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“In pure combat terms, the QEC is still far behind the US Navy. The 12-14 jets aboard the QEC will not compare well with the 44 carried by the Bush on this deployment (with space for an air group of up to 90 aircraft)”
What happened to the QE’s having a peacetime air group of 24 aircraft I have read that maximum aircraft capacity for the QE’s is about 70 aircraft and that seems about right given their size.


My concern exactly. A US Navy Hornet squadron is comprised of 12 aircraft, which means the QE will be deploying with basically one squadron of Lightnings? Hardly an alpha strike ability. I fail to see how a QE group will be able to stand in for a Yank carrier group.

Keith Wallace

Actually the QEC is designed to carry approx 40 aircraft – mix of helicopters and F-35B’s. Ideally (depending if the UK orders 75 or the requested 150 F-35B’s (unlikely given the cost issue) having about 2 squadrons or 24 F-35B’s embarked will be the maximum – this is not a bad number given the capability of the F-35B and the sortie rate that QEC will be able to generate. Its almost comparable to the number of Rafael’s on the French carrier – not in the league of an Nimitz class, but again, a decent carrier air wing capable of covering a whole spectrum of modern roles – the only issue will be sustainability in high tempo operations. My view is that for major operations (Gulf War scenario) she would need to operate with USN units and be allocated a mission that allows the bigger carriers to focus on deep strike missions – having more than one carrier in a theater of operation will give the Task Force Commander more options and cover a wider Geographic – increased combined effect! if you remember the first Gulf war in 1991, the USN had 6 carriers deployed between the Red sea and Arabian Gulf to generate the required sortie rate.


Not Serbian MiG-29, it was Yugoslav.Agressor US scum,all over the globe.

Iqbal Ahmed

Britain and the US have different global roles and their aircraft carriers reflect this. The US is a global power, which needs to project power from the Atlantic to the South China Seas. Britain would not act independently in any foreseeable distant deployment. In most circumstances, we would be acting as an auxiliary to US deployments and with NATO & EU support. Hence the reason these carriers came at the cost of surface combatant ships and anti-ship capabilities.
The days of Empire are long past. Gunship diplomacy is no longer in fashion. Even third rate powers now have access to the tools of asymmetric warfare such as anti ship cruise missiles. Given opposition to recent wars amongst the British public, it is inconceivable that we would be involved in anything more than bombing defenceless medieval terrorists from the air. Therefore, it is concerning that politicians like Boris Johnson are already talking about deploying our aircraft carriers to the South China Seas, in a move that will bring tension with China.
Britain simply does not require the ‘global reach’ that the US enjoys. Neither the Argentinians or the Spanish are a military threat to our holdings in the Falklands and Gibraltar. The trade lanes in sensitive parts of the world e.g. the Straits of Hormuz and South China Seas will be kept open by the US and China. These two carriers were ultimately built by the last Labour Government as an electoral ‘bribe’ to core constituencies and do not really make military sense, given the budgetary constraints on public expenditure.


Iqbal Ahmed. I could not disagree with you more, if I was paid a lot of money.


Indeed. In any case, the idea that carriers bring the freedom to use air power free of the diplomatic constraints affecting land-based aircraft is a fiction: unless we have a chain of supply ships stretching all the way back to the UK (we don’t) then sustained carrier ops depend on diplomatic consent for the use of nearby ports for resupply and harbour calls. Where we have genuine national interests, we have allies and partners willing to let us in nearby. The exception is the Falklands and our strategy there is to deter invasion in the first place.
The RN should have spent its money on the FF/DD/SSN fleets.


I am surprised that UK as an innovative and medium to large economic power should be restricting itself to the continental shelf. Exposing a DD/FF/SSN fleet in earnest beyond that area becomes a dangerous past time as 1982 demonstrated.
For all intents and purposes the QE carriers are super Invincibles and represent a huge advantage in modernity, economy of scale and clout. Japan which has a similar strategic position but is not a UN security council permanent member has recently built ships in a class of capability (if they so wish) between the Invincibles and QNLZ class.
We do have the necessary Fleet train to support an expeditionary force globally.
To my mind the QNLZ class are wholely appropriate for the UK.

David Stephen

I think two Wave class, four Tide class and three new FSS ships (or the three Forts) is plenty to sustain a single task group.

