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Defence Projects

Future Carrier (CVF)


On 25 July 2007 the Secretary of State for Defence announced to Parliament that the MoD will place the order for two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy - HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES.

On 25 July 2007 the Secretary of State for Defence announced to Parliament that the MoD will place the order for two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy - HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES.

The ships will be delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) – an innovative alliance comprising industry participants and MoD.


For the Manufacture Phase the Industrial Participants will be: the BAES/VT planned Joint Venture, Thales, Babcock and BAES (Surface Ships & Insyte).

In line with recommendations made following the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, CVF will replace the Royal Navy's current three Invincible class aircraft carriers with two larger, more capable vessels. The CVF or Queen Elizabeth class of carriers will be the largest capital ships ever constructed in the UK or operated by the Royal Navy and the most capable carrier force outside the USA.

Britain's requirement for new Aircraft Carriers

Artist Impression of the CVF Island structures

Our three Invincible Class aircraft carriers were designed for Cold War anti-submarine warfare operations in the North Atlantic.


Their limited air group means they would be unable to fulfil the increasingly challenging demands of the new strategic environment and they are, in any case, coming to the end of their expected life.

In 1998, the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) announced plans to replace the current Invincible class of aircraft carrier with two larger, more capable vessels that could operate a much more powerful air group. Successive operations in the Gulf and Bosnia demonstrated that aircraft carriers play a key role in force projection, contributing to peace support and, when necessary, military action at a time and a place of our choosing. Aircraft carriers offer both a coercive presence worldwide that can help contribute to conflict prevention and a flexible and rapidly deployable base during operations where airfields are unavailable, or facilities ashore are still being established. This analysis was further endorsed by the New Chapter work of 2002 and re-enforced in the Defence White Paper in December 2003.

Future Capability

The Future Aircraft Carriers (CVF) will deploy offensive air power in support of the full spectrum of future operations. This will be provided by a Joint Force Air Group (JFAG) which primarily consists of a combination of the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) and the Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC) system. JCA/MASC will be capable of operating in all weathers, day and night, to provide carrier strike, as well as air defence for the carrier and offensive support for ground forces ashore.

The JFAG will also operate helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from all three Services in a variety of roles that could include anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare, attack and support. The Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been selected to fulfil the JCA role. The carriers will also be able to operate GR9 Harriers.


Carrier design is an exceptionally complex three-dimensional puzzle in which flight deck, hangar deck, stability and sea-keeping requirements interact. Initial studies for CVF encompassed six different candidate ships across a range of capabilities and aircraft types and led to the adoption of the technologically advanced, innovative and highly capable “Design Delta”, centred on MoD’s choice of the STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA).

The adaptability of Design Delta is unique and has involved extensive modelling, computer analysis and tank tests.

Some of the innovations in the design include:

  • First adaptable design that, while configured to operate STOVL aircraft, can be altered later in its projected 40-50 year service life to accommodate catapults and arrestor gear to fly conventional CV (Carrier Variant) aircraft;

  • Location of main engines high in the ship, reducing penetration of large downtakes and exhausts deep in the hull;

  • First full integrated waste management system to meet projected future environmental standards;

  • First carrier with split “island” superstructure - improving control of flight deck operations.

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance has worked exhaustively to achieve value for money. The result is a design capable of operating more than twice as many larger and heavier aircraft compared with existing Invincible class – but carrying a similar sized crew – and with increased strategic capability.

Design Delta also displaces about three times as much as an Invincible, has four times the internal hull volume, carries 70 percent more ship and aircraft fuel, has 75 percent more unrefuelled range and accommodation to the very latest and highest standards.


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.


- Babcocks' Rosyth yard has been selected for the assembly of the carrier modules


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