Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will today christen the UK Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class (QE) aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard in Fife, Scotland.
Marking ‘the start of a new era of British sea power’, the christening also represents a key moment in the project to build two new carriers, which has attracted criticism over its £6.2bn cost and height of ambition.
Construction of the vessel involved more than 10,000 people at shipyards across the UK.
The event will also be joined by a Royal Navy 1950s fighter, the de Havilland Sea Vixen, and commando carrier HMS Illustrious.
Upon christening, the navy will begin sea trials for the vessel in August 2016, followed by commissioning in May 2017.
The 300m-long vessel will boost sustained operations and has an air wing of up to 40 aircraft, in addition to 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 house up to 24 F-35s on its flightdeck and will be manned by 679 people.
It also features a ‘ski-jump’ ramp, which will assist in launching future short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B aircraft, as well as Merlin anti-submarine warfare and Crows Nest airborne command-and-control helicopters.
Work on a second aircraft carrier, Prince of Wales, has already started, with structural completion expected by July 2016. Sea trials are likely to begin in January 2019, followed by acceptance in August of the same year.
Image: The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.