With a measure of envy from the U.S. Navy, the British are well into designing two aircraft carriers that should considerably increase their naval strike capability—and Europe's—around the world. Unencumbered by legacy systems inherent in the U.S. carrier fleet, the Royal Navy and United Kingdom shipyards are being handed a blank sheet of paper to arrive at the most cost-effective and efficient solutions to maritime aviation needs for the next 50 years.
Defining needs decades into the future is a huge political exercise—especially for an island nation with major domestic demands that is drawing ever closer to the European Union. Planners estimate this project will cost about $4.5 billion for both ships, $15 billion for their aircraft, and $10.5 billion for the 50-year running costs of the ships. (Aircraft life-cycle costs are unknown.)