For close to 200 years the Royal Navy ruled the oceans and it was entirely due to British naval power that the adage 'the sun never sets on the British empire' was coined. The Second World war and a pyrrhic victory over Hitler's Germany coupled with the loss of colonies reduced the UK to a fifth rate power, content to ride piggyback on uncle Sam. Six decades down the line, with an uncertain future with the EU and having far-flung possessions like St. Helena, Gibraltar and Falklands  the British think-tank hase decided to commission two of the biggest aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy.

The new carriers.

Two extra large Queen Elizabeth class carriers will be commissioned by 2020.

These carriers will displace nearly 65,000 tons DWT and will have state of art technology and aircraft. Though considered large they will not be as big as the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers in service with the US navy which displaces 100,000 tons DWT.  A significant change from other modern carriers is that these will not use nuclear propulsion. In place of nuclear power, the carriers will use giant electrical motors which will be powered by Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines with 4 diesel generators that will give the carriers an operating range of 10,000 miles. Doing away with nuclear power is the real revolutionary step and will make the carriers safer to operate. The carriers will give an edge to aerial combat as it will be able to launch 24 first line fighters within 15 minutes.

Can Britain get back its lost glory?

The carriers will certainly add to British naval power, but one cannot visualize the Royal Navy matching the erstwhile British navy that ruled the 7 seas.

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One reason for this is that Britain no longer has bases outside the UK and operation of these aircraft carriers far away from home is fraught with risk. In any case, they will  only be able to operate at great distances from the homeland as an adjunct to the US Navy. One cannot visualize the UK fighting a war, say, in the Indian ocean or South Atlantic on its own. In that case, this heavy expenditure on these behemoths may not be in the best interest of the economy of a small nation like the United Kingdom. This concept is also under threat as many in Scotland, despite the referendum, still want to secede from the union.