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.
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.