Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier

Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier

The "Queen Elizabeth" class aircraft carriers (formerly the Carrier Vessel Future (CVF) project) are a two-ship class of aircraft carrier being developed for the Royal Navy. HMS "Queen Elizabeth" is expected to enter service in 2014, HMS "Prince of Wales" in 2016. The vessels will displace about 65,000 tonnes (full load), be 280 metres long and capable of carrying up to 50 aircraft.

The need to replace the ageing "Invincible" class aircraft carriers was confirmed by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. From six contractors, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Thales and BAE Systems in late 1999 to compete for the final contract. In September 2002 the MoD announced that the Royal Navy and RAF will operate the STOVL F-35B Lightning II variant and further that the carriers would take the form of large, conventional carriers, which will initially be adapted for STOVL operations. On 30 January 2003 the MoD announced that the Thales design had won the competition but that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor. The two companies are now part of a "carrier alliance" with the MoD and other companies.

The contract for the vessels was announced on 25 July 2007 by the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring.cite hansard | url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070725/debtext/70725-0007.htm#07072570000993 | house=House of Commons | date=2007-07-25] The cost is estimated to be £3.9 billion.cite news |first=Michael|last=Evans|title=Go-ahead for £5bn aircraft carriers |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2141406.ece|work=The Times |publisher=Times Newspapers |date=2007-07-25 |accessdate=2007-07-26] The contracts were officially signed 1 year later on 3 July 2008 after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Shipbuilding which was a requirement of the UK Government.cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7483942.stm |title=New contract 'will secure Rosyth' |last=Keane |first=Kevin |publisher=BBC |date=2008-07-03 |accessdate=2008-07-03]



The 22,000 tonne "Invincible" class aircraft carriers, "Invincible", "Illustrious" and "Ark Royal", were designed for Cold War anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic as part of a combined NATO fleet and have limited space for STOVL fixed-wing aircraft. The 1982 Falklands War demonstrated the need to maintain aircraft carriers to support the United Kingdom's foreign policy.

Since the end of the Cold War the "Invincible" class ships have operated in a more traditional aircraft carrier mission, that of power projection. As a result the Royal Air Force's Harrier GR7s have been routinely deployed on the carriers which have been modified to carry more aircraft and ammunition (notably with the removal of the Sea Dart defensive weapon system). Despite the shortcomings of the Invincible class in this role, formal studies did not begin until 1994 regarding the replacement of the ships.

trategic Defence Review

In May 1997, the newly-elected Labour government launched the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) which re-evaluated every weapon system (active or in procurement) with the exception of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the "Vanguard" class ballistic missile submarines. The report, published in July 1998 concluded that aircraft carriers offered the following:cite web |url=http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/65F3D7AC-4340-4119-93A2-20825848E50E/0/sdr1998_complete.pdf |title=Strategic Defence Review |accessdate=2008-07-08 |publisher=Ministry of Defence |pages= 143-144|month=July | year=1998|format=PDF]
*Ability to operate offensive aircraft abroad when foreign basing may be denied.
*All required space and infrastructure; where foreign bases are available they are not always available early in a conflict and infrastructure is often lacking.
*A coercive and deterrent effect when deployed to a trouble spot.The report concluded: "the emphasis is now on increased offensive air power, and an ability to operate the largest possible range of aircraft in the widest possible range of roles. When the current carrier force reaches the end of its planned life, we plan to replace it with two larger vessels. Work will now begin to refine our requirements but present thinking suggests that they might be of the order of 30,000–40,000 tonnes and capable of deploying up to 50 aircraft, including helicopters."

It is planned that advanced design and maintenance techniques will eliminate the present requirement for major refits. In addition, HMS "Ocean", a specialised helicopter landing platform, fills a role previously undertaken by the "Invincible" class carriers.

