In July, the Royal Navy launched HMS Queen Elizabeth II, the first of two new carriers. She and her sister HMS Prince of Wales mark a return from the low point reached when Britain’s previous large-deck carrier, HMS Ark Royal, was decommissioned in 1979. By that time the Royal Navy was buying three small Invincible-class carriers, each operating a few Sea Harrier short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) attack aircraft/fighters, but all three together did not replace the capability being abandoned. Even these were nearly canceled; they were saved only by the Falklands War, which demonstrated just how important a carrier could be in an out-of-area situation. In effect the two new carriers represent an admission that out-of-area will be more and more the rule in the future, and that without carriers the United Kingdom cannot play its desired international role. Even so, while the project for the new carrier proceeded, the British government scrapped the Sea Harriers and retired the small carriers before the new one could be completed.
World Naval Developments - Rebirth of the Royal Carrier
By Norman Friedman