HMS Queen Elizabeth floats for the first time

The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

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PORTSMOUTH’S new aircraft carrier has successfully floated out of her dock for the first time today.

The dry dock containing HMS Queen Elizabeth was yesterday flooded ahead of the release.

HMS Queen Elizabeth floats for the first time. Picture: BAE Systems

HMS Queen Elizabeth floats for the first time. Picture: BAE Systems

Preparations were going on last night ahead of the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier’s removal from her dock at Rosyth shipyard in Scotland.

In an operation that started earlier this week, the dry dock in Rosyth near Edinburgh was flooded for the first time to allow the vessel to float.

It then took three hours this morning to manoeuvre HMS Queen Elizabeth out of the dock with just two metres clearance at either side, and berth her alongside a nearby jetty.

Teams will now continue to outfit the ship and bring her systems to life in preparation for sea trials in 2016. The dock she vacates will be used for final assembly of her sister ship. HMS Prince of Wales, which will begin in September.

It comes shortly after the carrier’s official naming ceremony. On Friday, July 4, senior levels of government including prime minister David Cameron attended the ceremony, led by the Queen.

A bottle of malt whisky was smashed against the hull as the Queen named the aircraft carrier after herself.

She said: ‘Like her illustrious predecessor, this Queen Elizabeth is innovative and first class.

‘She marks a new phase in our naval history, being the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy.

‘She and the aircraft operators will also usher in an exciting new era of capability and co-operation, jointly engaging the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as well as the international partners, especially the United States and France.’

Shipbuilders in Portsmouth gathered for a ceremony at the dockyard.

Commodore Jeremy Rigby said: ‘When HMS Queen Elizabeth sails from here on to operations, with 680 sailors and airmen, up to 40 aircraft and more than 900 Royal Marines, she will be the single most potent piece of sovereign territory that we have ever sent around the world to look after British interests.’

The carrier will remain in Rosyth and be handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 2016.

The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever built for the Royal Navy.