The UK Royal Navy is currently constructing two Queen Elizabeth -class aircraft carriers, the first of which was named the HMS Queen Elizabeth today.
These are the UK Navy’s largest ships to date. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to commission in 2017 and to be fully operational by 2020.
The Queen said that the new warship “marks a new phase in our naval history”, apparently referring to the UK’s steady slide into naval obscurity. The massive aircraft carrier is a desperate attempt for the Royal Navy to remain relevant, and will presumably be deployed in the Asia/Pacific, late to the party.
That the Royal Navy named its new ship on the American Independence Day is a signal of the UK’s intent to independently project military might as a major power in its own right—of course, the ship will be carrying US-made F-35 fighter jets, so make of that what you will. It is also notably smaller than the American “super carrier” USS Nimitz.
The HMS QE will require “most of the Royal Navy to support it and protect it” according to RUSI Director Michael Clarke, effectively creating a single-carrier battle group.
Considering its limited utility and the ongoing cuts in the MOD, the cost of the cumbersome ship is excessive. There are serious doubts that the next government will find the funds to run both the HMS QE and its sister carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales.
The naming ceremony eschewed the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne in favor of a bottle of Scottish malt whisky, a nod to the Scottish ship yards where it was assembled and perhaps a plea for them to forget about that nasty Scottish independence business. Ed Miliband declared, almost threateningly, “As a part of the United Kingdom, I’m confident that shipbuilding in Scotland will have a positive future and continue to thrive.”