Design studies

On 25 January 1999 six companies were invited to tender for the assessment phase of the project; Boeing, British Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Marconi Electronic Systems, Raytheon and Thomson-CSF. [cite news |first=Alexander |last=Nicoll |title=US companies bid for $2.5bn ships deal |work=Financial Times |date = 1999-01-26|accessdate=2007-07-26 ] On 23 November 1999 the MoD awarded detailed assessment studies to two consortia, one led by BAe (renamed BAE Systems on 30 November 1999) and one led by Thomson-CSF (renamed Thales Group in 2000). The brief required up to six designs from each consortium with airgroups of 30 to 40 Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA). The contracts were split into phases; The first £5.9 million phase was for design assessment which would form part of the aircraft selection, the second £23.5 million phase involved "risk reduction on the preferred carrier design option." [cite news|title=Shipyard in running for Navy contract |work=Belfast Telegraph |publisher=Belfast Telegraph Newspapers |date=1999-11-24 |accessdate=2007-07-26 ]

Possible configurations of the vessels were varied:
*STOVL - F-35B Lightning II :Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) carriers would remove the need for costly steam catapults and arrestor gear (CATOBAR), and would also take advantage of the UK experience in STOVL technology. This is at the expense of aircraft range and payload capability (for an equal size CATOBAR carrier). However the difference in capability between an F-35B and F-35C is slight compared to the gulf in capability between the Harrier and, for example, the F/A-18. [http://www.jsf.mil/downloads/documents/AFA%20Conf%20-%20JSF%20Program%20Brief%20-%2026%20Sept%2006.pdf F-35 Program brief (PDF)] ] [http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=1100&tid=1200&ct=1 F/A-18 US Navy fact file] ] [ [http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/fighter/f18/ F/A-18 Hornet page on Aerospaceweb.org] ]

*STOBAR - Eurofighter Typhoon (Navalised):Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) again removes the requirement for the expense of catapults but uses arrestor gear. In this way conventional aircraft (with modification) can be used. Any STOBAR design would most likely have used a navalised version of the Eurofighter Typhoon; i.e. strengthened landing gear, modified flight control system and inclusion of an arrestor hook suitable for carrier use. The advantages of this would be increased range, manoeuvrability, greater weapons stand-off and payload compared to a STOVL design and higher operating efficiency than a CATOBAR design.The BAE Systems study, carried out earlier this year, determined that the aircraft could be built to land on carriers without major difficulty and would be more cost-effective.Fact|date=July 2008 Disadvantage only include lower stealth characteristics than the F-35.

*CATOBAR - F-35C Lightning II - F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - Rafale M :A Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) CVF would have used catapults and arrestor cables and an angled flight deck with existing naval aircraft, most likely the F/A-18 or Rafale-M. This has the advantage of reducing technical risk for development of both the aircraft and carriers and offering maximum payload and range capabilities. There are disadvantages however, including higher operating costs and the minimal British involvement in development of the aircraft due to the "off-the-shelf" purchase.

*"Hybrid":A late BAE submission was a hybrid carrier, featuring a STOVL ski-jump with angled flight deck, catapults and arrestor cables. Advantages of this design include the ability to operate STOVL offensive aircraft and CATOBAR AEW aircraft (e.g. E-2 Hawkeye).

Aircraft and carrier format selection

On 17 January 2001 the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for full participation in the Joint Strike Fighter programme, confirming the JSF as the FJCA. This gave the UK input into aircraft design and the choice between the Lockheed X-35 and Boeing X-32. On 26 October 2001 the DoD announced that Lockheed Martin had won the JSF contract.

On 30 September 2002 the MoD announced that the Royal Navy and RAF will operate the STOVL F-35B variant. At the same time it was announced that the carriers would take the form of large, conventional carriers, initially adapted for STOVL operations. The carriers, expected to remain in service for 50 years, are designed for, but not with, catapults and arrestor wires. The carrier is thus said to be "future proof", allowing it to operate a generation of CATOBAR aircraft beyond the F-35.

