Construction of the UK Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has reached a milestone after its 26,500t forward half was joined to the 12,000t superblock at Babcock Rosyth Facilities.
The new development saw the forward half of HMS Prince of Wales moved back 17m on a specialised hydraulic system in a process called ‘skidding’, resulting in a perfect joining of the two halves of the ship.
Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) build and assembly manager Tom Niven said: "While we’ve completed a few of these skidding operations on the QEC Carriers, this is the final operation of its type on the programme and the heaviest section anyone in the UK has had to move.
"It’s always a particularly delicate and precise procedure, demonstrating the high-level of engineering skills we have across the alliance."
Weighing 65,000t and featuring a flight deck spanning around 4.5 acres, the QE-class carriers can launch, land and maintain aircraft 24-hours-a-day for war efforts and humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.
The vessels will be able to accommodate an air wing of up to 40 aircraft, as well as AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HM2 multirole rotorcraft and Merlin HC4 amphibious support helicopters.
Construction of the 300m-long and 74m-wide HMS Prince of Wales is scheduled for completion in July 2016. The vessel will begin sea trials in January 2019, followed by acceptance in August of the same year.
The first QEC vessel, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is expected to begin sea trials in August 2016, followed by commissioning in May 2017.
Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a partnership between BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for the construction of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers.
Image: The two giant sections of the UK Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. Photo: courtesy of ACA / Royal Navy.