BAE Systems has successfully docked the hull sections of the UK Royal Navy's second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, at its Rosyth shipyard, marking the commencement of the carrier's assembly phase.
The latest move comes within days of the announcement by the UK Prime Minster David Cameron that HMS Prince of Wales will be commissioned, assuring that Britain would always possess an aircraft carrier, available from 2020.
Aircraft Carrier Alliance managing director Ian Booth said: "Every milestone in the carrier programme is hugely significant and the recent announcement that HMS Prince of Wales will enter service means there is a real sense of excitement as we start to bring the second ship together.
"Everyone working across the Alliance is incredibly proud of the work undertaken so far, in what is currently one of the biggest engineering projects in the country and we remain focused on delivering both ships to the highest standards."
Weighing at 6,000t and 8,000t respectively, both Lower Blocks 02 and 03 will form the distinctive forward hull section and the mid-section of the aircraft carrier's hull respectively.
Lower Block 02 will be equipped with machinery spaces, stores and switchboards, while Lower Block 03 will feature 160 cabins and the ship's bakery.
Following the anticipated structural completion by July 2016, Prince of Wales will begin sea trials in January 2019, followed by acceptance in August of the same year.
In addition, BAE is currently working on outfitting the HMS Queen Elizabeth preparing it for scheduled sea trials in 2016, with scheduled commissioning in 2017.
The UK is also investing to transform HM Naval Base Portsmouth as the home port of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, with work involving dredging the approach and main channels within the harbour, upgrading navigational support and the revamp of several jetties, together with extensive infrastructure enhancements.
Delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a joint initiative by BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the UK Ministry of Defence, both aircraft carriers will be the showpiece of Britain's defence capability for the 21st century.
The two 300m-long, 74m-wide and 65,000t vessels will boost sustained operations and ferry an air wing of up to 40 aircraft, as well as offer armed forces with a four-acre military operating base that can travel about 500 miles per day and be deployed anywhere worldwide.
Image: Construction begins on the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.