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Links:
Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier (Royal Navy).
Aircraft Carrier Alliance.
Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier (Wiki).
Layout of the Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier (pdf).
British supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth video.
Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers in Action video.
Rosyth Dockyard Webcam.
HMS Queen Elizabeth passes under bridges at night video.
Queen Elizabeth Carrier Tracker (MarineTraffic).

HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier - Wikimedia Commons.


HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth & Super Hornets from USS George H.W. Bush - Wikimedia Commons.


On 8 August 2017, Queen Elizabeth broke off from sea trials to rendezvous with the ships engaged in Exercise 'Saxon Warrior', this allowed for a photo exercise in company with the American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and her battle group, comprising USS Donald Cook, USS Philippine Sea, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Westminster and KNM Helge Ingstad.









Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier sets sail

Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier - Wikimedia Commons.

The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier set sail from Rosyth dockyard for the first time on Monday 26th June 2017.

She left dock to start two years of sea trials. It was a four-hour operation to move her from the basin into the Forth, beginning just before 2pm. Around midnight, at low tide, she then sailed under the Forth bridges.

She sailed into the North Sea and Moray Firth proving all of her systems, such as speed, manoeuvrability, power and propulsion, returning back to Rosyth for further testing and maintenance. During the trials the Carrier was escorted by HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke, both Type 23 Frigates.

Helicopter flight trials will begin later this year (2017), before F-35B Lightning II flight trials begin off the east coast of the United States in October 2018.

Queen Elizabeth Carrier sails to her home port of Portsmouth:
The Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier made her way down the western coast of Britain and arrived at her home port of Portsmouth on the morning of Wednesday 16th of August. 820 Naval Air Squadron, with their Merlin HM.2 helicopters, were on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sailed into Portsmouth harbour.

New facilities and infrastructure have been built at Portsmouth, and the harbour has been dredged to accommodate the two new aircraft carriers.

Queen Elizabeth Carrier departs from Portsmouth:
The Queen Elizabeth Carrier departed from her home base at Portsmouth, on Monday 30th October 2017, to begin the second stage of trials which aims to test her Mission Systems.

Queen Elizabeth Carrier Tracker (MarineTraffic website):

HMS Queen Elizabeth on sea trials, escorted by Type 23 Frigate, HMS Sutherland
(Click on graphic and Search for 'HMS Queen Elizabeth' to track ship).

Queen Elizabeth Class:
The Queen Elizabeth Class consists of two large aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. They are being built by four companies across seven shipyards, with final block integration and assembly at Rosyth. The carriers are approximately 70,600 tonnes with a length of 920ft, and a beam of 240ft and are each powered by two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 gas turbines as well as four Wartsila 38 marine diesel engines, giving them a speed of over 25 knots. There are two islands, with the forward island used for navigating the ship and the aft island for controlling flying operations.

Under the flightdeck are a further nine decks, including a large hangar deck which is large enough to accommodate up to twenty fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and two lifts which can each raise two F-35B Lightning II from the hangar deck to the flight deck in 60 seconds.

Carrier Air Group:
Both carriers will be completed as originally planned, in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) configuration, and will use the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft. They are designed to carry up to 36 F-35B aircraft and four helicopters although they have the capacity to carry many more aircraft than this. Typically the amount and the type of aircraft carried will depend on the carrier's mission. Below are the types of aircraft that will most likely be carried:

Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II:
The F-35B Lightning II is the Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant. The other two F-35 variants are the F-35A Lightning II which is a conventional take off and landing variant, and the F-35C Lightning II which is a carrier-based CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) variant. As the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier does not feature a CATOBAR configuration but instead has a ski jump then the F-35B Lightning II STOVL variant is to be used.

The F-35B is a fifth-generation, single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth, multi-role combat aircraft. It is designed to perform ground attack and air defense missions.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) will jointly operate the F-35B Lightning II, which will be based at RAF Marham from 2018, and the base is currently undergoing enhanced infrastructure to support these aircraft. The F-35B will be operated by 617 Squadron RAF and 809 Naval Air Squadron (Fleet Air Arm), as well as three further unnamed squadrons. These Squadrons will have a mix of RAF and Royal Navy personnel and both will deploy aboard the new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. Currently the UK has ten F-35B aircraft (17 Sqn) being used for Operation and Evaluation in the USA.

In November 2015, the government announced its commitment to a full order of 138 F-35 aircraft, with 24 available for carrier duties by 2023. The UK currently has 10 F-35s in the USA which are being used for testing, with another 14 on order, and 42 (24 fighters and 18 training aircraft) to be fast-tracked by 2023.

F-35B Lightning II Squadrons:
17 Squadron RAF Operation and Evaluation (Edwards AFB, USA) - F-35B Lightning II.
617 Squadron RAF (To be formed at RAF Marham) - F-35B Lightning II.
809 Naval Air Squadron (To be formed at RAF Marham) - F-35B Lightning II.
Unnamed Squadron RAF (To be formed at RAF Marham) - F-35B Lightning II.
Unnamed Squadron Naval Air Squadron (To be formed at RAF Marham) - F-35B Lightning II.
207 OCU Squadron (To be formed at RAF Marham) - F-35B Lightning II.


Merlin HM2, HC4 helicopter:
The Merlin HM2 helicopter is operated from Royal Navy ships primarily as an ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft, and is based at RNAS Culdrose. Thirty Merlin HM2 have recently been upgraded from the Merlin HC1 with the last one delivered in July 2016. The HM2 has a new mission system, digital cockpit, electro-optical camera and multi-static processing for the sonar system. It has a dipping sonar, sonobuoys, and weapons include four Stingray torpedoes or depth charges, anti-ship missiles for ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare), and three door-mounted machine guns. It is also used for reconnaissance, general transport and load-lifting. The Merlin HM2 has been billed as the World's most technologically advanced anti-submarine and maritime patrol helicopter. Fourteen Merlin HM2 helicopters will be assigned to the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

At the end of 2009, it was announced that the Royal Air Force would transfer its Merlin helicopters to the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) who were retiring their Sea King helicopters in 2016. Twenty five Merlin HC3 helicopters were acquired by the Commando Helicopter Force, who are based at RNAS Yeovilton, but they needed to be made suitable for shipboard operations. Seven helicopters were upgraded to HC3i (i for interim) which included folding rotors. The Merlin HC4 will be fully upgraded with folding rotors, and similar avionics to the Merlin HM2. Commando Helicopter Force use these helicopters in support of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and other force elements.

Crowsnest:
The Falklands War, in 1982, proved that an Airbourne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft is essential to provide a vital intelligence, surveillance and tracking system, capable of detecting any potential threats at sea. Presently, this job is done by the Sea King ASaC.7 helicopter, based at RNAS Culdrose, which is due to retire in September 2018, but this will be replaced by Crowsnest, a tactical sensor suite which can be fitted to any Royal Navy Merlin HM2 helicopter. Ten Crowsnest pods are planned and the system is expected to enter service in 2020.

Merlin Squadrons:
814 Naval Air Squadron (RNAS Culdrose) - Merlin HM.2.
820 Naval Air Squadron (RNAS Culdrose) - Merlin HM.2.
824 Naval Air Squadron OCU (RNAS Culdrose) - Merlin HM.2.
829 Naval Air Squadron (RNAS Culdrose) - Merlin HM.2.
845 Naval Air Squadron CHF (RNAS Yeovilton) - Merlin HC.3A.
846 Naval Air Squadron CHF (RNAS Yeovilton) - Merlin HC.3i.


Wildcat AH1 and HMA2:
The AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat has replaced the Westland Lynx helicopter and has greatly improved performance and capabilities. While the Wildcat looks similar to the Lynx, it has significant design differences and is heavily modernised and adapted to gain new attributes and functionality. The UK has ordered 34 Wildcats for the British Army and 28 for the Royal Navy, which are all based at RNAS Yeovilton.

The Wildcat HMA2, like the Merlin HM2, is used on Royal Navy ships for ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare), ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare), utility and search & rescue. The Wildcat HMA2 is much smaller and lighter than the Merlin HMA2, and lacks the Merlin's range, but its smaller size and agility is useful for operating from the decks of smaller ships.

The British Army operate the Wildcat AH1 which performs a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, command and control, transportation of troops and material, and the provision of force protection. It is a much more powerful helicopter than the Lynx, which it has replaced, enabling it to operate in extreme conditions and at high altitudes.

Wildcat Squadrons:
825 Naval Air Squadron (RNAS Yeovilton) - Wildcat HMA.2.
847 Naval Air Squadron CHF (RNAS Yeovilton) - Wildcat AH.1.
652 Squadron AAC (RNAS Yeovilton) - Wildcat AH.1


Chinook:
The Chinook provides heavy-lift support and transport across all branches of the British armed forces. The twin-rotor Chinook aircraft are used for trooping, resupply, and battlefield Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC), and for carrying internal and/or underslung loads. They can carry up to 55 troops (usually 24 to 40) and/or up to 10 tonnes of freight. A secondary role includes Search and Rescue (SAR).

This versatile support helicopter can be armed with crew served weapons to provide self-defence, and can be operated from land or ship in such diverse environments as the Arctic, jungle and desert. Weapons can include two M134 six-barrelled Miniguns, one in each front side window, and an M60D machine gun on the ramp. The Chinook is well equipped with defensive aids and has a Radar Warning Receiver, an Ultraviolet and Doppler Missile Approach Warning System, infrared jammers and chaff and flare dispensers, which can be manually or automatically fired.

The RAF Chinook fleet is the largest outside the United States and is based at RAF Odiham which is home to the UK Chinook Force and operates three Chinook squadrons, 7 Squadron, 18 Squadron and 27 Squadron.

Chinook Squadrons:
7 Squadron RAF (RAF Odiham) - Chinook.
18 Squadron RAF (RAF Odiham) - Chinook.
27 Squadron RAF (RAF Odiham) - Chinook.


Apache:
The Apache attack helicopter can operate in all weathers, day or night and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds. It carries a mix of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun, as well as a state of the art fully integrated defensive aid suite.

In addition to the distinctive Longbow radar located above the rotor blades, this aircraft is equipped with a day TV system, thermal imaging sight and direct view optics.

The UK currently operates a modified version of the Apache Longbow, initially called the Westland WAH-64 Apache, it is designated the Apache AH1 by the British Army. Westland built 67 WAH-64 Apaches under license from Boeing and they were produced from 1998 to 2004. The UK Ministry of Defence announced that fifty of the UK's WAH-64 Mk 1 fleet will be re-manufactured to AH-64E Apache Guardian standard, with the first UK helicopters due off the US production line in early 2020 and will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022.

Apache Squadrons:
3 Regiment, Army Air Corps:
653 Squadron AAC (Wattisham Airfield) - Apache AH1
662 Squadron AAC (Wattisham Airfield) - Apache AH1
663 Squadron AAC (Wattisham Airfield) - Apache AH1

4 Regiment, Army Air Corps:
656 Squadron AAC (Wattisham Airfield) - Apache AH1
664 Squadron AAC (Wattisham Airfield) - Apache AH1


HMS Queen Elizabeth Timeline:

Ship named - 4th July 2014
Floated-out - 17th July 2014
Training Cruise - June 2017 (manned but still in port at Rosyth)
Set Sail (First sea trials) - 26th June 2017
First helicopter on board - Merlin HM.2 (820 NAS) - 3rd July 2017
Sea trials - Summer 2017
Arrives at home port of Portsmouth - 16th August 2017
Set Sail from Portsmouth (Second sea trials) - 30th October 2017
Flight trials with helicopters - 2017
F-35B flight trials - End of 2018
Operational military capability - 2020