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Why is she slightly longer and wider, and what does slightly equate to?


If she was a surface combattant, I’d guess at extra power generation and beam for lasers and rail guns. But as an aircraft carrier, I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure they won’t have built back in the capacity to expand for EMALS, we’d have heard about that and it would have cost a fortune.
Maybe to provide better performance and stability for ops? My understanding is that length equals speed (good for gettingaircraft off of a short deck), and beam improves stability (particularly important for SRVL in bad conditions. Would love to know the actual answer though!


The capacity for EMALS was never deleted. The spaces fit it where simply converted into crew accommodation, so there remains the ability to retrofit both carriers with cats if that where ever truley necessary.


I’d understood that it was rather more complicated than that- bear in mind that it was going to add billions to the cost of the carriers to convert them, and the cost of the hardware itself wasn’t even half of that figure.
Either way, if the EMALS areas are now crew accommodation, I’d be interested to know where the crew will go if we were to refit for CATOBAR. I know that crew quarters on board are supposed to be generous, but the crew would actually have to grow to accomodate all the EMALS operators and engineers, and we’d still want to maintain the space for the marines, so I don’t think it’s as simple as refitting a load of crew compartments and running some new (very large diameter) wiring. I’m also not sure where along the way the EMALS concept was dropped; before or after the power generation was specified? Will they have to add a whole load of extra gensets, à la T45?


Wow, okay I want believe I have to spell it out: The Cats area does not represent the entirety of the crew space. It’s simply that when the cats where not taken up the design had empty space below the flight deck that was used rather than left empty. Adding EMALS would just make QE a bit less comfortable that’s all.
I dont know what went into the costs, not privy to that conversation, but it wasnt changes to the external dimensions of the ship.


Please, re-read my comment; nowhere did I say that I thought the old EMALS area was the sum of the crew quarters. What I said was that the crew would actually have to grow from its current size, so it’s not just a case of squeezing the current crew and marine complement into the old allowance of crew cabins- but rather requiring more space than they even have currently.
I wasn’t privy to the conversation either, but there’s plenty of open source content on the internet about the cost of the redesign; it would have doubled the cost of each carrier. The cost of the hardware was not the primary component.


Yes you did. I quote: “Where *the crew* will go if we where to refit for cats”. The fact is QE was designed for cats and the crew requirements coming with it.


Please, read it as a whole: “Either way, if the EMALS areas are now crew accommodation, I’d be interested to know where the crew will go if we were to refit for CATOBAR. I know that crew quarters on board are supposed to be generous, but the crew would actually have to grow to accomodate all the EMALS operators and engineers, and we’d still want to maintain the space for the marines, so I don’t think it’s as simple as refitting a load of crew compartments and running some new (very large diameter) wiring.” I didn’t say the EMALS spaces are THE crew accommodation (as in, all of it), I said it was crew accommodation (some of it); I then note that the allowance for crew is generous, and we don’t want to reduce our complement of marines, and the crew size would grow from what it is right now (again, nothing about the EMALS areas being the only crew areas); finally, I say that the changes can’t be as simple as refitting “a load of” (not all of). Yes, I said “the crew”, but read in context I think you’re the only one on this site who managed to read two plus two makes five.
Besides, we’re arguing over a sideshow; the core principle is that the conversions required for EMALS configuration cannot simply be squashing crew into a smaller space, due to the huge stated cost of the conversion.


Of course you think that. You would. But that’s not what you said, maybe you need to work kn your communication skills.
Yes it’s a side point, yes itll be expensive. No the external dimensions have nothing to do with EMALS or not as the design is meant to be convertible between CATOBAR and STOVL.

Supportive Bloke

OK in the initial designs it was meant to be convertible. But nothing was done to develop the CATOBAR variant so when 2010 came round and it was revived it was silly expensive to implement. Personally I do believe that some form of light EMALS will be fitted but it will be for an AWACS or refuelling UAV launch and will be powered from lithium batteries. The ski jump will remain for the F35B – as it has been stated ad nauseam in here that the whole reason for the RN to be keen on B is that it is cheaper to qualify the pilots on it than on the C.

