EXCITEMENT is building amid claims the Royal Navy’s new flagship could arrive in Portsmouth as early as next month.
The navy has not made any official confirmation of the date of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth yet.
But an insider has claimed the 65,000-tonne behemoth could make her first entry into Portsmouth on Monday, August 21.
The insider claimed this date had been given during a briefing between the city council, the Royal Navy, BAE Systems and Hampshire Constabulary about preferred dates.
The source said August 21 was ‘the most likely date’, adding: ‘It’s going to be confirmed next week and is still subject to change by a couple of days either way.’
Queen Elizabeth’s arrival into Portsmouth is an unprecedented challenge.
The arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for most of the residents in PortsmouthCouncillor Donna Jones, city council leader
The News understands there is still a vast array of work that needs to be agreed between multiple agencies to make such a complex arrival possible.
That includes organising the workforce to be prepared and that the infrastructure surrounding the day is in place, which needs to have a target date – one that can be changed if needs be.
A spokeswoman from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance – the conglomerate behind the carrier programme – would not confirm any date at this stage.
But the official said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth is making progress through her sea trials programme, which is designed to test the full spectrum of her systems.
‘Her ship’s company is looking forward to taking her to her home port of Portsmouth later this year.’
Portsmouth City Council boss Donna Jones did not comment on any briefing.
But she said: ‘The arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for most of the residents in Portsmouth.’
She added it reaffirmed Portsmouth’s importance in defence globally.
The news comes after the defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon yesterday made his first visit to the 280m vessel during her sea trials.
Addressing the crew gathered on the four-acre flight deck of the warship he said it has ‘been a while since HMS Illustrious’, adding: ‘But big decks and fast jets are now back.
‘This ship is so much bigger than Illustrious and it combines, of course, sea power with air power. Already we have 10 F-35s being flown and trained in the United States. By the end of this year we will have 14 of those fast jets – the world’s most sophisticated fighter.’
The defence secretary told the ship’s company it is time for the ‘armchair critics to shut up for a while’, adding that HMS Illustrious ‘has now gone’.
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, backed calls for critics to step aside, and said the city would give Queen Elizabeth a ‘splendid welcome’, adding: ‘Whenever she arrives it will be a great day for our city and our country and for the Royal Navy.’
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, also urged the city to ‘play their part’.
The timing does not fit in with the aircraft carrier’s 11-week sea trials period.