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Built by the Nation for the Nation

The Nation’s flagships

The Queen Elizabeth Class will be utilised by all three sectors of the UK Armed Forces and will provide eight acres of sovereign territory which can be deployed around the world. Both ships will be versatile enough to be used for operations ranging from supporting war efforts to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

About the ships

Aircraft Carriers in Action

With its complement of embarked aircraft, the QE Class will be the centre piece of Britain’s military capability in circumstances where we cannot, or do not wish to base our aircraft on land. The ships will act as a rapidly deployable sovereign base to deliver expeditionary air operations at a time and place of the UK’s choosing, but will also be highly capable and versatile vessels which will deliver a high profile and coercive presence worldwide to support peace-keeping, conflict prevention and other strategic aims.

Designed to Serve

Aircraft Carriers are warships designed to deliver air power from the maritime environment, whenever and wherever required around the world. Each 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four acre military operating base, which can be deployed worldwide. The vessels will be versatile enough to be used for operations ranging from supporting war efforts to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief. With an expected service life of up to 50 years, the QE Class will be potent joint defence assets, able to meet the widest range of tasks around the world. They are the most capable and powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK.

Design to serve

For the 679 permanent crew of the QE Class carriers, life will be exciting, challenging and busy. Whilst living conditions and recreational facilities will be amongst the best of any naval ship, this will not detract from the military business the carriers will conduct. Ranging from war-fighting through conflict resolution, conflict prevention and conventional deterrence, to influence and diplomacy, the QE Class of ships will offer true versatility to the UK government and military, able to engage around the world and ensure the UK’s interests are promoted and protected.

HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES will have increased survivability as a result of the separation and distribution of power generation machinery throughout each ship. The class has been designed with twin islands, which separates the running of the ship from the flying operations resulting in greater visibility of flying operations. The Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System enables a strealimed crew to operate a vessel much larger than the carrier being replaced, meaning that each ship will have a total crew of 679, only increasing to the full complement of 1,600 when the air elements are embarked.

The STOVL variant is a fifth generation stealth aircraft and represents a step change in the UK’s combat air capability. The ships will use an electric propulsion system that enables the prime movers to operate more efficiently and therefore burn less fuel, saving running costs.

Affordability of through life support has been a key driver in adopting a commercial design. Key operational spaces can be readily reconfigured and additional equipment inserted in a cost effective and timely manner to suit the future requirements of the Armed Forces and the Nation.

While the precise mix of aircraft boarded will be dependent on the mission, the carriers have the capacity to embark a maximum of 36 F-35B and four CROWSNEST AEW helicopters. Alternatively, they can also carry up to 12 Chinook or Merlin helicopters, and eight Apache attack helicopters enabling the QE Class to support a broad range of operations.

The QE Class are equipped with an operating theatre and isolation ward which would be available for humanitarian operations should the need arise. They will have a significant organic passenger boat transfer and helicopter transfer capability and have the ability to generate up to 110 MW of electrical power, although some of this electrical power will be required to sustain the ships life support systems. The QE Class will provide a Generic Command Facility that can accommodate up to 74 personnel and will provide communications equipment that is routinely deployed in Royal Navy warships.

The ships will each have a fully integrated command system, which has three functional areas; Information Systems, Communications and Air Management and Protection System.

Design and build

The design process for the Queen Elizabeth Class has spanned several years owing in part to the fact that several ship building facilities across the UK have been utilised as no single ship yard could deliver each of the entire ships alone. One of the key priorities of warship designers and engineers was to have the capacity to think about future requirements as in general terms; it can take several years to see a ship make the transition from a computer generated image in the drawing office to a highly capable vessel in service with the Royal Navy.

The design process began in 1999 with concept designs for the programme being produced and adapted to ensure that the correct specification for the requirements of the Armed Forces could be delivered.

Long gone are the days when draughtsmen drew out ship designs using pencil and paper and now engineers and designers use the latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology which enables alterations to be made more swiftly, effectively and exactly.

The QE Class aircraft carriers have been designed in a similar way to the Type 45 Destroyers, using modular build rather than the traditional method of from the keel up. As such, the designers have to be 100% precise, as every section of the ship must meet the other relevant sections exactly with no room for error. The engineers, naval architects and designers working on the programme are some of the most highly skilled from UK industry with an excellent track record of delivering state of the art warships to the Royal Navy and other foreign navies.

Both ships have been designed with two island structures located on the flight deck. One will be responsible for air operations and air traffic control, while the other houses the ship’s bridge and controls vessel navigation, which will give maximum flexibility to the Royal Navy crew.

Lloyds Register principles have been applied to the design of the QE Class and this is the first class of UK warships which have been designed from the start using Lloyds Naval Ship Rules for Systems & Structural Design as well as Lloyds commercial rules for equipment procurement.

A national endeavour

The programme to build the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers is a hugely significant national endeavour.

The primary ship building facilities used to build the aircraft carriers were based in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Hebburn in Tyneside, Birkenhead in Merseyside, Portsmouth and Rosyth in Fife where the blocks for both ships have been brought together. There are also hundreds of companies based around the UK that make up the wider supply chain and provide many of the component parts used to construct both aircraft carriers.

Having hundreds of companies involved in the programme means that many thousands of people are currently working together as part of the massive team responsible for delivering both ships.

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