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A life on the ocean wave begins

All eyes are on Scotland this week where the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier is being readied for her naming ceremony on Friday.

The naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth comes just over six years since the ministry of defence announced the go-ahead for Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.


Comprising 3,000 compartments over 17 decks, the 280m long HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the largest ship to enter service with the Royal Navy but will have a relatively small crew of 679. Capacity exists on board for 1,600 people, reflecting the multiple roles – such as humanitarian relief – that she may be called to fulfil during her anticipated 50 years of service.

In London, the Royal United Services Institute hosts its inaugural Sea Power conference in London. The two-day event is themed around ‘National Power Projection from the Sea – Challenges and Opportunities’ and will see senior naval officers and government officials convene with representatives from industry, academia discuss key issues in naval and maritime affairs for the coming year.

The conference will also launch RUSI’s Sea Power Research Programme, a three year initiative in conjunction with Greenwich University and King’s College London.

The naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth comes a time of relative buoyancy for the Royal Navy and the companies that help to keep it afloat, with contracts being awarded last week for work on Type 45 destroyers and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

BAE Systems announced a week ago that it has been awarded a £70m contract to manage the support, maintenance and upgrade of the Type 45 Destroyers at Portsmouth Naval Base and on all their operations in the UK and globally. The contract – commencing in July and running until the end of November 2016 - is expected to sustain 100 roles at BAE Systems in Portsmouth.

The Type 26 programme – which is likely to see the ministry of defence placing an order for 13 vessels – has moved forward also with BAE Systems awarding design contracts with six key suppliers.

The Design Development Agreements have been awarded to Babcock for the ship’s air weapons handling system; DCNS for work on the vessel’s propulsion shaftlines; GE Energy Power Conversion for the electric propulsion motor and drive System; Imtech for HVAC and low voltage
electrical equipment; Raytheon to develop the integrated navigation and bridge systems; and finally Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions for the ship’s fixed firefighting systems.

The Type 26 programme – designed to replace the Type 23 frigate – would take work at BAE’s Scotstoun site to at least the mid-2030s.

In the automotive sector SMMT is set to release its annual Sustainability Report, which will assess progress made on environmental, social and economic issues.

The organisation’s 2013 report – a look back to the sector’s performance in 2012 - found the sector in excellent health, with turnover increasing 2.8 per cent to £59.3bn, and a rise in production that saw 7.7 per cent more cars and CVs manufactured.

Further economic highlights from 2013 include a 9.2 per cent rise in automotive business R&D spend to £1.7bn, and a 1.7 per cent rise in car and CV registrations to 2.2 million.

Can automotive - or any form of materials-intensive manufacturing - make these gains whilst remaining environmentally benign?

The answer, according to SMMT’s 2013 report, is a resounding yes as the following figures demonstrate.

Environmental performance

  • Energy use in automotive production decreased – down 7.6 per cent in total and 4.8 per cent per vehicle produced.
  • Total water use in production increased 5.2 per cent in 2012, but fell 2.1 per cent per vehicle produced.
  • Output of CO2 decreased 11.2 per cent in total and 3.2 per cent per vehicle produced.
  • The amount of waste going to landfill from materials production dropped 21.1 per cent in total, 16.7 per cent per vehicle produced.
  • Average new car emissions dropped 3.6 per cent in 2012 to 133.1 g/km CO2.

Source SMMT

The automotive sector has of course remained resilient since the downturn, and just recently it received a further boost in the form of a new £24m government fund, plus investment into the UK from two manufacturers.

The Tooling Funding Programme will help component manufacturers design, develop and manufacture new tooling where they would otherwise fail to acquire funds; whilst Nissan has invested £20m in its Sunderland production plant, a move that will create 50 extra jobs.


The UK also remains an attractive place to set up facilities, as witnessed by the decision of Detroit Electric to build its all-new model, the SP:01 (pictured above) in the UK.

The new 155mph electric vehicle will be manufactured in a new Detroit Electric production facility in Leamington Spa, which is set to employ 80 staff by early 2015.