As the B is now carrier qualified and everything works nobody is going to want to change that when the whole emphasis is to get the operational tempo of the B up to full swing.

To do CATOBAR properly you need an angled flight deck and that is a massive rebuild.


Actually the design work to ‘convert’ the CVF design was dropped very early on, and I mean very early. No detailed design work was undertaken whatsoever.
There is space in the deck beneath the flight deck that could be used but it has been used for other purposes.


Cruise ships in class like Oasis of the seas vary by a few centimetres. I’m not sure if intentional or it just works out that way. I’m imagining ships construction must be perfect to plan to make everything line up, or are centimeter differences common in warship classes?


I suspect these changes are on “overall” dimensions, which tend to be driven by items of equipment or sponsons etc on upper deck. I’d be surprised if “slightly” was more than a metre or two on length, less on beam.


I suspect the longer and wider comment is just a cheeky bit of “mines bigger than yours”. As the article mentions, sibling rivalry is normal between sister ships.

PoW probably is somewhat heavier than Liz though, as she’s been built with the LPH modifications than QE will receive during her first major refit period.


Improvements in welding procedures and the prior preparation of the surfaces to be mated. I understand accounted for some of it at least.


CO changed in May 2019 not May 2018.


Will she conduct initial F-35 trials in British waters or in American waters like her sister ship?


I don’t know the answer, but it makes a degree of sense to do it in the US. As far as I’m aware, all of the test-instrumented F-35s are over there for continuing development. So if they’re doing extra testing to see how far they can implement SRVL (as the article suggests) it makes sense to get the most data they can by using those aircraft. It also makes for a great trip out for the crew, and gives them an easy opportunity to train alongside other USN vessels, potentially take on some USMC guys, and experience some different climates.
Obviously, we should be able to do pilot qualifications etc. over here in the UK. Even the extra SRVL testing if we want to. But there are a lot of benefits in heading over to the US, I can imagine them going over there.


Don’t think the ITF F-35B will be necessary for PoW. Once the initial operating parameters have been set the utility of using them drops off. We’re going to be needing the ITF birds for weapon integration work in due course.


Fair enough, was just a thought. I think it still makes for a good first cruise option to go over to the States, but maybe for fewer techncial reasons!


So am I right in understanding that the rumoured internal changes to passageways to make loading of marines etc. never happened?


Prince of Wales was built with those modifications. Queen Elizabeth will get them later on


Thanks, glad to hear that- haven’t heard much said about them recently!


To be fair there’s not much to hear. Widening corridors and adjusting bunk arrangements isn’t exactly headline-grabbing


Fair point, I suppose!

Gavin Gordon

Somewhat facetious I acknowledge, but what went right? Second in class comes in with some efficiency improvements on cost and build time. Could do with a similar trajectory regarding the Astutes. After all, the a/cs are a welcome addition to our capabilities whereas the subs are supposed to maintain a capability, allbeit still a reduction over previous unit levels and the evolving requirement it would appear. Sublime to the ridiculous came to mind when contrasting both procurement scenarios.


The question is whether these potentially excellent ships will ever fulfill that potential.

The intention is to deploy them with no more than 12 F35’s: barely enough to maintain a Combat Air Patrol 24/7. In a high threat situation the ship has hardly enough aircraft to defend itself let alone conduct simultaneous strike operations.

In theory we could surge numbers of aircraft if needed. But the difficulty of anticipating a threat before it materialises and the practicalities of getting aircraft to the ship is the reason no other navy deploys its carriers with only half their jet complement.

Then the F35’s themselves have capability gaps. The lack of a long range ASM means that they would have to move into the SAM envelope of any air defence equipped ship to attack it with LGB’s or Spear missiles which risks the aircraft. The F35 also has no missiles designed for SEAD missions and I’m not sure whether there are even plans to fit Storm Shadow for a stand off air to ground capability.

