Why Don’t the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers Have an Angled Flight Deck Like the US Ford Classes?

Why Don’t the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers Have an Angled Flight Deck Like the US Ford Classes?

Queen elizabeth angled deck

Last updated on September 18th, 2021 at 02:42 pm

Have you ever wondered why the US Ford class carriers have an angled flight deck while the UK’s Queen Elizabeth class carriers don’t? Let’s find out!

The Queen Elizabeth class is conceptually different from the US supercarriers or the Russian/Chinese carriers.

The US supercarriers are Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier-Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) carriers. Planes get sling-shotted off the front, and land on the angled deck. An excellent design for maximum power projection, at a ruinous cost.

The Russian/Chinese carriers are Short Take-Off Barrier-Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) designs. Planes take off using their own engines but land normally on the angle. Not quite as combat-capable, but far less prone to breakage, especially with the boost from the British-invented ski-jump.

The Queen Elizabeth carriers are Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) designs similar to the US’ big deck amphibious ships. The Queen Elizabeth class incorporates the simpler ski-jump take off design of the STOBAR carriers, but adds vertical landing instead of conventional landing down an angled deck.

The reasons for this are simple:

  1. The Royal Navy committed to the ski-jump take off concept since the F-35B was needed for the US Navy big-deck carriers designed around the Harrier, and was always going to be available.
  2. STOVL planes lack the range of conventional landing planes, but they permit much smaller ships and can be offloaded to operate ashore from rough dispersed facilities. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are expected to operate the same aircraft type from each other’s facilities or forward deployed bases as needed.
  3. Supercarriers make sense for power projection. The Royal Navy’s mission is keeping sea lanes open and occasionally retaking islands.

So, the UK’s new carriers lack an angled deck because… they don’t need it!

  1. Catapults involve “ruinous” cost? That’s just too judgemental. F35Bs could equally said to be ruinously costly and with constrained capabilities.

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