A major milestone in the construction of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers is looming, with just 100 days to go until the formal ceremony to name the first ship.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, part built in Portsmouth, will be officially named by the Queen in a ceremony at Rosyth in Fife, where it is currently being fitted out, on Friday July 4.
The naming of the massive 65,000-tonne warship will come five years after the first metal was cut on the vessel and 33 months after the first section entered the drydock at Rosyth to begin being put together.
The carrier will be based in Portsmouth and several parts of her were built at the BAE Systems shipyard in the city, including the forward island, which houses the ship’s bridge.
Ian Booth, Queen Elizabeth Class programme director at the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA), said: “The excitement around the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth continues to grow and the daily countdown will undoubtedly add further momentum to this.
“We’re working hard to prepare the ship and plan the celebrations which will mark this significant phase in the programme to deliver the nation’s flagships.”
The ship and a second vessel, the under-construction HMS Prince of Wales, are the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy.
They are both termed Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and are being built by the Alliance, a partnership of BAE Systems, Babcock, Thales and the Ministry of Defence.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is now structurally complete at Rosyth, although outfitting work is continuing in the run up to the naming ceremony and the ship’s subsequent introduction to the water.
Work is continuing on sections of the sister ship at sites across the UK, with assembly of HMS Prince of Wales set to begin at Rosyth later this year.
Those behind the project, which costs an estimated £6.2 billion overall, say the QE Class will be the centrepiece of Britain’s naval capability.
Each aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four-acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide on operations, such as supporting war efforts or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Speaking at Rosyth, senior naval officer Captain Simon Petitt said: “What we will get as the United Kingdom is the most amazing piece of military capability that really will be flexible and be able to provide our politicians and our military planners with choice, depending on what comes in the future.
“They provide a real joint defence asset to deliver air power using the freedom of the world’s oceans to influence what happens on land.”
Reflecting on the construction work carried out to this point, he added: “It’s just fantastic. I arrived here over a year ago and there was one relatively small block in the dock. The ship now is structurally complete and it’s been really exciting watching her come together. My crew are just as excited and proud as I am.”
The length of each 65,000-tonne ship is the equivalent of 28 London buses, almost three times the length of Buckingham Palace. At around 290 metres long, they will be about three times the size of the UK’s existing aircraft carriers.
Each ship, which has a life expectancy of around 50 years, will be fitted out with more than three million metres of cable and it will have enough power to light up a small town.
Six shipyards around the UK have been involved in building various parts of HMS Queen Elizabeth, while around 10,000 people have worked on the construction at various stages.
Bosses believe the ship - which will have 679 permanent crew and capacity for 1,600 crew members when fully operational - will see staff move on board in the middle of 2016 and have jets flying off it by the end of 2018.
Project manager Steven Carroll, the systems delivery director for the Alliance, said: “It’s a huge undertaking, a UK-wide national endeavour involving up to 10,000 people, including multiple companies within the alliance and the supply chain.
“It really has been a long journey, a fantastic journey, to get to this point and there is a lot more work to be done as we get ready for the second ship, Prince of Wales.”