Queen Lizzie

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Our British cousins are inordinately proud of their new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales (under construction). 
It’s been a big cost to them and a big risk, because a lot of the brain trust that operated aircraft carriers at sea – is gone and retired. Aircraft carriers require a significant number of trained people to make them work. If the crew is not ready for prime time,  the ships don’t work. If you don’t believe me, ask the Russians or the Chinese. To the credit of the Brits, they get it and the ship won’t be operational until 2021 or 2022 even though it’s essentially complete now.
Prince of Wales should be operational two or three years later.
The UK linked its 65,000 ton carriers to the US-made F-35B (STOL) fighter, which will make up the fixed-wing portion of its air wing. 
The UK will buy a grand total of 17 F-35B fighter jets between 2020 and 2022 – and acquiring the A model of the supersonic stealth fighter hasn’t been ruled out. 
The American government announced on Wednesday the awarding of F-35 production lots 12, 13 and 14 to Lockheed Martin.  
Between January and December 2020 the Royal Navy will receive three F-35Bs, with this number rising to six more being handed over in 2021 and eight in 2022. The approval doc added that these could be “other such quantities or variants as may be authorised by the Ministry of Defence.”
There has been some discussion as to whether the Queen Elizabeth will carry 14 or 16 F-35’s, but pessimists suggest that the number will be closer to 12. They will be flown by a MIXTURE of RAF and Royal Navy aviators because the Royal Navy is short of qualified jet pilots.

I received a personal tour of the Queen Elizabeth last week but had to sign my life away to the Official Secrets Act, so won’t be commenting beyond what’s in print. Basic fitting out will take place in home waters and more advanced sea trials will take place off the US Coast in order to better take advantage of US skill sets to work with their British counterparts. 

All indications are that the two new aircraft carriers will be capable even with their small air wings. I can’t comment on future intentions the British may have to use advanced unmanned aircraft.

20 thoughts on “Queen Lizzie

  1. The Island forward is to con the ship including a flag bridge. The aft island is for managing the flight deck and flight ops. The ships are capable and from a US perspective fit between a Nimitz/Ford flight deck and an LHA. These ships are not designed for US style amphibious operations, but will embark Royal Marine Commandos who can go ashore in helicopters.

    The Brits plan to operate their carriers as a component of US Carrier Battle Groups to augment joint operations. I don't mean to state that they'll never operate independently, but there's an implicit reliance.

  2. They don't have 75+ aircraft operating at anywhere near the tempo a US Aircraft Carrier operates. Apples and oranges. As you wrote, it works for them.

  3. It's a sad state of affairs indeed that the royal navy carriers are reduced to being a mere component of our carrier groups.

  4. There's also the problem of escorts. The Brits are hard pressed to put a genuine fleet to sea these days but I applaud their efforts to do what they've done.

  5. The problem of finding qualified crews struck them between the eyes. They're pursuing the problem wisely, but I think that it was a wake-up call. You can't build and staff a navy easily or cheaply.

  6. Too bad they're buying that turd of an F-35 variant. The Harrier is proven and available.

  7. It makes sense for England to have a navy because it's an island. Some accuse Parliament of lacking that kind of sense.

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  9. The Navy is England's senior service. Some (even in the UK) forget that. Then again, the Scottish Division has been reduced in size to the Scottish Regiment, and the old regiments are now battalions, which are each about half the size of corresponding American battalions. A lot of their regiments are "hollow".

  10. My old regiment is long gone. I guess they're gambling on never having to fight a war again. Good luck with that.

  11. They are relying on the good will of their enemies and the friendship of the USA, which is their to-to source of ready defense.

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