Thursday, July 03, 2008

MoD signs contracts for largest aircraft carriers ever to sail in British waters

MoD Signs Contracts for Future Navy Carriers

The MoD has signed contracts paving the way for the construction of the largest aircraft carriers ever to sail in British waters.

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth

The two vessels – named ‘HMS Prince of Wales’ and ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’ – will cost, together, £3 billion.

Four shipyards are to be involved in the boats’ construction, sited in Glasgow, Fife, Portsmouth and Barrow in Furness.

At 280 metres in length, the ships will be able to accommodate as many as 40 aircraft each, and are scheduled to join the Royal Navy in 2014 and in 2016.

Their sheer size means they will be over three times larger than the present generation of Invincible-class aircraft carriers.

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth will each have a contingent of 1,450 sailors and pilots.

The construction side of things is anticipated to either open up or secure up to 10,000 positions of employment at the four shipyards.

Joint Strike Fighters
Both vessels will, ultimately, be used by the Royal Navy’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) although, as Armed Forces International recently revealed, these aircrafts’ entry into service will occur behind those of the ships.

Initially, therefore, Royal Navy Harriers will have first use of them.

Deployed Air Assets
The carriers’ fleet of deployed air assets is expected to be made up of 36 JSFs, together with four AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, and a number of Royal Navy EH-101 Merlin helicopters.

Speaking to the BBC, Admiral Sir Jonathan Band, the First Sea Lord, discussed the dimensions and operational capabilities of the two craft.

"The reason for the size is that we've determined that we need to be able to put a weight of airpower on them from strike aeroplanes, and that has therefore determined their tonnage and their size”, he said.

“Basically, they'll just be able to pack a bigger punch, whether it be on a humanitarian operation or whether it be a full-blown strike operation."

MoD Budget
The MoD’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the two carriers is proving a controversial one, given the financial issues affecting the British armed forces.

Some are concerned that, with a £1 billion deficit in the ministry’s budget, there will be difficulties in supplying sufficient numbers of other vessels –submarines and warships – to work alongside them.

Source – Armed Forces International’s Naval Expert
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