HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)

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HMS Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth Dockyard MOD 45158229.jpg
HMS Queen Elizabeth being floated-out in July 2014
United Kingdom
Name: Queen Elizabeth
Namesake: Queen Elizabeth I[1]
Operator: Royal Navy
Ordered: 20 May 2008
Cost: £3.1bn[2]
Laid down: 7 July 2009[3]
Launched: 17 July 2014
Sponsored by: Elizabeth II
Christened: 4 July 2014
Commissioned: Late 2017 (planned)[4]
In service: 2020 (planned)[5]
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Motto: Semper Eadem ("Always the Same")
Status: Sea trials
Badge: HMS Queen Elizabeth ships crest.jpg
General characteristics
Class and type: Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 70,600 tonnes (69,500 long tons; 77,800 short tons)[6][7][8]
Length: 280 m (920 ft)[9]
  • 39 metres (waterline)
  • 73 metres overall
Draught: 11 metres[10]
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km)[5]
Capacity: 1,600[11]
Troops: 250[11]
Complement: 679[12]
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 carrier, the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy and capable of carrying up to forty aircraft. She was named by Queen Elizabeth II on 4 July 2014, and is expected to begin sea trials in summer 2017 and be formally commissioned by the end of 2017.[16] Her first Commanding Officer is Commodore Jerry Kyd, the former captain of HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious.[17]

Unlike most large carriers she is not fitted with catapults and arrestor wires and is instead designed to operate V/STOL aircraft; her air wing will typically consist of F-35B Lightning II fighter-bombers 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 troop transports up to Chinook size and larger. She is the second Royal Navy vessel to bear the name Queen Elizabeth and is to be based at HMNB Portsmouth.[18]

Design and construction[edit]

On 25 July 2007, the then Defence Secretary Des Browne, announced the order for two new carriers.[19] At the time of approval the first carrier was expected to enter service in July 2015 and the budget was £4,085m for two ships.[20] The financial crisis led to a political decision in December 2008 to slow production, delaying Queen Elizabeth until May 2016. This decision alone added £1,560m to the cost.[20] By March 2010 the budget was estimated at £5,900m[20] and in November 2013 the contract was renegotiated with a budget of £6,200m.[21] The in-service date was further extended to 2020 in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010.[22]

Construction of Queen Elizabeth began in 2009. Her 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.[23][24] 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.[25] 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.[26] On 28 October 2012, an 11,000-tonne section of the carrier began a lengthy journey around the south coast of England (to avoid bad weather) from the shipbuilding hall at Govan, to the Rosyth dockyard; it arrived on 21 November.[27] Her forward island was built 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,[11] leaving just the elevators and radar to be lifted into place.[11] By September 2013 Queen Elizabeth was 80% complete internally.[12]

Forward island leaves Portsmouth in February 2013
HMS Queen Elizabeth during fitting-out on 1 December 2014.

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 the Scottish island of 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 (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.

It also featured a fly-past by the Red Arrows and a second comprising navy, air force and army helicopters. HMS Illustrious was berthed adjacent to Queen Elizabeth during the ceremony.[28]

The ship was floated out of dry dock on the morning of 17 July 2014.[29] 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.[30]

Future work[edit]

Sea trials were planned beginning in March 2017 with delivery expected in May 2017,[11][29] but in January 2017 it was reported that there were "technical issues" delaying her sea trials to mid 2017.[31] A crew member has been reported as saying that the ship will leave for sea trials on 25 June 2017, subject to weather.[32] Initial Contractor Sea Trials will consist of five weeks at sea, a week in port at Invergordon and then another five weeks at sea.[33] Prior to the ship's 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, Queensferry Crossing). This was necessary as the most recent data available was 60 years old.[34] Flight trials with helicopters will begin in 2017 and F-35B flight trials towards the end of 2018.[29] An "operational military capability" will be declared in 2020.[35]


809 Naval Air Squadron will be the first Fleet Air Arm squadron to operate the F-35B

The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class (the other being HMS Prince of Wales) are each expected to be capable of carrying forty aircraft, a maximum of thirty-six F-35s and four helicopters.[36] The 2010 SDSR anticipated the routine deployment of twelve F-35Bs, but a typical warload will be 24 F-35Bs and some helicopters.[12] 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 RAF Chinooks, Army Apaches, Merlin HC4 and Wildcat HM2.[12] 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.[12] 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.[37]

Passenger/Crew Transfer Boats[edit]

