Here’s Why HMS Queen Elizabeth is Unlike Any Other Warship

Here's Why HMS Queen Elizabeth is Unlike Any Other Warship
Royal navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) transits the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 23. (Photo courtesy of HNLMS De Ruyter)

The Royal Navy has seen 16 different classes of aircraft carriers take to the sea since 1918, with between one and 10 ships commissioned for each class.

The Queen Elizabeth class is a class of two aircraft carriers of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. The lead ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was named on 4 July 2014, in honour of Elizabeth I (not Elizabeth II). She was commissioned on 7 December 2017, with an initial operating capability expected in 2018.

The second, HMS Prince of Wales, was launched on 21 December 2017 and is planned to be commissioned in 2020. At the NATO 2014 Wales summit, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the second carrier would be brought into service, ending years of uncertainty surrounding its future. This was confirmed by the November 2015 Government Strategic Defence Review, with both carriers entering service, one being available at any time.

Before them, Britain relied on the Invincible class, which included HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious, and HMS Ark Royal, commissioned respectively in 1980, 1982, and 1985.
Unlike the earlier carriers, these two most recent classes have used gas turbine engines to one degree or another.

Here’s Why HMS Queen Elizabeth is Unlike Any Other Warship

HMS Queen Elizabeth is in its own unique class of aircraft carriers. For example, it’s the only warship with two islands on its deck – one to steer the ship and the second for flight control.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy, set to enter service in 2020.

HMS Queen Elizabeth can be thought of as a base like RAF Marham at sea and can carry up to 72 aircraft at maximum capacity.

During her estimated 50-year working life, HMS Queen Elizabeth could be pressed into action for various work such as high-intensity warfighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief anywhere in the world.

The Key Numbers:

  • The project to build HMS Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales cost more than £6 billion.
  • The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots.
  • Its flight deck is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide – enough space for three football pitches.
  • The ship is the second in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth.
  • The ship will have a crew of around 700, increasing to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35 jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
  • There are 364,000 metres of pipes inside the ship.
  • Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will keep 45 days’ worth of food in its stores.
  • The entire Ship’s Company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes – 45 minutes when at the action station.
  • Leaving the Rosyth dock was among the most difficult manoeuvres in the sea trials, with just 50cm between the bottom of the ship and the seabed in the port.


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  1. The Queen Elizabeth is already outdated especially compared to the u.s. aircraft carriers I’m trying to run with only a 700 man crew relying on automation what if something breaks especially during conflict if it makes Great Britain feel better good for them but not using nuclear power is just silly

    • I think American Navy people are thinking more on the line of smaller carriers as well. Less costly to build and maintain and replace, particularly in this era of increased carrier vulnerability. As they are, carrier operations are just getting to expensive. Anything to lower costs is fair game!

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