After months of familiarisation and training, the ships company of HMS Queen Elizabeth can finally call the ambitious aircraft carrier home. 700 of the ship’s crew have taken up residence aboard the vessel which will become the Royal Navy’s future flagship and the epitome of Britain’s continued commitment to influencing world events.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is now in the advanced stages of her test and commissioning phase which will include her maiden sea trials scheduled to take place this summer. During this period the 65,000 ton aircraft carrier is expected to undertake “simple” air operations involving helicopters such as the Wildcat and Merlin.
The first operations involving the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will not take place until the summer of 2018. Even then it will likely consist of a number of United States Marine Corps aircraft and crews until the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force comes up to strength on the type. Given the present acquisition rate, the UK will be able to deploy 24 of the maximum number of 40 F-35Bs onboard the ship some time in 2023 according to the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd.
However, the whole carrier project continues to draw worried glances from observers regarding manpower shortages within the Royal Navy. This emerged in the wake of a savage cutting of over 4,000 personnel in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Royal Navy has engaged in a recruitment drive in recent months to address the problem with some success but the concern is that putting the aircraft carrier to sea will result in other ships being confined to port. In 2015, there were rumours that the navy was even considering advertising for personnel in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
According to the Admiralty, the vessel is planned to sail to her future home base of Portsmouth by the end of the year.