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Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF)

Artist impression of Future Carrier
Artist impression of Future Carrier
Artist impression of Future Carrier

The UK is procuring two new Aircraft Carriers for the Royal Navy - HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales the Queen Elizabeth Class due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, respectively.  The carriers will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy and represent a step change in capability, enabling the delivery of increased strategic effect and influence around the world. They will be a key component of the improved expeditionary capabilities needed to confront the diverse range of threats in today’s security environment.

The ships will be delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) – an innovative alliance comprising industry participants and MOD – in which MOD acts as both client and participant.  For the Manufacture Phase the Industrial Participants will be: the BAES/VT planned Joint Venture, Thales, Babcock and BAES (Surface Ships & Insyte).

Britain's requirement for new Aircraft Carriers

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.