The British Royal Navy is very proud of its “awe-inspiring’ aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. The vessel can carry up to 40 aircraft and features state-of-the-art weaponry and communications systems. She also contains many amenities for crew members, including a movie theater and a bakery.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will replace the HMS Ocean as the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship. She is a very impressive vessel in every sense, and there are some incredible facts you may not know about her.
It’s The Largest Ship Ever Built For The Royal Navy
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers. She’s the largest one the U.K. Navy has ever constructed and is 900-feet long (about the size of three soccer fields). Her flight deck covers four acres.
The ship was commissioned in 2017 and is scheduled to enter service in 2020. She is based at HMNB Portsmouth, and her identical sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will be deployed in 2023. The ship is the second Royal Navy vessel to have the name Queen Elizabeth.
HMS Queen Elizabeth & Her Sister Ship Cost $8 Billion To Build
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales cost a total of £6.2 billion (or approximately $8 billion in U.S. dollars) to build. They are replacing the decommissioned HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious and will be the leading U.K. military ships for the next 50 years.
Initially, the cost of the two ships was expected to be around $5 billion in U.S. dollars. However, the 2008 financial crisis spurred politicians to slow production, which ultimately tacked on more to the final price.
The Ship Is Really, Really Heavy
HMS Queen Elizabeth is a giant vessel that weighs 65,000 tonnes. She and HMS Prince of Wales have two propellers, which each weigh 33 tonnes. Together, these propellers can output 80MW. That is enough power to operate 50 high-speed trains.
The vessels feature onboard water treatment systems that will generate 500 tons of fresh water daily. The water will be used by the crew for sustenance as well as for humanitarian efforts when necessary.
There’s A Movie Theater On Board (And Five Gyms)
It’s not all work and no play on HMS Queen Elizabeth. Even navy men and women need to have some downtime when they’re at sea. As such, the vessel has a cinema and game room on board. There are also areas for crewmembers to play basketball and tug of war.
In addition, the Navy wants to make sure its crew stays in shape, so the vessel includes not just one but five gyms on board. There’s no excuse for not working out!
It Will Carry A Variety Of Aircraft In Large Numbers
The vessel is a Carrier Air Wing and can deploy a variety of aircraft in large numbers. Captain Jerry Kyd commented in 2018, “Initial operating capability numbers in 2020 are going to be very modest indeed.
“We will flesh it out with helicopters, and a lot depends on how many USMC F-35s come on our first deployment in 2021. By 2023, we are committed to 24 UK jets onboard, and after that it’s too far away to say.”
It Takes Just 60 Seconds For Jets To Leave The Hangar
The vessel is designed to operate V/STOL aircraft. The air wing will feature F-35B Lightning II multi-role fighters and Merlin helicopters as well as large troop transports such as Chinooks. It only takes one minute for fighter jets to be lifted from the hangar to the flight deck.
Instead of the Americans’ catapult system, jets will take off using a steep ramp or “ski jump”. The first-ever F-35B launch in British territorial waters occurred on December 16, 2019. It safely returned later that day.
She Incorporates A Unique Twin-Island Design
The Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers have a unique design. They are the first on earth to use a twin-island design, which segregates the command center of the ship from flying operations. One island is for navigation and operations, and the other island is for flight control and aerial operations.
This increases the vessel’s odds of surviving in an altercation. Each island can take over the other island’s operations if one of them is incapacitated.
The Vessel Includes A Chapel & Medical Center
With such a big crew on board, it’s imperative that everyone is in good health, both mentally and spiritually. As such, there is a chapel on the ship for those who follow a particular religion.
There is also a medical center and a 12-bed ward. There are three general physicians on board to care for any medical issues that may arise. There is even a dentist on hand to ensure that everyone’s teeth are properly cared for.
The Ship Generates A Huge Amount Of Power & The Crew Has Internet Access
With a ship that large, the Royal Navy had to ensure that there was enough power to operate the various functions on board. As a result, the onboard electrical distribution system generates enough energy that it could power 5,000 houses.
The vessel has 8,000km of fiber-optic cable and 250,000km of electrical cable. There is also internet access for all crew members, which is helpful because many of them will be deployed for nine months.
The Radar System Is Impressive
When you are operating a very large vessel, you can be a pretty big target to your adversaries. As such, you want to make sure that you are aware of those that are in (somewhat) close proximity.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has a very impressive radar system to ensure that crew members are aware of its surroundings. Her long-range radar can pick up as many as 1,000 aerial targets as far as 250 nautical miles away.