The lack of embarked air to air refuelling and the inability of the F35 to carry drop tanks to extend its range mean that to conduct strike missions the ship will need to operate close enough to shore to increase the risk from shore based SSM’s and diesel submarines operating in the littoral.

The lack of catapults mean the ship has to deploy with a toy town helicopter based AEW capacity. The lack of ceiling, range and endurance afforded by helicopters and the need to divert them from their ASW roles means a severely inhibited AEW capability. Even the French bought the E2!

It’s too late to correct some of these issues but for the price of reducing the F35 buy by a dozen aircraft we could deal with most of them.

All in all a sad tale of a great asset being undermined by bean counters

Gavin Gordon

The primary requirement must always be to have the hulls of any class of vessel available. With that in place you will always have the ability to upgrade armament; without them you’d be waiting years to build the unit numbers. If we look behind the scenes at the UK’s current weapon programme status, I believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that we could introduce a varied range of very competent systems leveraged off a sound basic design common to most, with UOR access to those where a temporary gap may be identified.


Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?

Sorry for the Kelly’s heroes quotes! But everybody has been putting down these carriers and the lack of this or that. We should be looking at the positives and opportunities that these two ships bring. I am amazed with the past performances of our Governments we actually got both of them. So now we have two golden opportunities to develop the potential that these ships can generate.

Granted that the Merlin/Crowsnest combination is a compromise and I’m hoping short term. We simply don’t have the budget to buy the gold solution i.e. the V22 to do AEW, AAR and COD, so I am hoping we get the next best thing, which would be the Bell X247 Vigilant tilt-rotor UAV. This aircraft will have the capability to do AEW, as its one of the USMCs urgent requirements for their gator navy flat-tops.

In this day and age, its ludicrous to expect an aircraft to use LGBs against a ship in any future conflict. The technique for lobbing the LGBs at the target is non-viable, if you expect the aircraft to come home in one piece. The quick answer will be Spear 3, as this is the air to ground missile earmarked for our B models. I fully expect that we will add the Spear 3 EW to the mix as its capability is too great to ignore. There has been a lot of news recently about Japan purchasing the Norwegian JSM for their A models (Japan paid for the missile’s integration). However, Japan have also asked Kongsburg to see how the missile could be adapted to fit the internal bay for their B models.

If we look at how an F35 could attack a ship with the NSM/JSM fitted on under-wing pylons, it’s more than doable. Basic radar principles state that you will always detect a radar before it can detect you. Therefore, if the F35 is operating at say 30,000ft and scanning passively for a target ship, who could be transmitting merrily lighting up the sky (radio or radar). The F35 will pin-point its position, feed the data to the missile, then drop to near sea level to do a stealthy approach using the curvature of the earth to hide behin; then at a set distance they will launch the missile. The NSM/JSM uses an imaging infra-red sensor for targeting, so its passive. The airframe is designed to be stealthy so its likely it won’t be detected until it’s quite close. Even if the ship goes to max speed the missile will quickly find it. The F35 would have done a 180 and climbed out of range. The missile also has a two way data-link, so the pilot can make sure the missile hits the right target. But also means they can target a specific part of the ship to make sure its taken out of action, even if its not sunk. Therefore, not having the missile housed internally is not the end of the story. It will get more complicated if the ship is operating with AEW support, as the pilot will have to make sure they don’t go abeam of the ships radar and the aircraft’s radar, where the combination of the pylon and missile increases the aircraft’s RCS, thus generating a possible greater reflection.

