Construction has begun on the Royal Navy’s first Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, at the Cammell Laird shipbuilding facility in Birkenhead.

Cammell Laird will build two of the sections that will make up the ship’s giant flight deck under a £44m ($68.3m) contract awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence.

The weight of the combined sections is 7,500t, which is more than a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer.

Royal Navy staff assistant chief Rear Admiral Philip Jones said the carriers would offer invaluable freedom of action with 16,000m² from which to project power anywhere in the world.

“But they are much more than an air base capable of providing support to land operations and humanitarian assistance in disaster zones,” he said.

“They also play an important role in conflict prevention; their scale, range and capability making them a powerful statement of intent.”

A total of six UK shipyards are involved in the carriers project: Govan and Rosyth in Scotland, Portsmouth and Devonport in the south, and Newcastle and Liverpool in the north.