The Future, Final Captain Of The Vessel Probably Hasn’t Been Born Yet
As we mentioned earlier, HMS Queen Elizabeth has a service life of 50 years. It’s not uncommon for very young people to serve on these types of ships. As a result, the last and final captain of the vessel probably hasn’t even been born yet.
And if that doesn’t blow your mind, this next fact will. There will be crew members on board in the future whose parents likely haven’t been born yet.
The Vessel Is Named After The Virgin Queen, Not The Current Queen
HMS Queen Elizabeth is named after another ship, a WW1-era super-dreadnought that was named after Queen Elizabeth 1. She was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until 1603 and is also known as the Virgin Queen. The vessel includes the Queen’s Tudor rose-adorned crest and motto.
Queen Elizabeth II attended the vessel’s naming ceremony and said that the warship “marks a new phase in our naval history”. The reigning queen smashed a bottle of whisky from the Bowmore distillery on Islay on the hull instead of the standard bottle of champagne.
The Weapons System Will Permit The Firing Of 3,000 Rounds Per Minute
Any adversaries should think twice before attacking HMS Queen Elizabeth. The aircraft carrier has a pretty solid weapons system that’s sure to keep many potential enemies at bay. Specifically, the Phalanx close-in weapons system has the ability to fire 3,000 rounds per minute as anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense.
The ship also has 30mm Automated Small Caliber Guns and Miniguns to use against fast attack craft. In addition, she has a Highly Mechanized Weapon Handling System (HMWHS).
The Waste Management System Is The First Of Its Kind
With so many sailors on board, it’s imperative that a ship the size of HMS Queen Elizabeth had a proper waste management system. That’s where Babcock International comes in. The company has designed a fully integrated system for the warship (the first of its kind).
Specifically, the system collects, transfers, and treats various fluid and solid waste streams in a way that aligns with International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements. The vessel will stringently follow regulations for overboard discharge and storage.
10,000 People Helped Build The Ship
Building a ship is a big endeavor, and it took 10,000 people to construct HMS Queen Elizabeth. Not all of the vessel’s parts were constructed in one spot. Instead, various parts were made in shipyards around the United Kingdom and were later transported to Rosyth, Fife, for assembly.
For example, one 8,000-ton lower block of the ship was transported from Glasgow and traveled 600 miles around the coast of Scotland before it was dropped off in Rosyth on Aug. 20, 2011.
HMS Queen Elizabeth Will Have 1,600 Crew Members
When fully operational, HMS Queen Elizabeth will have 1,600 crew members on board. The vessel’s first commanding officer was Commodore Jerry Kyd. He had plenty of experience for the job since he previously commanded the Ark Royal and Illustrious carriers.
Kyd became captain of the vessel in 2014. As the commanding officer, he also wore the Royal Navy rank of captain as well as the rank of commodore, which was a historic custom. He has since been promoted to vice admiral and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019.
There’s A Bakery On Board That Serves Donuts & Eclairs
As we’ve previously mentioned, the ship has to accommodate a lot of people, so there are certain provisions that need to be met in order to feed all these people. Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales have a bakery.
These bakeries have the ability to produce 1,000 loaves of bread each day. And sailors with a sweet tooth can also indulge in some snacks such as scones, donuts, and eclairs.
Every Job On HMS Queen Elizabeth Is Open To Men And Women
In this day and age, it’s becoming less and less common for jobs to be geared toward one sex only. Women, who used to be perceived and treated as the weaker sex, have been making strides in areas that used to be dominated by men.
Every single job on HMS Queen Elizabeth, whether it’s industry-related or part of the Royal Navy, is open to both men and women. Still, men populate a larger percentage of the workforce on the ship overall.
There’s A Police Office & Jail Cells On Board
By now you know that the ship operates like a city at sea. She provides nearly all the services and amenities that crew members take advantage of when they’re on land. But there are also laws, and if someone breaks them there are consequences.
The ship has a police office and jail cells on board. This ensures that everyone acts in a civil and decent manner. Those who don’t follow the rules are dealt with accordingly.
Her First Trials Were In The Summer Of 2017
Though she was launched back in 2014, it’s quite a process preparing a ship, particularly of that size, to take on the sea. The plan was to have her out to sea for trials by March of 2017. However, conditions caused a delay.
