DOLPHIN WATCHERS ALONG the Moray coast could be set for a sight over the next six weeks that they may not need binoculars to view.
While rare whale sightings have become the thing for coast watchers, there is now a much larger target – the nation’s new flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
It has been described as a ‘historic moment’ when the massive ship set sail from Rosyth for her first sea trials – and these are taking place off the north east coast and so very likely at some point in the Moray Firth itself.
Moray has already had a taste of some of the aircraft trying out their new home, several Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose having exercised at RAF Lossiemouth earlier this year, it is believed in preparation for the new carriers ultimate arrival.
Celebrating the departure of HMS Queen Elizabeth yesterday was defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who said: “This is a historic moment for the UK as our new aircraft carrier takes to sea for the very first time.
“This floating fortress is by far the most powerful ship ever built in Britain that will enable us to tackle multiple and changing threats across the globe.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth is an enduring example of British imagination, ingenuity, invention that will help keep us safe for decades to come. She is built by the best, crewed by the best and will deliver for Britain.
“For the next fifty years she will deploy around the world, demonstrating British power and our commitment to confronting the emerging challenges from a dangerous world. The whole country can be proud of this national achievement.”
Following her initial trials off the north east coast, which are designed to test all the fundamentals of the new ship, she will return to Rosyth for further testing before heading back to sea for another series of tests. She will then set sail for the Portsmouth Naval Base to be formally handed over to the Royal Navy later this year.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said:“This is a hugely significant moment for the Royal Navy, for all our Armed Forces and for our island nation.
“Once in service HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the largest aircraft carrier in the world outside the United States, and the first designed from the outset to operate a fifth generation aircraft.
“Already this ship represents the best of the UK’s industrial and engineering expertise, and once in service she will symbolise our military power and authority in the world for decades to come. There is still much work to do between now and then, but be in no doubt: a new era of British maritime power is about to begin.”
The UK’s second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, is now undergoing outfitting. Both carriers will be equipped with F35B Lightning aircraft alongside a variety of helicopters including the Chinook.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – Key Facts
- Each carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes
- Each carrier is 280 metres in length
- Top speed is upwards of 25 knots
- The carriers will have a crew complement of c.700, increasing to c.1,600 when a full complement of 36 F-35B aircraft and four Crowsnest helicopters are embarked
- The flight deck is 70 metres wide and 280 metres long – enough space for three football pitches
- Each carrier keeps 45 days’ worth of food in its stores.
- Each carrier is made up of 17 million parts
- There are 364,000 metres of pipes inside each of the Ships
- 51 million hours have been spent designing and building the Queen Elizabeth Class.
- The entire Ship’s Company can be served a meal within 90 minutes, 45 minutes when at action station
- The QE Class aircraft carriers are the first Royal Navy vessels to have piped oxygen within the medical complex
Key efficiencies include:
- Highly mechanised weapons handling system: At the push of a button pallets of munitions can be moved from the magazines deep in the weapons preparation area to the flight deck where they can be loaded onto aircraft.
- Storage: The location and design of the storage facilities enable 20 people only half a day to replenish the ship’s stores.
- Visual surveillance system: 220 cameras allow monitoring of engine and machinery spaces, external catwalk, aircraft hangars, ship entrances and access to classified areas.
- Galley: Technologically advanced equipment and layout of the galley makes maintenance and service more efficient. The entire crew can be served meals in 90 minutes and 45 minute when at action stations.