CONSTRUCTION of the first of two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers is gathering pace in Portsmouth after work began on a control tower for the ship’s flight deck.
Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery hit the button to start cutting the steel for the forward island structure – a 63ft-tall command tower where HMS Queen Elizabeth will be driven from.
The steel cutting came as engineers next door began lifting two 90-tonne rudder horns into the stern.
Work continues meanwhile on fitting cabins, bathrooms and electrics into a 7,000-tonne hull section which fills the shipbuilding hall.
Geoff Searle, who is director of the project to build HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales by 2018, said: ‘Cutting the steel for the forward island is an important milestone in the build.
‘We started building from the bottom of the ship and now we’re right at the top.
‘Work is progressing really well. We are very happy with how it’s all going.’
At 65,000 tonnes, the new carriers are the biggest ships ever built for the Royal Navy.
It emerged last week that changes made to the project in last year’s defence review, including a different choice of aircraft to fly from the ships, has increased their price by £1bn to £6.25bn.
But Vice-Adml Montgomery said the cost is ‘worth it’, adding: ‘We’ve come out of the defence review with better, more capable aircraft on these ships.
‘They will give us immense capability and they will be in service for 50 years.’
The carriers are being built one after another at six sites across the UK. The parts will be put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle in Rosyth.
The Portsmouth-built hull section for Queen Elizabeth will be shipped up to Scotland next April, and the stern and the forward island will leave Portsmouth later next year.
Construction on HMS Prince of Wales began in May this year – but Portsmouth shipbuilders can’t begin their work on that ship until the hull section leaves the naval base on a barge next April.