DWARFED by a huge mass of steel, workers at Portsmouth Naval Base watched as part of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier was moved slowly into position yesterday.
A 3,400-ton section of HMS Queen Elizabeth hovered two inches from the floor as it travelled 100 feet across BAE Systems’ shipbuilding hall on 520 wheels.
The move came as work gets under way on transforming the grey hull into somewhere sailors will work, rest and sleep at sea.
Cabins and bathrooms have been put in and miles of electrical wiring and piping have been installed throughout.
Named Lower Block 02, the super-structure is as long as 10 double-decker buses.
But it will form just a third of the midship of the 65,000-ton carrier due to be completed later this decade.
‘Every day I go through that door into the hall and think “wow”,’ said project manager Paul Bowsher who leads a 1,500 team on the Portsmouth side of the UK-wide project.
He added: ‘This is the biggest ship the Royal Navy has ever had.
‘It’s bigger than anything we’ve ever built in Portsmouth. Nothing comes close to the scale of this.’
Lower Block 02 was built in five large rings which were moved together and welded. The last ring, pictured above, was moved into place yesterday.
Hundreds of workers are now busy kitting out the section ahead of it being shipped up to Scotland in April next year.
‘The standard of the outfitting we’re doing here is very high,’ said fittings manager Duncan Lee.
‘Compared to how warships were 20 years ago, these are much more comfortable. There’s a lot more recreational space to really make it feel like a home from home.’
Portsmouth workers are also building a smaller stern section, Lower Block 05, which will be finished early next year, and two ‘island’ control towers to go on the flight deck.
As soon as Lower Blocks 02 and 05 are completed, work will begin on the next carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.
‘As soon as this one rolls out, the whole process starts all over again,’ said Mr Lee.
He added: ‘These carriers are going to be massive. They will get us back on the world stage and give us a dominant presence again.’