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Future Aircraft Carrier - CVF

Queen Elizabeth Class

Part 6

             Article Parts 

 1. Current Project Status and

  2. Specification

  3. The Project and its Origins

  4. Role

  5. Smart Procurement

  6. Project Schedule

  7. Procurement Process I
      (until Jan 2003)

  8. Procurement Process II  
      (until July 2007)

  9. Procurement Process III
      (latest situation)

10. Management and Industry

11. Aviation Operations

12. STOVL or CV F-35?

13. Platform Design ...

14. ... and Redesign

15. C4ISR Facilities

16. Operational Concepts

17. Crew, Accommodation &

18. Propulsion and Engineering

19. Manufacture

20. Build Problems and UK

21. Basing and Support

22. Costs

23. Air Group

24. Aviation Requirements and

25. Catapults and Arresting Gear

26. Armament and Armour

27. Operations

28. Names

29. CVF Links

Project Schedule

In 1999  the government and MOD has stated that the first CVF will enter service in 2012 and the second in 2015.  That remained the official line until late 2005, since then officials have reiterated these dates as being the target, but then qualified them by stating that the final schedule will only be set at Main Gate 2 and they won't speculate.

Formally launched in 1998 the CVF project was soon affected by an approximately 9 months slippage in the JSF Project, and a 21 month delay in the formal JCA down-selection.  The CVF Project time-line was revised and the delays had been largely absorbed by January 2003, but then opened again as Main Gate was considerably delayed from the expected late 2003. 

In July 2007 - at Main Gate 2 - official statements said the first carrier would now enter service in 2014. and the second in 2016.

Since 2003 the MOD has become extremely vague in relation to planned milestone dates related to the CVF Project, most future dates are now classified and not published, but using open sources the project plan appears to be roughly as follows:

Event Actual or Likely Schedule Official Dates
Ministerial approval and formal User Requirements Document endorsement as Staff Target (Sea) 7068 - "Initial Gate" approval. December 1998  
Invitation to Tender for Assessment Phase issued. 25 January 1999  
One year CVF Assessment Phase Stage 1 (Analysis of Options) contracts worth £5.9 million awarded to BAE Systems PLC and Thomson-CSF (now Thales). 22 November 1999  
[First flights of JSF demonstrators X.32 and X.35] Autumn 2000  
Equipment Acquisition Committee (EAC) recommends JSF for the FCBA (now  JCA), preference for STOVL variant. December 2000  
FJCA Decision, JSF selected - UK signs MoU for JSF EMD Phase. 17 January 2001  
[First flights of JSF UK/USMC STOVL version demonstrators] Early/mid 2001  
Assessment Phase Stage 1 (Analysis of Options) - AP1 - completed, after a 6 month extension. 29 June 2001  
Follow on 12 month CVF Assessment Phase Stage 2 (Risk Reduction and Cost Capability Trades) - AP2 - contracts worth £30 million each awarded to BAE Systems and Thales. 21 November 2001  
France's "Military Programme 2003-8" includes plans to build a new aircraft carrier (PA2).  Discussions start with the UK about possible co-operation between the two country's carrier projects. 11 September 2002  
JSF variant down-selection for JCA - the Lockheed-Martin F-35 (STOVL variant) selected 30 September 2002  
Assessment Phase Stage 2 completed - earlier than originally planned due to a revision of the project plan. 20 November 2002  
BAE Systems selected as Preferred Prime Contractor, but Thales design to be taken forward. 30 January 2003  
President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair discuss  co-operation on aircraft carriers during a summit at Touquet. 4 February 2003  
The Head of the DPA requests the CVF Alliance design team to study smaller/cheaper variants than the current "Alpha" baseline June 2003  
Preliminary agreement on Future Carrier Alliance approved.   BAE Systems, with major subcontractor Thales, officially awarded  CVF Assessment Stage Phase 3 (Design Refinement and Risk Reduction) contract - AP3. 5 September 2003  
MOD Conference selects the "Delta" design variant as the new baseline. December 2003  
France announces that PA2 will be of a conventional design, and that it hopes to co-operate with UK on the design and build. 13 February 2004  
Design Review 1 completed. Assessment Phase Stage 3 completed.  31 March 2004  
BAE Systems deselected as preferred Prime Contractor.  April 2004  
Thales and DCN announce a joint company (35:65 owned) to act as Prime Contractor for PA2. 4 June 2004  
UK and French Defence Ministers sign document defining areas of aircraft carrier co-operation 9 June 2004  
8 Month CVF Assessment Phase extension announced (Stage 4). 19 July 2004  
BAE Systems-Thales UK and DCN-Thales submit proposals for areas of co-operation between the CVF and PA.2 projects. November 2004  
Joint Project Office for PA.2 (MO PA2) established by DCN and Thales. Q4 2004  
French DGA awards MO PA2 (DCN and Thales) a €100 million contract for the PA2 general design and engineering concept. 24 January 2005  
Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) selected as preferred CVF Physical Integrator. 7 February 2005


