The Scotsman, By Chris McCall, 21 June 2017
HMS Queen Elizabeth is so large she can easily be spotted by drivers on the Forth Road Bridge despite being moored in the built-up environs of Rosyth dockyard, two miles to the west.
Her forward island, which contains the bridge, along with the aft island, which will control aircraft operations, tower above the Fife port.
Soon the vessel will be revealed in all her glory as she leaves Rosyth for the first time to begin sea trials. The aircraft alliance – the various firms which have overseen the ship’s seven-year construction – are keen to share statistics which convey the sheer size of the carrier. At 65,000 tonnes, the Queen Elizabeth is easily the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy.
Her flightdeck alone is 70 metres wide and 280 metres long – enough space for three football pitches. When deployed, she will have space for 40 aircraft.When she sails, there will be 679 officers and crew on board. But this could rise to 1,600 if all air elements are deployed during a time of conflict.
The ship’s regular company are already aboard and awaiting her to leave Rosyth. Once sea trials are complete, the ship will be based in Portsmouth.
“We are thrilled to be settling into HMS Queen Elizabeth and making this ship our home,” a senior member of the ship’s company told the UK Defence Journal.
“There is a real buzz of excitement as we focus on honing our skills and knowledge to bring the ship to life.”The aircraft alliance has remained tight-lipped over when exactly the Queen Elizabeth will depart Roysth for the first time to begin sea trials.
The prospect of seeing the carrier sail under the Forth bridges is one that many amateur photographers will not want to miss.Dockyard workers have speculated online that tug bookings, summer tides and crew movements all point to her departing in the coming days.
Speaking at a defence industry event in Paris this week, Rear Admiral Keith Blount of the Royal Navy suggested that if the ship does not sail this month “it will be next” due to a variety of factors.There is growing pressure to see the Queen Elizabeth finally enter service after a decade of controversies over cost and logistics.
When then defence secretary Des Browne approved the construction of two new aircraft carriers in 2007, the total budget was £4.85 billion.Various delays and set-backs mean the Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, the Prince of Wales, will now cost a total of £14.3bn – including the Lockheed Martin F-35B jets that will fly from them.
The National Audit Office warned in March that technical issues could mean the carrier may not be operational by 2020, as has been promised by the Ministry of Defence. But the MoD said it was committed to ensuring both carriers were fully operational by 2026.
It was reported in 2010 that the coalition government was keen to halt – or at least significantly scale back – the carriers project when it took office due to the rising costs, only to be advised this would cost the taxpayer even more in the long term.Regardless of the expense, the Queen Elizabeth remains an impressive feat of marine engineering.
The various components of the ship were assembled at yards across the UK before being transported to Rosyth for final assembly.The last section – the aft island – arrived at the port in 2013. It was built in 90 weeks by workers at the BAE Systems shipyard in Scotstoun.
The forward island was built in Portsmouth.The hull sections – weighing 8,000 tonnes – were manufactured in Govan before being loaded on to a sea barge and sailed around Cape Wrath to the Forth.