Pride as first part of navy’s new carrier rolls out of the yard

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

RETRO: Watch the last voyage of HMS Illustrious from Portsmouth

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THE first Portsmouth-built part of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier rolled out of BAE Systems’ shipbuilding hall yesterday.

The 1,000 tonnes of steel is the first of two ‘rings’ which make up a stern section of HMS Queen Elizabeth called Lower Block 05.

GIANT The section of HMS Queen Elizabeth is loaded onto a barge yesterday.  Picture: Steve Reid (121432-274)

GIANT The section of HMS Queen Elizabeth is loaded onto a barge yesterday. Picture: Steve Reid (121432-274)

It was loaded onto a 176-wheel platform vehicle at Portsmouth Naval Base and taken to a 300ft barge which arrived in the city earlier this month.

The second ring of Lower Block 05 will be loaded out of the yard on Wednesday before the barge leaves for Scotland this Sunday.

The section, which weighs 1,820 tonnes in total, has taken 15 months to build in Portsmouth.

Paul Bowsher, who is BAE’s carrier project manager in Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s a very proud moment for the team here at Portsmouth to see the first ring of Lower Block 05 being moved onto the barge. The load out is the culmination of 15 months of hard work so it’s a fantastic sight to see.’

The barge will take Lower Block 05 on a 500-mile voyage to Rosyth dockyard where HMS Queen Elizabeth is being finally assembled.

The Norwegian vessel, called Viking 7, is due to reach its destination north of the border on May 3.

The huge 65,000-tonne carrier – the first of two giant warships being built for the navy – is being constructed across six UK sites.

The finished article will be put together in Rosyth where she is due to be launched in 2014.

Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to arrive at her home port of Portsmouth in 2016. She will enter service with the navy in 2020 after sea trials and tests.

BAE Systems workers in Portsmouth are also in the final stages of finishing off a larger mid-section of Queen Elizabeth’s hull which weighs 6,000 tonnes and has taken 26 months to build.

The section, called Lower Block 02, is made up of 55 different units which have been welded together.

Fitting out has already started on this section with the installation of cabins, bathrooms and toilets.

It will be loaded out of the shipbuilding hall onto the barge on May 15 before leaving Portsmouth Harbour on May 25.

Mr Bowsher said: ‘We are proud to be part of the team delivering the nation’s flagships.

‘Despite seeing the blocks every day, the size and scale of the work still amazes me.’

A flight deck control tower for the carrier is also being built in Portsmouth. It was started last July and will be completed in November.

The whole process will be repeated in the city for the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.

The first steel was cut for Lower Block 02 of the second ship in February. Shipbuilding will be able to progress rapidly once the large sections of Queen Elizabeth have been moved out of the yard in the coming weeks.

The carrier project provides 1,300 shipbuilding jobs in Portsmouth and supports thousands more workers in the supply chain.

There are fears that BAE will slash jobs at the naval base once all of Portsmouth’s work on the carriers is finished at the end of 2015.

The global defence giant has announced it is ‘reviewing’ the shipbuilding side of the business and has not ruled out job losses.