New Deck Coating for HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier

hms queen elizabeth aircraft carrier leaving port

The Royal Navy’s newest and largest ship will get a new hi-tech non-skid, thermal gas wash resistant deck coating developed exclusively by British scientists!

This incredible new protective deck coating was developed to cope with the extreme temperatures produced by the F35B Lightning II Stealth Fighters engines. During vertical landing and hovering the jets thrust generates temperatures of up to 1,500 °C. The first coating specified simply broke down and melted after prolonged tests. The new coating however is expected to provide protection throughout the entire 50-year life span of ships.

hms queen elizabeth aircraft carrier docked

About the Aircraft Carriers

There will eventually be two ships in the Queen Elizabeth class. They will be the largest and most powerful ships ever built for the Royal Navy. Each ship will have a flight deck of 19,500 square metres. They will be an astonishing three times bigger than the Invincible Class Carriers and weigh 65,000 tonnes each. Each ship will have 1.5 million m2 of paintwork or 370 acres, which is bigger than Hyde Park in London.

Key Facts about HMS Queen Elizabeth

  • 1.5 million m2 of paintwork or 370 acres.
  • Four metres taller than Niagara Falls!
  • Cruising Speed 30mph ( 25 knots ).
  • Twin propellers produce 80MW, equal to 2,000 cars.
  • Three times more steel used than in Wembley Stadium.
  • 110MW power station on board each ship.
  • Each ship’s two propellers will weigh 33 tonnes each.

hms queen elizabeth aircraft carrier at sea

The problem with the original flight deck coating

During tests the original flight deck coating could not withstand the high temperatures produced by the Stealth Lightening II F35B jet engine. The highest intensities of heat are produced during hover transition and vertical landing. This is when the flight decks surface is exposed to the gas wash exhaust. The coating simply broke down and debonded from the steel substrate.

deck coating tests hms queen elizabeth

The Coating Solution!

Monitor Coatings devised a new non-skid, thermal gas wash resistant deck coating to withstand the high temperatures from the supersonic jets. The contract was awarded after a two-year test program.

The Thermal Metal Spray System consists of a metallic compound of aluminium and titanium. It was specially designed for large scale preparation and application. It will be melted and sprayed on to the decks of the carriers covering an area in excess of 19,500m². Additionally it will need to perform for the 50 year lifespan of the ships.

aircraft carrier deck coating

Ian Booth, managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, said:

There is incredible momentum behind the programme to prepare HMS Queen Elizabeth for sea trials and integrate the F-35B Lightning II aircraft. Working with experts in the UK, we have developed a unique coating to provide the necessary protection to the flight deck of the aircraft carriers and this will ensure they can deliver the UK’s carrier strike capability for the next fifty years.

The F-35B Lightning II Stealth fighters are currently the most advanced jets in existence. They will take off assisted by a short ramp and land vertically on the decks of the carriers. The intense heat and force of the exhaust gases from the jet engines are too extreme for traditional coatings. This is why a new innovative technology to protect the decks of the aircraft carriers was needed.

hms queen elizabeth aircraft carrier ramp coating

So resilient is the thermal coating it can withstand temperatures of up to a staggering 1,500C!

More about the coating preparation and application process

The weather has been an big factor during the preparation and coating process. The ships are being built at Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland. The air needed to be kept dry, below 60% humidity and temperatures at a stable 22°C. As you can imagine this was quite a challenge with the unpredictable wet and windy Scottish weather. The entire process has taken over 12 months to complete.

flight deck hms queen elizabeth aircraft carrier

Specialist robots were developed to apply the coating. Powdered metal was fired through a jet of plasma at temperatures of around 10,000C. The molten droplets then flatten and solidify, creating a tough coating.

A Three Layer Coating Process

  1. The first layer ensures the paint bonds to the steel deck (substrate).
  2. The second layer provides strength and duarbility.
  3. The third application included sand to provide non-slip friction for both the jets and crew.

Project Manger Mr Thomson said :

It is a challenge, we’ve had to maintain tight environmental controls, we’re working on open decks and it rains a lot in Scotland. We’ve made 10 air changes an hour through extraction, to make sure the air is kept clean. We spray on the coating but it generates aluminium dust which is flammable, so it needs to be removed.

Featured on the BBC One Show in January 2017

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