The UK Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to set sail for the first time today. HMS Queen Elizabeth, built with billions of dollars, is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. The flight deck of the carrier in itself is reportedly thrice the size of a football pitch. When this one begins to service fully, it is capable of operating with a crew of 1,000 and a whopping 40 aircraft. The 65,000-tonne warship is the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carrier since HMS Ark Royal was scrapped in 2010. HMS Queen Elizabeth will leave her dock in Scotland today in order to start two years of sea trials. During an estimated 50-year lifespan, HMS Queen Elizabeth could be helpful in various types of work such as warfighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief anywhere in the world.
The work on the HMS Queen Elizabeth began in 2009 and £3.5bn has been spent on it. But later, it was dogged by delays and overruns in cost and questions over whether there will be enough money to put a full complement of planes aboard. The QE Class Aircraft Carriers is the largest surface warships ever constructed for the UK and represent a step change in the capability of the Royal Navy. The ships will be 65,000 tonnes at full displacement – over three times the size of the previous Invincible Class aircraft carriers. Each HMS Queen Elizabeth can hold 36 planes and four helicopters. The Navy is hoping to have 24 F-35s by 2023 and a further 24 by 2025.
When going out of the dockyard today, to reach the open sea, the carrier will have to conduct two complicated manoeuvres. Firstly it will have to get out of a dockyard basin where the carrier was built but it is very narrow and then have to pass under the three bridges. It will be fine if the calculations are accurate given the arbitrary winds and water, otherwise, there are a few people in the UK who are apprehensive about the ship sailing.
Meanwhile, the carrier is scheduled to be fully operational in 2020, bound for anywhere from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. When it comes to history, over 20 ships in Britain’s Navy have carried the name, Elizabeth. Yet, just one previous warship has been named Queen Elizabeth, however. It was one of the great names of the 20th Century Royal Navy.
The carrier has a crew of about 700 which could theoretically double depending on the number of planes aboard. The carriers, along with the Trident nuclear programme, account for a huge chunk of the defence budget. Critics within the military complain such high-profile projects have been at the expense of surface ships, soldiers and the air force
HMS Queen Elizabeth and a second carrier, the Prince of Wales, also being built at Rosyth and still covered in scaffolding, have together cost more than £6bn, which led to a lot of criticism. Even though each carrier can hold big stealth jets and four helicopters, there are concerns the defence budget won’t allow the Navy to put a full compliment of fighters on board. Critics have also claimed the carriers are too vulnerable to new high-speed missiles, such as the Russian Zircon missile. Amid all the concerns, Queen Elizabeth was inaugurated by Elizabeth II, who said that the warship “marks a new phase in our naval history”.