The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class (the other being HMS Prince of Wales) will each carry four PTBs made by Blyth-based company Alnmaritec.[38] 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.[39] The boat 13.1 m long and is 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.[40] The second of the four PTB is named "Buccaneer", also after the aircraft.[41]

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.[5]

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.[42]


HMS Queen Elizabeth in July 2014

Official affiliations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of HMS Queen Elizabeth". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 
  2. ^ As of November 2013 the official project cost for the two carriers is £6.2bn
  3. ^ "Work begins on aircraft carriers". BBC News. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "HMS Queen Elizabeth crew switch on its radar for first time". Naval Technology. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Key facts about the Queen Elizabeth Class" (PDF). Aircraft Carrier Alliance. 
  6. ^ Harris, Stephen (27 May 2014). "Your questions answered: HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier". The Engineer. 
  7. ^ "Progress being made but uncertainties remain", WarShip Technology: July/Aug 2013, The Royal Institution of Naval Architects
  8. ^ a b "Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier: A Guide". UK Defence Journal. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  9. ^ "Queen Elizabeth Class". Royal Navy. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) MOD website. retrieved 21 May 2008
  11. ^ a b c d e Hargreaves, Richard (December 2013). "Asset management". Navy News. p. 8. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Osborne, Anthony (11 September 2013). "U.K. Royal Navy Widening Scope of Carrier Use". Aviation Week. 
  13. ^ Royal Navy – Global Force 2013 (PDF) (graphic), Press Association, p. 86  – source: Royal Navy.
  14. ^ What will the Queen Elizabeth class carriers carry?, UK Defence Journal  – source: UK Defence Journal.
  15. ^ Replacing the Invincibles: inside the Royal Navy's controversial £6.2 billion warships, Wired  – source: Wired UK
  16. ^ "Questions asked of MoD as carrier’s sea trials date is pushed back". The News (Portsmouth). 30 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  17. ^ "Royal Navy Appoints First Captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth". Royal Navy. 27 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Portsmouth Naval Base facts". Royal Navy. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  19. ^ "MOD confirms carrier order". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  20. ^ a b c "Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2010 HC489-I" (pdf). House of Commons Defence Committee. 15 October 2010. p. 7 and fig 3. 
  21. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Nov 2013 (pt 0001)". UK Parliament. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  22. ^ "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review" (PDF). HM Government. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  23. ^ "Cammell Laird wins £50m Royal Navy warship contract". Liverpool Echo. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  24. ^ Construction begins at Navy's new carriers' Portsmouth base
  25. ^ "Another giant piece of the carrier slots into place". Navy News. 
  26. ^ "Huge carrier block arrives in Rosyth". Navy News. 22 August 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  27. ^ Navy News – Gigantic piece of HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives to join the rest of the ship – 12/11/2012
  28. ^ "Queen names new Royal Navy aircraft carrier in Rosyth". BBC News. 4 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  29. ^ a b c Osborne, Tony (17 July 2014). "U.K. Carrier Floated for the First Time". Aviation Week. 
  30. ^ First sea captain joins Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, Royal Navy, 24 May 2016 
  31. ^ Hirst, James (31 January 2017), "Series Of Technical Issues" Behind HMS Queen Elizabeth Delays, 
  32. ^ Allison, George (22 June 2017), "HMS Queen Elizabeth likely to sail this week, delay due to weather possible", UK Defence Journal 
  33. ^ Allison, George (15 January 2017). "MoD deny rumours that a new aircraft carrier will be mothballed". UK Defence Journal. 
  34. ^ "Navy’s smallest ship paves way for maiden voyage of its largest". Royal Navy. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  35. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 10 May 2012, UK Parliament, 10 May 2012 
  36. ^ Adams, Christopher (25 July 2007). "MoD gives nod for aircraft carriers". Financial Times. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Osborne, Anthony (30 August 2013). "U.K. Builds Fleet of Modernized Chinooks". Aviation Week. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Downs, David (1 March 2012). "Assembly phase reveals Queen Elizabeth scale". The Engineer. 
  43. ^ "Royal Navy and City of London affirm bonds with new aircraft carrier". Royal Navy. 9 June 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  44. ^ [1] HMS Queen Elizabeth is the affiliate ship of the National Charity of the Royal Navy
  45. ^ "Jambos' ship shape Heart of Midlothian | News". Retrieved 2017-03-10. 

External links[edit]