Construction began on the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, their largest ever warships, today with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal performing the initial steel-cutting for the first of the ships.
The steel-cutting ceremony took place at BVT Surface Fleet’s shipyard in Govan, today, Tuesday 7 July 2009.
The Queen Elizabeth (QE) Class carriers, together with the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the brand new Type 45 destroyers, will form the cornerstone of Britain’s future ability to jointly project airpower worldwide from land or sea at a time and place of the UK’s choosing.
Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said:
“The MOD is committed to ensuring the UK’s Armed Forces are modern, versatile and well equipped for present and future operations. The versatility of the design together with the long service life of these ships will ensure that we will be able to deal with the uncertainties of the future for years to come, and they will deliver the support to deployed UK forces around the globe.
“It is an honour to mark this historic moment with Her Royal Highness here in Govan. We also must not forget the ongoing work of legions of people in industry in regions across the country who are all delivering vital elements of this truly national project.”
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said:
“The QE Class, together with the supporting aircraft forming the Carrier Strike, represent a step change in Defence’s capability, enabling Britain to deliver airpower from the sea wherever and whenever it is required. This strategic effect, influence and, where necessary, direct action will give us an unprecedented range of options to deal with the challenges of an uncertain world at a time and place of our choosing.
“These ships are not just spare airfields, they are an instrument of national power: the ‘big stick’ which can be waved by the Government in areas of strategic interest to influence, coerce and deter.”
Guided by Scott Ballingal, a 21-year-old BVT apprentice from Erskine who will be working on the carriers, Rear Admiral The Princess Royal pushed the button to start the computer-guided laser that cut the first piece of steel for the hull of these immense new ships.
Scott is one of 70 new apprentices who have been taken on by BVT to support work on the carriers. The programme has reinvigorated apprenticeship schemes at the prime shipyards and provides a solid workload for the coming years.
Three other major sections (called lower blocks) of the ship will be assembled at yards at Portsmouth and Rosyth. Other fabrication work will be done at the Appledore shipyards in Devon. Each block will be transported to Rosyth dockyard where they will be joined together to form the hull of the ship.
Manufacturing activity is continuing across the country, with the assembly of the bow for the Queen Elizabeth well underway at Appledore and work on the aircraft lifts progressing in Rosyth.
While the hull construction is just beginning, the project has moved on apace since the manufacture contract was signed in July last year, with £700m worth of sub-contracts placed for the equipment and furnishings that will kit out the ships from the weapons systems to the galleys and cabins.
UK industry has also benefited from the development phase of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and is well placed to win further work as this programme progresses well into the 21st century.