CVF Extended Assessment Phase Stage 4 completed.   Proposals received from CVF Alliance for Demonstration and Manufacture Phase with for alternative CVF design iterations and cost-benefit trade-offs. 31 March 2005  
100-day CVF Review Completed 14 June 2005  
Industry submits results of study in to possible co-operative areas between the CVF and PA projects. 24 June 2005  
The French DGA awards DCN and Thales a €20 million contract for developing a detailed preliminary PA2 design  using a tailored CVF concept (CVF FR). 12 December 2005  
CVF Main Gate Part 1 approval.  18 month Demonstration Phase (contract period Feb 06 to Jun 07) commences, £297 million approved for design work and long lead items. 14 December 2005  
UK and French Defence ministers agree in principle the division of costs for a shared design based on CVF. 24 January 2006  
CVF Assessment Phase formally completes.  Expected duration 4 years 1 month, actual duration 6 years 2 months, expected cost £118 million, actual cost cost £302 million January 2006  
UK and French governments sign a memorandum of understanding on the sharing of CVF Assessment Phase information.  France to pay £55 million  (€45 million plus  €35 million) for access. 6 March 2006  
Demonstration Phase Aircraft Carrier Alliance agreement signed by members.  Design contracts worth £143 million confirmed. 13 April 2006  
IPT Team Leader and ACA Chief Executive sign-off Baseline 1 'blue prints' - ship general arrangements.  Work begins on Baseline 2 - detailed shipyard production drawings for manufacture. February 2007  
Submission of the CVF Business Case to the IAB Secretary, starting the Main Gate 2 approval process. May 2007  
Cabinet level ministerial and Treasury approval of CVF investment decision -  Main Gate Part 2 milestone.  27 July 2007  
Demonstration Phase completed, Manufacture Phase starts October 2007  
Operational analysis and review of JCA requirements completes. [F-35 variant and mode of operation decided for CVF] H2 2007  
MOD awards CVF detailed and manufacture manufacture contracts expected to be worth £3..8 billion with the ACA.  (i.e. the ships are ordered) Late 2007
Contracts places for detailed design and engineering work on CVF FR by French MOD.  Additional payments to the UK totalling £85 million (€60 plus €65 million) triggered for use of the common baseline design.   Early 2008
Construction contracts awarded for PA2 using CVF FR design by French MOD.    Early 2008
First steel cut for first-of-class, CVF-01 January 2009
Initial batch of JCA's ordered   December 2008
First steel cut for French PA2 Early 2009
Assembly and integration of CVF-01 superblock's begins at Rosyth. H1 2012  
CVF-01 begins Contractor Sea Trials H2 2013
PA2 commences sea trials 2013
PA2 officially completed 2014
CVF-01 accepted from builders and commissioned in to the RN.  Commences first-of-class trials, safety checks, and operational sea training.   Late 2013
Assembly and integration of CVF-02 superblock's begins at Rosyth. 2014  
CVF-01 In-Service Date [see notes] Late 2014
JCA enters service December 2014?
PA2 In-Service Date 2015 Early 2015
CVF-02 In-Service Date 2016
JCA enters service 2017
MASC enters service 2018
First operational deployment of JCA and MASC on a CVF 2020