On June 26, 2017, she undertook her first test: handling and speed. The ship had two frigates as her escorts. About a week after setting sail, the first aircraft landed on the ship. It was a Merlin HM.2 helicopter. Shortly thereafter, it was time to refuel and inspect.
The Ship Has A Top Speed Of 25 Knots & Propulsion Courtesy Of Rolls-Royce
Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are 280-meters long and were built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance. They have a top speed of 25 knots per hour. This enables them to travel 500 miles every day. Their total range is 10,000 miles.
The vessel generates 48,000 horsepower due to two Marine Trent MT30 gas turbine generators. The Integrated Electric Propulsion was developed by Rolls-Royce. The vessel also uses four 10 MW diesel engines.
Her Commission Ceremony Was That December
After successfully handling her tests and making it to Portsmouth, it was time for the commission ceremony. However, things didn’t run entirely smoothly. After the commissioning, there were a few errors to correct.
One of these was a leak in a propeller shaft. However, nothing was serious enough to impact the ship’s planned trip. By early 2018, the ship was off to the North Atlantic to assist in helicopter certifications. She also began assault trials at this time.
Her First Overseas Port Visit Was To The U.S.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, HMS Queen Elizabeth underwent qualifications for U.S. aircraft. She underwent her first overseas trip in October, heading to New York. She stopped in Norfolk, Virginia and the Caribbean, as well.
She was initially going to take on assault exercises that would involve Mk4 helicopters and Royal Marines of 42 Commando off the coast of South Carolina. However, Hurricane Florence prevented this practice from being carried out. She returned to the UK in December of 2018.
The Control Islands Have Massive Windows
Of course, visibility is of the utmost importance when navigating a ship the size of HMS Queen Elizabeth. This fact was accounted for when the control islands were under development. Each of the islands has floor-to-ceiling windows, providing unobstructed visibility to those in command. The windows’ material is specially designed to withstand heavy impacts, of course.
As the ship’s official website points out, these large windows require large windshield wipers to match. They’re outfitted with “wipers up to 2.4 meters long. We’re not aware of any others in the world that are larger!” Pictured here is the flight control tower.
Her Foghorn Can Be Heard From Two Miles Away
The foghorn on HMS Queen Elizabeth must be loud enough to safely warn other craft of her presence in murky conditions. Hers measures in at 162 decibels and can be heard from more than two miles away.
To put this into perspective, factory machines are around 100 decibels and an ambulance siren is 120 decibels. Here, the ship is pictured heading out of port for her maiden voyage in 2018.
The 3D Radar System Can Track A Tennis Ball More Than 25 Kilometers Away
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s impressive radar system has already been discussed, but here’s another fact. The ship’s Artisan 3D Radar system is so advanced that it can detect an object as small as a tennis ball, even if that object is more than 25 kilometers away and traveling three times the speed of sound.
Les Gregory of BAE Systems, which developed the impressive technology, said that “Artisan is a ground-breaking radar system that delivers real capability to the Royal Navy in its supreme accuracy and uncompromising tracking.”
Good Reason For The Grey Color
HMS Queen Elizabeth was deliberately painted a drab gray color in order to discreetly blend into the horizon. The official color name is Battleship Grey, for those wishing to duplicate the hue on their own boats.
According to the ship’s official website, it took 50,000 liters of the paint, applied in seven coats. The total area painted is the equivalent of Central London’s Hyde Park, the largest of four Royal Parks located in the city.
Prince Charles Is Commodore-In-Chief To Her Sister Ship
In December of 2019, the Prince of Wales was named the Honorary Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers, for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship. Prince Charles is a Naval Officer, as were his father, grandfather, and great-uncle.
The honorary title, given with the Queen’s blessing, was bestowed by the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin in a ceremony held in Portsmouth. The date commemorated the 78th anniversary of the ship’s predecessor sinking while in action.
Nine Countries Worked Together To Develop The F-35 Lightning II
HMS Queen Elizabeth is equipped with a fleet of F-35 Lightning II fast jets. As part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, development of this advanced jet model began in 1992. This was a global effort, as nine countries participated in the program: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The first jet was completed in 2006 at the Lockheed Martin factory in Fort Worth, Texas.
Gerald R Ford Class: United States
Owned by the United States Navy, the Gerald R Ford Class is one of the biggest aircraft carriers in the world. Delivered in May 2017, it is expected to be operating internationally by 2020. Its flight deck is 78 meters wide and has state-of-the-art electromagnetic systems to help planes both take off and land.
