The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy and will represent a step change in capability, enabling the delivery of increased strategic effect and influence around the world.
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.
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.
The 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 streamlined crew to operate a vessel much larger than the carrier which it replaces, 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.
Affordability of through life support has also 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.
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.
There will be four galleys on board and four large dining areas which will be manned by 67 catering staff. The largest dining room has the capacity to serve 960 crew members in one hour.
Each ship will have an eight bed medical suite, operating theatre and dental surgery, which will be managed by 11 medical staff. These facilities can also be augmented to suit the requirements of every individual mission.
Crew facilities on board both ships will include a cinema and fitness suites in order to provide crew members, some of whom will be away from home for months at a time, a good range of recreational activities. Crew members will have personal access to e-mail and the internet (when satellite communications equipment is not being used for operational purposes!).
The ships will each have a fully integrated command system, which has three functional areas:
- Information System – The computing hardware, internal Networks and C4I software applications to support effective command and control on the carrier. E.g. – Considerable work has been done with Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Information Defence Lines of Development to understand how the data repository on board will be accessed by new and legacy systems and how that repository will be configured in the future.
- Communications – The communications equipment to support the required voice and data services.
E.g. – an emulation of the Communication Control Management System and the Tactical C2 Voice system have been procured to exercise the business process of configuring the carrier for internal and external communications.
- Air Management and Protection System – The on-board sensor and weapon systems for the management of aircraft in the air and on deck and the defence of the ship.
What’s in a name?
HMS Queen Elizabeth
There have been more than twenty ships named Elizabeth, the list of Battle Honours for which extends from the Armada in 1588 to Guadeloupe in 1810. However, only one ship by the name HMS Queen Elizabeth has served with the Royal Navy – as the lead ship of an important and innovative class of battleships which served with great distinction in both World Wars.
With 15 inch guns as her principal armament, the first HMS Queen Elizabeth was a 33,000 ton battleship. Built in Portsmouth, she was launched in 1913 and was completed the following year. Her service history during the World Wars included the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet during World War I. Despite damage from torpedoes during World War II, she went on to take part in operations in the Indian Ocean before returning home.
HMS Prince of Wales
The Royal Navy's first ship named HMS Prince of Wales was originally a French privateer, commissioned on behalf of the ex-King James, then taken as prize by HMS York in 1693 and brought into service as a Sixth Rate ship, armed with 14 guns.
There have been a further seven Royal Navy ships called Prince of Wales. The most recent a 'King George V' Class battleship, built by Cammell Laird in 1939. The service history of this ship included the Battle of the Denmark Straight during which the German battle ship, The Bismarck, was destroyed.
In 1941 HMS Prince of Wales transported Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Newfoundland where he met with the then President of the United States, Franklin D Roosevelt, to agree the Atlantic Charter.