said that they would be completely unmanned, just a lot less manning than E2. Eventually of course they will be but that is far off into the future.


Installing Cats&Traps for a legacy aircraft like the E2 would be madness. We are entering the age of VTOL and drones. What can be done now with 1 E2 will be done with 2/3 drones at far lower costs with greater time on station and much greater versatility, including refuelling.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Installing Cats&Traps for a legacy aircraft like the E2 

1) I cannot see where I said to do that. I remember saying what will replace E2 will be a CTOL aircraft of much the same size

2) How do you know these drones will cost less? Does that happen often with defense systems?


And what was the E-2 designed to counter at 200nm (+ radar horizon) out from the carrier ?
Missile carrying Backfire bombers of Soviet Naval Aviation….guess what happened to them

Hypersonics from much further out than E-2 can patrol or watch for now are the main capability which give very little warning. Even high speed missile launching subs within the E-2 patrol area arent going to be affected by wheter its a 26 tonne E-2 , 18 tonne Crowsnest or a 3 tonne drone circling overhead

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper


1) Thank you. As I said I remember saying what will replace E2 will be a CTOL aircraft of much the same size.

2) I am sure warship carry other sensors that could look up for those missiles.

3) There will still be a need to look down, control BVR missiles, and look further over the horizon than mastborne radar sets.

4) Please try to read the posts of others more carefully.


Control BVR missiles ?
I think thats an exaggeration, as battle management isnt control

read NG blurb on capabilities more carefully


4) That’s just your assumption.

5) Drones are cheaper because they don’t need pilots. They usually have someone flying them remotely, at the moment, but we are now seeing drones that fly themselves.
Without a pilot aboard they don’t need all the things required for a human pilot; oxygen system, ejector system, HUD, redundancy on critical systems, etc, etc.


One point that hasn’t been mentioned is that any reconfiguration of these CVs will take at least a year if not more, and that places not on that ship out of service, but due to regular operational and maintenance cycles, that could put the other CV out of service for months at a time. So basically, a scenario could exist where the RN has ZERO operational carriers while this work is being performed.


Wont happen. RN maintenance schedules will fit it in so that 1 is always available. Before the first goes into refit the second will be closely monitored for any signs of damage. Freak accident sure, but other than that it won’t happen.

Chris Gooding

Biggest thing that the Carrier fleet needs including the helicopter carriers is refueling drones.. along side predators and AEW. It allows more room for F35Bs


is that proposed deck re alignment and extension going to interfere with existing CIWS positions?


So project Ark Royal is a study of the options available to enhance the air group largely by adding UAS capabilities. As such we can look at the mass required for launch and arrested landing – so it might be more feasible and a lot cheaper to add a bow EMALS catapult for UAS of certain size, than cats able to launch F18s, Rafael’s etc as other ps have mentioned. Roughly then:

– USN F18E MTOW – 30 tonnes
– MQ25 Stingray Refueller – MTOW 20 tonnes
– MQ9B – MTOW 5.67 tonnes, payload 2520kg, range 6000nm
– MQ28 Ghost Bat – MTOW 3 tonnes, payload 500kg, range 2000nm
– Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie – MTOW 2.75 tonnes, payload 542kg, range 3000nm

If you don’t care about cross decking allied fast jets, reduce your launch requirement by 10 tonnes, if you do want Stingray for refuelling the F25B’s, then that’s your objective requirement. Still too much, ok then let’s base it on the need to launch an MQ9B SeaGuardian, round it up to 6 tonnes, which is less than half the Stingray. If you can handle launch and arrested landing of the MQ9 with STOL wing kits, it’s range and endurance might be a little less, but with folding wings, appropriate EASA radar pod on some, sonobouy pods and surface search radar on others, etc you gain a massive uplift in AEW / ISR and ASW.

Plus if you can launch the SeaGuardian, you could launch a navalized Ghost Bat, carrying say 4 x Spear3 with a combat radius of around 1000 nautical miles – not to be sniffed at?

The XQ-58 is the odd one out, as it can be rocket launched from a rail, as we have been doing with the smaller Banshee target drones. Not sure if it’s undercarriage could be strengthened for arrested landing for reuse?

So if we settle for a 6 tonne launch capability, and 4 or 5 tonne arrested landing, and ditch any pie in the sky ideas about F18’s, Rafael’s and E2’s – does it make it anymore realistic and affordable?

Of course the USMC is selling off used V22’s and I am sure Bell would be happy for a launch customer for the V-247 Vigilant – enhanced capability provided without cats and traps?


Like the idea of BAE UAS concept 2. It’s obviously still a concept but it would make things like carrier integration easier as MOD would be their customer. It’s specifically designed from the offset to integrate British weapon systems. There’s no reason for the RN to rush into buying a drone if the cats and traps won’t be confirmed until the 2025 IR anyway and wouldn’t be fitted until the very late 2020s at the earliest and more likely the early 2030s.
XQ-58 can land and take off conventionally as well, the USN ordered a few but I don’t know how they will be launched. Of course rocket launching and then fishing them out of the water isn’t very good in the long term.


Any link for the claim USMC is *selling* MV-22s ?


Their island hopping littoral force design seems to be the reason: “….. decrease in the total number of Marine MV-22s by 56 to 160 tiltrotors.” Source:

I could be interpreting that wrongly, maybe it means they procure less? I thought I had seen something on “The Drive: Warzone” about divesting of existing assets, but cannot find the article.


Marine Aviation’s reorganisation is addressed in a revision to the Bell/Boeing MV-22 medium lift helicopter squadrons (VMMs) upward to a total of 16 squadrons (against 14) but with a reduction in numbers as each of the new squadrons will have 10 aircraft instead of 12..”
Its a juggling act but not set in stone and as they are still buying new it may just be they end procurement a few years early…if Congress lets them
No selling required


Much as I’m a fan of the V-247 Vigilant concept, it’s only worth Pershing if the USN chooses it for its Future Vertical Lift Maritime Strike requirement. Without that, Bell will pause its development again.

Mike B

The reason the Fleet Air Arm was formed because the RAF had a different agenda( mission requirements) than the Navy.
This is true today.
The political parties are slow to realise that a crisis in a far flung part of the world will have disastrous consequences to the British economy.
Aircraft carriers are the only feasible means to protect power and influence.

Richard Beedall

I’m not sure if QNLZ still has JPALS. Her fit was (is?) a US-owned and operated asset temporarily installed in March 2021 (operational May) to support CSG21. It was due to then be removed (Dec 2021?). As of 18 April 2022, the UK had not ordered any systems according to US official docs. By contrast Italy had one set in service (fitted to Cavour) and Japan two on order. Production ends (has ended?) with the delivery of the Japanese sets in 2022 and 2023. The unit production cost (excl. any R&D costs) was $50M, I expect any UK order will now cost a multiple of that, unless we can beg some second-hand systems from the US. The USN has 22 production systems (one other was destroyed by the fire on Bonhomme), all needed for fitting to CVN’s and LHA/D’s. But 10 dev systems were also built, maybe two of these could be economically upgraded to an operational standard and sold to the UK?.

Joe Bloggs

What about RATO-launched drones? The Valkyrie can be RATO-launched. It’s still under development, but no catapult needed, plus relatively cheap and good range even in the western Pacific.

Any reason why other drones couldn’t be
launched that way? Not sure if arrestor wires would be needed or not. Or if possible use a catch net instead of wires – much cheaper.