Sea vessels

USS Gerald R Ford v HMS Queen Elizabeth: A comparison

The US Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R Ford, is set to anchor in the Solent later.

Named after America's 38th president, Gerald R Ford, she is part of the first new US aircraft carrier class designed in more than 40 years, the US Department of Defense said.

There are plans for a further nine in the coming decade, replacing the Nimitz Class on a one-for-one basis.

Watch: USS Gerald R. Ford leaves US for first operational deployment.

Weapons and aircraft

HMS Queen Elizabeth carries Phalanx close-in weapons – a radar-controlled Gatling gun that fires 20mm shells, 3,000 rounds a minute. They are designed to engage enemy aircraft or missiles if they get past the outer ring of defence such as Sea Viper or Sea Dart.

Crowsnest radar which can detect long-range air and underwater threats are fitted to the Royal Navy's fleet of Merlin Mk2 helicopters, while HMS Queen Elizabeth's deck also accommodates the F-35 Lightning II – the world's most advanced stealth fighter-bomber.

USS Gerald R Ford, meanwhile, uses Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles – Rolling Airframe Missiles and Close-In Weapons System.

The US carrier also hosts Carrier Air Wing Eight – which includes F-18 E/F Super Hornets, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and EA-18G Growlers along with MH-60 Sierra and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters.

Aircraft sit on USS Gerald R. Ford's flight deck as the ship steams through the Atlantic Ocean prior to maiden deployment (Picture: US Department of Defense).
Aircraft sit on USS Gerald R Ford's flight deck as the ship steams through the Atlantic Ocean prior to maiden deployment (Picture: US Department of Defense).

Speed

HMS Queen Elizabeth can reach upwards of 25 knots, USS Gerald R Ford can hit more than 30 knots.

Propulsion

The US Navy says USS Gerald R Ford has two nuclear reactors.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is not nuclear powered, but the Royal Navy says the powerplant behind her two propellors generates enough power to run 1,000 family cars.

Total length

HMS Queen Elizabeth is 280 metres long, while USS Gerald R Ford measures 337m (1,106ft) from front to back.

Width

The US carrier has the edge in width of flight deck too – it is 78 metres compared to 70m on HMS Queen Elizabeth (still enough for three football pitches).

HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry up to 72 aircraft, while USS Gerald R Ford can carry upwards of 75.

Watch: Below the decks on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Weight

HMS Queen Elizabeth weighs 65,000 tonnes, while the heavier USS Gerald R Ford weighs in at 100,000 tonnes.

Cost

USS Gerald R Ford cost around $13bn (around £11.5bn) – considerably more than the £3.2bn cost of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Namesakes

HMS Queen Elizabeth is named after the WWI-era super-dreadnought, HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913), which was named after Tudor Queen Elizabeth I.

The carrier was commissioned by Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who also led her naming ceremony.

USS Gerald R Ford is named after the 38th US President, who held office from 1974-77.

How both nations use aircraft carriers

The Royal Navy has seen 16 different classes of aircraft carriers take to the sea since 1918, with between one and 10 ships commissioned for each class.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is both a new ship and a new class of aircraft carrier and was joined by her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales in 2019.

The US Navy remains the world's leader in aircraft carriers, with 11 nuclear-powered vessels. It also has nine amphibious assault ships that can carry helicopters and vertical-takeoff fighter jets.

Other country's carriers

France has its own carriers, and Japan has four "helicopter destroyers", which are technically not aircraft carriers, but carry aircraft. Two are being converted to support the short take-off and vertical-landing fighters.

Earlier this year, China launched a new-generation aircraft carrier – the first such ship to be both designed and built in the country.

China's new carrier was named after the Fujian province on the country's south-eastern coast, following a tradition after naming its first two carriers after the provinces of Liaoning and Shandong.