Sea Platforms

Royal Navy's new flagship named in Rosyth

04 July 2014

The Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier, the 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth, pictured at Rosyth alongside the 21,000-tonne HMS Illustrious, which formerly operated as a carrier but is now an LPH. (Aerial Photography Solutions)

Key Points

  • The UK's first Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier has been formally named in Rosyth
  • Queen Elizabeth will be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017

The first of the United Kingdom’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) aircraft carriers was formally named by head of state HM Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony at Rosyth, Scotland, on 4 July.

The naming ceremony for Queen Elizabeth marks a key programme milestone as the UK continues work to regenerate a carrier strike capability by the end of 2020.

Now structurally complete, Queen Elizabeth will shortly be moved into its commissioning berth to vacate Rosyth’s No 1 dock so that assembly of second carrier Prince of Wales can begin.

Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to arrive at its home port of HM Naval Base Portsmouth in late 2016, with trials taking place either side of the formal handover to the Royal Navy (RN) in 2017.

Commodore Jerry Kyd, Commander UK Maritime Task Group (COMUKTG), who will take over as the first commanding officer of Queen Elizabeth in the rank of captain in December 2015, told IHS Jane’s that the naming ceremony marked “a strategically noteworthy date” for the UK defence community.

“This capability brings you so much military flexibility but also great political choice,” he said. "The mistake is to see [Queen Elizabeth] as a ship; it’s not. It is a moving military base, but [also] a symbol of British intent.”

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute’s annual sea power conference in London on 1 July, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sir George Zambellas reiterated this view, noting that the expeditionary military capability delivered by the QEC programme represented “a clear statement of intent of the UK’s strategic maritime ambition” and “a return to the scale, professional complexity, and responsibility of the carrier strike capability last operated by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force four decades ago”.

Re-assembling the capability to deliver a high-end carrier strike capability inside a decade remains challenging for the UK, with the role of the US and French navies proving critical in regenerating core skills and expertise.

Addressing the RUSI conference, Adm Zambellas said that, as well as UK maritime forces being “out there in the world [to] shape and influence international events”, the development of maritime power projection prescribed “a partnering approach”. Adding that “there is no better example of this than [the future] HMS Queen Elizabeth”, he continued: “The extraordinary generosity of [the UK’s] US and French allies is allowing [the UK] to regenerate [its] carrier strike capability.” This co-operation, he said, is based around “the generosity of strategic partnership and common strategic responsibility”.

The RN and Royal Air Force already have a number of pilots flying F/A-18 Hornets with the US Navy and Super Etendards with the French Navy and the RN is embarking deck crew and strike group staff personnel with both navies.

Cdre Kyd said “interoperability particularly with the United States and with the US Marine Corps is going to be a central part of how we use [Queen Elizabeth].”

He said the carrier's capabilities provide “proper 21st century credibility that will allow [the RN] to work absolutely alongside and even within a [US] maritime strike group”, arguing that Queen Elizabeth will “add proper military value to a combined force at sea in a way [the UK hasn’t] done since the late 1970s”.

The commodore added that “bringing this sort of capability in is a huge challenge for any country … but we’ll do it. We have the right skills sets.”

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