HMS Queen Elizabeth nearing completion in Rosyth

HMS Queen Elizabeth – making good progress

The exact dates of the departure of HMS Queen Elizabeth for sea trials and her subsequent arrival in Portsmouth have been subject of intense media speculation. Briefings last year had given the impression that sea trials would probably be conducted in March 2017, although many journalists overlooked the caveat that timings maybe subject to change. It is now clear that the sea trials date has slipped slightly but disappointment over minor delays must be seen in the context of a very ambitious 8-year building project. There have also been various other rumours about the project circulating, some of which are addressed here.

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HMS Artful roll out

Will 2017 be “the year of the Royal Navy” ?

On New Years Day the Ministry of Defence stated: “2017 is the year of the navy”. The Defence Secretary said, “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.” There is no doubt that there will be some very significant milestones in the program to deliver new equipment to the RN and there are many reasons to be positive. But this is just one side of the story. While it is very heartening to see new vessels arrive, this must be seen in the context of the size and strength of the fleet as a whole.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth Portsmouth 2017

When will HMS Queen Elizabeth arrive in Portsmouth?

HMS Queen Elizabeth will arrive for the first time in Portsmouth in 2017 but the exact date is still unknown at present, even to the Royal Navy. The Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) who are constructing the ship are determined she be tested thoroughly and the majority of teething problems eliminated. Only when the ACA and the RN are is satisfied she meets the specification will she be formally handed over.

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The campaign to retain, and eventually replace HMS Ocean starts here

Under current plans the RN’s sole helicopter assault ship HMS Ocean, will decommission on 31st March 2018. There will then be a gap in capability for some years but the official plan is for the new Queen Elizabeth class to eventually double as both strike carriers and assault ships. Although this concept is not without precident, in the current circumstances it is fraught with problems, limitations and dangers. Many inside and outside the RN strongly believe the best solution would be to retain HMS Ocean, at least in reserve and then build an affordable replacement vessel.

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ships company of HMS Somerset, Malta

SDSR implications for the RN – The manpower situation

It is no secret the RN has been struggling with a serious manpower shortage, particularly with technically qualified personnel. The modest increase of 400 people for the RN announced in the SDSR was greeted with disappointment in some quarters and criticism that shiny new kit was being prioritised ahead of the people needed to operate it. Although the RN would undoubtedly benefit from having more people, the true state of its manpower resources is more complex than may appear.

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