Final piece of Britain’s new aircraft carrier sets sail

The final section of the UK’s first new aircraft carrier in 30 years, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has left its shipyard.

The carrier’s aft island, including its air traffic control tower and flight operations centre, is scheduled to arrive at Rosyth dockyard on 20 June, where it will join the other sections of the ship for assembly.

The complete 65,000-tonne vessel is due to be unveiled next year and enter service in 2020, and will be the first of two aircraft carriers built to be the largest ships the Royal Navy has ever operated, although one of the craft may be mothballed.

‘The delivery of the aft island is a huge milestone for the aircraft carrier programme and we are extremely proud to have achieved this,’ said Angus Holt, Queen Elizabeth-class block delivery director for BAE Systems, in a statement

‘The island has been completed to an exceptional standard which is testament to the skills and talent of our workforce here on the Clyde. Once the island has arrived in Rosyth the full scale of the nation’s flagship ship will be revealed for the first time.’

Following its departure from BAE Systems’ shipyard at Scotstoun on board a barge, the 750-tonne aft island will travel the 600-mile journey to Rosyth, where it will be lifted onto the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth by a giant goliath crane.

BAE Systems said the aft island was completed ahead of schedule in 86 weeks, from the first steel cut to the completed block being loaded onto the barge. Housing 110 compartments, the island is over 30 metres tall and contains more than 44,000 metres of cable.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first aircraft carrier to use a two-island design. The forward island has already been erected onto the flight deck of the ship in Rosyth and houses the main bridge.

Both islands are designed with the ability to incorporate the other’s role in an emergency, increasing the ship ability of the ship to survive attack.

Following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the government announced plans to mothball HMS Queen Elizabeth once its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, was complete.

But ministers have since indicated that both the carriers may be used at the same time depending on the outcome of the next SDSR in 2015.

To read The Engineer’s latest guest blog from the carrier assembly team click here.