As the Royal Navy’s newest flagship begins its sea-trials, does the country need the carrier and its still-uncompleted sister ship?
After eight years in construction and almost three years after it was officially launched, the Royal Navy’s largest ever ship, the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, left the Rosyth dockyard where it was assembled and went to sea for the first time yesterday. Currently at anchor in Kirkcaldy Bay, the ship will shortly sail into the North Sea to begin six weeks of sea trials, which will be followed by testing and maintenance back at Rosyth and a second stage of sea trials to test mission systems before the carrier is transferred to Portsmouth where it will be officially handed over to the Royal Navy later in the year.
Every stage of the project to build Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship, Prince of Wales, which is scheduled to be launched in the next few months, has been dogged by controversy and delays, not least of these relating to type of aircraft it will carry and the the late delivery of the Lightning II F 35 aircraft that will make up the majority of the carriers’ airborne force. Although Labour, Conservative and coalition governments have all backed the carriers, there is still some disagreement over whether they are needed at all, or whether a different design of carrier might have been more suitable. The maiden voyage seems like a good time to ask our readership what their current views on the UK’s new aircraft carriers are.
Although many nations seen as being in the “top-rank” internationally operate aircraft carriers, not all of them do – China, India, France and Italy do, for example, but Germany and Japan do not. So do you think the UK needs to operate carriers primarily for international prestige? Do you think the defence and security needs of the UK require aircraft carriers, and are they primarily necessary for responding to emergency situations which could be humanitarian as much as defence-related? Do you think that aircraft carriers are a necessary component of the Royal Navy’s force, but that the Queen Elizabeth class was ill-conceived (if so, you can tell us why in the comments section)? Finally, do you think that the country has no need of aircraft carriers at all?
You can read a selection of our comprehensive coverage of the engineering effort to build these huge ships by clicking on the articles in the column to the right.
Comments are, as ever, welcome, but will be moderated to ensure the discussion remains flowing and on topic. We will display the results of this poll on this page on 4 July.