The first Captain of QE, said that as a minimum the ships complement of F35s, would be 24, even if the ship is tasked with supporting amphibious ops. THis is to ensure there are sufficient aircraft to do both CAP, strike missions and under go maintenance. There are two developments on the horizon for getting more range out of the F35, conformal fuel tanks and external drop tanks. Israel is the prime driver for the requirement for conformal tanks. They want their aircraft (F35A) to have the range to reach Iran, so are funding their development. Secondly, both the USN and USAF are jointly funding the development of long range external fuel tanks, so the aircraft can self ferry to the carrier, hot spots, exercises etc. All F35s are built with both of the wing’s inner hard-point plumbed for fuel, they are currently not cleared for use. Whether, we will see either on the B version is open for debate. At the very least I’d expect to see the drop tanks on our B version, as it is a cheap fix to increase the ferry range and is more likely to be required by the USMC and other B customers.


Surely you’re supporting the points you criticise regarding AEW and anti ship capability? You suggest a better platform for AEW and a better ASM than Spear whose range puts the launching platform well within the range of any modern area defence SAM system.

And as I understand it, the 24 F35’s per deployment is based on 12 UK and 12 USMC aircraft. In a UK only deployment it would only be 12 aircraft. I’d love my understanding to be wrong.

I liked the quote about positivity but you can’t let politicians off the hook when there are deficiencies. If you do then you get patrol frigates with an obsolete SAM system (T21) and destroyers with no inner layer defence system (T45) sent to war (Falklands) where those deficiencies cause ships to be lost and people to die.

And we can afford to deal with the deficiencies. We don’t need 138 F35’s: we only need enough for the 2 carriers. There are more strategically relevant needs than £12 billion of tactical fighters for a country surrounded by it’s allies which has already invested over £40 billion in the Typhoon.

Captain Nemo

We won’t have 138 F35, that number represents the total number over the lifetime of the project to support four operational squadrons and an OCU. For a squadron of 12 you might expect 18/19 airframes to account for a maintenance and attrition reserve, then you’re probably losing some of the earlier tranche as ineffective and will lose and replace others over time as their airframes reach the 8000 hours (or whatever it proves to be).
I’d like 138 operational as that’d give the navy and air force three squadrons each; probably then the navy could routinely deploy with two squadrons and the air force could maybe get on with rediscovering an austere capability which might complement our expeditionary capability, but 138 F35 is not a wholly accurate way of looking at it, unfortunately.


Yes, its contradictory to a point, as I know its very frustrating to see the two carriers and not see them as they should/could be; dare I say fitted with Sea Ceptor, a tanker aircraft and a fixed wing AEW aircraft. My main point though is, it was more important getting the ships into service and past the Treasury looking for savings. We can provide AEW cover, but I believe it’s a short term solution. The Crowsnest Searchwater radar is still an excellent radar, if a little dated. It proved, in Afghan, it could do a similar ground mapping/surveillance role as the much more expensive Sentinel. Due to the size of the antenna, it will never have a similar range to say the E2D. However, it will still be able to push out the radar horizon to over 250Km. Granted, it’s fitted to a helicopter, which means it has range and duration issues. But fitting it to Merlin is better than having it fitted to the legacy Sea King, as it can operate at a higher altitude and for longer. So, I will freely admit, it is not the best solution for carrier borne AEW, but its the best we can afford and is available today. The Merlin has been cleared by the Italians for air to air refuelling, so perhaps that could also be a further option?

However, I am hoping we join the Vigilant program. This UAV is a multi-purpose aircraft, primarily designed to support Marines for close air support. The USN/USMC have decided that providing localised AEW and communication networking is a more urgent requirement. So that is their priority, it will still be able to do CAS and possibly air to air tanking. The rumour on the grapevine is the aircraft is going to be fitted with a derivative of the F35 APG81 radar.

The mix of UK and USMC F35Bs is not a normal deployment, but part of an ongoing agreement. The USMC will not be permanently using the carrier. Will there be a mix of US/UK aircraft on her first oversea deployment, possibly. The only one mentioned so far is the round the World trip via the SCS. Regardless, the Navy have said that any deployment of the carrier will have a minimum of 24 F35s embarked. If they are embarked, I’d expect a couple of Arleigh Burkes attending the deployment.

