The Royal Navy’s massive new aircraft carriers are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) - the alliance between DE&S, Babcock, BAE Systems and Thales - and are being built in large individual blocks at six shipyards around the UK, which are then transported to Rosyth for final assembly and integration using the huge Goliath crane installed at the yard earlier in the year.
The mid-hull section, known as Lower Block 03 (LB03), arrived at Rosyth in August, having been shipped from Govan where it was built by BAE Systems. This was followed by the arrival this month of the four sections making up Centre Block 03 (CB03) from Newcastle, where they were built by A&P Tyne. Sponsons for this section (which form part of the ship structure to provide a wider flight deck), constructed by Babcock, are already in Rosyth following delivery of the components from Babcock’s Appledore shipyard in Devon.
The massive 8,000-tonne LB03 section is more than 20 metres high, 60 metres long and 40 metres wide. On arrival at Rosyth the barge transporting it was sunk to float the block, which was then towed to the main basin and winched into No 1 Dock using a capstan system and alignment aids in the dock, where it was lowered onto the pre-prepared dock blocks. Once in place, the dock gates were closed, the dock drained, and services connected to enable work on the block to commence.
The first of the four CB03 sections, weighing 850 tonnes and measuring 40 metres by 26 metres by seven metres, was lifted onto the LB03 block on Friday 23 September. This will be followed by the remaining three CB03 sections, each weighing in the region of 600 tonnes, as well as the sponsons for this centre block.
Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, visited Rosyth on 20 September to see the preparations. He said:
This is an exciting week for the carrier programme and it is a great privilege to witness what can only be described as history in the making. The job of building these truly formidable carriers is a big challenge. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated and skilled workforce able to rise to this challenge.
Assembly of the aircraft carrier will take place in three cycles, A, B and C. The assembly of the sections LB03 and CB03 and associated sponsons to create Block 03 makes up Assembly Cycle A, which has now begun and will continue to Summer 2012.
Chief of Defence Materiel, Bernard Gray, said:
The Queen Elizabeth Class is a hugely important project for MOD and for the UK’s shipbuilding industry. I’m very pleased at this impressive progress on the contribution and assembly of first of class.
Assembly Cycle B will see the joining of Lower Block 02, which will arrive from BAE Systems in Portsmouth next year, and Lower Block 01 (comprising the forward sections from the keel up to the flight deck, including the bulbous bow), which was built by Babcock at its Appledore shipyard in Devon and shipped to Rosyth last year (April 2010).
This will take place between Summer 2012 and Spring 2013. The remaining blocks, including the stern sections and island structures, will be assembled in Cycle C, with the hull fully assembled by 2014. Progressive outfitting will see electrical cabling, mechanical pipe systems, ventilation, and fittings and equipment installed.
The ACA’s Programme Director, Geoff Searle, said:
After many years of engineering design, planning and block build, it is fantastic to see the assembly of HMS Queen Elizabeth starting in Rosyth. This marks the start of the next important phase of the programme to deliver the nation’s flagships and is a testament to all of the hard work across the ACA to reach this point.
Director Ships at DE&S, Tony Graham, added:
Building an aircraft carrier is a national endeavour. The carrier project brings together blocks from the north, south, east and west and welds them together.
“Her construction is symbolic of our national strength in shipbuilding and our unity of purpose as the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.
> We believe the Queen Elizabeth Class build reflects many best practices for a project of this scale and complexity. Everyone takes great pride in building the ship and we look forward to seeing her sailing from the Firth of Forth when fully commissioned.
The 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, at 280 metres long, 74 metres wide and 56 metres high, will be the UK’s largest and most powerful warships, each providing the Armed Forces with a four acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide. The versatile vessels will be the centrepiece of Britain’s military capability.