On 30 January 2003 the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that the Thales Group design had won the competition but that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor. [cite hansard | url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030130/debtext/30130-10.htm#30130-10_head0 | house=House of Commons |date=2003-01-30]


MOPA2 is the DCN/Thales company charged with the design of the second French aircraft-carrier (CVF-Fr) from the CVF design. This company is also to be used to advise the carrier alliance on how best to facilitate the adaptation of the common design to the needs of the French Navy. The Carrier Alliance recently modified the size of the flight deck to allow a better adaptation for the CATOBAR design, a solution adopted for France and that the United Kingdom want to keep in possibility for the future (future proof).


The vessels will displace approximately 65,000 tonnes each, over three times the displacement of the current "Invincible" class. The vessels will be the largest warships ever built in the UK and the most capable aircraft carriers outside of the U.S. Navy. [cite news |first=James|last=Rogers|title=Britain orders two massive new aircraft carriers|url=http://www.globalpowereurope.eu/2007/07/britain-orders-two-massive-aircraft.html|work=GLOBAL POWER EUROPE |date=2007-07-25 |accessdate=2007-08-15] Nothing of the scale has been proposed for the Royal Navy since the cancelled 1960s CVA-01 programme. Giving evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West explained that interoperability with the United States Navy was a factor in deciding of the size of the carriers as the firepower of the carrier's airwing:

[for a] deep strike package, we have done …quite detailed calculations and we have come out with the figure of 36 joint strike fighters …that is the thing that has made us arrive at that size of deck and that size of ship, to enable that to happen.I have talked with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) in America. He is very keen for us to get these because he sees us slotting in with his carrier groups. He really wants us to have these, but he wants us to have the same sort of clout as one of their carriers.

The design features two small island structures, one devoted to ship navigation, and the other to air operations. This allows optimal placement of bridges for both tasks: navigation calls for a bridge placed forward (as on the "Charles De Gaulle"), while air operations are made easier with a bridge placed abaft (as seen on the US "Nimitz" class). Two deck lifts will be used, both on the starboard side.

Carrier Air Group

The vessels are expected to be capable of carrying 40 fixed wing and rotary aircraft; approximately 36 F-35B Lightning II strike fighters as well as helicopters. [cite news| first = Christopher| last = Adams| title = MoD gives nod for aircraft carriers| work = Financial Times| date = 2007-07-25| accessdate = 2007-07-26] In context, one carrier's air wing is almost three times the size of the Tornado GR.1 force deployed in Operation Desert Fox and the same number as the Tornado GR.4/Harrier GR.7 offensive fleet which participated in Operation Telic. Both of these land based deployments required the agreement of a local friendly nation. Defence Equipment and Support Organisation COO David Gould stated in January 2008 that the carriers will initially operate Harrier GR9s until approximately 2018. This is due to the fact that there will not be "a carrier's worth of fully productionised, trained and equipped [F-35s] in 2014." [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmdfence/uc295-i/uc29502.htm Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence] House of Commons Defence Select Committee]

The Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) component began as "Future Organic Airborne Early Warning" (FOAEW), with contracts being placed with BAE/Northrop Grumman and Thales in April 2001. [cite news |first=Stewart|last=Penney|title=UK Airborne Early Warning study contracts assigned |work=Flight International |publisher=Reed Business Information |page=16 |date=2001-04-10 |accessdate=2007-07-27] In April 2002 BAE and Northrop Grumman received a follow-on study contract for Phase II of the project by then renamed Maritime Airborne Surveillance & Control (MASC). [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=BAE SYSTEMS, Northrop Grumman Awarded Follow-On Carrier AEW Study |work=Defense Daily |publisher=PBI Media |date=2002-04-17 |accessdate=2007-07-27]


The MoD decided not to use nuclear propulsion due to its high costs. [Morrocco, John. "U.K. Launches Future Aircraft Carrier Studies" Aviation. "Week and Space Technology." The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1999-02-01. Retrieved on 2007-07-28. ] The carrier's propulsion system will be Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP) with Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW gas turbine generator units.

