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Babcock has announced that a key component of the highly mechanised weapons-handling system for the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ class aircraft carriers has successfully completed factory acceptance testing.

The component was designed and will be delivered by Babcock.

The highly mechanised weapons-handling system (HMWHS) provides mechanical handling facilities for moving palletised munitions around the deep magazine and weapon preparation areas, and a series of weapons lifts to connect the magazines, hangar, weapons preparation area, and flight deck.

The components in question are 56 so-called ‘moles’, which do the lifting and carrying of the palletised munitions in the magazine.

The HMWHS system consists of a network of two versions of these prime moves, which traverse forward and aft (longitudinal, version one) or port and starboard (athwartships, version two), each able to lift and move a payload to locations within its predefined area of travel.

The moles can transfer payloads between each other, so the payloads can be located anywhere within the magazine.

The two mole versions are different shapes to enable lifting and lowering of the palletised munitions in the correct orientation, onto the set stowage and transfer positions, and are equipped with electric traverse and lift devices, allowing accurate positional control within the magazine.

A number of lifts provide interconnection between the magazines and the hangar, weapons preparation area, and flight deck, and a mechanism enables the mole to access the lift platform without needing to disengage and re-engage the pinion from the rack.

The magazines are unmanned, with all the moles controlled from a central location, so personnel are required only where munitions are being prepared for storage or use.

A challenge in manufacturing the moles has been the achievement of the tight tolerances introduced following completion of the demonstration phase, to speed up assembly.

Factory acceptance testing took place at Babcock’s site at Whetstone, Leicester, and included dimensional and functional tests and inspections of the parts and mole drive and lifting systems.

The moles have now been delivered to the Aircraft Carrier Alliance’s (ACA) central warehouse, ready for installation once the fixed rail equipment and lifts have been installed.

As the moles are fully re-assembled, installation will involve placing them in the magazine and electrically connecting them to the rest of the system via an energy chain system.

Production of the final software solution for the HMWHS integrated control system, and manufacture of the various mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic sub-systems making up the HMWHS are now underway, of which successful completion of factory acceptance tests for all moles is part.

The final equipment for the full HMWHS for the first carrier will be delivered by May 2013, and for both vessels by February 2015.

Babcock has also been active in working with the shipyards to support the design integration and build strategies.

A joint installation strategy has been developed to maximise installation and testing opportunities.

Babcock will maintain responsibility for overall installation and quality of work, as well as performing the testing required to demonstrate that the system meets ACA requirements.

The system in-service support package is being developed with the Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy.

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