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Britain Commissions the HMS Queen Elizabeth; It's First Aircraft Carrier in Over Half a Century

December 09th - 2017

The British Royal Navy has commissioned its largest ever warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is the country's first aircraft carrier since the cancellation of both the original Queen Elizabeth class carriers in the 1960s and cancellation of the Malta class in the 1940s. Britain has since relied heavily on small helicopter carrier sized ships built for anti submarine warfare, the Invincible class, which it pressed into service as carriers for vertical takeoff fighter aircraft. Their capabilities and small size left much to be desired however, and they began to enter retirement twelve years before the Queen Elizabeth class entered service. The new carriers represent far more potent platforms capable of genuine power projection - the first commissioned in over half a century since the Audacious Class in the 1940s.

The carrier was personally commissioned by its namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, who attended the ceremony that handed the completed carrier over to the Royal Navy in December 2017. The large warship is a much needed source of pride for the declining British military, which due to extensive budget cuts and a reliance on extremely complex and expensive equipment has led to a significant reduction in its capabilities in the last ten years. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Today marks the start of a hugely significant chapter for the Royal Navy, and indeed the nation, as the future flagship is commissioned into Her Majesty’s fleet. It is an honour to witness the crowning moment of an extraordinarily busy year for the Royal Navy that has seen us name the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, cut steel on the first Type 26 frigates and launch the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future. For the next half a century both carriers will advance our interests around the globe, providing the most visible symbol of our intent and commitment to protect the UK from intensifying threats, wherever they may come from.”

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first Queen Elizabeth class carrier, is the largest in service in the world other than the U.S. Navy's Nimitz and Gerald Ford class supercarriers. It's displacement is 320% times that of the small Invincible class deployed during the Faulklands War, the country's only other carrier capability developed since the Second World War. The discrepancy between the British and US carriers remains significant however. British carriers lack the armaments, long range, nuclear power and aircraft carrying and launching capabilities of the larger Nimitz class. In addition, while both carriers rely on the F-35 fighters, U.S. carriers make use of the more capable F-35C platforms as well as employing complementary heavier F-18E fighters. U.S. military planners have attested to the fact that the F-35 was never designed to engage in air to air combat unsupported, and British carriers' sole reliance on the F-35B and inability to operate other complementary platforms makes their air wings far less capable of engaging near peer adversaries relative to rival carriers such as the Nimitz class, Liaoling, Kuznetsov and Charles De Gaulle.

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