Both the United States and the United Kingdom have created supercarriers to be the standard of their naval fleets. They are both state-of-the-art naval warfare vessels. The USS Gerald R Ford is the lead ship of the Ford class of supercarriers, and the HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the Elizabeth class. These ships are both the height of the fleet, but they are quite different. Here’s how they compare.
The Ford carrier cost the US more than $13 billion, while the Elizabeth was only about $8 billion. Of course, there’s a reason for that.
The Elizabeth is about 900 feet long, and displaces 65,000 tons. It can hold and operate many aircraft at that size. However, the Ford is quite a bit bigger at over 1100 feet in length, with over 100,000 tons of displacement. That means that it can hold and operate many more planes and equipment.
A British navy comparison of the Ford (left) and Elizabeth (right)
Specifically, the USS Ford can carry over 75 planes, while the Elizabeth can only manage 70. The Ford can also bring along 2628 people along, while the Elizabeth can hold about 2500.
A model of the Gerald Ford fully-loaded with aircraft
Speed & power
Here’s where the two ships really differ. The Elizabeth makes use of two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 gas turbine engines as well as four Wärtsilä 38 marine diesel engines. That gives it a total of more than 60,000 horsepower. This propels it up to 29 mph. The USS Ford, though, can make it up to 35 mph, making use of nuclear power. It uses 2 A1B nuclear reactors. Here’s where the cost really comes up for the Ford. These reactors allow it to remain at sea for longer, but cost far more to construct and maintain than the conventional engines of the Elizabeth.
A US Navy maritime nuclear reactor
The Elizabeth’s Type 997 Artisan 3-D medium-range radar has “unrivaled detection performance,” per the British Navy. However, the US says that the Ford’s dual-band radar is the “most modern system in the world today.” So both these systems are quite capable at detecting the enemy, at which point all the planes can be deployed in ample time. If necessary, though, the Elizabeth makes use of miniguns and 30mm big guns. The Ford, though, is more armed, with the Sea Sparrow missile system, as well as a Rolling Airframe Missile system and the CIWS (Close-In Weapons System).
The CIWS system on the Gerald Ford
Takeoff and landing
These ships have to allow planes to land on them. The HMS Queen Elizabeth stays conventional in that way, using steam catapults and typical arresting wire. The Ford, though, uses advanced and yet-unproven AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear) and EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System).
The EMALS system on the Gerald Ford
Which do you take?
Both these are the height of two of the greatest navies in the world. They are both incredible ships. But if you’re a military superpower, which do you take? Do you take the greater expense and newer technologies of the USS Ford, or the conventional and cost-saving HMS Elizabeth?