Why did you join the Royal Navy?

With these two aircraft carriers, the Royal Navy is returning to conditions like in the old days

Great Britain puts a new aircraft carrier into service for the first time. A second is to follow and signal that London wants to mark military presence again worldwide.

In the past few decades, the once proud Royal Navy has had to cut down considerably under economic pressure. With the decommissioning of its conventional aircraft carrier HMS "Ark Royal" in 1978, the British Navy lost an important component of naval warfare. After all, the HMS “Invincible” in the Falklands War in 1982, together with the old HMS “Hermes”, made a considerable contribution to the successful outcome of the campaign. Six years ago, however, the Royal Navy decommissioned the last sea-based whiz kid of the Harrier type.

However, a trend reversal has been evident for a few years now. However, this hardly affects the population, but the fleet is being massively modernized with new frigates, nuclear hunting submarines, supply ships and now with two large aircraft carriers. In addition, its fleet of ballistic guided missile submarines with four units is being renewed in close cooperation with the US Navy.

Again able to intervene anywhere in the world

With the new construction of the two large aircraft carriers HMS “Queen Elizabeth” and HMS “Prince of Wales”, the Royal Navy is returning to conditions like in the old days. It will again have a powerful sea-based naval aviation component. The two carriers will not have catapults, as was once planned. With its bow ramp (“ski jump”) and the future ultra-modern American fighter F-35B, however, the Royal Navy will be able to take decisive action again in conflicts on the world's oceans. With the creation of modern carrier combat groups, the Royal Navy's profile will grow in prestige and weight.

In mid-December, the first ship of this class - the HMS "Queen Elizabeth" - was officially put into service in Portsmouth in the presence of the Queen as the namesake. The 284-meter-long, 70-meter-wide, 56-meter-high and 65,000-tonne “Queen Elizabeth” will be able to carry up to 36 combat aircraft and Merlin helicopters. Two of these machines can be brought from the hangar to the flight deck on the two elevators at the same time. Two Rolls-Royce gas turbines and four diesel generators give the ship an output of 109 megawatts. The crew is 700 strong and the cost per ship is over £ 3 billion. In terms of its appearance, the new ship differs from other carriers of this size mainly in that it has two towers on the 1.6 hectare flight deck. One is primarily used to navigate the ship, the rear primarily to guide flight operations. Air defense systems are used for self-defense.

The carrier will now complete further tests at sea. Teething problems with new buildings are not uncommon. In the case of the "Queen Elizabeth" too, leaks were apparently found in the area of ​​the drive shafts during her first test drives. It is still unclear whether the ship will have to go back to dry dock because of this. It is planned to move to the USA in the second half of 2018 to carry out eight-week trials with the F-35B. Some machines have already been taken over and are currently being tested by British pilots in the USA. The ship is expected to be operational for the first time in 2020, but will probably not be used for the first time with its own combat group until 2023.

High cost as a mortgage

Despite periodic criticism of aircraft carriers, the Royal Navy is now back in the group of countries that, like the USA, or like China, have recently been building large units of this category. And this in spite of the argument put forward again and again in Great Britain that because of the expensive carriers the urgently needed money for the construction of other warships is missing. The costs are indeed a mortgage, especially since not only is the procurement for the two carriers more expensive than planned, but the costs for the F-35B also appear to be higher than originally assumed. The stationing of the two carriers at the Portsmouth base also causes significant infrastructure costs. It is undisputed that the Royal Navy's clout will be significantly strengthened. The carrier combat groups are versatile, they are not only intended for conventional warfare, they will also be able to serve as platforms for initial humanitarian relief operations in the fight against terrorism and in the event of major natural disasters.

The construction of the two British large aircraft carriers is also an expression of the fact that, after decades of involvement in the Cold War, especially on the European mainland, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Great Britain is now increasingly turning to the maritime dimension again, and thus to global responsibility again is ready to take over, among other things in the network and within the framework of a division of labor with allied and friendly naval forces. To this end, the corresponding strategy provides for such large ships that should not least serve the prestige of the former great power at sea.