Skip to comments.ANALYSIS: UK aircraft carrier nears programme milestone
Posted on 05/02/2014 9:19:29 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Two months from now, the UK Royal Navys largest ever warship will be named, before being floated out of its dry dock in Rosyth, Scotland, as the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The first of two 65,000t vessels to be delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the lead ship is still more than four years away from receiving its first visit by the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and over six from reaching full operational status.
Aircraft Carrier Alliance
With Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to perform the naming act on 4 July, the ship that will bear her name is currently a hive of activity, with around 1,500 workers on board each day installing and testing the systems needed for it to operate with roughly the same complement as the RNs previous, 22,000t Invincible-class carriers: the last of which, HMS Illustrious, will be retired later this year.
The scale of the new-generation vessel is underlined first by taking the 110 steps from dock-side to its flightdeck, and then by surveying the latter. Roughly 300m (984ft) long and 73m across at its widest point, this four acres of sovereign real estate includes the vessels signature ski-jump ramp, installed from late last year. Approximately 61m long and over 13m wide, this will assist with launching the carriers future strike capability: the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B.
Once in use, the Queen Elizabeth will be capable of mounting sustained operations with an embarked air wing of up to 40 aircraft, also including the RNs AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HM2 multirole rotorcraft including airborne early warning examples outfitted via Project Crowsnest and its Merlin HC4 amphibious support helicopters. Up to 24 F-35s can be accommodated on the flightdeck, which has room for 12 fully-equipped aircraft servicing points.
Below, the ships 163m long and 26m wide hangar has room for 20 fighters, and its two aircraft lifts are each capable of transferring a pair of F-35s within 1min. They will also be able to move a Royal Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter with its rotor blades still attached, unlike on the navys legacy carriers.
The entire flightdeck will eventually be coated with a thermal metal spray, similar to that used in the offshore oil and gas sector. This will feature a unique rough finish, which will last significantly longer than traditional deck paint, which proved inadequate during previous at-sea testing conducted with the US Marine Corps. It will also provide the increased grip essential for aircraft landing using the UK-developed shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) technique, says Eddie Trott, aviation and platform lead (STOVL reversion) for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.
US Air Force
Flight activities will be managed from the flyco flight operations centre, which is contained within the vessels aft of two islands. Simulation-based work has already demonstrated that the Queen Elizabeth-class ships will be able to equal or better the Ministry of Defences required sortie generation rate, says David Atkinson, who is responsible for aircraft to ship integration work on the F-35 for alliance member BAE Systems. The organisation is also formed of Babcock, Thales UK and the Ministry of Defence. Rolls-Royce and GE are responsible for the ships propulsion and power systems.
Trials are scheduled to take place off the eastern seaboard of the USA in the fourth quarter of 2018, involving at least two of the UKs initial operational test and evaluation examples of the F-35B. Only at that point will the UK be able to test its SRVL technique under embarked conditions: an advance that will also be of great interest to the USMC.
For now, large-deck carrier experience is being gained by RN personnel via a special skills programme agreement with the US Navy, which currently includes having deck handlers and pilots on the USS Harry S Truman.
The UK has so far received three test-phase examples of the F-35B, with a fourth now on order to support its training activities in the USA. A recently anticipated contract signing for its first 14 operational jets has yet to be made, with the delay attributable to ongoing cost uncertainty, driven by the US Department of Defenses fiscal year 2015 budget approval process.
Back on the Queen Elizabeth, the vessels innovative highly mechanised weapon handling system is also taking shape. This will transfer bombs and missiles loaded during replenishment at sea down to its lower decks using multistorey lifts. When required, these munitions will be brought up and through the ship using a rail-equipped network of storage and fitting rooms, before being moved to the flight deck for aircraft loading. The technology will reduce the number of people involved in such work from around 400 on the Invincible-class carrier to a maximum of 120.
The new ship will have a permanent crew of 679 personnel, but should typically operate with 850, with the capacity to accommodate up to 1,600.
After leaving dry dock in July, the lead vessel will undergo systems outfitting until December 2015. Sea trials should begin in August 2016, and customer acceptance is scheduled for May 2017. The latter represents a massive task, with the MoD required to individually sign off each of the vessels 3,013 separate compartments.
The delivery date for ship one is hugely reputational for us, but the success of the programme is in the delivery of ship two, says Paul Rafferty, project management planning and controls director for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.
The first blocks for the Prince of Wales are scheduled to arrive in Rosyth this August, with its structure scheduled to be complete in July 2016 and customer acceptance due in August 2019. However, Rafferty says the alliance partners are working hard at the moment to accelerate that.
The Royal Navy had 7 aircraft carriers in 1939 and 65 of them by 1945. Many had armored flight decks.
But to do that they would have to spend 4%+ on defense. Currently they spend 2.3%. Just enough to barley limp along.
Still FAR better then our other NATO "allies".
Every other country in Europe is under 2% and REDUCING.
Why don’t they build a real aircraft carrier?
reducingb/c they spend so much more on social welfare. only a few have reduced their social welfare spending, but in all of them it dwarfs their military spending.
well, Poland’s is under 2% but is increasing year on year
They did. The British went back and forth with the design of the QE to include ski jump or EMALS. At one point, they even switched their F-35 orders from -B STOVL to -C carrier variants, but ultimately decided that the construction was too far along to switch to EMALS. There is talk that the second carrier built will include EMALS.
Another good article posted by you!
I served in the Catapults Division on the FDR (CVA-42), which was a sister ship to the Midway and Coral Sea.
It was less tonnage than this Brit carrier. Yet, when on a Med cruise in early ‘60s, we carried about 100 aircraft and around 5000 personnel, includng the folks in the squadrons. The ship was not originally intended for that many people, but we slept three deep on canvas tied to aluminum frames in our berthing spaces. .....We did not have the little private sleeping berths with curtains, etc., that sailors of today expect.
I find it hard to believe that a ship so much larger than mine can only accommodate so few aircraft and personnel.
Now I know that aircraft today are larger, so that’s part of the reason. However, we carried AD-4, F4-H, A-4D, F-8U, helos and large A-3 Skywarriors.
Just a little memory recall and amazement at the waste of money for so little firepower.
I read that one of the serious problems the South Atlantic Task Force faced during the Falklands War was that they had no AWACS capability. Under NATO they relied on the US for that support. The RN was reduced to using short range radar from helicopters as a stop gag measure to gain some sort of early warning of an incoming Argentine air raid. And it was not very effective. It this aircraft carrier to be a fighter/helicopter only ship with no RN AWACS capability?
Comparison of country’s carriers and aircraft amount.
The RN was reduced to using short range radar from helicopters as a stop gag measure to gain some sort of early warning of an incoming Argentine air raid. And it was not very effective. It this aircraft carrier to be a fighter/helicopter only ship with no RN AWACS capability?
Actually HMS Illustrious with the first two prototype AEW.2 SeaKings only reached the Maldives after hostilities ceased.