HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)

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HMS Queen Elizabeth in Gibraltar - 2018 (28386226189).jpg
HMS Queen Elizabeth, February 2018
United Kingdom
Name: Queen Elizabeth
Namesake: HMS Queen Elizabeth[1]
Operator: Royal Navy
Ordered: 20 May 2008
Builder: Aircraft Carrier Alliance
  • Program cost: £6.1 billion
    US$10.4 billion (FY2014)[2]
  • Unit cost: £3 billion
    US$5.4 billion (FY2014)[3][4]
Laid down: 7 July 2009[5]
Launched: 17 July 2014
Sponsored by: HM The Queen
Christened: 4 July 2014
Completed: 7 December 2017
Commissioned: 7 December 2017[6]
In service: 2020 (planned)[7]
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Motto: Semper Eadem ("Always the Same")[8]
Status: In active service
Badge: HMS Queen Elizabeth ships crest.jpg[8]
General characteristics
Class and type: Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons; 72,000 short tons)[9]
Length: 284 m (932 ft)[10]

39 m (128 ft) (waterline)

73 m (240 ft) overall
Draught: 11 m (36 ft)[11]
Propulsion: Integrated Electric Propulsion via Two Rolls-Royce Marine 36MW MT30 gas turbine alternators and four 10MW diesel engines[12]
Speed: 29 knots (54 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km)[7]
Capacity: 1,600[13]
Troops: 250[13]
Complement: 679[14]
Sensors and
processing systems:
Aircraft carried:
Aviation facilities:
  • Hangar below deck
  • Two aircraft lifts
  • Ski jump

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom and capable of carrying up to 60 aircraft.[17] She is named in honour of the first Queen Elizabeth, a renowned World War I era super-dreadnought, which in turn was named after Queen Elizabeth I. The new Queen Elizabeth will carry her namesake's honours, as well as her Tudor rose-adorned crest and motto.[1]

The ship began sea trials in June 2017,[18] and was commissioned on 7 December 2017. Her first Commanding Officer is Commodore Jerry Kyd, who had previously commanded the carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious.[19] As Captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Kyd will wear the Royal Navy rank of Captain while retaining the substantive rank of Commodore.[20]

Queen Elizabeth has no catapults or arrestor wires and is instead designed to operate V/STOL aircraft; the air wing will typically consist of F-35B Lightning II multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare. The design emphasises flexibility, with accommodation for 250 Royal Marines and the ability to support them with attack helicopters and large troop transports such as Chinooks. She is the second Royal Navy vessel to bear the name Queen Elizabeth and is based at HMNB Portsmouth.[21]

Design and construction[edit]

On 25 July 2007, the then Defence Secretary Des Browne, announced the order for two new carriers.[22] At the time of approval the first carrier was expected to enter service in July 2015 and the budget was £4.085b for two ships.[23] The financial crisis led to a political decision in December 2008 to slow production, delaying Queen Elizabeth until May 2016. This added £1.560b to the cost.[23] By March 2010 the budget was estimated at £5.900b[23] and in November 2013 the contract was renegotiated with a budget of £6,200m.[24] The in-service date was further extended to 2020 in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010.[25]

Construction of Queen Elizabeth began in 2009. The assembly took place in the Firth of Forth at Rosyth Dockyard from nine blocks built in six UK shipyards: BAE Systems Surface Ships in Glasgow, Babcock at Appledore, Babcock at Rosyth, A&P Tyne in Hebburn, BAE at Portsmouth and Cammell Laird (flight decks) at Birkenhead.[26][27] Two of the lower main blocks, together weighing more than 6,000 tonnes and forming part of the base of the ship, were assembled and joined into one piece on 30 June 2011.[28] On 16 August 2011, the 8,000-tonne Lower Block 03 of Queen Elizabeth left BAE Systems Surface Ships' Govan shipyard in Glasgow on a large ocean-going barge. Travelling 600 miles (970 km) around the northern coast of Scotland, the block arrived at Rosyth on the evening of 20 August 2011.[29] On 28 October 2012, an 11,000-tonne section of the carrier began a lengthy journey around the south coast of England, avoiding bad weather from the shipbuilding hall at Govan to the Rosyth dockyard; it arrived on 21 November.[30] The forward island was constructed at BAE Portsmouth and attached on 14 March 2013; the aft island was attached in June 2013. The ski jump was added in November 2013,[13] leaving just the elevators and radar to be lifted into place.[13] By September 2013 Queen Elizabeth was 80% complete internally.[14] A journalist reported that computers on the vessel appeared to be using Windows XP, which had raised concerns about its vulnerability to a cyberattack, but the source of the confusion was later revealed to be a laptop in use by a contractor.[31][32][33]

