UK: Construction of Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier Takes Significant Step Forward

Construction of the first Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier took a significant step forward today, as the final rings of the forward hull section came together for the first time at BAE Systems’ facility in Portsmouth Naval Base.

Two huge ring sections of Lower Block 02 were joined together in a 30 minute move involving 26 remote controlled hydraulic transporters. Workers carefully manoeuvred a 3,700 tonne slice of the block over 25 metres across the company’s production hall, where it was carefully lined up to join the rest of the hull. The hull block is made up of five rings in total, with the first rings joined in April, today’s move marks the end of the three month process.

Steven Carroll, Queen Elizabeth Class Project Director at BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division, said:

Bringing together Lower Block 02 marks the beginning of an exciting stage in the block’s life. The team will now begin the task of connecting the pipes, cabling, ventilation and machinery which runs throughout the block, before she is transported to Rosyth in April next year.

“As the block takes shape, the sheer size and scale of this engineering project becomes even more apparent.”

Housing machinery spaces, stores, and switchboards, Lower Block 02 will weigh over 6,000 tonnes on completion, with over 8,500 metres of pipes and 260,000 metres of cable installed – the equivalent distance from Portsmouth to Bristol and back. Standing over 70 metres long and 18 metres tall, the block will house 85 cabins, sleeping over 500 junior crew members on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Today’s move comes only four weeks after production commenced on the second aircraft carrier, the Prince of Wales, at the company’s Govan shipyard on the Clyde. Additionally, workers in Portsmouth are gearing up to begin work on the forward island, which will house the ship’s bridge and control vessel navigation, in the coming weeks.

BAE Systems is a member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, working in partnership with Babcock, Thales and the Ministry of Defence to deliver the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK. The company provides overall leadership and programme management to the QE Class programme and plays a central role in the design and build of the ships. Additionally, BAE Systems is responsible for the design, manufacture and integration of the complex mission systems for the aircraft carriers, with work underway at the company’s Maritime Integration and Support Centre on Portsdown Hill.

Each 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide. The vessels will be versatile enough to be used for operations ranging from supporting war efforts to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief. The QE Class will be the centre piece of Britain’s military capability and will operate at least 12 of the carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter jets, allowing for unparalleled interoperability with allied forces.
Source: BAE, July 6, 2011