HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales'' Supercarriers''.
These two ships are to replace the current Invincible Class carriers in Royal Navy service. They will each weigh in at some 65,000 tonnes and be similar in size to the Nimitz Class and carry 50-60 Aircraft. They will not be nuclear powered as that costs too much (MoD) apparently.
Whether they actually appear though is another issue, what with all the MoD penny-pinching and defence cuts, other problems are that the current facilities in the dockyards are too small for the vessels, requiring a massive and expensive overhaul themselves.
The government has promised the vessels in return for slashing the current fleet by 20%, but we all know politicians lie through their back teeth. Despite doubts, the vessels will be launched in 2012 and 2015 respectively and will be the largest ships to be built in the UK.
They will be in a STOVL layout to operate the Lighting II (JSF), if this doesn't work (and its not looking too good at the moment), talk has been of a navalised Typhoon fitted with an arrester hook. But that's not so simple a solution, as the Typhoon was not designed with carrier operations in mind, so the whole airframe and undercarriage will have to be reconfigured for carrier deck ops. This smacks of hideous expense, and as the Typhoon is already over-budget by oodles, it makes perfect sense to throw even more money at it. Foresight? Don't be fucking stupid!
They will provide the UK with a quantum leap in power projection, and scare our enemies rigid... apparently. The fact that it would be cheaper not to power project at all seems to elude those who make the decisions. The benefits of not power projecting are twofold:
- It would save the tax payer shed-loads of beer tokens
- It should dramatically reduce the amount of people who want to blow us up and burn our flag - though the flag manufacturers might have something to say about this
All this floating targetry will need protecting, but as the surface fleet has been cut by 20% to cover the carrier funding, quite how this will be achieved has yet to be adequately explained. I suppose protecting it will give the matelots something to do with all those bloody destroyers and frigates that they have no longer have, otherwise a couple of completely peaceful & innocent - and not to be profiled/questioned/suspected Muslims might cause havoc by accidentally ramming one in a speedboat packed with 2 tonnes of semtex!
Oh and the French want one because the Charles de Gaulle is crap. See also Procurement decisions.
After a marathon period of "will we, wont we", the tax raising pile of shite that was our then Prime Minister (the Broon One) decided in late 2009 we were going to have the 2 carriers (built in labour marginals) even if there were no escorts to protect them or planes to fly off their decks. If worst come to the worst, labour can always use them as floating prisons to incarcerate all the people refusing to carry ID cards.
After being delayed again in early 2010, sceptics are starting to think that they're just there so that the navy has something to cut back. Just what happens now the Conservatives are back in power is any ones guess but the billions these puppies cost would be an attractive sacrificial pawn in the rush to balance the books.