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I good introduction to the topic for someone like me. It is also allows me to ask the one burning question I have had…
I think the design is very elegant, and I hope highly efficient, but I don’t understand the very flat, flush nature of the ship’s bows. To me it seems the least streamlined option, presenting a flat block to the oncoming air stream… can any one explain the thinking.


I too find this strange. A more streamlined bow would not only create a more aerodynamic design, it would also allow a longer runway – thus freeing up even more deck space. Curious.

Steve Rigg

I suspect the flat bow is to create an upward surge of air as the ship moves forward, to give extra lift to aircraft leaving the ski jump


When you’re moving a 60,000 tonne ship through the water, the aerodynamic drag around the bow is rather negligible. Aerodynamics is important, and will have definately been considered, but more about reducing turbulence over the deck than anything else.
I think the answer is really just volumetric. In order for the carriers to be adaptable and have the option to fit electromagnetic catapults (should the UK decide to move away from STOVL when it replaces its F-35s), a lot of space is needed below the forward part of the flight deck. I believe there is therefor a whole deck there between flight deck and hangar, which is currently used for something like briefing rooms.
The BAE proposed design had a much sleeker looking bow. And actually if you look at something like a Nimitz-class, they also have a flat layer below the flight deck, though it is shallower and the Nimitz’s flight deck is larger so combined, it’s not nearly as noticable.


I mean most Aircraft carriers have very flush, flat bows. Check out USS Nimitz for example:
I suspect it would have something to do with the thickness of the flight deck, but that’s just a guess.

Desert Tortoise

American aircraft carriers have an auxiliary bridge under the extreme forward edge of the flight deck that would be used in the event the bridge in the superstructure was rendered unserviceable by combat damage. I’m not sure if the USS Ford has this feature but certainly earlier carrier classes did. You can see the small bridge portholes under the bow round down. Also, on American carriers everything above the hanger deck is considered to be “superstructure”. The hanger is not part of the hull as was the traditional practice of Royal Navy carriers. The thought here is that a hanger fire does not affect hull integrity and older US carriers had huge roll up doors to allow smoke filled hanger to be aired out by simply opening up the roll up doors. A superstructure hanger also doesn’t present the flooding risk present in the old bi-level British design. Today the big elevator doors perform the hanger ventilation function. Also unlike traditional RN carriers, there is a full height working deck between the flight and hanger decks on American carriers (Russian and Chinese carriers too). The air wing lives and works in this space. The Essex Class were the first carriers to incorporate this feature, done to absorb some energy from bomb hits and prevent them from penetrating armored decks of the hanger. For the most part that worked as the Essex class proved capable of absorbing enormous battle damage without sinking and many times without even losing power.


The “hurricane bow” was also a British invention. The original Essex carriers had open bows some of which were replaced by enclosed bows during reconstruction during the 1950’s. As far as absorbing battle damage no Essex was ever seriously challenged except for single hits by lightweight torpedoes with most damage caused by kamikaze attacks to the superstructure not the hull. An attack like those against Lexington (which had better protection” or Yorktown would have sunk an Essex just as well.
Check out photos of USS Franklin and USS Bunker Hill. Even destroyers were able to survive multiple hits so that should surprise. You might also check the Vietnam era photos of USS Forrestal which lost pilots who were trapped in their ready room, Oriskany (a modified Essex) and Enterprise which were all seriously damaged in accidents.
Roll up doors would probably be a liability a fallout contaminated conflict. Obviously if the ship itself is hit it may not be an issue! Open hangars were preferred to allow engine runups prior to delivery to the flight deck. The “full height” hangAr on Essex was originally Two (2) separate hangars which were combined into one postwar during the same reconstructions as when the Hurricane bows were added. The RN did the same with HMS Victorious and and others would have followed if not for budgetary cutbacks. The reason was that there was insufficient clear height for the propellers of larger aircraft coming into service.


Good read but I think you are incorrect in saying that the aft tower of the new Italian LHD contains only the funnel. As could be spot from many design models of the Trieste , the aft island hold both a radar as well as an air traffic control tower.


Best article I have read on the topic. Thanks.
One point about the Russian carrier: is that two ski jumps? Looks like a good idea. Is that something which could reasonably have been done on the QE Class?


Not sure, the angled flight deck doesn’t look like it has enough of a angle to really be a ski jump. But what the Russians did do with even their old Kusnetzov carriers was create a ski jump that effectively enabled two aircraft to take off in quick succession. I feel like we missed a trick there.

Desert Tortoise

The angled deck on the Kuznetsov is dead flat. Only the bow has a ski jump. The lack of catapults on Kuznetsov and similar STOBAR carriers severely limits the fuel and ordnance their air wing can carry into combat, greatly limiting their tactical usefulness. The QE is a much better design with a much better combat aircraft. The F-35B is going to launch from the QE class with more fuel and weapons than the Flanker the Russians or Chinese fly from their carriers.


James was talking about the Project 23000E “Shtorm” not the Kuznetsov.
The point I was making was the the Kuznetsovs sky ramp is made wide enough to allow more launches in a shorter time period than the QE’s which looks like it has only one run way position, which as I said, seems to be a trick we missed.


