The fleet flagship of the Royal Navy | Daily News
Aircraft supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

The fleet flagship of the Royal Navy

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth

Sailing majestically with a stunning displacement of 65,000 tonnes is the aircraft supercarrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth. She is the epitome of British naval innovation, design and teamwork.

Presently on duty in the Pacific Ocean, she is basically a floating military base with the capacity to carry 70 aircraft. Her massive flight deck covers four acres. The warship has 17 decks (levels) which gives us an understanding of how massive this vessel really is. She can reach speeds in excess of 25 knots per hour and is one of the two formidable vessels built by the Royal Navy; the other is the HMS Prince of Wales. The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (pennant number RO8) is named in honour of another British vessel that first saw action in World War I. The new ship bears the same Tudor rose crest. The first officer to command this magnificent supercarrier was Commodore Jerry Kyd. The Air Wing onboard consists of the F-35B Lightning multirole fighter which is the world’s first and only fifth generation fighter jet.

The vessel carries Merlin helicopters which specialise in aircraft early warning and anti-submarine warfare. In addition, she carries Chinook helicopters and Apache attack helicopters. The vessel is based at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth, which covers an area of 300 acres. The HMNB Portsmouth is the oldest in the Royal Navy with its own history. Apart from her operational crew onboard, HMS Queen Elizabeth carries 250 Royal Marines on board, who can be inserted at any location for a combat strike. Whenever deployed at sea, she is the vital defensive platform of the Carrier Strike Group, which consists of other British frigates and destroyers.

Flight operations centre

The building of this sailing fortress began at the Rosyth Dockyard way back in 2009. In June 2011, two sections of the warship weighing 6,000 tonnes each were assembled together. In August 2011, a barge towed the 8,000-tonne lower deck to the dockyard for assembly. HMS Queen Elizabeth has two island structures (the first such design in the world). One tower is for navigation and operations. The other is for flight control and aerial operations, known as FLYCO among the sailors.

In a real-life combat situation, the island structures can take on each other’s tasks, if one is attacked. This kind of planning shows the advanced innovation of the Royal Navy. The aircraft carrier was named on July 4, 2014, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This Navy ceremony filled with military pomp and decorum also had a fly past by the Red Arrows. Subsequently, HMS Queen Elizabeth was floated out of the dry docks on July 17, 2014. She engaged in her sea trials in June 2017. Her first crew of officers and sailors would have to settle into working in their glorious new warship. The carrier sailed towards the east coast of Scotland escorted by two Royal Navy frigates HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke.

The pilots of the 802 Naval Air Squadron created history by being the first to land a Merlin helicopter, on the flight deck of the ship. The ship made a stop at Invergordon where defect rectification was carried out. On August 8, 2017, HMS Queen Elizabeth engaged in a naval exercise codenamed “Saxon Warrior” alongside the American Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. On completion of her sea trials, HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived for the first time at the HMNB Portsmouth and berthed at the Princess Royal Jetty, where thousands of naval enthusiasts gathered to see this aircraft supercarrier.

She was officially commissioned on December 7, 2017. In February 2018, the ship sailed on a six-week operational training. The warship was taken to the vast North Atlantic for heavy weather testing and helicopter certification. On this voyage, the ship made her first overseas port visit at Gibraltar. The HMS Queen Elizabeth began simulating and testing amphibious assault capability by using the detachment of Royal Marines on board. The massive carrier also engaged in her first replenishment at sea training alongside RFA Tidespring. Even a colossal warship of this size can encounter turbulent weather at sea. In preparing for any such emergencies on board, the crew successfully tested the Marine Evacuation Systems (MES). The warship has 15 lifts.

In September 2018, the crews of the HMS Queen Elizabeth were delighted when Commander Gray achieved the first take off from her ski jump ramp, flying an F35B aircraft. In October, trials were successfully conducted when two helicopters, a US Navy Sea Dragon and USMC Osprey landed on the flight deck. HMS Queen Elizabeth visited New York in October 2018. The carrier left Portsmouth in January 2020 to take part in flight trials, in the UK waters. British-owned F35B fighter aircraft from the Royal Air Force (RAF) 207 Squadron joined the vessel for this important task.

This magnificent warship operates the Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems that can fire 3,000 rounds per minute at incoming enemy aircraft and missiles. There are 250,000 Km of cables and 8,000 Km of fibre optic cables on this ship. The Long-Range Radar can track up to 1,000 contacts in the air or sea coverings within a limit of a 250-mile radius. This warship has an HMWHS system (Highly Mechanised Weapons Handling System). The system moves munitions on pallets using remote-controlled electric vehicles and lifts.

On June 18, 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth gave the world a display of her combat prowess when she took part in strikes against ISIS in Operation Inherent Resolve. The ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria were targeted and decimated using F35B jets from the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron and US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron. Flight control and aerial operations are the heart of any aircraft carrier. The HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry 36 F35B aircraft and four helicopters, with the capacity for 70 aircraft when required. This can include the RAF Chinook helicopters and Army Air Corps Apache. The aircraft lifts can deliver four planes to the flight deck in one minute.

The F-35B fighter has the short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) ability. The aircraft has no landing hook. The plane has two internal weapons bays. The outboard weapons stations can carry 2,500 pounds of munitions. The inboard stations can carry air-to-air missiles. Other payloads can include cluster bombs and anti-tank missiles. The Merlin helicopter can carry weapons on two hardpoints, including Sting Ray torpedoes and depth charges. The Chinook is a tandem rotor helicopter operated by the RAF. It is used for heavy-lift support and troop transport.

HMS Queen Elizabeth presently has a crew of around 700, of which 100 are officers. These men and women represent the cream of the surface fleet of the Royal Navy. The ship has a capacity for 1,600 personnel. They have spacious accommodation and dining facilities including a pub. The bakery can produce 1,000 loaves of bread per day. HMS Queen Elizabeth can convert 500 tonnes of seawater into clean drinking water each day. The crew has access to an operating theatre, pharmacy and dental unit. The ship has a chapel and a chaplain on board. On a routine deployment, the ship has food stocks for 45 days and will typically include 66,000 sausages, 65,000 eggs and 12,000 cans of beans. HMS Queen Elizabeth is the pride of the Royal Navy, and a formidable British sentinel in the deep sea.

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