The optimum location for the position of the main propulsion system is being examined, with maximising the hangar space below decks a major consideration. The current design places one gas turbine generator unit under each island in the starboard sponson, on 4 deck. The unrefuelled range of the carrier will be 10,000 nautical miles (18 520 km).


Many of the systems remain unspecified, but most of the designs that have been released so far show a BAE Systems Insyte/Thales S1850M long range radar on the forward island structure. However, it was announced on 4 August 2008 that they would also be fitted with BAE Systems Insyte Artisan 3D Radars as a medium range radar fitted to the aft island. [cite web|title=mod.uk|url=http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/NavyToGetNewRadar.htm]


During a speech on 21 July 2004 Geoff Hoon announced a one year delay to allow contractual and cost issues to be resolved. In February 2005 the MoD announced that Kellog Brown & Root UK Ltd had been selected as "Physical Integrator" for the project, overseeing the finalisation of the design and the construction process. This was due to concerns that neither BAE nor Thales had the capacity to oversee the construction on their own.

The building of the carriers was confirmed in December 2005. A statement said "the Alliance team of MoD, BAE Systems, Thales and KBR, is to be joined by VT Group and Babcock. The building is to be across four shipyards with final assembly at Rosyth. On 1 July 2008 the long planned naval shipbuilding joint venture between BAE Systems and VT Group, BVT Surface Fleet, became operational.cite press release| title = BVT Surface Fleet Joint Venture becomes operational| publisher = BAE Systems plc| date = 2008-06-30| url = http://www.baesystems.com/Newsroom/NewsReleases/autoGen_108530122154.html| accessdate =2008-07-01] This saw the merger of BAE Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Shipbuilding. BVT will undertake approximately 40% of the project workload. [cite web|title = CVF - Royal Navy Future Aircraft Carrier, United Kingdom|work = www.naval-technology.com|publisher = SPG Media Limited|year = 2008|url = http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/cvf/|accessdate =2008-07-01]

In preparation for the construction phase of the project, long-lead items were ordered in Autumn 2007, including key parts of the main and emergency propulsion systems for the new aircraft carriers from Wärtsilä. [cite news |first=Richard|last=Scott|title=Wärtsilä powers ahead for UK carrier programme|url=http://www.janes.com/events/exhibitions/dsei2007/sections/daily/wrtsil-powers-ahead-for-u.shtml|work=Jane's Information Group |date=2007-09-12 |accessdate=2007-09-12]

On 4 March 2008 Contracts for the supply of 80,000 tonnes of steel were awarded with an estimated value of £65 million with £8 million worth of contracts for other equipment to be used in the ships. These are: [cite news |title=80,000 Tonnes of Steel Ordered For New Aircraft Carriers|url=http://www.royal-navy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.11711|work=Official Royal Navy website |accessdate=2008-05-20]

*The supply of Blown Fibre Optic Cable Plant (BFOCP) technology for the installation of optical cables for data transfer within the ships at a cost in excess of £3 million;
*Reverse osmosis equipment which will produce over 500 tonnes of fresh water daily for up to 1,450 personnel onboard the ships, valued at over £1 million;
*Aviation fuel systems equipment to allow the fuelling and de-fuelling of embarked aircraft at a contract value of approximately £4 million.