The carrier is operated by 4,539 personnel and has the capacity to carry more than 75 aircraft. On top of that, it is equipt with Rolling Airframe Missiles, Phalynx close-in-weapons systems, and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles.
Nimitz Class: United States
The Nimitz Class is a massive ship with the first of its class being put into commission in May 1975. There are ten of them in total with the last being deployed in January 2009. Each of the ships is given a lifetime of 50 years with each expected to have at least one mid-life overhaul.
It can carry around 97,000 tons, which equates to around 60 aircraft. With 3,200 sailors, 1,500 airmen, and 500 other crew, the ship reaches 20 stories above sea level. Powered by two nuclear reactors, the ship can reach a speed of 30 knots.
INS Vikramaditya: India
Translated to mean “brave as the Sun” and named after a famous emperor, the INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class carrier. India acquired it from Russia in 2004 for $2.35 billion and it was commissioned into service in 2013. The carrier has a displacement of 44,5000 tons and a relatively short flight deck measuring 264 meters long and 60 meters wide.
It can carry up to 30 aircraft and its weaponry includes anti-ship missiles, guided bombs and rockets, and air-to-air missiles. The ship is powered by eight turbo-pressurized boilers and four geared steam turbines.
USS John C. Stennis: United States
Docked at the Naval Base Kitsap in Washington, the carrier is named after former Senator John Stennis and is commonly referred to as “Johnny Reb.” Commissioned in 1995, it served in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as pirate hunting in the Persian Gulf.
With a flight deck of 333 meters and able to carry 90 aircraft, 3,200 sailors and 2,480 airmen, it’s an impressive carrier. So remarkable in fact, that it was featured in numerous different Transformers films.
Guiseppe Garibaldi: Italy
Italy’s first aircraft carrier, the Giuseppe Garibaldi was commissioned in 1985 and specializes in carrying Harrier II fighters and AgustaWestland EH101 helicopters. So far, it has been used in combat air operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya.
During the first year of the War in Afghanistan, the planes housed on the Garibaldi carried out 288 missions, dropping 160 guided missiles during the NATO Libya mission. However, the carrier isn’t as large as most United States ships, with a flight deck of only 180 meters and carrying under 1,000 personnel. However, it is fast with four gas turbines and six diesel generators.
Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia
Surprisingly, the Russian Navy only has one aircraft carrier. The Admiral Kuznetsov can carry Su-25UTG/UBP STOVL and Su-33, MiG-29K fighters, including 27LD32 and Ka-27 PLO helicopters. It can also hold 1,960 crewmen, 40 flagstaffs, and 626 air groups.
The carrier has no shortage of weaponry either and is equipt with AK-630 AA guns, CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS, RBU-12000 UDAV-1 ASW rocket launchers, and P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles. It was first launched in 1985 and was fully operational by 1995.
Much like Russia, China only has one aircraft carrier known as Liaoning(16). Interestingly, the carrier was initially deployed as part of the Admiral Kuznetsov Class for the Soviet Union. Yet, in 1998, the Hong Kong-based Chong Lot Travel Agency bought the carrier with plans to convert it into a casino, although it never happened.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was brought back to Ukraine and then bought once again by China’s Navy to serve as an aircraft carrier. Put into service in 2012, it can hold around 50 aircraft and is powered by steam turbine propulsion.
Charles de Gaulle (R91): France
Regarded as the flagship of the French Navy and the largest in Western Europe, the Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear-powered carrier not owned by the United States Navy. It can fit 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters such as Rafale M, Super Étendard, E-2C Hawkeye, SA365 Dauphin, EC725 Caracal, and AS532 Cougar.
It has a full-load displacement of 42,000 tons and houses 1,350 crewmen and 600 airmen. Being nuclear-powered it can reach a speed of 27 knots.
São Paulo (A12): Brazil
Decommissioned in 2017, the São Paulo was a Clemenceau-Class aircraft that was in service with the Brazilian Navy. Originally, it was commissioned by the French Navy as Foch but traded hands to Brazil in 2000. Unfortunately, the ship had some service issues and never went more than three months without needing repairs.
The flight deck could handle 39 aircraft including fixed-wing, fighters, and helicopters. The ship was propelled by six boilers which allowed it to reach 32 knots.