We are paying for the Spear 3 integration, so that’s a given. The missile is a multipurpose weapon and has a variable number of flight modes including loitering. Currently, there are no dedicated (decent) anti-ship missiles that will fit in the F35B internal weapon bays, so we will have to make do with Spear 3. If Japan does get Kongsburg to modify the JSM/NSM so that it can fit in the bay, I’m certain we would be looking at getting it, especially as Japan would have paid for the development and integration costs. There is always the option of fitting them under the wings. The next weapons integration hasn’t been mentioned for the UK’s F35s. Yes, we have dropped Storm Shadow from this round of weapons integration, but who’s to say it won’t be part of the next round?

I certainly don’t or won’t let politicians off the hook. They and past Governments are the ones who have put us in the position we find ourselves today. But this is also compounded by senior brass and civil servants continuously towing the party line. This is especially shown when questioned by the defence committee over personnel and equipment numbers. It particularly gets my goat when said seniors leave the service and start bemoaning the Government. Once you’ve left its too late, you position of power has been handed to another yes man.

Personally, I think the two carriers in their current guise is the best option available to the UK on its limited budget. The ships should be seen as a baseline, now we have them we can look at how to use them to their best potential, but also what is required to make them even better.


I’d be interested to know the weight of bolt on Crowsnest and what would be the possibility of designing a fixed wing manned aircraft or drone and carrying it to a useful operating height and range.
In my opinion at some stage this will have to be looked into.


It has been looked into – as far back as the 90s. It has a number of drawbacks.

Meirion X

I agree!


No we need more than fir the two aircraft carriers. Not only do you need reserve airframes and OCUs, but you need to remember that many of them will belong to the RAF, who will not want their entire ground attack fleet attached to the carriers.

Captain Nemo

I think that’s technically a taboo subject now, both the RAF and FAA are thrilled with the situation.


Also worth remembering that 12 Harriers was effecitvely the maximum an invincible class could deploy with, HMS Invincible deployed to the Falklands with 8 Harriers… while 12 is the minimum a QE can have.

It’s worth remembering the FAA will only own 48 F35s, the rest will be RAF, so obviously the Navy doesnt want to set expectations too high, but if needed the numbers, ability and airframes to surge to 50 odd aircraft will still be there.


The FAA won’t “own” any F35, let alone 48 of them on current plans. The “48” refers to the number of F35B committed to at this time, which is not the same as the FAA “owning” them.


Not entirely true, the FAA will own the F35s in FAA Sqns.


Afraid not. “Ownership” very much a joint thing. As of now, only one FAA sqn (809NAS) identified. Sadly, I’d be surprised if more than 2 or 3 naval air squadrons will ever be badged for F35.


You saying “Afraid not” doesnt change the fact you are wrong.

Will O

Stevep’s intention is positive & hopeful, in wanting the carriers to achieve their full potential, just the phrasing that’s a bit negative. There’s a funny contradiction; too few F35s on the carriers …and the solution; cut the order of F35s. There’s some good humour right there.


It’s not “deploy them with no more than 12” its “Routinely deploy with 12.” Which is a very different statement.

John Clark

I think you’re being too harsh there Steve.

We should be able to generate a combat air group of 24 F35’s by the early 2020’s.

My preference would be for four 18 aircraft squadrons of F35Bs.

I base that on a single 18 aircraft squadron would be sufficient for most day to day operations and two would hit the 36 aircraft sweet spot for serious Strike capability.

Four 18 aircraft squadrons ( achievable and sustainable with the full 138 buy and two carriers would give us persistent Carrier capability.

The Israel is working on drop tanks, so there’s an option there.

I would love some organic AAR, but it’s not looking hopeful before 2030….
A buy of V22 Carrier on board delivery variants, with AAR will have a great force multiplayer effect, allowing long range organic stike, without relying on external help.

Merlin Crows nest isn’t optimal, but by all accounts is capable. It will probably be replaced by a UAV/AEW system of some sort in the 2030’s.

