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Queen Elizabeth is now a Navy record breaker

It is now January 2013, the start of another significant year for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) and the project to design, build and deliver into service two 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy.

We finished off 2012 with some significant events at Rosyth. Lower Block 04 (LB04) arrived by barge on Remembrance Sunday following its journey from Govan; the block had to take the long way round and travel south due to bad weather. This gave us a less time in the available tidal window to remove the sea fastenings, ballast the block and prepare for the float off operation. Had we missed that tidal window we would have had to wait around a month for suitable tides, and with Christmas approaching the impact could have been significant.


Lower Block 04 of the Queen Elizabeth arrives at Rosyth

However, following some really hard work the barge and the block were prepared, and the float off operation went ahead to plan on the 16th November. The following day LB04 was docked down into position in the build dock separated from the remainder of the ship by the intermediate gate. The float off operation built on the lessons learned from previous operations and was carried out alongside the jetty where the sea bed had been suitably dredged. As well as dispensing with the requirements for extensive anchoring arrangements and dealing with tidal flows it also presents an ideal location for people like me to watch the operation without getting in the way! I was going to say without getting wet but as it rained heavily all day that wasn’t quite true. You can see video of the process here.

Source: Aircraft Carrier Alliance

Before the two parts of the ship could be joined together the last few units making up the forward part of the ship were loaded on using the Goliath crane. The timing was perfect - we had invited a number of VIPs to visit Rosyth on the 21st November and while they were being briefed in the board room, outside the last part of the forward port sponson was being gently lowered into position, which rather distracted them from the presentation. In fact at one point we had to stop the presentation while everyone peered out of the window.

The upper part of the bow, including the mooring decks and anchor pockets, was lifted into position early one morning in December, during a suitable weather window. Again the view from the office window was spectacular as the unit, looking a bit like a flying saucer, descended from the dark sky into the glare of the flood lights while a flurry of snow fell around it.


The upper bow section of Queen Elizabeth is lifted into place

To join the two parts of the aircraft carrier in the dock, the intermediate gate was removed and the forward part, all 20,000 plus tonnes of it, was skidded back about 18 metres to align with LB04. There have been several questions about why we chose to move the larger, heavier forward bit rather than moving LB04. The reason wasn’t that we just like a challenge, but that the forward part has a far larger extent of flat bottom and is thus much easier to jack up and skid.


The 20,000tonne forward part of the carrier is skidded backwards to join onto Lower Block 04

The skidding operation took place on the 28th and 29th December with the intention, successfully achieved, of having the whole ship in place, brows and services reinstated so that it would all be ready for the workforce to return to after the Christmas and New Year break.

Skidding such a huge piece of structure is no mean feat, it is accomplished by jacking it up with numerous hydraulic jacks, lowering it onto PTFE slides and then using horizontal hydraulic rams to slowly move it back, adjusting to achieve alignment as necessary. The alignment between LB04 and the forward part of the ship is once again excellent which is something that all those involved in can be extremely proud of. You can see a time lapse of the process here.

Source: Aircraft Carrier Alliance

Queen Elizabeth is now bigger than any ship in the history of the Royal Navy, and with outfitting on-board at an advanced state, we’ve got the first ever opportunity to hold an ACA event on-board. Therefore we have decided to hold this year’s management briefing in the Operations Room. This is a really exciting opportunity for the management team to get close up to what they have achieved and really celebrate the continuing success of the project. The briefing will be used to set the objectives for the next year, during which Queen Elizabeth will become structurally complete and setting the systems to work will really start to ramp up.

Readers' comments (9)

  • A fine example of good engineering practice: using 'Teflon' (or more properly: "PTFE") instead of the old "greased steel over steel" option. As the Friction coefficient of PTFE vs Steel is not only about 5-6% of steel/steel, but of utmost importance: the PTFE coefficient has almost the same value 'in rest' and 'in motion', which is the only way to achieve a smooth motion, instead of the jerkiness of a greased steel/steel skidding maneuver.

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  • what type of planes will she have?

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  • Absolutely fascinating description of a ground-breaking major Engineering project.
    How much more valuable if it was describing the facilities in use (and the production and materials management) to create vessels which would be revenue earning!

    Apart from the initial cost of these military monsters, they will surely represent a continuous expense/ cost on the nation (and its tax payers) throughout their life.

    It is amazing that we seem able to fine (or borrow!) the money to prepare to defend our children/ grand-children's interests from alleged or supposed external attack: when we have already had to spend 5 times that amount dealing with an attack on life-style and future prosperity that has come from an attack (of greed by bankers) initiated from within our Nation. Something about priorities springs to my mind here?
    Mike B

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  • I would just like to say to David and all invloved in the building of this magnificent ship. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This country will come to owe you a huge debt of gratitude for all your hard work and dedication and sheer engineering brilliance. Personally, I can't wait for the time it sails into Portsmouth to join the Fleet.

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  • The videos of joining the two halves of this massive structure are excellent. The fact that we, as a nation, can do this should be publicised more widely to inspire the next generation of engineers.

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  • It would be great if this amazing capability we have could be utilized for commercial shipbuilding in the future as well. I would love to hear David Downs and his teams opinion on the feasability of this. I know the arguments that are put forward about not being able to compete on price etc, but the fact is these ships are far more complex than just about any ship afloat. Why not start by targeting specialised/complex commercial ship building. I would love to think that the money has not only gone into providing the essential defence of the realm that these ships will provide, but has also gone towards reviving a commercial large ship building industry in this country.

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  • The world's fattest people and the world's fittest people are both good analogous examples of the disaster represented by the UK's big deck aircraft carrier programme:

    Before their designs were egregiously dumbed down and cheapened by the previous Labour govt, these vessels would have been (when completed) legitimate world beaters in automation, sensors, communications, ship self-defence systems, economical crew-sizes and versatility...

    Now, about the only areas these badly needed vessels will be world beaters is in their girth/displacements...

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  • Roderick V. Louis . Fanciful I know, but would make sense. A 3rd ship with all that is needed. Built in this Country on the up, without the delays and downbeat people. HMS Duke of York.

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  • Mike Blamey. I think 40 million a year has been mentioned which seems very cheap, and compared to the Invincibles, they are really cheap. All ships deprerciate each year, and hence just having one, would be hugely expensive for what you get, so three could well be the cheapest option for the future. I agree, we need to make hay with this and now get into ships that make money, and we can do this. One set up would be a Rolls Royce type of thing with a deep building dock at Govan taking up 3, 4, and 5 old building berths and No.2 berth used for load in/load out and use for a goliath crane to run on but with the main NO.1 slip way retained to launch big hull sections for assembly in that new dry dock at Govan. Govan could be a feeder yard to the nearby modernised Inchgreen Drydock faciltiy (a new Scott Lithgow if you like) for really big projects.

    All other options, ideas and possible solutions by others would be interesting to read.

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