This week saw the christening of the new Ford-class carrier, USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) sponsored by no less a person than Caroline B. Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, and the late President’s only living child.
As you may well remember, a smaller Ms. Caroline also sponsored the new Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier, USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) in May 1967, some 52 years ago.
While CVN-79 is expected to be completed in 2022, CV-67 has been on red lead row since 2007 and is nominally set to be preserved as a museum ship.
Meanwhile, in Portsmouth, HMS Prince of Wales (R09) was commissioned this week as the Royal Navy’s second 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class carrier, the largest class of warships ever to carry the White Ensign.
The last HMS Prince of Wales (53), a King George V-class battleship, was famously lost 77 years ago this week on 10 December 1941 by Japanese air attack off Kuantan, in the South China Sea
The stricken battleship’s original bell, salvaged in 2002, is on permanent display in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s gallery.
The relic will be scanned and cast by Cammell Laird to provide a new bell for the aircraft carrier that bears her name.
HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the first semi-active big deck aircraft carrier to sail under the White Ensign since the F-4 toting HMS Ark Royal (R09) was retired in 1979, has returned home to Portsmouth after more than a month at sea working up with British-flown F-35s.
Upon coming home, she was met by her brand spanking new sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales (R09– the same pennant as Ark Royal’s!) for the first time.
The last time more than 130,000 tons of British carriers were in one place at one time was Bruce Fraser’s 1944-45 Pacific Fleet. His force included six Implacable/Illustrious-class fleet carriers, four Colossus-class light carriers, two maintenance carriers, and nine escort carriers, for a total of 320,000-tons of flattop real estate parking for 750 embarked aircraft.
The Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Steve Moorhouse said:
“Homecomings are always a special occasion, but to be returning to Portsmouth with HMS Prince of Wales welcoming us home makes this a particularly special occasion.
“This has been an extremely successful deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth. Embarking UK F-35 Lightning jets for the first time and integrating them within the carrier strike group is a significant milestone and we are well set for an equally demanding 2020 and our first operational deployment in 2021.”
Recently, it was detailed that the HMSQE-class has deck parking for 45 F-35s, which is a serious (and seriously unlikely without USMC cross-decking) airwing.
Also of note, the Indian government is talking of moving ahead with a plan (and formal offer from BAE) to acquire a CATOBAR version of the class for their own use as well, in response to China moving towards a four-carrier fleet.
Which makes the planned first deployment of HMSQE in 2021 to the Indian Ocean a no-brainer.
Maybe there will be another British (Commonwealth) Pacific Fleet in the future?