So, not perfect, but second only to the US and a ‘massive’ leap from the Invincible class!


18 planes to a Squadron is a good proposal. For a peactime deployment you could have 12 on ship and 6 at home. This would allow for 1/3 of the squadron to rotate through a deployment and improve family life, morale and retention.


Lol we have what 10 in a typhoon squadron these days.

Meirion X

I think that’s because the RAF have spare airframes in storage(pool), to replace aircraft undergoing long maintenance or upgrade cycles.
But the FAA will not have that luxury of a pool of spare airframes!

Meirion X

I think FAA squadrons need to be about 14 F-35B’s deployed at sea, to allow for aircraft not available, due to maintenance etc.
No pool of spare aircraft available at sea, in contrast to a pool of spare land based aircraft.

Captain Nemo

I’d like 18 to make sense but in terms of muscle memory it’s not ideal, your two FAA squadrons would divide down the middle to a carrier each, given nine months on nine months off for carrier deployments a squadron would only go to sea every three years.


Let’s all thank god the USMC also bought into the f35 program, the marines are like the entire British millitray in size, well it used to be. Anyway they will develop things that we can’t or won’t fund. Let’s hope for starters we can get tanker F35s to give ours double the range they currently have, or are the usmc using ospreys or just the huge air tanker fleet the US has.


Could we not use some F35s as tankers to refuel others? Surely we could fill the missile bays with tanks of fuel. Obv it’s not that simple but would give us far more range if we did developers that, are the usmc not thinking about this?

Peter Weg

Of course we could use F-35B as a buddy tanker. It would have more fuel offload and cost less than half to delivery it. Plus higher speed/range than a V-22.
Then again, we have several hundred times the capacity in the Voyager fleet, but that doesn’t satisfy the lust for the V-22 does it?


Great article. There is an awful lot about the technical issues of getting these ships into service but less about the human resources side of things. When the USN brings a new carrier into the fleet the crewing and training requirements are fairly simple; they just skim off the personnel from the rest of the carrier fleet and hey presto they have a trained, experienced crew. With the break in carrier capability this option has not been available to the RN. Yes some specialists have been serving on French and US ships but the vast majority of the crew are first time sailors. Both QnLz & Pow are in the process of not only introducing new ships to the fleet but also producing crews with the necessary training, expertise and esprit de corps. Watching the BBC documentary ‘Britain’s biggest warship’ it was very evident that the port visits and bonding are as much part of growing the carrier capability as flying the F35s. I suspect that QnLz got many of it’s crew from HMS Ocean but the PoW is maybe even more about turning first time sailors into a confident & functional crew. Good luck to all involved and I hope you enjoy serving on your shiny new ship.

John Clark

Absolutely Rob, there’s never been a better time to join the Navy for youngsters.

These ships are beyond the imagination of the Sailors of 20 years ago.

A complete fleet replacement is in the works, from frigates to submarines, to Aircraft Carriers.

Especially now that Arrowhead 140 has been selected over the anemic BAE Systems design!

We just need to push the numbers ( personal and ships) up now.


Britain will have the most modern aircraft carrier battle fleet on earth, and second most deadly. New frigates, destroyers, tankers, submarines, aircraft carriers, even p8s, and F35s.

David Windsor

Agreed Cam, but to few in quantity and to few sailors to man the few we do have. The country will never suffer the financial increase it will take just to get us to a suitable level that will meet the needs that the government heaps on it .

The Skippers Table

Those matelots don’t look like they’d cause much bother for the Reggies on a run ashore.

Pen men

There are not many countries in the world that have access to two ships like these. The RN is back in the carrier game and that’s great news.


Rusty already. Wow. Isn’t there a paint that properly protects metal invented yet!?

Will O

Always rusty around the anchor. Dunno about paint, but you’d think they’d at least use a different steel for that part, like mangalloy. Or have a system to wash away the salt water.


Do you believe HMS QE or HMS PoW will be the carrier leased out/placed in mothballs/sold off?