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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Britain's First New Aircraft Carrier in Decades Is Almost Ready

The United Kingdom's first aircraft carrier in more than 30 years is just months from sea trials. HMS Queen Elizabeth, named after the reigning monarch, will get the Royal Navy back into the naval aviation game after a brief absence.
Queen Elizabeth is expected to be fully operational by 2020, with her sister ship Prince of Wales following in 2023. The two ships will give the
United Kingdom a powerful capability to fight at sea and attack targets under water and on the ground.
The U.K. lost its carrier aircraft capability with the retirement of the Harrier jump jet fighters in 2010 and the scrapping of its HMS Invincible-class carriers. While this was a blow to the country's ability to project power from the sea, Britain hopes two much larger carriers and a complement of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to go with them will be worth the wait.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy, displacing 70,600 tons and 920 feet long. The Queen Elizabeth will have a crew of 679, and attached Fleet Air Arm personnel will double that number. As a bonus, it can carry up to 250 Royal Marines for helicopter assault operations.

 The carriers were originally set to use catapults to launch airplanes, but the price ballooned and the Royal Navy opted to do without them. Instead, the Queen Elizabeth class features an angled ski deck on the ship's bow to launch airplanes. This will allow F-35B Joint Strike Fighters to do rolling takeoffs with heavier weapon loads and achieve greater ranges.
One of the UK's first F-35B Joint Strike Fighters at Eglin Air Force Base, 2013. Ministry of Defence photo.
 Queen Elizabeth will carry approximately 12 F-35Bs during normal operation, plus a number of Merlin helicopters for anti-submarine and utility duties. In a crisis the air wing will surge to up to 40 planes, including 36 F-35Bs. The ships will also have the ability to launch and recover Royal Army helicopters for air strikes and air assaults, including the WAH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, and Wildcat helicopters.

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