HMS Queen Elizabeth will arrive for the first time in Portsmouth in 2017 but the exact date is still unknown at present, even to the Royal Navy. The Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) who are constructing the ship are determined she be tested thoroughly and the majority of teething problems eliminated. Only when the ACA and the RN are is satisfied she has passed initial sea trails and meets the specification will she be formally handed over.
With the ship now in an advanced state of completion alongside in Rosyth, a power and propulsion trial will be conducted towards the end of 2016. The ship has been has been fitted with brake blades in place of propellers which allows the shafts to turn for engine testing without moving the ship. There will be harbour trials of most on-board systems including propulsion, steering, navigation, or communications before she puts to sea. “Pretty much everything is now installed in the ship and working,” said Ian Booth, managing director of the ACA last month. Much of the equipment was thoroughly factory tested before installation and the ACA is confident that sea trials will go well.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the world’s first fully electrically-propelled aircraft carrier. She is powered by two Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and four diesel engines which can provide up to 110MW of electrical power to the 4 induction motors that turn the propellers as well as providing the ship’s electrical supplies. Like the Type 45 destroyers, the QEC aircraft carriers have an Integrated Electric Propulsion system. Given the problems with the Type 45, there is some concern about the carriers having similar issues. However the MT-30 gas turbine engine is a much more proven and well-tested engine than the WR-21s used on the Type 45. The power arrangement of the QE class is innovative but in many ways lower risk than the Type 45, utilising many elements that are already at sea in cruise ships and other naval platforms.
Designed to operate with a relatively small crew, the QE Class are fully networked ships and has several complex internal systems to monitor and control all aspect of the ship. The Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) controls and power and propulsion and can asses combat damage. The Combat Management System (CMS) assists the crew in fighting the ship. The Air Group Management Application (AGMA) is used to control flight operations. There is also an extensive network of CCTV cameras feeding the Visual Surveillance System (VSS). All this technology will have to be integrated and will undoubtedly throw up initial problems. Fortunately much of it can be at least partially tested and fine-tuned before the ship ever goes to sea.
Assuming sea trials run smoothly, an educated guess would suggest that HMS Queen Elizabeth will enter Portsmouth for the first time in the second quarter of 2017, maybe in May or June.
The delivery date for HMS Queen Elizabeth has already slipped from what was promised several years ago and everyone is keen to see the ship in service as soon as possible. However it is prudent to wait until initial sea trails have been successfully completed before committing to a date of arrival. HMS Queen Elizabeth will be a high-profile vessel and will attract much comment and media interest wherever she goes. With the Type 45 debacle fresh in the memory, any problems, even during initial sea trials could generate a storm of unhelpful headlines so it is wise to ensure the vessel is a ready as possible before putting to sea. The First Sea Lord has called 2017 “The year of the carrier” and there is justifiable excitement about the arrival of the vessels that have dominated RN planning for the last decade. It is important that the delivery and introduction onto service goes smoothly. There is also likely to be plenty of ill-informed anti-carrier rhetoric and negativity doing the rounds so any technical failure or minor mishap that may damage public perception of these great ships is to be avoided.
The aircraft carrier project is very much a long-game. HMS Queen Elizabeths’s arrival in Portsmouth in 2017 is an important milestone but one on a very long road. There will be further trials for the ship and considerable time spent supporting flying development with various aircraft. The RN will need time to learn about how to run these new and very large ships, develop operating procedures and re-learn some long-forgotten carrier aviation skills. She will not go on operational deployment until sometime in 2021. She is not expected to achieve full operating capability with F-35s until the first quarter of 2023 and even then the UK will probably not posses enough aircraft to embark 2 squadrons. It could be 2026, almost 10 years away before both carriers and sufficient aircraft are available so the RN can sustain a continuous aircraft carrier capability. Nevertheless the wait will be worth it, these are potent ships that will serve the nation for 50 years and be globally-deployable platforms for generations of future aircraft.
- HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in Portsmouth will be well worth celebrating (Save the Royal Navy)
- SDSR implications for the RN – Aircraft carriers: front & centre of UK defence policy (Save the Royal Navy)
- Powering the QE class (Rolls Royce)
- Taking shape at last: £6.3 billion hi-tech giants of the Royal Navy (Evening Standard)
from Save the Royal Navy http://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/when-will-hms-queen-elizabeth-arrive-in-portsmouth/