David Graham

Before it can be decided as to what size and composition a supporting fleet train might be, we need to look at the type of operation, the strength of the opposition, and the size of the naval element involved. Only then can a meaningful assessment of the requirement be calculated.
In 1982, Operation Corporate required 10 RFA fleet tankers and 16 commercial tankers [STUFT] to sustain the operations, with the commercial tankers going back to Ascension Island to top up from larger tankers holding there. Some of the BP tankers did RAS with warships, but in the main they were used to top up the 10 RFA RAS tankers.
Hopefully by the end of next year, the RFA should have 1 AOR [Fort Victoria], 2 Wave Class fleet tankers, 4 Tide class fleet tankers and 2 AFES [Forts Rosalie and Austin]. The MoD also has on charter the commercial tanker Maersk Rapier, which freights fuel to naval facilities in the UK and abroad.
Tide class: Cargo: 19,000cu m of fuel, reconfigurable as a combination of, or solely F76 marine gas oil or F44 [AVCAT]. Can also carry 8 20ft TEU containers of solid stores and can supply fresh water. One port single 7 inch RAS station, and two starboard double 7 inch RAS stations, plus astern fuelling reel. Unusually, QE class carriers will replenish fuel on their port side, from the tankers twin starboard RAS positions. Speed [I understand circa 26 knots……………Tidespring certainly achieved 22 knots during delivery voyage].
Wave class: Cargo: 16,000 cu m [including 3,000 cu m of AVCAT, 500 cu m of dry cargo and 380 cu m of fresh water]. Stowage for 8 20ft refrigerated containers. Two single point RAS stations to port and one on the starboard side [normal RFA configuration]. Speed 18 knots. Both above classes can support a Merlin helicopter.
Early Fort class: [Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie]. Specifically designed as AFES [Ammunition, Food and Explosive Stores Ships]. Cargo: Four holds with capacity of 3,600 tons [Nos 1 and 4 are dedicated to explosives; 2 and 3 are for refrigerated stores, explosives and naval stores. Fresh water: 500 cu m. Six RAS stations. Facilities and hangar can accept up to four Sea King size helicopters. Speed: 20+ knots.
Fort Victoria: AOR [Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment]. Originally one of a class of two, Fort George being disposed of along with Ark Royal in 2010 as a defence economy.
Cargo: 10,000 cu m of fuel [normally F76] and 3,000 cu m of dry cargo, including munitions. For dual purpose RAS rigs [two each side] and one Hudson reel for astern fuelling]. Aviation facilities and hangar for up to four Merlin helicopters. Speed 22 knots.
It is understood she is to be “double hulled” later this year.
Let us assume an operation in the Indian Ocean/Gulf involving a carrier with 24 aircraft plus helos: escorts 1 T45 and 3 T23s, and 1 SSN. The SSN can look after itself, but the carrier will require aviation fuel, probably every three days and F76, say, every five days. Likewise, the escorts will require RAS solid and liquid regularly, depending on the tempo of operations and the quality of the opponents. The Underway Replenishment Group are unlikely to keep station with the task group, but might well loiter in a safer location within reasonable distance from the warships. Fort Victoria could be configured as primarily an air stores ship, and also the RAS liquid RFA for the escorts. A Tide could be configured as liquids support for the carrier only; again the tempo of air ops might well decide the mix of F44 / F76. As we possess no RFA support tankers, a Wave class could be the support tanker to top up the other two tankers, as the class is not configured to support the carriers, except in an emergency. In our example, both fuels can be obtained from Saudi Aramco at Ras at Tanura, or from Bahrain. There are of course a lot of assumptions here: Is it safe/possible to go into the Gulf? What happens if the top-up tanker is attacked and sunk, etc, etc. How we may well miss RFA support tankers such as the Leaf class, which in this scenario could have gone to safer, but more distant port to load.
If we move our scenario to the Far East, support would be available from the former Singapore Naval Base, where bulk fuel stocks are available.
Again, the situation might call for both carriers and attendants to be operational; who knows what the future might hold. One can see there is not mush room for accidents, attrition etc, etc with the resources the RN/RFA have at hand.
NB: The 5 tonne heavy jackstay for solid replenishment will not be available until the new solid support ships enter service in the next decade.
Having served in both the RFA and the RN, I hope this might provide food for thought.


The QNLZ F35 wing will not be big enough to mount defensive operations while conducting the offensive missions envisaged in the Carrier Strike concept. Besides, with its limited weapon load and performance, the F35B is by no means an air dominance platform. T45 is exactly that. And there would have been much cheaper ways of fielding Crowsnest.


So far as I’m aware the initial plan is that her air group will be 24 F-35 on normal peacetime operations and 36 F-35 in a important operation. In a major war the QE’s can operate up to 70 aircraft. UK does, just about, have the escort ships and supply ships to support a carrier task group almost anywhere, although no one is going to argue that the RN needs a boost in manpower and 25, not 19 major surface escort ships.

David Stephen

Why? If you have no capital ships, why do you need a large fleet of escort ships? If we have no carriers then the amphibious ships are useless as we cant protect a landing. So no carriers no LPDs or LSDs. So as I say why do we then need lots of escorts? What will they escort?


I don’t think it’s fair to imply that modern DD/FF/SSN function merely as ‘escorts’. DD are formidable air and missile defence platforms that can do much more than TG protection. SSN with their TLAM, SF insertion and ESM capabilities are always in demand in today’s politically sensitive limited conflicts.

David Stephen

Not as high demand as carriers. Escorts can indeed perform many different missions but they are allmost all defensive. Type 45 is mainly air defence, type 23/26 anti sub work. TLAM is the only offensive aspect of the escort fleet. For a top tier navy power projection is a requirment and that takes more than tin cans. In any scenario where the threat requires it the carrier will have at least 24 F-35B not just 12. That is enough. The F-35B is better and longer ranged than the Harrier it replaces and 24 or even 12 is more than the Invincible class could manage.

Keith Wallace

One fact that is not pressed enough or even recognized by our politicians, is that we are a Maritime nation – 95% of our trade is transported by ships over the sea! If you do not have the ability to defend your sea lines of communication, or at least demonstrate your willingness to deter, we can easily be economically strangled! Why do you think we have a Navy in the first place! China recognizes this and its own vulnerability, particularly as all its energy needs (oil) have to be imported, hence its meteoric rise in the Navy league tables of warship numbers! Carriers send a message to other countries like a Battle fleet did in the last centuary, and unlike nuclear submaries, they can be seen (when they want to!). If you want to have power projection and play with the Big Boys, you need an aircraft carrier, and some aircraft to go with it!


Not sure how asraam is superior to aim-9x when they are built to differing requirements. The asraam having more range while aim-9x having far superior maneuverability. Also they use the same seeker which one would think is the most important aspect of a heat seeking air to air missile.