Minister sees preparation for the assembly of HMS Queen Elizabeth
The Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff MP,was in Scotland yesterday to witness preparations for the start of the assembly by Babcock of HMS Queen Elizabeth
Luff visited the firm’s Rosyth dockyard where the first centre block section of the first of two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, will be lifted onto the lower mid block tomorrow (Friday 23 September), marking a major milestone in the build programme and setting the datum point for the rest of the ship.
The Royal Navy’s massive new aircraft carriers are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) – an alliance between Babcock, BAE Systems, Thales and the Ministry of Defence – and are being built in large individual blocks at six shipyards around the UK, which are then transported to Rosyth for final assembly and integration.
The huge mid hull section, known as Lower Block 03 (LB03), arrived at Rosyth in August, having been shipped from Govan where it was built by BAE Systems. This was followed by the arrival this month of the four sections making up Centre Block 03 (CB03), from Newcastle where they were built by A&P Tyne. The sponsons for this section (which form part of the ship structure to provide a wider flight deck), constructed by Babcock, are already in Rosyth following delivery of the components from Babcock’s Appledore shipyard in Devon.
The massive 8,000 tonne LB03 section is over 20 metres high, 60 metres long and 40 metres wide. On arrival at Rosyth the barge transporting it was sunk to float the block, which was then towed to the main basin and winched into No.1 Dock using a capstan system and alignment aids in the dock, where it was lowered on to the pre-prepared dock blocks. Once in place, the dock gates were closed, the dock drained, and services connected to enable work on the block to commence.
The first of the four CB03 sections, weighing some 850 tonnes and measuring 40 metres by 26 metres by 7 metres, will this week be lifted onto the LB03 block. This will be followed by the remaining three CB03 sections, each weighing in the region of 600 tonnes, as well as the sponsons for this centre block.
The lifting of the block sections involves further challenges. Finite element analysis (FEA) has been used to study how the individual blocks will perform when lifted to ensure this is executed safely, and the crane’s lifting attachments have been highly engineered to ensure stability and balance of the load across the hoists.
Assembly of the aircraft carrier will take place in three cycles, A, B and C. The assembly of the sections LB03 and CB03 and associated sponsons to create Block 03 makes up Assembly Cycle A, which has now begun and will continue to summer 2012. Assembly Cycle B will see the joining of Lower Block 02, which will arrive from BAE Systems in Portsmouth next year, and Lower Block 01 (comprising the forward sections from the keel up to the flight deck, including the bulbous bow) which was built by Babcock at its Appledore shipyard in Devon and shipped to Rosyth last year. This will take place between summer 2012 and spring 2013. The remaining blocks, including the stern sections and island structures, will be assembled in Cycle C, with the hull fully assembled by 2014. Progressive outfitting will see electrical cabling, mechanical pipe systems, ventilation, and fittings and equipment installed.
Babcock Project Director Sean Donaldson said: “After meticulous planning, seeing the first lift and the assembly of the first carrier actually beginning is very exciting – a key milestone and a major achievement in itself. Having the facility and infrastructure ready and able to support the assembly and integration process is also the result of a massive programme of work in itself that has taken over three years, including the work to the docks and main entrance and the installation of the crane, but also many more less visible elements. We’re now focusing the team on delivering Assembly Cycle A successfully and on-schedule, in line with the programme plan set two years ago.“
Peter Luff, added: “This is an exciting week for the carrier programme and it is a great privilege to witness what can only be described as history in the making. The job of building these truly formidable carriers is a big challenge. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated and skilled workforce able to rise to this challenge.”
The ACA’s Programme Director, Geoff Searle, said: “After many years of engineering design, planning and block build, it is fantastic to see the assembly of HMS Queen Elizabeth starting in Rosyth. This marks the start of the next important phase of the programme to deliver the Nation’s Flagships and is a testament to all of the hard work across the ACA to reach this point.”
The 65,000 tonne QE Class aircraft carriers, at some 280 metres long, 74 metres wide and 56 metres high, will be the UK’s largest and most powerful warships, each providing the armed forces with a four acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide. The versatile vessels will be the centre piece of Britain’s military capability.