HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea 190521 CREDIT MOD 2.jpeg
Sea vessels

UK's Carriers Could Use 'Catapult Systems' For Unmanned Aircraft

Defence minister Jeremy Quin said there are plans to expand experimentation of Uncrewed Air Systems with Royal Navy vessels.

HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea 190521 CREDIT MOD 2.jpeg

A defence minister has confirmed that a "catapult system" for the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers may be considered in the future.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin stated there is a lack of a current feasibility assessment for uncrewed air systems (UAS), but revealed plans to expand experimentation of unmanned aircraft with Royal Navy vessels.

Answering a written question from Labour MP Kevan Jones about the "feasibility of fitting a catapult system" to the UK's aircraft carriers, Mr Quin emphasised the Government's focus on a number of UAS options.

"Since the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers entered service no such feasibility assessment has been made," Mr Quin stated.

"In the coming years the intent is to expand experimentation of Uncrewed Air Systems (UAS) with Royal Navy vessels.

"This may include a number of projects to consider UAS capabilities for the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, including Fixed Wing UAS.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently deployed with her Carrier Strike Group, including working with F-35s on board (Picture: MOD).

"The launch and recovery systems for these capabilities may require assessments which could include catapult systems," he added.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines have been looking to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment in recent years.

Earlier this month the Royal Navy controlled a new crewless fast stealth boat remotely for the first time.

Using a laptop and tablet, two sailors on land overlooking the water at Browndown Beach in Gosport operated the autonomous MADFOX vessel in the Solent.

It is hoped the autonomous boat and others like it could deploy alongside Navy ships, carrying out tasks from force protection to surveillance.

In 2020, we met the Royal Navy's experimental drone sqaudron, 700X Naval Air Squadron, which tests and operates technology at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, with other training being carried out at nearby Predannack Airfield.

In October, a Puma drone was given its first operational testing while on HMS Albion.

Cover image: MOD.