On 3 April 2008 a contract for the manufacture of aircraft lifts (worth £13m) was awarded to MacTaggart Scott of Loanhead, Scotland. [cite news |title= Aircraft lifts ordered for new Navy carriers|url= http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/AircraftLiftsOrderedForNewNavyCarriers.htm |work= MOD Defence news |date= 2008-04-04 |accessdate=2008-05-20]

In mid May 2008, the Treasury announced that it would be making available further funds on top of the regular defence budget, reportedly allowing the construction of the carriers to begin. [cite news |first=Richard|last=Alleyne|title=MOD allowed funds for kit and aircraft carriers|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1965357/MOD-allowed-funds-for-kit-and-aircraft-carriers.html|work=The Daily Telegraph |date=2008-05-16 |accessdate=2008-05-20] This was followed, on 20 May 2008, by the government giving the "green light" for construction of "Queen Elizabeth" class, stating that it was ready to sign the contracts for full production once the creation of the planned shipbuilding joint venture between BAE Systems and the VT Group had taken place. [cite news |title=Gov't gives go-ahead for two new aircraft carriers|url=http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i09tIPKqZBPnl_Ol6qpkZXAHUmiA|work=AFP|date=2008-05-20 |accessdate=2008-05-20] It was reported that work would be carried out in Portsmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Glasgow and Rosyth. [cite news |title=Firms scoop £4bn carrier contract|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7409726.stm|work=BBC News|date=2008-05-20 |accessdate=2008-05-20] This was finalised on 1 July 2008. The contracts confirming the deal were signed on 3 July 2008.

On 1 September 2008, the MOD announced a £51 million package of importmant equipment contracts which included:
* The manufacture and installation of the Highly Mechanised Weapons Handling System for the two ships, valued at £34million;
* Supply of uptakes and downtakes systems for both ships, valued at £8million;
* Development and supply of Air Traffic Control software, valued at £5million;
* Wholeship Pump Integration, including supply of pumps and associated systems engineering, valued at over £3million;
* Emergency Diesel Generators, valued at over £1million. [cite web|title=mod.co.uk|url=http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/HitechWeaponsHandlingSystemForNewAircraftCarriers.htm]

On 6 October 2008, it was announced that contracts had been placed for "the carriers' gas turbines, generators, motors, power distribution equipment, platform management systems, propellers, shafts, steering gear, rudders and stabilisers". [cite web |url=http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.13897 |title=£235M Contracts Propel Carrier Project Forward |accessdate=2008-10-07 |work=Royal Navy |publisher=MOD |date=2008-10-07]

Rolls Royce, whose share of these contracts is £96m, will provide rudders, stabilisers and other electric propulsion technology.

Converteam will provide "the electric equipment which controls and monitors the power for the propulsion system and motors, under a contract worth £26m. This involves making medium voltage switchboards, electric converters, and filters."

"Two state of the art gas turbines for each ship will be built in Bristol, producing 70 mega watts (MW) of power and will be coupled to generators to be built in Rugby. Combined with the diesel engines already on order, they will supply the 109 MW of electricity each carrier needs to move through the water at speeds sufficient for launch and recovery of aircraft and to power services such as lighting, cooking and heating - enough energy to supply a town the size of Swindon."

L-3 Communications Marine Systems UK, a division of Montreal-based L-3 MAPPS, will provide the design and production of the integrated platform management system (IPMS). "The L-3 IPMS is based on proven and survivable control systems technology that has been delivered by L-3 MAPPS to over 140 ships and submarines in 18 navies worldwide. On the CVF, it will be hosted on a COTS hardware platform and will provide automated monitoring and control of the propulsion, electrical, auxiliary and damage control systems together with an embedded on-board team trainer. The system will provide the flexibility to enable watch-keeping and damage control teams to operate safely under all operational conditions while meeting the stringent reduced manning requirements of the project."

ee also

* Supercarrier
* Future of the Royal Navy
* Future French aircraft carrier
* European defence procurement


External links

* [http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FactSheets/EquipmentFactsheets/FutureAircraftCarrierscvf.htm Queen Elizabeth class factsheet (Ministry of Defence)]
* [http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/nav.2226 Royal Navy Future Aircraft Carrier]
* [http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/cvf/ Naval-Technology]
* [http://navy-matters.beedall.com Navy Matters]
* [http://www.royal-navy.mod.uk/server/show/nav.2396 Future aircraft due for service in the Royal Navy]

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