UK launches empty aircraft carrier
The Queen today welcomed the largest ship ever operated by the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth. The first of two aircraft carriers to be commissioned by the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth will enable the UK’s armed forces to project military capability to any would-be aggressors across the world.
Addressing a whole host of assembled guests and navy staff, The Queen proclaimed the new vessel "the most powerful and capable ship ever to raise the White Ensign.”
She added "As the daughter, wife and mother of naval officers, I recognise the unique demands our nation asks of you and I will always value my special link to HMS Queen Elizabeth, her ship's company and their families."
The ship will certainly be seen as a major status symbol by other nations looking to join the super-carrier club. Admiral Sir Philip Jones stated: "We have been on a long, complicated - but committed - journey to get to this point and commissioning the ship is a key milestone.”
"The point of the big grey ship is it's enormously big, flexible, capable and adaptable."
Capability will stand as a key talking point from today’s ceremony, with many asking the obvious question, where are the aircraft?
The carrier’s main armament (Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II) has suffered major setbacks due to the complexities of the project. Research and development costs for the program have reached a barely believably US$1.508 trillion, with issues regarding software, manoeuvrability and the aircrafts difficulties accessing the UK’s new carrier's.
With budget constraints continuing to squeeze, it seems unlikely the carriers will utilise the 36-aircraft intended for each vessel. At a unit cost of around £100 million, it is likely the vessels will make use of 24 aircraft a piece, the amount intended to enter service with HMS Queen Elizabeth by 2023.
Flight trials will start next year, with plans to have aircraft operating from 2021.