1.  October 2012 and August 2015 according to the User Requirements Document. At the time of Initial Gate (Dec 1998) the most likely ISD for CVF-01 was given as August 2012, that changed to October 2012 in 2002 with the addition of two months operational sea training prior to ISD.  Between 2004 and July 2006 the date was classified information.
2.  The right hand column of unshaded future milestones given are the latest available officially (Government, MOD or Future Carrier Alliance) projected dates.  They may hide considerable a slight slippage, e.g. the original in-service date for MASC was 2012.
3.  In 2004 MOD changed the definition of “in service” for CVF, allegedly so that an earlier date could be achieved than with the previous definition. In July 2007 the MoD announced that the in-service date of CVA-01 was now 2014 (previously 2012), and CVA-02 was 2016 (previously 2015). 
4. A fully operational JCA/JSF squadron will not be available until 2020 at the earliest.

The planned schedule in January 2003.  It shows how the then planned main milestones, key phases and aircraft programmes inter-related. 

According to plans approved in early 2003, first steel for the first CVF would be cut in 2006 and final assembly of the first carrier would begin at Rosyth in 2009.  The ship would be completed in 2010, and after two years of trials, training and work-up, would enter service in late 2012.  Her sister ship would follow three year later.  In response to concerns about delays in the project, a government spokesman stated on 16 June 2003: "Our target in-service dates for the two new carriers remain 2012 and 2015.  Estimates for their delivery will be developed progressively during the remainder of the Assessment Phase, taking account of the maturing carrier design.  Expected in-service dates will be confirmed when we place the Demonstration and Manufacture contract." 

In August 2003, a member of the CVF Alliance said that while timescales are becoming very tight, they were still achievable, however its believed that in May 2003, BAE Systems told the DPA that it estimated the likely ISD of the first ship as early 2014.  By November 2003 BAE Systems officials were indicating off the record that they believed that 2015 was now the most realistic date for the entry in to service of CVF-01, and developments since then would seem to confirm this view.  As one BAE Systems source put it: "Until the customer decides what kind of carrier to build we cannot give a precise [in-service] date". 

Despite continuing delays, the government continued to reiterate the 2012/15 dates, for example the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach) stated on 1 February 2005, "The year 2012 is still the date that we have in mind for the first aircraft carrier. ", while Mr Ingram stated for the government on 1 March 2005, "Our target acquisition cost for the Future Carrier (CVF) programme is around £3 billion, with target in service dates of 2012 and 2015. "

But one important driver for a 2012 ISD for CVF relaxed.  It was originally necessary for CVF-01 to be available in 2012 for a joint RN/RAF Intensive Flying Trials Unit to undertake carrier trials and testing of the UK's Joint Combat Aircraft, any delay to the CVF project would have directly delayed the JCA project unless an alternative platform for testing at sea could be found.  However Lockheed-Martin has been battling weight and technical problems with its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 design, and these problems have particularly affected the F-35B STOVL variant which the UK selected for JCA in 2002.  The US Department of Defense agreed in June 2004 to a two year delay to the initial entry in to service of the F-35B with the USMC, i.e.  from 2010 to 2012.   The MOD decided to similarly slip the UK F-35 in-service date by two years, from 2012 to 2014, so that it could still benefit from USMC experiences and take delivery of the Block 3 variant that it  wants.  In early 2017, as a result of budgetary shortfalls, the MOD decided to further slip the in-service date of JCA to 2017.


CVF Programme Summary, dated October 2006. Note the deliberate vagueness after March 2006. (source: ACA)


On 25 July 2007 the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, stated that the two new carriers would be in service by 2014 and 2016 respectively.


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 © 2004-13 Richard Beedall unless otherwise indicated.