As can be seen here:
with the two Flankers in the two runway positions ready to be launched.


I still question the lack of an angled deck. I would have though if the brakes fail on landing an F35 should have the option of going round again rather than piling into parked aircraft or one waiting to take off the ramp.
The ship is so long i would have thought an adequately powered STOL a/c could land and take off with relative safety. Swordfish anyone?!

Desert Tortoise

Both the Harrier and the F-35 establish a stable hover alongside the port side of the ship then slide sideways over the landing spot. They land vertically with the brakes already set. There are endless videos of British, USMC and Italian Harriers landing this way on their respective navies VSTOL carriers.


on the HMS Queen Elizabeth there gonna use the rolling stop method instead of the safer method that doesn’t involve 110kph aircraft that could potentially crash into any aircraft on both sides


an f35 can land vertically will they do a conventional rolling landing ? so is this not a concern?


Sorry my comment has already been mentioned


I think you may have missed some of the points here. The QE class were designed, built and optimized from day one specifically to operate the F35B. Because of this the QE’s have the longest carrier runway in the world in order to maximise the length of the F35B’s non-catapult take offs and non-trap rolling landings which in turn maximises their take off/landing weights by having the F35B start their take off and rolling landing runs from the stern. Angled runways just shorten the runway to accommodate catapult launch areas which are not required so aircraft are not generally parked on/in line with the runway but I do agree that crossing the runway will require strict supervision.
Another important benefit from the single long runways is that it can make for a significant increases in the speed of take offs and/or landings as there Is little or no waiting time for the catapult/traps to be setup/reactivated which also leads to a reduction in the carrier’s flight deck crew requirements.
If the brakes fail the aircraft should be able to change to short take off mode using downward nozzle thrust/power and come round again for a vertical landing though it may have to dump any excess weight i.e. fuel or heavy munitions


how does that maximise there takeoff weight trap landings were made so you could land heavier fighter on the deck to use wires would pretty much allow you to land E-2C and C-2A an AWACS and a transport and utility carrier born aircraft i don’t see how a rolling stop is an advantage if you want naval AWACS and a good aircraft that can carry a ton of cargo and land on a ship you would want a rapid deacceleration method that doesn’t involve the aircraft having to use it’s own breaks and also a small LHD which the US has more than 3 of can land F-35’s vertically at least 2 at a time and the time between aircraft landing in normal carriers is 45 second which is fast actually and they could go faster if they needed to and you would still have to stop and turn of the landing area which both take time most carriers reset the wire just after the plane retracts it’s hook so they clear the foul line as the wire has been reset


to end this rebuttal the Ford has 4 catapult and around the clock land and makes planes take off to use that huge landing stip int he ocean the HMS queen elizabeth one plane has to go at a time of the ramp not even as fast as the kuznetsov the USN if you look at a triple tomcat launch vid they launched three F-14’s in rapid succession so not even close to fast enough


A very interesting article. While the 3 meter Windows in Flyco offer a splendid view, I would feel somewhat vulnerable in there during a combat scenario where anti- ship missles are inbound.

Kev seymour

A great capability but not all of it was thought through. The LSO for example, sits in the tower rather than on a platform which is great when the meatball is colocated. In this case, there is no meatball with landing aids similar to a PAPI on land which creates parallax errors for LSO. All this is now sorted using technology but at additional expense. The moral is change is good and technology allows us to progress, but let’s not forget the fundamentals and ensure we get it right from the outset.


Well, the British gave us “steel flight decks” and the canted deck that all our carriers use to day…….So will we see dual islands in the future on US carriers???…..we’ll see!……..

Keith Wallace

And the Mirror Landing System!


Which we seem to have forgotten about the advantages of since being forced down the Through Deck Cruiser route….
I still believe that we would have been better off with a more flexible ‘traditional’ carrier with angled deck and cats. Would still be able to launch F35’s, but could also accept USN aircraft in emergency – or buy F18’s if needed and COD aircraft….
The QE’s are great ships, but not the most flexible for air ops.


lol no two islands just take up space on a carrier that is space sensitive area why you need this huge building on a carrie no one knows and the british fyi created most thing but never really used them adn this flight deck design is if the producer of tron wanted to make his own aircraft carrier

Jake Curry

How about you just join the civilized world and make a nuclear powered carrier so you can have a catapult system instead of that ridiculous ramp

Keith Wallace

Too expensive unfortunately – these 2 carriers have bankrupt the Royal Navy budget – hence only 6x Type 45 destroyers, when we really should have had 12 to replace the Type 42 destroyers!

Jake Curry

How about you just make a nuclear powered carrier like the French and US, and get a catapult launch system so you don’t have to have that ridiculous ramp.

Marion Tinsley

I’m glad this ship is finally in service. Hope people give the ship a chance to work out the bugs all new classes of ships always have.
The two island concept isn’t bad, its just different. I can definitely see the benefits but only by actually using the ship operationally can everything be verified.

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