The Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (formerly the CV Future[nb 1] or CVF project) are a two-ship class of aircraft carrier being built for the Royal Navy. HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter service in May 2016; HMS Prince of Wales in 2018. The vessels will displace about 65,000 tonnes (full load), be 280 metres (920 ft) long and capable of carrying up to 50 aircraft.
The need to replace the ageing Invincible class aircraft carriers was confirmed by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. From six contractors, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Thales and BAE Systems in late 1999 to compete for the final contract. In September 2002 the MoD announced that the Royal Navy and RAF will operate the STOVL F-35B Lightning II variant and further that the carriers would take the form of large, conventional carriers, which will initially be adapted for STOVL operations. On 30 January 2003 the MoD announced that the Thales design had won the competition but that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor. The two companies are now part of a "carrier alliance" with the MoD and other companies.
The contract for the vessels was announced on 25 July 2007 by the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring. The cost is estimated to be £3.9 billion. The contracts were officially signed one year later on 3 July 2008 after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group's VT Shipbuilding which was a requirement of the UK Government.
On December 11, 2008, Defence Secretary John Hutton announced that the two ships would enter service one or two years later than the originally planned dates of 2014 and 2016
YES, we know what you think it looks like.
And you’re quite right: it is indeed the bulbous bow of Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Elizabeth, a very visible sign of the progress being made on the future carriers.
The bow section was one of two large pieces completed by workers at the Babcock yard in Appledore in North Devon and floated out of the shed into the River Torridge.
From there it’s a six-day journey to Rosyth where the ‘carrier jigsaw’ is being pieced together; a dry dock has been expanded to accommodate the vessels which will be more than 900ft long and displace around 65,000 tons once completed.
Six shipyards around the UK are working on the mammoth project, with around another 100 firms producing various carrier components.
A team of nearly 300 workers at Appledore have been working on the carrier project since late December 2008. They’ve already delivered sponsons for the carriers’ flight decks to Rosyth.
The bulbous bow is probably more instantly recognisable as part of a ship. It’s also 100ft long, 35ft wide, over 30ft tall and weighs more than 290 tons.
Also completed is the upper bow section, a ‘mere’ 140 tons, 70ft long and 57ft wide. It will eventually sit above the bulbous section and comprises decks five to seven, just below the hangar deck.
“Seeing these sections, which are only a small part of the ship, makes the overall scale of the carriers clear,” said Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews, Chief of Material Fleet.
“The ‘block integration’ method of construction has allowed us to build the ship in many locations simultaneously, reducing the time it takes to construct.”
Six yards are involved in the £4bn carrier project: aside from Babcock’s works on the Forth and Torridge, A&P in Newcastle and BAE’s yards in Portsmouth and on the Clyde are all producing giant segments of the two ships.
Navy News 08 April 2010
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