The United Kingdom’s first new aircraft carrier in decades, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has crossed the pond. The mammoth ship has arrived to participate in F-35 Joint Strike Fighter trials. Queen Elizabeth brings with a luxury—some would argue a necessity—that would make the “dry” U.S. Navy green with envy: its own pub, built right into the bowels of the ship.
The Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever built in the U.K. The two ships, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, are each 918 feet long, displace 65,000 tons fully loaded, and have crews of 1,600. The ships are three times larger than the UK’s previous carriers, the Invincible class, and will carry 24 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters and 14 helicopters. The carriers can carry up to 36 F-35Bs during wartime.
Just a year old, Queen Elizabeth arrived last week at Naval Station Mayport, in Jacksonville, Florida, on a quick stop to refuel and bring on additional supplies. The home to a U.S. Navy amphibious group centered around the USS Iwo Jima, Mayport is logistically capable of handling large warships.
One thing the Queen Elizabeth doesn’t need to bring aboard: beer. The ship has its own pub, the Queen’s Head, built right into the ship. The pub is part of the Warrant Officers’ & Senior Rates’ Mess and was inaugurated on August 13th.
The Queen’s Head features handsome countertops, stools, and even a portrait of Elizabeth I, namesake of the aircraft carrier’s namesake, the World War I battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth. Here’s a video of the ship’s commanding officer, Commodore Jerry Kyd, giving a short speech at the inauguration ceremony.
The Queen’s Head doesn’t serve just any beer, either: according to Military Times, it serves a variety of ales crafted especially for the ship from the Wadworth brewery. The ship serves “6X Ale”, a 4.1 percent ABV ale which won a gold medal at the World Beer awards, and a “Carrier Ale” brewed for the ship’s commissioning with a 3.6 ABV. A third ale, called “Swordfish Ale”, is 5 percent ABV. “Swordfish” is probably a nod to the Royal Navy’s World War II-era Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber.
Carrier-based Swordfish planes attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto with devastating results, and lucky hit from a Swordfish torpedo damaged the German Battleship Bismarck’s rudder, allowing the rest of the Royal Navy run it down and sink it. Although obsolete at the time the Swordfish and her plucky crews were arguably the most effective planes in the history of Royal Navy aviation.
The U.S. Navy, by contrast, is a totally dry organization where alcohol is strictly forbidden on ships, with few exceptions.
The Navy originally served daily rations of rum and then whisky to sailors for more than a hundred years but ended the practice during the Civil War. In 1914 personal alcohol consumption was banned completely. Ships still carry small amounts of alcohol for “medicinal purposes”, to be dispensed to shaken sailors who have had really, really bad days.
After the visit to Mayport, Queen Elizabeth will travel up the East Coast to participate in First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT), where F-35B Joint Strike Fighters will take off and land from the ship for the first time. Three British pilots—one from the Royal Navy, one from the Royal Air Force, and a civilian pilot will test the carrier’s takeoff and landing systems to ensure that the ship can handle the $122 million dollar fixed wing jets. A fourth pilot test pilot is from the U.S. Marine Corps, which is expected to embark its own F-35Bs on the Queen Elizabeth on future cruises until the UK has enough jets of its own.
Over a period of 11 weeks, two F-35Bs will perform 500 takeoffs and landings under the watchful eye of nearly 200 maintainers, engineers, and data analysts. The F-35 program’s Integrated Test Force out of Naval Air Station Patuxent, Florida will support the tests. Queen Elizabeth’s maiden deployment is set for 2021.