Big Lizzie’s BIG test! £3bn HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail for America where Britain’s new F35B Lighting jets will take off from its flight deck for the first time during operational testing
- Well-wishers lined the dockside as HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from Portsmouth Naval Base in Hampshire
- It will sail to the eastern coast of America with 800 crew members on board to carry out operational testing
- The state-of-the-art aircraft carrier’s first operational deployment is planned to take place in 2021
The Royal Navy’s £3billion aircraft carrier set sail today for the US where Britain’s new jets will take off from its flight deck for the first time during operational testing.
Well-wishers lined the dockside as HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from its home at Portsmouth Naval Base in Hampshire for the eastern coast of America.
When they arrive the crew will work with the US Navy for operational testing of the British F35B Lightning jets.
The Royal Navy’s £3billion aircraft carrier set sail for the US today where Britain’s new jets will take off from its flight deck for the first time during operational testing
Well-wishers lined the dockside to wave to the aircraft carrier affectionately known as ‘Big Lizzie’ as she set sail
The navy’s largest-ever warship has a crew on board of just under 800 for the deployment as part of operation Westlant.
It follows a previous trip to the US in 2018 when US F35 jets tested the capability of the carrier’s flight deck.
The carrier will sail along with the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland to form a small carrier strike group.
When they arrive the crew will work with the US Navy for operational testing of the British F35B Lightning jets
The carrier will sail along with the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland to form a small carrier strike group
The navy’s largest-ever warship has a crew on board of just under 800 for the deployment as part of operation Westlant
Captain Steve Moorhouse, the carrier’s commanding officer, said: ‘From the captain down to the youngest sailor, it’s about getting the people ready to do what they would ultimately do should we be called upon to do so.’
Commodore Mike Utley, commander of the UK maritime strike group, said: ‘This is a hugely exciting point in the carrier strike programme.
‘It’s a massive enterprise of thousands of people that will deploy on this next deployment who will take the next step from being able to operate Lightning aircraft from this ship and put that all together with the broader capability set.’
Captain Steve Moorhouse (left), Commodore Mike Utley (centre) and Captain James Blackmore (right) were all enthusiastic about HMS Queen Elizabeth’s latest voyage
Captain James Blackmore of the Commander Air Group said that up to seven British jets would take part in the exercises along with up to four US jets.
He said: ‘We know we can safely fly the aircraft to and from the aircraft carrier, now it’s about making sure we can be mission effective.
‘It’s huge, it’s the next step to regaining our carrier strike capability.
‘In 2010 I had the privilege of launching in the last harrier from Ark Royal, we are nearly 10 years on and we are just getting back into having a carrier strike capability in the UK, one of very few nations that have it, what’s not exciting about that?’
Minister for Defence Procurement Anne-Marie Trevelyan, gives a speech on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for defence procurement, said: ‘With British F35B Lightning jets embarking for the very first time, this magnificent vessel is moving ever closer to her first operational deployment.
‘This will put the ship, the jets and all supporting units through realistic war-fighting scenarios to ready them for operational deployment ensuring they can fight together as one formidable unit.’
The carrier group was deployed with nine helicopters including the Merlin anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Merlin lift helicopter and the Wildcat attack helicopter.
They will all be exercised using the carrier’s 900ft flight deck at the same time as the F35B jets.
The ship will also undergo warm weather sea trials to ensure it is ready for a deployment to the Mediterranean, Gulf and Pacific.
Big Lizzie’s first operational deployment in 2021 will include the embarkation of both a UK and a US squadron of marines with further support provided by a second destroyer, frigate and nuclear submarine.
The voyage comes just a few months after a burst pipe on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth let in more than 200 tons of water and put it out of commission for the second time in just 19 months.
Inside Britain’s most powerful warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth
At 306 yards long, with a lifespan of half a century and a flight deck of four acres, HMS Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s largest and most powerful warship ever built.
Here are the facts and figures behind the vessel which was officially commissioned into the Royal Navy on December 7, 2017.
The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed in excess of 25 knots.
A number of ship building yards around the country were involved in the build – these include Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, Wirral, A&P on the Tyne in Newcastle and Portsmouth.
A total of 10,000 people worked on construction of the ship, made up in sections at yards around the UK and transported to Rosyth, Fife, where it was assembled.
It is the second ship in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth.
The ship has a crew of around 700, that will increase to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
There are nearly 400,000 yards of pipes inside the ship, and from keel to masthead she measures 61 yards, more than Niagara Falls.
Facilities onboard include a chapel, a medical centre and 12-bed ward, staffed with GPs, a nurse and medical assistants, as well as a dentist and dental nurse.
There are also five gyms on the warship which include a cardiovascular suite, two free weight rooms and a boxing gym.
Regular fitness circuit sessions and sporting activities such as basketball and tug of war are held in the hangar and on the flight deck, with weights and other items stored inside the flight deck ramp.
There are five galleys on the warship which is where the food is cooked and those on board eat their meals everyday. This includes two main galleys, the bridge mess and an aircrew refreshment bar.
The distribution network on board manages enough energy to power 30,000 kettles or 5,500 family homes.
Its flight deck is 306 yards long and 77 yards wide, enough space for three football pitches.
The entire ship’s company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes, 45 minutes when at action stations.
Recreational spaces enjoyed by the crew feature televisions and sofas, as well as popular board games including the traditional Royal Navy game of Uckers.
Each of the two aircraft lifts on HMS Queen Elizabeth can move two fighter jets from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds.
The warship has a range of 8,000 to 10,000 nautical miles, and has two propellers – each weighing 33 tonnes and with a combined 80MW output of power – enough to run 1,000 family cars or 50 high speed trains.