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Aircraft Handlers working on flightdeck
Goalkeeper firing
Operations Room

The Warfare Department

The Warfare Department comprises a variety of sub-departments, coming together to form a team to drive and navigate the ship and man the weapons and sensors so that the ship can fight.

Radar operators collate all the incoming air and surface information to present the Captain with an accurate picture of contacts on and above the surface. Sonar operators interpret the active and passive sonar displays to provide a comprehensive picture of underwater activity. The Electronic Warfare (EW) personnel intercept and analyse radar and radio transmissions to identify unknown contacts at long range.

With the picture compiled, the Captain decides which targets to engage with the Sea Harriers or gun systems. Fighter and helicopter controllers guide the aircraft to their respective targets while the Above Water Weapons Operators control the various defence systems.

Communicators control the wide variety of radio and satellite equipment to enable the ship to send and receive information to and from Fleet Headquarters and other ships and aircraft 24 hours a day. Seaman specialists man the Bridge and provide in-depth knowledge and experience for all seamanship evolutions, including replenishment at sea and handling small boats.

The Executive Department

The Executive department is again made up of a variety of sub-departments. Evolutions such as Replenishment at Sea and towing are undertaken by the Seamanship staff. The Regulating staff look after discipline and routine administration. The two Physical Training Instructors are responsible for all aspects of recreation and fitness training, including "circuits" and interdepartmental sports tournaments e.g. football, volleyball and deck-hockey.

There is a large medical department, comprising three Medical Officers (two doctors and a dentist) and a number of Medical Assistants. They have their own fully equipped sickbay, including a ward and operating theatre, and a dental surgery. Additionally, they ensure that a number of the ship's company are trained in first aid.

Outside working hours, there is a chance to study for further educational qualifications including GCSEs, NVQs and Open University courses, either in classes or through correspondence courses. There is also a well-stocked and extensive library containing both reference and non-reference books. Additionally, the Education Officer provides resettlement advice and briefings for those leaving the service. There is also a computer-based Personal Learning Centre onboard which the ship's company can use to learn IT, human resource and language skills.

Spiritual needs are catered for in the interdenominational chapel led by a Naval Chaplain.

Weapon Engineering Department

The task of the Weapon Engineering Department is to maintain and repair the ship's weapon systems, sensors, communication equipment, navigational aids and administrative computers to a high state of readiness and optimum performance. A skilled team of Artificers and Mechanics use sophisticated diagnostic tools to assist them in carrying out preventive maintenance and defect rectification. The Department also has responsibility for the mechanical aspects of the weapon systems and sensors which they man at Action Stations.

To protect against attack by anti-ship missiles, aircraft or surface targets the Goalkeeper Close In Weapon System (CIWS) is fitted Forward, Starboard Midships and Aft to give all round protection to the ship. Goalkeeper is an autonomous automatic weapon system which uses a 7 barrelled, 30mm gun, firing at a rate of 4,200 rounds a minute, to engage supersonic aircraft and modern sea-skimming missiles at close range. The ship is also fitted with two 20mm OERLIKON guns for close in defence. The final layer of defence is provided by the ship's 'soft kill' system of off board decoys.

Marine Engineering Department

The Marine Engineers ensure that the ship operates as an effective platform for the weapon systems and aircraft.

The ship is powered by 4 Rolls Royce Olympus Gas Turbines, from the same family as the engines which are fitted to Concorde, giving a maximum speed of about 30 knots. The engines drive two shafts through the largest reversing gearboxes installed in any ship in the Western world. Designed and built by David Brown Limited, these gearboxes allow any number of engines to be selected to drive the ship according to the power and manoeuvrability required.

Electrical power, sufficient to light a medium sized town, is provided by eight Paxman Valenta Diesel Generators. The diesels and the main grid can be controlled from a central console and switchboard in the Ship Control Centre.

The Logistics Department

The Logistics Department is responsible for onboard logistic support, food services, hotel services, personnel administration, finance and general administration.

The Stores Accountants maintain an outfit of 50,000 different types of stores and spare parts ranging from detergent to computer circuit boards, clothing to helicopter engines and manage the re-supply of spares either from Supply ships or the United Kingdom.

The Food Services team ensure that there is sufficient food onboard for the ship to meet its operational task and from this stack produce over 3,600 appetising servings every day, the quality of which is a vital contributor to the morale of the ship's company.

The Stewards provide hotel services for the Wardroom and have necessary expertise to ensure VIPs, ranging from Royalty to Presidents, are afforded appropriate treatment.

Writers provide cash and banking facilities, manage pay, personnel records and correspondence and even act as the ship's travel agent. The Department provides the backbone of the first aid teams in action, as well as fulfilling key roles in the damage control organisation, including firefighters.

Air Department

The Air Department provides the core defensive and offensive capabilities of the ship. It is composed of the personnel and infrastructure to support all weather, 24 hour aircraft operations and the Tailored Air Group squadrons, both Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force.

Specialists in the form of meteorologists, air traffic controllers and liaison officers (Army and RAF when required) are provided by the department to brief aircrews for all missions both operational and training. Apart from briefing aircrew, meteorologists provide a forecasting service for ships in company and embarked headquarters, whilst air traffic controllers provide a similar service to that provided ashore, in assuring the safe departure and recovery of aircraft in all weather conditions.

Aircraft handlers, specialists at manoeuvring aircraft on crowded decks, shuttle aircraft about the deck either in preparation for launch, parking out of the way for defect rectification by squadron personnel, or onto the aircraft lift for transport to the hangar. Aircraft need to be secured against the ship's motion; chaining down aircraft is a prime responsibility of the aircraft handlers.

A photographic section is integral with the Air Department, its prime function being to process a variety of imaging formats used by embarked aircraft. This section is also responsible for the maintenance of the flight deck Close Circuit Television monitoring system.

The overriding consideration for all air operations is safety and the Air Department is the focus for all matters relating to emergencies, accidents or incidents involving aircraft. An emergency party consisting of fire-fighters, crane drivers and first aiders is constantly on call wherever the ship is operating aircraft.

Air Engineering Department

The Air Engineering department contributes to the ship's fighting effectiveness by providing mechanical, electrical and avionics engineering support to the TAG, using a number of workshops manned by Artificers and Mechanics. The department is also responsible for all aspects of weapon supply (missiles, bombs, torpedoes, guns and depth charges) to the aircraft.

This responsibility also includes a supplementary capability to load air weapons to the aircraft in addition to that provided by squadron personnel. One sub-department is responsible for the provision and maintenance of all safety equipment used by aircrew, which includes liferafts, lifejackets, flying clothing and parachutes.

For more information on the aircraft that are usually embarked on the invincible class carriers please click on the link below.
Tailored Air Group