Second Assembly Cycle of UK’s New Aircraft Carriers Underway

Second Assembly Cycle of UK’s New Aircraft Carriers Underway

A further milestone has been reached in the assembly of the first of the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers by Babcock at Rosyth, where the massive Super Block 03 (SB03) has been moved 90 metres north to meet Lower Block 02 (LB02) in a major hydraulic skidding operation, as part of Assembly Cycle B (the second of the three assembly cycles) which has now begun (June).

The aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabethand HMS Prince of Wales– being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA), a unique partnering relationship between BAE Systems, Babcock Thales and the Ministry of Defence – are being built in large individual blocks at six shipyards around the UK, which are then transported to Babcock’s Rosyth facility for final assembly and integration.

Assembly of the first carrier at Rosyth is progressing well, and to schedule. The docking of LB02 (measuring some 60 metres long by 38 metres wide and 21 metres deep and comprising predominantly accommodation compartments with some auxiliary machinery spaces), which arrived from BAE Systems in Portsmouth at the beginning of June, marked the start of Assembly Cycle B. In this cycle Babcock will integrate LB02 with Lower Block 01 (the forward sections from the keel up to the flight deck, including the bulbous bow), previously built by Babcock at its Appledore shipyard in Devon, and Super Block 03 (SB03) already assembled in the dock.

Assembly Cycle A, successfully completed to schedule by Babcock in May, saw the assembly of Super Block 03, comprising the mid-hull section (LB03) and four sections making up Centre Block 03 (CB03) plus associated sponsons. Outfitting of the nine major upper blocks integrated with LB03 in this cycle, including installation of electrical cabling, mechanical pipe systems, ventilation and fittings and equipment, is scheduled to complete later this year.

Following a critical weighing exercise of the completed SB03, the block was moved out of dock to allow the combined docking of SB03 and the newly arrived LB02. Immediately this docking had been successfully accomplished, Babcock started a highly demanding assembly programme involving one major block lift per week (using the Goliath crane), plus numerous additional lifts, and most recently the major hydraulic skidding operation just completed (end June), which has moved SB03 some 90 metres north to meet LB02. Assembly Cycle B will continue until spring 2013.

Assembly Cycle C will then see assembly of the remaining blocks, including the stern sections and island structures, with the hull fully assembled by 2014.

Babcock Warship Programmes Director Sean Donaldson commented: “To date Babcock has achieved or bettered the programme schedule milestones for block erection and completion of steelwork integration. The start of Assembly Cycle B is an intensive period and we are focusing the team on continuing to deliver successfully and to-schedule.”

The 65,000 tonne QE Class aircraft carriers will be the UK’s largest (280 metres long, 74 metres wide, and 56 metres high) and most powerful warships, providing the armed forces with four acre military operating bases that can be deployed worldwide.

Naval Today Staff, July 5, 2012; Image:babcockinternational