Production is set to begin later in 2014, before models begin rolling off the production line destined for markets across Europe and Asia.

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Readers' comments (15)

  • I note that the word 'Carrier' appears in red in the first paragraph. Is this The Engineer's spellchecker pointing out that an aircraft carrier with no complement of aircraft is not in fact an aircraft carrier? In which case, the spellchecker seems to have got it right. Can anyone tell me what possible use this vessel has in the foreseeable future?

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  • The red font inidcates a hyperlink to additional content, and the Queen Elizabeth will typically carry 24 F-35 aircraft plus helicopters and tilt-rotors including Chinooks, Merlins, Apaches and Ospreys. For other material on the uses to which the vessel might be put, might we suggest any one of the several features we've published on the subject?

  • I am old enough to recall that at the time of the building of the Royal Yacht Britannia in the early 50s (which sailed the seven seas to vast public expense) one of the reasons for its building was that it was apparently well suited to become a hospital ship in times of national emergency? In the past 60 years we have had lots of these....
    Another reason was that it would act as a floating 'exhibition site' -promoting British goods, services and so on. Correct me if I missed something, but
    - I believe it never fulfilled its first function (perhaps it was too busy acting a a honeymoon yacht for minor (and one major) royal and -during the period of its commissioning, our nation's share of International trade in engineering and related products which it was supposedly there to promote has dropped from 4th to below that of Mexico.

    perish the thought that we are being conned yet again with the 'wide expanse' of roles that two large white (grey?) elephants are to fulfil.

    This time, I will believe it when i see it.

    Mike B

    Brian Reed asks about these new vessels' role.
    To match the delusions of grandeur of those who spend the State's money (ie other peoples) fulfilling childish dreams and fantasies.

    There are so many doing the same, its no surprise that our nation has lived beyond its means all of living memory.

    Hey Ho
    Mike B

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  • Democracy Index 167 countries by type:-
    Full Democracies 25 (15%)
    Flawed Democracies 52 (31.1%)
    Hybrid Regimes 39 (23.4%)
    Authoritarian States 51 (30.5%)

    That looks like a pretty scary world to me, and I would very much like to stay in the first category. As an Island nation our Navies both Royal and Merchant have and always will be our surest form of defence. The trade that is our life blood is global and sometimes sadly that involves protecting our interests globally. That is what these ships are for, the Royal Navy's motto is "If you wish for peace, prepare for war" Since the second world war RN aircraft carriers have been used on at least 18 occassions for events, crises, conflicts and deterrence, not to mention numerous more times for humanitarian aid and disater relief. I firmly believe there will come a time when we are all grateful to the Engineers who built them and the Crews who man them, as we have been throughout our long Island history.

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  • Whilst I have no issues with the UK having an effective navy, there seems a lack of joined up thinking around these vessels. They have no catapult and apparently no way to retro-fit one so conventional aircraft are forever barred from their decks. As a helicopter platform they are laughably expensive and oversized and as VTOL carriers, well, latest reports indicate the F35's are not living up to their hype. The manufacturer refuses to answer questions about exhaust gases being so hot they effectively destroy the deck or landing area they use.
    All in all, these ships could possibly be an expensive example of muddled thinking and poor design strategy.

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  • I really don't know what you want. These carriers are the future. Building a brand new ship prepared for Harriers (50+ years old) as its primary aircraft seems idiotic. The ship won't be ready for service for at least another 2 years, right about the time that F35 is slated to be at IOC. There is a well publicised contingency for the thermal plume from the aircraft's engine. The primary one is the Thermion deck coating, and the second is another British innovation - SRVL, for Shipboard Rolling Vertical Landing. This mitigates thermal damage by having the aircraft approach from the rear at a relative speed of about 60 knots, more than slow enough to allow the brakes to stop the aircraft, and allowing the bring back mass to be far larger, meaning that munitions can be returned rather than dumped. The aircraft is in development yes, but all aircraft have to go through development, and the fact that there are now 4 in the UK fleet, and in excess of 100 in the US inventory shows that there will be a carrier aircraft ready when QNLZ is handed over to the RN.

