QEC has 3 x CWIS and can carry up to ~70 aircraft using deck parking, which is not historically RN practice. The usual maximum complement would be 36 x F35B + AEW & ASW helos. All this apparently at the behest of USN:I honestly can't get my head around the wankfest over the QE class ships. The level of delusion is off the scale. In what world are they anything more than glorified versions of the Wasp or Izumo class helicopter carriers? No arrested landing capability, not even a ski-jump let alone catapults. Self defence capability is a a solitary CIWS - there is zero layered defence ability. Amphibious capabilities (originally a big part of the package) pretty much went out of the window.
Even the size is a bit of a joke. At 65,000 tons, it carries a max of 24 F-35Bs, but can just about squeeze in 36 if everything else gets thrown out. Seriously, WTF? The Charles de Gaulle is a third smaller and can deploy more aircraft, has a full CATOBAR setup, *and* nuclear propulsion, *and* has proper layered self-defence systems. I'd love to know what they did with firstly, all the space, and secondly, all the money. It seems it all went on building a big hull, and had nothing left to put in it.
Apparently, the British were obsessed with having "inter-operability" with the American forces, but for all the Brits talking about a "super carrier", the only American forces it can actually inter-operate with are the Wasp class. Says it all really.
In all honesty, if I were the RN, I'd have gone for a single more advance ship based on the Charles de Gaulle and operated a combined Anglo-French carrier group. France originally wanted a two carrier setup but found it unaffordable. The Brits will have the same problem. Together they could have had a genuinely capable presence that was much more flexible, and much more affordable, than either have been able to manage by themselves. The US inter-operability really is just pie in the sky English exceptionalism. The Americans have more real, actual carriers than they can shake a stick at. They really don't give a shit what the Brits are playing around with, as long as they aren't getting in the Americans way or causing them grief.
"The reason that we have arrived at what we have arrived at is because to do the initial strike package, that deep strike package, we have done really quite detailed calculations and we have come out with the figure of 36 joint strike fighters, and that is what has driven the size of it, and that is to be able to deliver the weight of effort that you need for these operations that we are planning in the future. That is the thing that has made us arrive at that size of deck and that size of ship, to enable that to happen. I think it is something like 75 sorties per day over the five-day period or something like that as well... I have talked with the CNO (
— Admiral Sir Alan West, evidence to the Select Committee on Defence, 24 November 2004"
Agreed though that the defensive armament could do with beefing up, and the ships should have been CATOBAR.