Huge section of first new aircraft carrier goes to sea

EN ROUTE The aircraft carrier block sets sail from Govan shipyard.    Picture: John Linton Photography
EN ROUTE The aircraft carrier block sets sail from Govan shipyard. Picture: John Linton Photography
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A HUGE section of one of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers went to sea for the first time yesterday as the next stage in the construction of HMS Queen Elizabeth gets under way.

Hundreds of proud shipbuilders from BAE Systems watched as a 8,000-tonne hull section left Govan shipyard in Glasgow on a barge.

The square steel block, known as Lower Block 03, will travel 600 miles around the north coast of Scotland, arriving at Rosyth dockyard in Edinburgh on Sunday.

Its departure marks a major milestone in the construction of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of two new supercarriers to be based in Portsmouth from later this decade.

Defence minister Gerald Howarth was in Govan to see the section leave.

He said: ‘I’m immensely proud. It’s absolutely stunning. The intelligence and effort that’s gone into the construction of these aircraft carriers is absolutely massive.

‘We should, as a nation, be immensely proud that the British shipbuilding industry has the capability to do this.’

Lower Block 03, which weighs more than a Type 45 destroyer, forms the mid section of the carrier’s hull up to the hangar deck and has already been fitted out with living quarters for sailors.

It has taken almost a million man hours to build the section since the first steel was cut in July 2009.

Welder Joseph Ferris, 21, said: ‘It gives us a lot of pride to be a part of this. To see her going out on the water is impressive.’

The section is one of 13 major parts being built across six shipyards, including Portsmouth. All sections will be put together in Rosyth in what has been described as the world’s biggest jigsaw.

The whole process will then be repeated for the construction of the second carrier HMS Prince of Wales which was started earlier this year.

Lower Block 03 will reach Rosyth on Sunday. The barge will lower the block into the water to be towed into dock for the start of the assembly of Queen Elizabeth.

Mick Ord, managing director of BAE Systems Surface Ships, said: ‘Many years of human endeavour have got us to this moment. Today is symbolic of the carrier programme as it pushes ahead on schedule.’