A huge section of the Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier has been loaded onto a barge in Glasgow ready for delivery to Rosyth, the dockyard near Edinburgh where final assembly will take place.
The 8,000 tonne mid hull section, called Lower Block 03 (LB03), is larger than an entire Type 45 destroyer. It contains 160 cabins, machinery space, a portion of the aircraft hangar and even a bakery.
Over the weekend it was carefully manoeuvred out of the BAE Systems ship build hall where it was constructed and onto a barge alongside on the River Clyde.
The block will next week set sail on a 600 mile voyage to Rosyth. In September the assembly of HMS Prince of Wales will begin in the dock that will shortly be vacated by her sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was officially named by the Queen at the beginning of the month.
The completion of the carriers has become a symbol of the potential of UK-wide engineering projects and the prowess of Scottish shipbuilding at a time when the prospect of Scotland leaving the union is very real. Some fear that a Scottish ‘yes’ vote for independence in September’s referendum could spell the end of MoD contracts being awarded to Scottish yards.
Union officials said earlier in July that Rosyth had only been able to carry on operating because of the project to build the carriers.
The naming ceremony marked the first time in more than 15 years that the Queen had christened a Royal Navy warship. In time-honoured tradition, Her Majesty gave her blessing as a bottle of finest Scotch whisky shattered against her hull. At the time, Ian Booth, managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, said: “This is an engineering challenge of unprecedented scale and complexity for UK shipbuilding.”
The naming ceremony for HMS Queen Elizabeth marked the structural completion of the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier. She will be floated out of the dock later this month and berthed in the basin, where teams will continue to outfit the ship and steadily bring her systems to life in preparation for sea trials in 2016. Meanwhile, teams across the UK are continuing the construction of Prince of Wales. Final assembly of HMS Prince of Wales will begin in September.
The aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a unique partnering relationship between BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence.
The Queen Elizabeth class will be the centrepiece of Britain’s defence capability for the 21st century. Each aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four-acre military operating base, which can travel up to 500 miles per day to be deployed anywhere around the world. Operating the Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II jets and a number of types of helicopter, the QE Class will be versatile enough to be used across the full spectrum of military activity from warfighting to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief, BAE said.