UK carrier sails for trials
First carrier since HMS Ark Royal.
HMS Queen Elizabeth due to set sail from Rosyth for sea trials
The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier is due to set sail for the first time later from the Rosyth dockyard in Fife.
HMS Queen Elizabeth – one of two new carriers being built in the yard at a cost of more than £6bn – is to begin sea trials.
She is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. Her flightdeck alone is the size of three football pitches.
Once in service she can operate with a crew of 1,000 and 40 aircraft.
The 65,000 tonne warship is the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carrier since HMS Ark Royal was scrapped in 2010.
Eleven tugs will be needed to manoeuvre her out of the dock at Rosyth.
The ship will just about squeeze through the narrow entrance into the estuary.
Once there she will start her engines and wait for low tide to go under the Forth bridges.
She will have to lower a mast to make it through with just a few metres to spare.
The numbers behind HMS Queen Elizabeth
- The project to build HMS Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales cost more than £6bn
- The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots
- Its flight deck is 280m long and 70m wide – enough space for three football pitches
- The ship is the second in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth
- It will have a crew of around 700, increasing to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked
- There are 364,000m of pipes inside the ship
- Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will keep 45 days worth of food in its stores
- The entire ship’s company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes – or 45 minutes when at action station
- Leaving the Rosyth dock will be among the most difficult manoeuvres in the sea trials with just 50cm between the bottom of the ship and the seabed in the port
Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kydd said the ship was important for Britain’s reputation as a naval power.
“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” he added.
“Submarines you can’t see, but these are very visible symbols of power and power projection.”
The start of sea trials follows warnings that technical issues and personnel shortages could delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier.
The National Audit Office said in March the project was entering a “critical phase”, with many risks to manage.
The Ministry of Defence acknowledged “challenges” but said it was committed to being fully operational by 2026.
‘Russian military interest’
The technical issues mean the forthcoming sea trials are three months behind schedule.
The NAO predicted it would not be operational by 2020, as had been promised by the MoD.
The BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said that if all went according to plan with the latest developments, HMS Queen Elizabeth would be sailing toward open waters on Monday evening.
He said the Royal Navy expected Russia’s military to take an interest while the warship was being tested in the North Sea.
It will be several years before HMS Queen Elizabeth is fully operational with jets on board.