She is two and a half times the size of the Invincible-class, and has the ability to carry approximately three times as many aircraft. Despite this, Queen Elizabeth has marginally fewer crew than the Invincible-class. She is approximately three times as large as HMS Ocean. The ship has two superstructures, or islands, one for navigation and ship's operations and the other for flight control and aerial operations. The islands can take on each other's function in an emergency.[34]

Naming ceremony[edit]

Queen Elizabeth was named at Rosyth on 4 July 2014, by Elizabeth II, who said that the warship "marks a new phase in our naval history". Instead of smashing the traditional bottle of champagne on the hull, she used a bottle of whisky from the Bowmore distillery on Islay.

The ceremony was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh (the Lord High Admiral), Admiral George Zambellas (First Sea Lord), senior naval officers from the United States and France, and by politicians including David Cameron and Gordon Brown (the Prime Minister and his immediate predecessor) and Alex Salmond (the then First Minister of Scotland). The official piece of music HMS Queen Elizabeth March, composed by WO2 Bandmaster John Morrish, was performed at the naming ceremony by HM Royal Marines Band, Scotland. This piece of music is a competition winning march chosen by the Carrier Alliance Group, performed and recorded by the Royal Marines Massed Bands.

The ceremony also featured a fly-past by the Red Arrows and a second comprising Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army helicopters. HMS Illustrious was berthed adjacent to Queen Elizabeth during the ceremony.[35]

The ship was floated out of dry dock on the morning of 17 July 2014.[36] Fitting out was completed at the end of 2015 and the crew moved aboard in May 2016. On 24 May 2016, Commodore Jeremy Kyd assumed command of the ship from Captain Simon Petitt who had been the Senior Naval Officer since October 2012 (joining with the first 8 crew).[37]

Sea trials[edit]

Queen Elizabeth at sea on 28 June, two days after her departure from Rosyth, in company with HMS Sutherland (foreground) and HMS Iron Duke (background)

Sea trials were planned beginning in March 2017 with delivery expected in May 2017,[13][36] but technical issues delayed her trials.[38] Prior to her departure from Rosyth, an extensive survey was carried out of the Firth of Forth by HMS Gleaner and 42 Regiment, Royal Engineers to gather information on the tides, the depth of the river bed, and the height of the three river crossings (Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge, and Queensferry Crossing). This was necessary as the most recent data available were 60 years old.[39]

Queen Elizabeth sailed on 26 June 2017 to undergo sea trials.[40][41] The first stage of the operation was to move the ship from inside the fitting out basin, via one of the access gates, into the Firth of Forth itself, before taking her under the three Forth bridge crossings.[42] Once this was accomplished, the ship took to the open sea off the east coast of Scotland to undertake the first set of trials, including handling and speed tests. During this period, Queen Elizabeth was accompanied by a pair of Type 23 frigates, HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke, acting as escorts.[43] The first aircraft to land on the ship was a Merlin HM.2 of 820 Naval Air Squadron on 3 July.[44] Following initial runs in and around the Firth of Forth, Queen Elizabeth was taken further north to the Moray Firth, during which period the ship encountered the Cunard cruise liner MS Queen Elizabeth.[45][46] Queen Elizabeth arrived at her first stopover at Invergordon, where the ship was fuelled and provisioned. At this point inspections of the hull were carried out.[47] This opportunity allowed for defect rectification to be carried out prior to the ship returning to sea.

On 8 August 2017, Queen Elizabeth diverted from her sea trials to rendezvous with the ships engaged in Exercise 'Saxon Warrior'; this allowed for a photo exercise in company with the American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and her battle group, comprising USS Donald Cook, USS Philippine Sea, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Westminster and HNoMS Helge Ingstad.[48]

A pair of Super Hornets from USS George H.W. Bush overfly Queen Elizabeth during Exercise Saxon Warrior in 2017

Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to return to Rosyth at the end of July for rectification work based on the results of the ship's first sea trials, before putting to sea for a second time to undergo a series of mission system tests, prior to being handed over to the Royal Navy.[49] This plan was abandoned and she instead steered for her home port, Portsmouth.[50]

Queen Elizabeth arrived at Portsmouth for the first time on 16 August 2017 and berthed at the newly renamed Princess Royal Jetty (formerly Middle Slip Jetty) within HMNB Portsmouth.[51] On 30 October 2017, the ship departed Portsmouth for the first time for the second phase of her sea trials off the south and south-west coasts of England.[52] For part of this second period of sea trials, she was accompanied by the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon.[53] Queen Elizabeth returned to Portsmouth on 21 November 2017 to prepare for her official commissioning ceremony, which was held on 7 December 2017.[54] Once the initial stage 1 and 2 sea trials were complete, the ship was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 7 December 2017.[55] Following the ship's commissioning, she underwent a period of defect correction in Portsmouth; one instance was a leak through a seal in one of the propeller shafts, which the Royal Navy stated was not serious enough to keep Queen Elizabeth from her planned programme.[56][57]

