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Bringing together technology on Britain’s biggest warship

Chief Engineer
2017 has been a remarkable year for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, and this week we’ve made history again.
From HMS Queen Elizabeth going to sea and entering her homeport of Portsmouth for the first time, to HMS Prince of Wales being officially named by the Duchess of Cornwall. This week, not only have we celebrated the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth into Her Majesty’s fleet, but I was so proud that the ship was formally accepted by our customer.    
 
The Aircraft Carrier Alliance has brought together the very best of British industry. I’m immensely proud to be part of the team that has provided our customer, the Royal Navy, and the Nation with the most powerful surface warship ever built in the UK.
 
The UK has pioneered the design of aircraft carriers, from the first flat top warship in 1918 to the first ‘island’ control tower, ski-jumps and optical landing system. Almost 100 years later, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance is again pushing the boundaries of technology with the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers – 21st century ships for a 21st century navy. 
 
As a company, we’re always looking for innovative ways to help our customers deliver their requirements as cost effectively as possible. The advances in technology and design efficiencies of the Queen Elizabeth Carrier mean that the vessel's operational readiness and effectiveness have been enhanced but with a similar crew size to its predecessors. With its added capability, the Queen Elizabeth Class is three times the size of the Invincible Class, but can operate with a standard crew of just 679, only 29 more than previously.
 
HMS Queen Elizabeth entry into Portsmouth Image 4
 
So much of this capability is possible because of the innovative munitions handling system which is the first of its kind to be used for naval purposes. The highly mechanised weapons handling system moves pallets of munitions from the magazines deep in the ship to a weapons preparation area and then onto the flight deck where they can be fitted to the aircraft.  
 
The Queen Elizabeth Class can fly 72 fast jet sorties per day – which can be increased if needed – and will give the UK a world class carrier strike capability for many years to come. She also has increased survivability because of the separation and distribution of power generation machinery throughout each ship.
 
The ship’s Artisan radar can track up to 800 potential targets at the same time and cut through radio ‘clutter’ generated by the equivalent of 10,000 mobile phones. The long range radar can track up to 1,000 contacts across a 250 mile radius both in the air or at sea. It’s an application of technology that’s already been proven on the Type 45s, but this time is linked to the Carrier's organic capability to control a wide area of air and sea.
 
HMS Queen Elizabeth on commissioning day
 
It’s not just the weapons handling that has allowed the crew to be streamlined and freed up for other duties. The ship’s six galleys have been specifically designed to allow food to flow from storage, to preparation, to cooking and onto plates as efficiently as possible. Just 67 catering staff can feed the entire Ship’s Company within 90 minutes routinely, and in just 45 minutes when the ship is at action stations.
 
Even technology that you find at home is now used much more widely at sea, with wireless communications installed throughout the ship to allow the Ship’s Company and teams on the flight deck to move around with their hands free. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, as the metal shell of each compartment acts as a Faraday Cage and stops signal transfer.
 
With a lifespan of 50 years, the technology on board the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers really is cutting edge. There’s also built-in room for development as times change. The sailor of yesterday, today and the future will recognise the hoses, hatches, structure and signage around the ship. And as in the past, each new generation will look in awe at the technology developed and used to enhance the capability through the years.
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Martin Douglass Chief Engineer 8 December 2017