HMS Queen Elizabeth is 'Portsmouth's ship' says naval base boss
YEARS of hard work throughout the city to prepare for the Royal Navy’s newest carriers should fill everyone with national pride.
That is the message from Portsmouth Naval Base as the Carrier Strike Group, designated CSG21, prepares to set sail on Saturday.
The strike group, which includes four Royal Navy warships, the USS Sullivan from America and a Dutch frigate, will be out on deployment for seven months and aims to visit more than 40 countries in that time.
The £3bn warship, with eight RAF and 10 US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets on board, will depart for Asia accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.
But to reach this point has taken a gargantuan effort spanning roughly ten years, from preparing Portsmouth Harbour to getting new QE-Class vessels HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales built and operational.
Steve Hopper, head of naval base operations, said: ‘We have been involved in this project for more than a decade now.
‘There have been plenty of things to sort out, from designing the jetty to working out how to plug the carriers into the electricity supply, and of course, dredging the harbour.
‘In the final six months there has been a massive push to get HMS Queen Elizabeth ready for this deployment.’
The harbour was dredged in 2017, with 3.2m cubic metres of sediment being removed to accomodate the 65,000-tonne carrier.
Among this was also a human skull, five large bombs and even some cannons.
Steve served in the Falklands War in 1982, so has seen first-hand the impact a Carrier Strike Group can have in a time of crisis.
He added that he felt a sense of ‘nostalgic pride’ at seeing the ships lined up in Portsmouth Harbour.
‘I felt quite patriotic, but I think it goes further than that,’ he said.
‘The defence industry in general did so well to build this ship – the aircraft carrier alliance that formed was second to none.
‘Most of those people, working at companies like BAE Systems, live right here in Portsmouth; then when the carrier sets sail, it’s Portsmouth people monitoring shipping movements, negotiating her out of the harbour, and so on.
‘This is Portsmouth’s ship and the people can be proud of what has been accomplished.’