The united kingdom royal navy is building it's biggest aircraft carrier in its history when finished it will provide a significant increase for united kingdom military power and NATO military power. The Queen Elizabeth class is a class of two aircraft carriers currently under construction for the Royal Navy. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth was named on 4 July 2014, with her commissioning planned for 2017, and an initial operational capability expected in 2020. The second, HMS Prince of Wales is scheduled for launch around 2017, followed by commissioning in 2020 and service thereafter — on 5 September 2014, at the NATO summit in Wales, the Prime Minister announced that the second carrier will be brought into service, ending years of uncertainty surrounding its future.
The contract for the vessels was announced on 25 July 2007 by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring. The contracts were signed one year later on 3 July 2008 after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group's VT Shipbuilding which was a requirement of the UK Government.
The vessels currently have a displacement of approximately 70,600 tonnes (69,500 long tons), but the design anticipates growth over the lifetime of the ships. The ships will be 280 metres (920 ft) long and have a tailored air group of up to forty aircraft (though are capable of carrying up to fifty at full load). They will be the largest warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. The projected cost of the programme is £6.2 billion.
The carriers will be completed as originally planned, in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) configuration, deploying the Lockheed Martin F-35B. Following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the British government had intended to purchase the F-35C carrier version of this aircraft, and adopted plans for Prince of Wales to be built to a Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) configuration. After the projected costs of the CATOBAR system rose to around twice the original estimate, the government announced that it would revert to the original design on 10 May 2012.
The ships' company is 679 rising to 1,600 with air element added. A more recent parliamentary reply stated the average crew size will be 672. They will have a displacement of 65,000 tonnes on delivery, but the design allows for this to reach over 70,000 tonnes as the ship is upgraded through its lifetime. They have an overall length of 280 metres (920 ft), a width at deck level of 70 metres (230 ft), a height of 56 metres (184 ft), a draught of 11 metres (36 ft) and a range of 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km). The Ministry of Defence decided not to use nuclear propulsion due to its high cost, so power is supplied by two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW (48,000 hp) gas turbine generator units and four Wärtsilä diesel generator sets (two 9 MW or 12,000 hp and two 11 MW or 15,000 hp sets). The Trents and diesels are the largest ever supplied to the Royal Navy, and together they feed the low-voltage electrical systems as well as four GE Power Conversion's 20 MW Advanced Induction Motor (arranged in tandem) electric propulsion motors that drive the twin fixed-pitch propellers.
Instead of a single island superstructure containing both the ship's navigation bridge and flying control (flyco) centres, the ships will have these operations divided between two structures, with the forward island for navigating the ship and the aft island for controlling flying operations. Under the flight deck are a further nine decks. The hangar deck measures 155 by 33.5 metres (509 by 110 ft) with a height of 6.7 to 10 metres (22 to 33 ft), large enough to accommodate up to twenty fixed and rotary wing aircraft. To transfer aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck, the ships have two large lifts, each of which are capable of lifting two F-35-sized aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck in sixty seconds. The ships' only announced self-defence weapons are currently the Phalanx CIWS for airborne threats, with miniguns and 30 mm cannon to counter seaborne threats.
The ship's radars will be the BAE Systems and Thales S1850M, the same as fitted to the Type 45 destroyers, for long-range wide-area search, the BAE Systems Artisan 3D Type 997 maritime medium-range active electronically scanned array radar, and a navigation radar. BAE claims the S1850M has a fully automatic detection and track initiation that can track up to 1,000 air targets at a range of around 400 kilometres (250 mi). Artisan can "track a target the size of a snooker ball over 20 kilometres (12 mi) away" at 200 km.