The bow of future carrier HMS Prince of Wales has joined that of her sister Queen Elizabeth on the Forth after a 900-mile barge journey.
The 400-tonne bulbous section was transported from Appledore in north Devon to Rosyth, where the biggest ships built in the Royal Navy’s history are being assembled.
Pictures: Aircraft Carrier Alliance
SIDE-by-side for the very first time are Her Majesty’s Ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales (nearest the camera) – well their bows at least.
The very bulbous section of the second of the Royal Navy’s two future carriers was delivered to Rosyth on the Firth of Forth, where the 65,000-tonne leviathans are being assembled.
Just under two years since the bow of Queen Elizabeth was completed at the Appledore yard in North Devon, the same segment for her younger sister was floated on a sea-going barge up the Torridge and Taw estuaries into the Bristol Channel, around Land’s End, along the South Coast, through the Dover Strait and up the East Coast, before passing under the iconic Forth road and rail bridges and into Rosyth.
At 400 tonnes, the bulbous bow weighs the equivalent of nearly 40 double-decker buses and is similar in size to the front of a submarine.
It arrived at the Babcock yard under what was described as a “typically gunmetal sky” – ie grey – and is now sitting next to the specially-enlarged Dock No.1 where the 900ft carriers are being assembled one at a time.
Half a dozen yards around the UK are involved in the carrier project, with some 10,000 people directly or indirectly involved in building sections, parts or providing equipment for what will be the largest ships ever built for Britain’s Navy.
Although there is intense media speculation about the outfitting of the two ships – whether they’ll be conventional carriers with ‘cats and traps’ or serve as launchpads for jump jet versions of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter – work on the vessels continues apace.
Lower Block 05 is accurately weighed in the huge ship construction hall in Portsmouth
In Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth has been ‘fired up’ for the first time. With all the switchboards wired, Lower Block 02 was switched on – the first time power has been applied to any part of the ship.
The work was due to be carried out in Rosyth, but with things going faster than expected, the decision was taken to power up six months ahead of schedule.
The team at the BAE Systems facility are now preparing that section, and another giant slice of Queen Elizabeth – Lower Block 05 – for transportation to Scotland.
Block 05 leaves at the end of April, 02 a month later – but before they leave the construction shed and are lowered on to a barge, they have to be weighed.
Obviously bathroom scales won’t do. Carefully-position hydraulic jacks and sensitive load cells convert force into an electrical signal which in turn is translated into an accurate measurement of the block’s weight.
“Getting the weight and centre of gravity right is really important when it comes to arranging for sections to be safely lifted – or moved by barge,” explained Paul Bowsher of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the combined BAE-Thales-Babcock and MOD team working on the huge project.
“We weigh each section at least three times to make sure the readings are accurate.”