HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the first of two new aircraft carrier for the UK, sailed into her home port of Portsmouth for the first time today.
The 65,000-tonne carrier entered the Naval Base having completed a first period of sea trials. Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon said: ‘Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth to her home for the very first time. She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.’
The UK has 11 F-35Bs and 120 personnel training in the United States. By the end of this year that will be 14 jets, with trial flights from the carrier’s deck on track to begin late next year.
Capt Jerry Kyd, the Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first entry into her home port of Portsmouth is an historic, proud and exciting occasion, not only for those of us serving in her, but also for the wider Royal Navy, the city of Portsmouth and the entire nation. The UK’s future flagship, as well her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, will be powerful symbols of Britain’s outward facing global character and ambition. The Royal Navy has a very special relationship with Portsmouth dating back half a millennium and both carriers will ensure the Navy’s city remains the focal point of our great nation’s maritime power for generations to come.’
The ship will berth at the newly-named and upgraded Princess Royal Jetty at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth, which will be home to both of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers. The second, HMS Prince of Wales, will be officially named in a ceremony at Rosyth next month. The berth has been upgraded and strengthened to support the carriers as part of a £100 million raft of infrastructure upgrades which took place ahead of the arrival of the ship.
A total of 3.2 million cubic metres of sediment, equivalent to 1,280 Olympic swimming pools has been removed from the harbour and approach channel, making it wide and deep enough to accommodate the enormous 65,000 tonne ships.
Plans to introduce the F-35B to the new carrier has taken a significant step forward with the first take-off of an externally-loaded aircraft from a representative ski-jump. Flight-testing in August saw F-35B BF-02 loaded with four Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided munitions and two MBDA Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles.