The new UK CVF Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, are expected to enter service in 2016 and 2018.
CVF will displace 65,000t, a size between the USA's 100,000t Nimitz Class and the French 43,000t Charles de Gaulle Class aircraft carriers, and three times larger than the 20,000t UK Invincible class carriers.
The carrier will have a maximum speed of 25kt.
Queen Elizabeth Class contractors
In January 2003 the Ministry of Defence announced that the preferred prime contractor for the UK future aircraft carrier is BAE Systems with Thales UK as the key supplier. The industrial partnership between BAE Systems and Thales UK is known as the Future Carrier Alliance.
VT Group and Babcock have also joined the alliance.
In December 2005, the UK MoD approved funding of the demonstration phase for detailed design of the carriers, the first part of the main gate decision. It was also announced that 60% of the carriers would be built at four UK shipyards - BAE Systems Govan (hull block 4) and Barrow (block 3), BVT Portsmouth (block 2) and Babcock Appledore and Rosyth (bow block 1).
In April 2006, contracts were placed with Alliance members KBR, BAE Systems Naval Ships, Thales UK, VT Group, Babcock, and BAE Systems Insyte, for the demonstration phase design contracts.
In July 2007, the UK MoD announced main gate approval for the construction of the carriers. At the same time BAE Systems and VT Group announced the planned creation of a joint venture for the design, manufacture and support of UK surface warships. The joint venture company, called BVT Surface Fleet Ltd, began operations on 1 July 2008. This was followed on 3 July 2008 by the UK MoD signing the contracts for the two carriers with BVT and other members of the alliance.
In March 2008, Brand-Rex Limited of Scotland was contracted to provide blown-fibre-optic cable plant (BFOCP) technology. Installation and project management services for the £3m-plus contract are being provided by Alfred-McAlpine - IT Services. Fluid Transfer International won the £4m contract to install aviation fuel systems equipment.
In December 2008, the UK MoD announced that the originally planned in-service dates of the carriers, 2014 and 2016, would be set back by about two years (2016 and 2018) to match the entry into service of the joint combat aircraft, the F-35B.
In January 2009, VT Group announced its intention to sell its holding in the BVT Surface Fleet joint venture to BAE Systems, following UK MoD approval.
The major contractors include BAE Systems - prime contractor; Thales Naval Ltd - key supplier; BAE Systems Insyte (formerly Alenia Marconi Systems) - C4IS; BMT Defence Systems - naval architecture; EDS - systems integration, fleet support, through life support; Lockheed Martin - programme management and engineering; QinetiQ - computer modeling and simulation, technology, test and evaluation; Rolls-Royce - propulsion, life support; Strachan & Henshaw - waste management, munitions handling; Swan Hunter - construction; VT Group - naval architecture, construction, through life support.
The Maritime Group at QinetiQ have developed a suite of advanced modeling and simulation programs that are being used by the QinetiQ and DPA teams with BAE Systems and the major contractors to characterize the hull, flight deck, hangar deck, internal carrier design and other features.
The carrier's service life is substantially longer than the 20-year service life of the selected F-35 STOVL carrier aircraft. The DPA has decided the carriers will be upgradeable to a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) design, so the option will be available to operate conventional maritime aircraft. The hull will be nine-decks deep plus the flight deck.
Joint combat aircraft operations
The maximum sortie rate is 110 joint combat aircraft sorties in a 24-hour period.
The standard air-group of 40 aircraft includes the Lockheed Martin F-35B joint strike fighter, the EH101 Merlin helicopter and the maritime surveillance and control aircraft (MASC).
The maximum launch rate is 24 aircraft in 15 minutes and the maximum recovery rate is 24 aircraft in 24 minutes.
The MASC assessment phase for an airborne early warning aircraft to succeed the Sea King ASaC mk7 helicopter was launched in September 2005. In May 2006, three study contracts were awarded for MASC platform and mission systems options. The contracts were awarded to: Lockheed Martin UK to study the potential of using the Merlin with AEW mission systems, Agusta-Westland to study maintaining the Sea King ASaC mk7 to 2017 and Thales UK to study upgrading the Sea King's mission systems.
In July 2006, two further study contracts for the enhanced manned rotary-wing solution were awarded to EADS Defence & Security Systems UK and Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. The aircraft carriers hanger deck, 155m x 33.5m x 6.7m to 10m high, accommodates up to 20 fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
Under contracts placed in September 2008, Babcock will supply the highly mechanized weapons handling system (HMWHS) and BAE Systems Insyte the air traffic control system for the two vessels.
Instead of a traditional single island, a current ship design has two smaller islands. The forward island is for ship control functions and the aft (FLYCO) island is for flying control.
Advantages of the two island configuration are increased flight deck area, reduced air turbulence over the flight deck and increased flexibility of space allocation in the lower decks. The flight control centre in the aft island is in the optimum position for control of the critical aircraft approach and deck landings.
Depending on budget availability, the radar fit will include a BAE Systems Insyte Sampson multi-function radar on the forward island and an Insyte S1850M air surveillance radar on the aft FLYCO island.
Aircraft carrier deck
The deck will support simultaneous launch and recovery operations. The deck is fitted with a 13° bow deck ski jump.
No catapult or arresters will be fitted in the initial build but the carrier will be built to accommodate a future back-fit. The carrier will be fitted with a steam catapult or electromagnetic launch system and arrester gear, if the option to convert the carrier to the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant proceeds.
The deflectors protect the deck from the blast of the F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft engines operating at maximum thrust for take-off.
An electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) is to be developed by General Atomics in USA for the USN CVN-21 aircraft carrier. The maturity of EMALS technology for integration into UK CVF aircraft carriers will be assessed as the US CVN-21 programme progresses.
Selex Communications was awarded the production contract for the vessels' identification friend or foe (IFF) systems in October 2007.
The Queen Elizabeth Class will be fitted with the Royal Navy's new-generation maritime medium-range radar (MRR) to replace the type 996 surveillance and target indication radar.
Aircraft carrier propulsion
The MoD has decided not to use nuclear propulsion because of its high cost, and has chosen a podded propulsion system based on Rolls-Royce's integrated electric propulsion (IEP) system. The contract for the propulsion system was placed in October 2008.
The propulsion system will consist of two Rolls-Royce Marine 36MW MT30 gas turbine alternators, providing over 70MW and four diesel engines providing approximately 40MW, with the total installed power approaching 110MW.
In December 2007, the UK MoD placed a contract with Wärtsilä Defence for two 12-cylinder and two 16-cylinder Wärtsilä 38 diesel engines for the IEP of each ship.
L-3 Communications is supplying the integrated platform management system and Converteam the high voltage system and propulsion converters / motors.
CVF will carry over 8,600t of fuel to support both the vessel and aircraft.