THE arrival of the Royal Navy’s second supersized aircraft carrier to Portsmouth will be a ‘profound’ and ‘sublime’ moment for Britain, naval top brass have insisted.
The comments came ahead of the imminent arrival of HMS Prince of Wales, which last night was anchored off the western coast of the Isle of Wight.
The Royal Navy has yet to confirm exactly when the 65,000-tonne behemoth will make her maiden voyage into Portsmouth.
However, a notice has gone from Queen’s Harbour Master Portsmouth warning mariners the warship could arrive at 1.30pm tomorrow.
The maiden voyage will signal the end of a monumental opening chapter of the aircraft carrier, which completed her sea trials ahead of schedule.
And it’s a moment that fleet commander Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd said would be huge not just for Portsmouth but for the nation.
Speaking exclusively to The News, Vice-Adm Kyd – the former captain of Princes of Wales’s sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth – said: ‘Portsmouth is the premier naval base, it’s the carriers’ home, and to see two four-and-a-half-acre-deck carriers, the likes of which Portsmouth has never seen before, is going to be sublime and profound.
The programme to create the carriers, the largest and most complex warships ever built for the UK, has been the biggest maritime effort since the Second World War.
Touted as the world’s most advanced warships, they’re the only ones built from the keel up to operate the F-35B stealth jet.
However, the project has come with a hefty price tag: £6.2bn to be exact.
While in Portsmouth, about £130m has been pumped into overhauling the city’s naval base to prepare it for the two leviathans.
But Vice-Adm Kyd defended the plan and insisted it was a ‘wise investment’.
‘You can either as a nation decide to do it properly or you don’t,’ he said. ‘We want to aspire to remain the number one European naval power, not least for Nato but also supporting the UK’s future in a post-Brexit world.
‘When you look at the totality of the spend, of course they’re expensive. Things in life that tend to be worth doing, tend to be expensive.
‘You can make choices across departments and the Ministry of Defence but this capability was one that was scrutinised every year for the last 10 years and it survived every contact.’
HMS Prince of Wales is due to be commissioned into the navy next month, when her sister ship is expected to return from her stint in the US testing the F-35s.
They each will have a lifespan of about 50 years.
Queen Elizabeth will take on her first operational deployment in 2021.
Prince of Wales is expected to follow suit a couple of years later.