A&P Group’s yard on the Tyne is gearing up to ship five rings of Britain’s new aircraft carrier to Rosyth in Scotland, where the ship will be assembled from blocks made at yards around the country.
“All five rings are now on the west quay and are all fully integrated,” said A&P Tyne project director Darren Brown. “Two of the five rings are welded together, so there are actually four: three single rings and one double. When the five rings are assembled together they become a block.”
The double-module – measuring a massive 40m wide, 26m long and 9m deep and weighing in the region of 920t – will form part of the flight deck and hangar of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will be the largest surface warship ever built in the UK.
“We are in the final stages of the outfitting, so all the main pipework, cable runs, ventilation runs and all the insulation are complete,” explained Brown. “We are in the throes of compartment handover inspections and all of these have been completed except one, which will be done in the next week.”
The rings are being transported to Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard by barge, which is due to arrive at the A&P yard on 1 September. “The first ring, which is the double ring, will get driven on to the barge on 4 September using SMPTs (self-propelled modular transporters), said Brown. The rings will also be driven off the barge at Rosyth before being lifted into place.
A&P’s £55m contract includes building sections for both QE Class aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The same sections, or rings, will be built for the second ship but there will be about an 18-month gap before work commences. However, as Brown explained: “There are major design alterations on the second ship because they are going to use the catapult system [to launch aircraft].”
Under government defence cuts announced last year, only one of the ships will go into operation, with the other being held in ‘extended readiness’. Fitting catapults and arrestor gear allows the cheaper and more capable carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to be purchased instead of the STOVL (short take-off vertical landing) variant originally proposed.