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  • Anon - So you are content that usage is limited to shipboard operations only. No landing in forward battle areas unless a properly prepared STOL runway or expensive and time consuming specially designed landing platform is provided.
    I stand by my comments.

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  • De Bono's lateral thinking might surely have a role here! He postulated in the 60s that as it was costing Uncle Sam about $1,000,000 to remove each VC from the battlefield (killed or wounded) bribery ($50,000 would have bought anyone in Asia then!) was surely an option. He was simply repeating the attitude of Venice, the most successful city in the Medieval Mediterranean who paid the pirates to seek plunder elsewhere than from Venetian ships.

    Of course this approach would remove the 'big boys toys' and indeed the need for the boys themselves: but would surely/might have the greater benefit to the greatest number -the general population. That is Those who pay for those who create no wealth, and are no part of either capitalism or democracy to continue to do so?

    Previous posts about using this obvious skill (the design, manufacture and use of these massive vessels) to commercial and civilian advantage still apply.

    Mike B

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  • My thanks to the contributors who think the project a shambles & a white elephant. I would actually like to see this vessel used for its intended purpose, which is to carry a complement of modern aircraft, However, they seem to be a distant dream. I note today that the Queen did not to waste any champagne at the launching ceremony. Bad luck in the making? It is hard to see how things could actually be much worse.

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  • Single malt's nicer than champagne anyway.

  • Amongst the many 'one-liners' spouted at the launch? by the vested (or at least uniformed?) participants was that these vast vessels (in case anyone has forgotten, one will, on completion be immediately be put to the back of the toy cupboard) were 'an expression of projected National power and influence. Perhaps they might be to other military (as opposed to political) figures.

    A previous post suggested that for the population, seeing daily that over 70% of the day-to-day products that touch individual lives have, not the Union flag, but the 'mark' of Germany and Japan upon them might suggest a different, and more effective interpretation of the way to achieve influence (even control?) over other nations. Am I alone in recognizing this?

    Mike B

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  • Mike B,

    The projection of soft and hard power is what gives our nation the safety and security of a mature democracy, and you the right to an opinion, and indeed the ability to project it. Think of it like this. The UK (the 6th largest economy out of 170ish countries in the world) is safe, secure, and therefore attractive to those wishing to spend their money. In small terms, would you rather keep your money in a bank run by a bloke who creams off the profit for himself, who can't keep your investment safe, and is not certain if someone is going to wonder in and plunder it, and whose safe is made of tin foil? Or would you rather put it in a bank run by someone reliable, trustworthy, and whose safe is made of concrete and steel and has a 24 hour guard on it? THAT, writ large, is why we have a strong defence, and why Nissan feels safe to invest in the UK, and Bombardier, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BMW, Ford and thousands of other companies from overseas, and why people want to come here to live, and why we can afford to prop up the poor, and have the NHS. You don't get that sort of thing, which you clearly take for granted, from a tin pot dictatorship, because they aren't safe countries. That's why people leave them.

    I would also add that the reason that Germany and Japan have safe powerful economies is because they have been protected, militarily, by the US and the UK for the past 69 years, and have therefore had a safe environment to build up their markets unmolested by China, the USSR, etc etc.

    Parking a large aircraft carrier off someone's coast - bearing in mind that 80% of the planet's population lives within 300 miles of the sea, means that we don't need to worry about forward basing, or negotiating with Kazakstan and the like, to overfly. We have the ability to go where we choose, at a time of our choosing. That presence alone has a far more marked effect than you might realise. The Falklands happened, in part, because Gaultieri and his generals thought that the UK was getting rid of her carriers.

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  • Dear Carrierfan2006,
    I believe you may be aware (our editor certainly is) that my career was in the special textile/textile machinery field.
    Just for the record, one of my clients for about 10 years was Bridport Aviation.
    I assisted in development(s) to their runway barrier system (to catch aircraft whose brake/drogue shutes fail) -this developing into work on similar last-ditch stopping systems on the very vessels/ carriers that appear to cause hackles and blood pressure to rise.

    Also I assisted (with colleagues at Exeter University) in their cargo-net/ heli-heavy lift efforts. Amongst other projects, one that gave me both intellectual stimulation and professional reward was assisting in attempts to reduce the effect of IEDs as used by the Taliban et al:(we used explosive reaction and chain-saw protection technology)
    Many years ago, whilst in the USA I worked on the machinery to process Kevlar before it had a name. I was also deeply involved in the technology to combat WMD -NBC protective fabrics.

    The gossip blog of our illustrious journal is not really the place for these exchanges: though I would be happy to discuss them further. My e-mail is Please be in touch if you wish.

    PS the NHS, social services argument is surely long surpassed -as another blogger did point out: we are rapidly leading the charge to be the best defended bankrupt country in the world.

    And unless you and I have been asleep since 2008 any comment about UK (or indeed any?) banks (tin-pot, tin-plated, concrete or otherwise) the digital economy we technologists have created...looks the same.

    Your serve, I will volley. Is that an analogy or a simile or a metaphor.
    Mike B

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  • Carrierfan - Carriers only become an effective deterrent of the type you eschew so strongly if they have aircraft aboard. That this seems not likely to happen for some time, and even then to harbour (sorry) some doubt about whether they will even be deployable on carriers or land as VTOL's makes your argument maybe more a discussion topic than an expectation of reality.

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  • So we waited at Farnborough to no avail. It seems the Wonderplanes can fly only in sight of base, when allowed to fly at all. Maybe in UK service they could be used to frighten Somali pirates? They don't venture far offshore either and would provide some sort of justification for all the money wasted so far on this carrier.

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  • I come from a military background. I have some insight into this subject. The F35 is actually a STOVL aircraft, not VTOL. While it can do VTOL, as with Harrier, it will not be able to lift any meaningful load off the deck/ground. Its. Own mass, plus some fuel, but no weapons. It does short take off, using the aerodynamic surfaces to provide most of the lift. As I indicated earlier, the landing arrangements, would generally mirror the take off, with the newly developed SRVL, allowing the return of expensive weapons such as JDAM, Meteor and Brimstone.

    There seems to be a desire to see them used now. QNLZ will not be in service for at least another 2 years, just as F35 starts to come in. There will be another 2 years of working up, training pilots, ground crew, ship's company, and development work. This is not a larger Invincible with some updated version of Harriers. This is a new ship, with unknown capabilities and potential, which is built round a new aircraft with unknown capabilities and potential. They will not be likely to be forward based in a field, just because that's what they did with Harriers. F35 has longer range and a larger payload by far than Harrier. It will fly off QNLZ, when both are ready.

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  • One of the 'anon' persons did comment about Carriers and the Argentine and the Falkland Islands. Just for the record, a close family member was chief design Engineer of the firm that made the engines for the carrier in the task force. He described (for many years before that event) trying to get the Navy to purchase a proper 'spares' regime for the engines. "We have no money..."

    Another neighbour [shot down on September 4th 1939 dropping leaflets over Hamburg, and a guest of the Reich for the duration, during which he studied before joining the FO, eventually becoming an Ambassador to Peru] was, in the mid-70s part of the FO group tasked with deciding what to do about our various very distant territories.

    "Do a deal with the nearest country and let them go in peace!" was their advice.

    How amazing that a totally different set of financial and political 'rules' suddenly came into being after the 'invasion'. My family member was given a blank cheque (including the leasing of Huntsman, then the largest tug in the world, to tow Hermes, has it broken down) and no longer considering giving up-what has been and continues to be a vast financial 'drain' on resources( with less than 2,000 inhabitants) for the sake of the political survival of...well. you can fill in the gaps.

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