Britain's biggest warship ever joins the Royal Navy fleet in Portsmouth today
AS THE Queen today commissions Britain's most powerful warship ever into the Royal Navy, the vessel's captain has said the ship will be a symbol of '˜hope' in a dangerous world.
At 280m long and weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Senior Service.
She will be formally handed over to the navy at a ceremony in the ship’s expansive hangar, attended by the Queen, Princess Anne, prime minister Theresa May and defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
Speaking to The News Captain Jerry Kyd said the ceremony would be a landmark occasion for his crew, the navy and for Portsmouth.
He said it would kick-start a new era for the navy and create a bright future for the city.
‘HMS Queen Elizabeth is a symbol of strength and hope,’ Capt Kyd said.
‘When the White Ensign goes up we can all stand here proudly, salute it in the presence of Her Majesty, and say: “The navy’s here, carrier’s are back, and we’re ready for the future”.’
Set to be the nation’s future flagship, the aircraft carrier can be pressed into action for various tasks such as high-intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
She will also serve as a floating military base for the F-35B stealth fighter jets that will launch from the deck of the vessel to undertake missions.
Serving from her home base of Portsmouth for her 50-year lifespan, the £3.1bn behemoth is one of two new aircraft carriers being built, the other being the Prince of Wales.
Capt Kyd said the construction of the two leviathans was a ‘national endeavour’ and a stunning achievement.
He said: ‘Building aircraft carriers is not for the fainthearted, there are very few countries who can do this around the world. We should be really proud as a country, this has been a national endeavour – it has just been fantastic, it is really a culmination of all our hard work.’
About 3,700 people – including the crew’s family – will cram into the vessel’s hangar, which has been transformed into a makeshift parade ground, complete with stadium-style seating.
The Queen and other VIPs, including naval top brass, will be treated to a ceremony by a contingent of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ship’s company.
After this, the ship’s Blue Ensign will be replaced with the white one, symbolising her move into the Royal Navy.
Capt Kyd said having Her Majesty on board today was an ‘enormous honour’ and ‘privilege’ – a career high for many, he added.
The senior naval officer said: ‘This is a hugely exciting and proud day for us all.
‘It’s a great future for the Royal Navy and a great future for Portsmouth. What the ship’s company have done here in the past couple of years has genuinely been fantastic. I’m so proud of them all.’
The ceremony comes after a challenging period in defence, with uncertainty over military budgets and a shifting political landscape, with Brexit on the horizon.
Capt Kyd said there had never been a more important time for a strong navy.
‘As a Royal Navy, we have got to be credible, we have got to be strong and we have to be ready,’ he said. ‘These ships are just that future – embodied in steel.
‘This is the biggest warship the Royal Navy has ever had, the biggest ship that Portsmouth has ever received, the culmination of many years of hard work by both industry and the Royal Navy – and all the preparation done here in Portsmouth is just tremendous. Commissioning is the start of the re-energising of that union between city and the navy.’
Pressed on what was next for the aircraft carrier after commissioning, Capt Kyd said it was ‘all about operationalising the ship’, getting her ready to ‘go out on the world stage’.
Next year will see the integration of the aircraft properly on Queen Elizabeth, he explained.
Helicopters will be placed on the ship at the beginning of the year – having successfully landed on Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck during the warship’s sea trials this year.
From there the ship and her 700-strong crew will sail to America to embark the new F-35B stealth fighter – the ‘real teeth of the ship’, Capt Kyd said.
When quizzed on how ready his ship’s company were for the challenges that lie ahead, a confident Capt Kyd said: ‘You know the Royal Navy, we’re always ready, we’re always up for a challenge.’
The ship is expected to deploy in the early 2020s.