On 2 February 2018, Queen Elizabeth sailed from Portsmouth for a six-week deployment to undergo the first phases of operational training; initially, the ship was scheduled to head into the Western Approaches to undertake her initial Operational Sea Training (OST) programme. Once complete, Queen Elizabeth was then taken into the North Atlantic for both heavy weather testing and operations to begin helicopter certification, including with Merlin Mk2 and Mk3 and Chinook helicopters. During this deployment, the ship made its first overseas port visit, stopping over in Gibraltar[58] from 9 to 12 February.[59] During this, the ship also began initial amphibious assault trials, with Royal Marines from 42 Commando embarked to simulate an air assault scenario.[60] Queen Elizabeth was also scheduled to undergo a first replenishment at sea from RFA Tidespring; although this had to be abandoned due to bad weather, this allowed both ships the opportunity to simulate the scenario in detail.[61] Queen Elizabeth returned to Portsmouth on 27 February 2018, berthing at Princess Royal Jetty in a "bows south" configuration with her twin islands orientated away from the jetty.[62]

On 2 March 2018 in Portsmouth Harbour, Queen Elizabeth successfully tested her port side Marine Evacuation System (MES), a series of bright orange inflatable escape chutes and rafts.[63] On 6 March 2018, Queen Elizabeth was rotated back to her conventional "bows north" configuration at Princess Royal Jetty with her starboard side alongside the jetty.[64]

Queen Elizabeth alongside in Portsmouth in September 2017

Future work[edit]

On return from the initial OST and helicopter certification work, further work was undertaken to prepare the ship for operation of fixed-wing aircraft, in conjunction with regular maintenance and installation of her final weapons fit. In late August 2018, Queen Elizabeth will sail for the United States where flying trials of the F-35B will begin; during this period, the ship will also pay its first foreign port visit to New York.[65][66][36][67] A "full operational capability" is predicted for 2020.[68]


The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class are each expected to be capable of carrying forty aircraft, a maximum of thirty-six F-35s and four helicopters.[69] The 2010 SDSR anticipated the routine peacetime deployment of twelve F-35Bs, but a typical warload will be 24 F-35Bs and some helicopters.[14] These could be a Maritime Force Protection package of nine anti-submarine Merlin HM2 and five Merlin Crowsnest for airborne early warning; alternatively a Littoral Manoeuvre package could include a mix of Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HC4, Wildcat AH1, RAF Chinooks, and Army Air Corps Apaches.[14] As of September 2013 six landing spots are planned, but the deck could be marked out for the operation of ten medium helicopters at once, allowing the lift of a company of 250 troops.[14] The hangars are designed for CH-47 Chinook operations without blade folding and for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, whilst the aircraft lifts can accommodate two Chinooks with unfolded blades.[70]

Passenger/crew transfer boats[edit]

The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class will each carry four passenger transfer boats (PTBs) made by Blyth-based company Alnmaritec.[71] Each PTB carries 36 passengers and two crew to operate the vessel. The first boat named is named Swordfish, after the World War II-era aircraft of that name.[72] The boat is 13.1 m long and davit-launched. To enable the craft to fit into the docking area the navigation and radar masts are fitted with Linak actuators so that they can be lowered automatically from the command console. The enclosed cabin is heated and there is a set of heads forward.[73] The second of the four PTBs is named Buccaneer after the Blackburn Buccaneer,[74] and the third is Sea Vixen, named after the De Havilland Sea Vixen.[75]

Weapons systems[edit]

Defensive weapons include the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System for anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence, and 30mm Automated Small Calibre Guns and Miniguns for use against fast attack craft.[7] She would be escorted into high risk areas by the Type 45 Destroyer, which was made specially to fulfil this role. In lower risk situations, frigates or even patrol vessels may be used instead.

Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System (HMWHS)[edit]

Incorporated into the first two blocks is a sophisticated handling and deployment system for air weapons, with the aim of achieving a sortie generation rate which is about six times faster than any previous Royal Navy aircraft carrier. The system requires only 50 people and could be operated with as few as 12 in an emergency; it is estimated that 160 would be needed to produce the same efficiency with conventional equipment. The system moves munitions on pallets by means of remotely controlled electric vehicles and lifts.[76]


Official affiliations[edit]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]