Armed Forces - Royal Navy - n3a3 - Royal Naval Vessels - Aircraft Carriers - HMS Invincible - - The Future Carrier (CVF) - HMS Queen Elizabeth





The Royal Navy Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Harry S Truman and USS Dwight D Eisenhower transit in formation during a multi-ship maneuvering exercise in the Atlantic Ocean

Since entering service in the early 1970s, the ships of this class have proved vital in projecting UK interests overseas from the Falklands conflict of 1982 through to the amphibious assault on Iraq in the spring of 2003.

Illustrious is the last of the Invincible Class carriers with the other two, HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal having been withdrawn from service.

The primary task of this class of ship was to act as the command ship for a small task force and provide organic air power against limited opposition. Since entering service in the early 1970s, the ships of this class proved vital in projecting UK interests overseas from the Falklands conflict of 1982 through to the amphibious assault on Iraq in the spring of 2003.

HMS Illustrious is currently the UK’s High Readiness Helicopter and Commando Carrier means and the vessel is capable of mounting operations using Merlin, Sea King, Lynx / Wildcat or Apache helicopters.


Max Speed 28 knots
Displacement 20,600 tonnes (full load)
Engines 4 x Rolls Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines delivering 112,000 shp to two shafts
Length 209.1m
Beam 36m
Range 7,000nm at 19 knots

685 (60 officers) plus 366 (80 officers) air group plus up to 600 Marines if required

Aircraft A typical embarked air group could consist of:
6 x Harrier GR7
6 x Merlin Mk 1 (Anti-Submarine)
3 x Sea King ASaC (Airborne Surveillance & Control).
Guns 3 x Close-in Weapon systems (Goalkeeper or Vulcan Phalanx) anti-aircraft or anti-missile




HMS Illustrious (R06) 1982 (planned out of service date 2014)

Photo US Navy


The platform element of the Carrier Strike capability will be provided by the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, and the aircraft element by the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter - F-35B - Lightning II).


An Artists impression of the new CVF (Future Carrier) and JSF (Joint Strike Fighter)

Following the 2007 contract award, two vessels of this type are being built in various locations across the UK with final assembly at Rosyth. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth should begin sea trials in 2017 and construction of the second, HMS Prince of Wales is underway, with a decision to operate expected in 2015. Current plans are for the CVF to be based at Portsmouth.

Each 65,000 ton vessel with a length of 280 metres is expected to be able to embark up to 40 aircraft. With a complement of about 680 officers and ratings (1,600 for air operations) the vessels will have a range of about 10,000 nautical miles and a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h). We would expect the vessels to be armed for local defence with CIWS type weapons.
Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales will have two island sections that will provide independent control of navigation (forward) and air traffic control operations (aft). The hangar deck measures 155 x 33 metres, with two large lifts capable of lifting two aircraft onto the flight deck simultaneously in about 60 seconds.
The vessels are powered by two Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbine units each generating about 36MW and two Wartsila diesel generators producing enough power to support a town of over 200,000 people.

Projections of the costs of the programme vary, but most analysts agree on a total cost for the two carriers of between £3.5 and £4 billion. Both vessels are expected to have a 50 year service life.

The CVF project will provide the Royal Navy with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK and should create or sustain over 10,000 UK jobs.

CVF Specifications (Approx)
Displacement 65,000 tonnes
Engines 4 x Rolls Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines delivering 112,000 shp to two shafts
Length 284m
Max Beam 73m
Max Draught 11m

1500 (including air crew)

Aircraft Total of 40 to include: Joint Combat Aircraft, Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC) Aircraft and Merlin Helicopters.

Facts and Figures

  • Each ship will be similar size and weight as the ocean liner the QE2, The CVF dimensions are: 65,000 tonnes at full displacement; 284m (931ft) length x 73m (239ft) width at flightdeck level; 56m from keel to masthead – 6m taller than Nelson's Column; 11m max draft (keel to waterline); 9 decks deep + Flight Deck; 40 aircraft.

  • Each ship weighs more than 32,500 average family cars.

  • The maximum expected Air Group to be embarked is 36 Joint Strike Fighters and four Airborne Early Warning aircraft, bringing the combined weight of embarked aircraft to over 1,000 tonnes.

  • CVF will carry over 8,600 tonnes of fuel to support the Ship and her aircraft – enough for the average family car to travel to the moon and back twelve times.

  • The ships can carry more than 1,000 tonnes of food - enough to feed the crew for six weeks.

  • The Flight Deck area is nearly 13,000m2 - the equivalent of 49 tennis courts or three football pitches.

  • The hangar is 29,000m3 - equivalent to 12 Olympic swimming pools.

  • The Ship's Long Range radar is the same size to that of a large mobile home.

  • CVF has two propellers of 6.7m diameter, weighing 33 tonnes each - Nearly two & half times as heavy as a double decker bus and one & half times as high. Each is driven by a pair of electric motors.

  • The ships’ anchors will be 3.1m in height, each weighing 13 tonnes - almost as much as a double decker bus.

  • Each of the two huge lifts that move aircraft from hangar to flightdeck can carry two fighter-bombers. They're so big one of them could carry the weight of the entire ship's crew.

  • Total crew numbers on HM Ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales are only two fifths more than on the Invincible class – even though they are three times the size.

  • Sixty-seven catering staff will cook the Ship's Company of up to 1,450 personnel three meals a day

  • There will be four galleys on board, serving four large dining areas, the largest of which can serve 960 crew in an hour. The entire crew can be served in 90 minutes (45 minutes when at Action Stations).

  • The crew will have a range of recreational facilities, when not on duty, such as cinema and fitness suites, available 24 hours a day. As is currently the case in the Fleet, all personnel have access to e-mail and the Internet, subject to satellite communications equipment not being used for operational purposes.

  • In Britain's last big carrier, the Ark Royal scrapped in the late 1970s, sailors lived 100 men to a mess deck. On the new carriers they share six berth cabins with large and comfortable bunks and adjacent toilet facilities and showers.

  • Using a combination of Diesel and Gas Turbine driven Generators, CVF will produce 109MW, enough to run a town the size of Swindon. The combined weight of the Diesel Generators is 800 tonnes.

  • There will be 11 full time medical staff, managing an eight bed medical suite, operating theatre and dental surgery, which can also be augmented as the mission demands (eg humanitarian operations). • CVF will produce over 150 tonnes of fresh water daily.

  • In keeping with the most modern navy ships the new carriers will still have a NAAFI shop stocking confectionary items for private purchase that would not normally be supplied through Government sources, and CVF will have a sizeable shop to cater for the 1,450 personnel on board.

  • Designing and building the ships is expected to sustain and create some 10,000 jobs across the UK throughout its design and manufacture. At the peak of assembly, over a thousand personnel are expected to be engaged on CVF at each of the yards at Govan, Barrow, Rosyth and Portsmouth.

Photos Copyright BAe Systems