An 8,000-tonne hull section of the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has been completed.
The towering construction is the first part to go into the dry dock as the HMS Queen Elizabeth is pieced together. At 66ft high and 207ft long, the section was slowly moved out of a hall at a BAE Systems shipyard in Govan, Glasgow, today to be loaded on to a sea-going barge on Sunday.
The mid-section of hull, “lower block 03”, is being taken to Rosyth to join a bow section which arrived from Devon last year. The 65,000-tonne ship, the first of two new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, is expected to be operational by 2020. The first steel for the vessel was cut in July 2009.
BAE Systems project director Steven Carroll said: “This is a major milestone for the programme as it signifies the first major block to get ready to go round to Rosyth to start the assembly phase of the aircraft carrier build. It’s on a massive scale. Hundreds of people have been working on it. It's been a great achievement.”
Carroll said just under a million man-hours have been spent on the section. “This is the culmination of months of preparation and is only possible because of the strong partnership with our carrier alliance partners, the skills of our workforce here on the Clyde and of the thousands of people working on the programme across every region of the UK. It is a fantastic showcase for British engineering.”
The 919ft carrier, along with its sister vessel HMS Prince of Wales, survived last autumn’s defence review despite massive cuts elsewhere in the Ministry of Defence budget. Both vessels will be converted to accommodate Joint Strike Fighter jets.
The completed hull section will start the 600-mile trip around the north coast of Scotland to Rosyth on August 16. At the same time, around 50 cyclists will leave Govan to pedal the 500 miles around the coast of Scotland to try to beat the section to its final destination, raising money for charity.
The new carriers are being built by an alliance of BAE, Babcock, Thales UK and the Ministry of Defence, and will give the Royal Navy a four-acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide.