The UK Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class (QE) aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set for launch on 4 July, marking a major milestone in the programme.
She will be floated for the first time in the Babcock-operated dock.
Currently about 1,500 workers on the carrier are installing and trialling the systems to enable its operations, which are similar to the navy’s earlier 22,000t Invincible-class carriers.
If everything goes to plan, it will commence sea trials in August 2016 and be commissioned by the navy in May 2017.
The vessel is 300m long and 73m across at its widest point, and includes a ‘ski-jump’ ramp, which would assist in launching the carrier’s future short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B aircraft, in addition to Merlin anti-submarine warfare and Crows Nest airborne command-and-control helicopters.
Upon commissioning, the Queen Elizabeth will boost sustained operations with an onboard air wing of up to 40 aircraft, as well as the navy’s AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HM2 multi-role rotorcraft and Merlin HC4 amphibious support helicopters.
With room for 12 fully-equipped aircraft servicing points, the aircraft carrier can also accommodate up to 24 F-35s on its flightdeck.
Work on the Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier, has already started, with structural completion expected by July 2016. Sea trials are likely to start in January 2019, followed by acceptance in August of the same year.
Image: The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier will be christened on 4 July. Photo: courtesy of Bae Systems.