SAILORS have finally started settling into life aboard the Royal Navy’s gigantic aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The warship’s 700-strong crew is now getting to grips with the monster 65,000-tonne vessel – the biggest ever built by the navy.
It comes before Queen Elizabeth’s maiden sea trails this summer which, if successful, will then see her coming to Portsmouth in autumn.
The crew is served with three square meals a day from the carrier’s five galleys.
While their living quarters are among some of the best in the fleet, with 1,600 bunks in 470 cabins, a cinema and a fitness suite.
And, the ship’s company have full access to the world-class medical complex while living on board.
Captain Jerry Kyd, Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, said: ‘The effort from our industry colleagues, Ministry of Defence and naval personnel to get us to this point has been immense.
‘It has been a massive team effort and I am proud of every individual contribution.’
Lieutenant Kit Perry is from Portsmouth but said the carrier feels like a home away from home.
‘Living on board brings us a step closer to bringing HMS Queen Elizabeth home to Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘In terms of accommodation, this ship is a new era of comfort. There is more living space, and the on-board TV system is state of the art.’
The project to build Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince Wales has cost £6.2bn.
A total of 28m hours have been spent designing the Queen Elizabeth-class ships.
But once completed, the ships will be the most powerful weapons in the navy’s arsenal.
Both stacking in at 280m in length, the carriers will be able to travel at speed of up to 25 knots.
The vessels will have a crew of about 700, surging to 1,600 when a full complement of 36 F-35B fighter-jets and four helicopters are embarked.
Each carrier will be equipped to go into combat as well as providing humanitarian aid and relief after natural disasters.
They will carry enough food in its stores for 45 days.
Queen Elizabeth still has a long way to go before she can begin her first deployment.
She has already had successful tests of her hi-tech radar system as well as ship communication and combat systems.
Her 11-week sea trial will put the ship’s key systems – and crew – through their most rigorous test yet.
Meanwhile in Portsmouth a £100m overhaul of the naval base has been underway to prepare the site for the two ships.
Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive this year, followed by Prince of Wales in 2019.