ACA creates largest network on new UK aircraft carriers

BAE expert: "Certainly the biggest network on a warship"

The two new UK aircraft carriers currently being built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance – a group of companies including BAE Systems, Thales, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence

The new UK carriers currently in production by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance will be two of the most advanced warships ever built according to BAE System’s Steve Dowdell, Director of Mission Systems for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, who explains that thanks to miles of fibre optic cables and years of testing this is a ship of 'firsts'.

"The thing that’s really different about this system from any other carrier in the world is everything is integrated, in the sense that if you’ve got a bit of information in one compartment you can then see that anywhere else on the ship."

Steve goes on to explain that this is then taken a step further thanks to a completely unique physical feature of the vessel that has never been seen before on an aircraft carrier.

"We are the only aircraft carrier in the world with two islands, which means we can separate our transmit/receive antennas, it gives us more real estate for comms. Whereas the US carriers are really strapped for space with their single island system, we’ve got 80m between the two island structures."

Having two islands not only gives the carriers a tactical advantage but it also provides valuable space for even more tech to be crammed into the vessel.

"We have over 1000 PCs and Laptops distributed around each ship, once that system has committed the information it can then be accessed anywhere else."

Sadly this doesn't mean you can 'drive' the ship from the mess room, but what it does mean is that the carriers each have their own network which can do everything from letting you stream films, to accessing secure tactical information, all from the same terminal.

Creating a nervous system for a class of ships that are as tall as the Niagra Falls and three times the size of the UK's last carrier is no small task. Dowdell confirms it took 18 months just to lay the kilometres of optical cables needed, whilst back on the ground the teams at BAE Systems spent a further 18 months just testing the system on their own 'virtual carrier'.

To find out more about these 'super-carriers' check out our full rundown of their awesome features from intelligent weapons to stealth fighters in this month's issue of T3 available here.