The largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy will be officially named by the Queen tomorrow. Among those in attendance will be Commodore Jerry Kyd, who is poised to become the first seagoing captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Here he talks to defence correspondent SAM BANNISTER about the task ahead.
Heavy fog shrouded Portsmouth Harbour on the day HMS Ark Royal arrived home for the last time in December 2010.
Visibility was down to 50 yards at Southsea and Old Portsmouth as hundreds of wellwishers turned out to welcome the aircraft carrier on her final homecoming before decommissioning.
Commodore Jerry Kyd, Ark Royal’s last commanding officer, remembers the day as an emotional experience as he and his crew said goodbye to the famous warship.
Meanwhile, the first steel was already being cut on the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth class.
It’s fitting, then, that Cdre Kyd will be the first seagoing captain of the first of the two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
And although the mammoth warship’s first entrance to Portsmouth won’t be for some time yet, Cdre Kyd is already looking forward to the day he can bring her home to the city.
He told The News: ‘Thinking back four years to the decommissioning it is still emotional because decommissioning any ship is a sad affair.
‘But it is out with the old and in with the new.
‘I can’t wait to bring HMS Queen Elizabeth to Portsmouth for the first time.
‘Any entrance into Portsmouth is very special but to bring the largest warship ever seen through that gap into Portsmouth will be extremely emotional and extra special.
‘I hope the people of Portsmouth will turn out to see it because it will herald the start of a new era in British defence.
‘It will be a great and historic day.’
Cdre Kyd holds the rank of commodore as the current commander of the United Kingdom Task Group but will take the rank of captain as the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
He spoke to The News on board HMS Iron Duke, a day before the type 23 frigate sailed from Portsmouth on a six-month deployment.
It is a fitting reminder of the high tempo of the Royal Navy’s global operations — and the pace of life at which HMS Queen Elizabeth will be quickly required to operate in.
The commissioning of the aircraft carrier — the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy — will also see the return of fixed wing aircraft operations when the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flies from her flight deck.
Cdre Kyd adds: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth heralds a new era of British sea power.
‘This is the largest, most powerful warship ever constructed for the Royal Navy and with the capacity and capability to deliver around the world immediately without reliance on other nation’s ports.
‘I have served on many aircraft carriers and I commanded two.
‘But when you see HMS Queen Elizabeth and you go on board it takes your breath away.
‘British designers and British industry has done a fantastic job in giving us a ship for the 21st century.
‘She weighs three times what Ark Royal did and she will be able to embark a very powerful air wing.
‘She marks a step change in maritime capability so we can project British sea power around the world.
‘She is big, powerful, potent and very capable.’
Final preparations are under way today for tomorrow’s official naming ceremony.
The Queen herself will join the grand events at the dockyard in Rosyth where HMS Queen Elizabeth has been put together.
Once the dry dock containing HMS Queen Elizabeth is flooded in July, the carrier will be moved out to a jetty.
Then will begin the process of setting up her internal systems and slowly bringing the ship to life.
It is delicate work – some parts of the ship have lain dormant for years as the hull is pieced together.
After that, her staff will begin to move on board, and she will head off for sea trials in August 2016.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will enter Portsmouth for the first time in 2017, and will be handed over to the Royal Navy in May of that year.
In the same month, construction of HMS Prince of Wales, the second carrier, will be completed and the dock flooded out in Rosyth.
HMS Queen Elizabeth already has 95 Royal Navy crew members.
She will eventually have 679 permanent crew, but can carry another 1,000.
The ship is almost three times the size of HMS Illustrious, but can be operated by around the same number of sailors due to new systems on board which automate many processes.
Work is also due to begin soon on preparing Portsmouth for the arrival of the carriers, including dredging works in the harbour and the installation of new cranes and facilities on the jettyside at Portsmouth Naval Base.
The jetties will also need to be strengthened.