Cavour (550): Italy
Launched in 2004, the Cavour is the flagship of the Italian Navy, designed to carry out fixed-wing and helicopter air operations, as well as transporting military, civil personnel, and heavy vehicles. Its hangar can hold up to 24 main battle tanks and some extra light vehicles.
It has a load displacement of 30,000 tons with a flight deck that’s 323.6 meters long and 34.5 meters wide. The carrier also has an extensive defense system which includes short-range defense weapons, as well as guns and decoy launchers.
INS Viraat: India
Initially, the INS Viraat was commissioned to the British Royal Navy under the name HMS Hermes in 1959. However, it was later sold to India in 1986, making it India’s oldest aircraft carrier. Viiraat translates to mean “Giant.” The aircraft carrier sailed for its last time in 2016 from Mumbai to Kochi.
At the moment, there is a discussion of the carrier being turned into a museum. The ship can carry up to 30 of a variety of aircraft and is powered by a steam turbine which allows it to reach a speed of 28 knots.
The USS George H.W. Bush: United States
The USS George H.W. Bush is nicknamed “The Avenger” after the plane that H.W. Bush flew during World War II. The ship was delivered in May 2009 and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and in 2014 was the first to launch air strikes against ISIS.
The carrier displaces over 100,000 tons and the flight deck measures 333 meters in length. Powered by nuclear reactors, she can operate for more than 20 years without refueling and can reach speeds well over 30 knots.
The USS Ronald Reagan: United States
Currently stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan was commissioned and ready for action in the Persian Gulf by 2006. It served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as provided aid after the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
It has the capacity to house 90 aircraft as well as 3,200 sailors and 2,480 airmen. The ship is powered by 2 Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors on top of 4 steam turbines.
USS Harry S. Truman: United States
Also known as the “Truman,” “HST,” or “Lone Warrior,” the USS Truman was first launched in 1996 and was part of the enforcement squad for the no-fly zone over Bosnia. It then went on to serve during Operation Southern Watch and flew 1,300 sorties during Iraqi Freedom.
As tall as a 24-story building, the ship’s flight deck is 333 meters long and can carry 90 various types of aircraft. Using A4W nuclear reactors, the ship can travel over 3 million miles before refueling. It also helps that it has four five-bladed propellors that weigh 66,220 pounds each.
HTMS Chakri Naruebet: Thailand
A bit on the smaller side than some other carriers, the HTMS Chakri Naruebet is Thailand’s only aircraft carrier. Commissioned in 1997, it spends most of its time docked, although it has been deployed on a series of disaster relief missions.
It is frequently used as transportation for the Royal Family of Thailand yet the navy still trains with it once a month. With a flight deck of only 600 feet, it can carry 4 to 6 S-70B Seahawk helicopters and up to 675 soldiers.
USS George Washington: United States
Commissioned in 1992, the USS George Washington served in the Persian Gulf in 2000 and provided airspace defense after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The ship was also involved in Operation Southern Watch and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Since it is currently stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, the US Navy created a 200-page manga to help explain what an aircraft carrier is to the Japanese people. It’s a large carrier that can handle 90 aircraft, has a flight deck of 330 meters, and houses around 5,680 individuals. It is powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, and four steam turbines.
USS Abraham Lincoln: United States
Nicknamed “Abe,” the USS Abraham Lincoln was first used for relief services in the Philippines after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. It helped get over 45,000 people off of the island and is also the first aircraft carrier to fully integrate female airmen.
The ship has the ability to carry 90 aircraft and over 5,500 personnel, returning to active duty after four years of refueling and adjustments. It is also the same carrier that President George W. Bush gave his speech in front of the “Mission Accomplished ” accomplished banner.
USS Carl Vinson: United States
The USS Carl Vinson is named after the former congressman from Georgia who was in office during World War II and brought the Departments of War and the Navy into a single Department of Defense.
Also referred to “The Gold Eagle,” “Starship Vinson,” and the “Battlestar,” it was the aircraft carrier that deposited Osama bin Laden’s body at sea and has even hosted NCAA basketball games. Carrying up to 90 planes, the ship was used to battle ISIS in 2013 with its planes dropping over 230 tons of bombs on ISIS positions.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower: United States
Also known as “Mighty Ike,” the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower served during the operation Eagle Claw during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Commissioned in 1977, it secured Iraqi airspace in 2003 and went through the Suez Canal during Desert Storm.
After some time, the ship and its aircraft were put to use again to fight against ISIS, dropping over 1,100 bombs in Iraq and Syria. Currently, the ship is docked at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.