Royal Navy’s £3bn warship HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail for US

Big Lizzie’s American adventure begins: Royal Navy’s £3bn warship HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail for US where fighter jets will land on deck for first time

  • The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier left Portsmouth Naval Base at about 6pm on Saturday heading to the US 
  • The ship’s maiden voyage comes eight years since a fast jet last flew from a British aircraft carrier’s deck
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth will have protection needed against ‘eye-watering’ threat from Russia, say naval chiefs

The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail for the US where it will land fighter jets on its flight deck for the first time.

The £3billion warship left Portsmouth Naval Base for its maiden voyage on Saturday, eight years since a fast jet last flew from a British aircraft carrier.    

Naval chiefs have pledged that the 65,000-tonne carrier, nicknamed Big Lizzie, will have the protection needed against the ‘eye-watering’ threat from Russia and other powers around the world. 

During its trip to North America, the warship will embark two US F-35B test aircraft based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, which are expected to carry out 500 landings and take-offs during the carrier’s 11 weeks at sea. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth Harbour on Saturday on its maiden voyage to the US to undergo flight trials

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    Crowds gather under grey skies on Saturday evening to watch HMS Queen Elizabeth leaving Portsmouth Harbour

    Crowds wait for the departure of HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth Harbour amid grey skies on Saturday 

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      HMS Queen Elizabeth pictured on Monday during its final preparations for the maiden voyage to the United States

      HMS Queen Elizabeth at its home base of Portsmouth. The UK’s largest ever warship towers over buildings on the seafront

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        Commodore Andrew Betton, commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: ‘We need to protect the ship from any threats that may be out there, it is the Atlantic, it is broadly home waters, but we do need to maintain our readiness clearly.’ 

        Cdre Betton added that Russian submarines are more active in the North Atlantic than they have been since the Cold War but assured us that HMS Queen Elizabeth would be safe on her Atlantic transit.  


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        Captain Jerry Kyd, the carrier’s commanding officer, said: ‘This deployment to the United States will be another first for my ship.

        ‘Crossing a major ocean with 1,500 sailors, aircrew and marines embarked and the spectre of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all.

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          A worker paints the body on Monday of the HMS Queen Elizabeth as final preparations ready her for her trip to North America

          HMS Queen Elizabeth being readied last week in Portsmouth Naval Base. She left the base at 6pm on Saturday evening

          Contractors make their way past HMS Queen Elizabeth docked in its base in Portsmouth on Monday August 13

          ‘It has been an incredible journey since we left Rosyth just over a year ago and we are all looking forward to this next seminal chapter in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s life.’

          He added: ‘People are looking forward to seeing the jets because we have been talking about them for flipping years. There’s a lot of excitement on board.’

          On the Russian threat, Captain Kyd said: ‘The increase in Russian activity we have seen in the last couple of years is frightening and for national security reasons it just underlines why we need to maintain a balanced strong and capable fleet.

          ‘It’s been quite eye-watering what we have seen in recent years.’

          Defence secretary Gavin Williamson was quick to praise the seminal moment in British naval history, outlining his excitement for the ship’s transit. 

          Able Seaman Ryan Whatmore, polishes the name board of HMS Queen Elizabeth, as final preparations are made prior to her setting sail for the US to undergo flight trials with the F35B for the first time

          Ryan Whatmore, polishes the name board of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Commodore Andrew Betton, commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group said represent ‘an iconic moment for the modern Royal Navy’

          Commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Jerry Kyd, on board the 65,000 tonne ship in Portsmouth 

          He said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth is a true statement of our national power and the whole country can be proud to see this magnificent symbol of our engineering prowess and international ambition leaving port to sail on to the world stage.

          ‘Her voyage to America not only shows her global reach but strengthens our special relationship with the US forces who we have worked hand-in-hand with on this iconic programme.

          ‘As she sails along the east coast of the USA, she will signal our determination to keep fighting alongside our allies in all corners of an ever more complex and uncertain world.’

          The honour of landing the first of the training jets on to the carrier will go to one of three British pilots taking part in the US deployment.

          They are a Royal Navy commander, a RAF squadron leader and a civilian test pilot accompanied by a major from the US Marine Corps.

          Commodore Andrew Betton, commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: ‘These first F-35B embarked trials in a UK aircraft carrier are not only key to future operational success but represent an iconic moment for the modern Royal Navy.’

          A Royal Navy rating jet washes the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in its base in Portsmouth. She is setting sail to the US to carry out flight trials with the supersonic F-35B Lightning II

          Ryan Whatmore polishes the name board of the 65,000-tonne carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base where it’s due to depart from on Saturday at around 6pm in an ‘iconic moment for the modern Royal Navy’ 

          A view of the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Portsmouth. She will carry jets that measure 51.2ft (15.6m) in overall length

          Speaking aboard the 65,000-tonne carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base, Captain Jerry Kyd said The Royal Navy would struggle ‘to remain credible as a first-class sea power’ without the capability of its new aircraft carrier to fly fighter jets, according to the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

          Captain Kyd said the capability provided by the giant warship, and its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales which is still being fitted out, brought the Royal Navy into the ‘top league’.

          But he conceded that the navy was only a ‘medium-sized’ force in terms of ‘mass’ of assets.  

          He said: ‘This capability genuinely will probably mean we are a country with a medium-sized sea power again. This is a strategic output at the top-end scale.

          A view of the badge of HMS Queen Elizabeth on the side of the ship, as final preparations are made prior to her setting sail

          All hands on deck on the the UK’s largest ever warship. Royal Navy ratings re-paint white lines on the flight deck

          HMS Queen Elizabeth, currently undergoing sea trials, is one of two new warships being built for the UK, which together are expected to cost £6.2 billion

          HMS Queen Elizabeth has had a traditional British pub built on board in time for her maiden voyage on Saturday at 6pm

          ‘If you look around the world and note how many nations have a generation five aircraft carrier tailored and built keel-up for that aircraft with the Type-45 and latest Astute class submarines with a modern commando force to boot, I think we should recognise that puts us back in the top league.

          ‘Without these two ships I think we would be struggling to remain credible as a first-class sea power.

          ‘Tier one in class of capability, in terms of mass we remain a medium-sized navy, in terms of standards and capability, only the US would have more.’     

          (L-R) Commander Darren Houston, Chris Welham CEO of Wadworth and Capt Jerry Kyd of HMS Queen Elizabeth which has had a traditional British pub built on board in time for her maiden voyage. It’s called the Queen’s Head 

          (L-R) WO2 Cozzie Costema, PO Dan Young and CPO (PTI) Sticky Vercoe, at the floating Queen Elizabeth pub on board the ship

          Commander James Blackmore, Air Commander for HMS Queen Elizabeth, in his seat inside FLYCO (Flying Control)

          Commodore Andrew Betton concluded: ‘This is the first small-scale iteration of that and frankly everyone wants to be a part of it and if you’re in Royal Navy uniform why wouldn’t you want to be.’

          On leaving Portsmouth Naval Base, HMS Queen Elizabeth will carry out tests in UK waters before heading across the Atlantic to the US where as well as the tests, it will visit New York.

          It will be joined by support ship RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based Type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth as well as Merlin MK2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton, and Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth.

          The first of the UK’s joint Royal Navy and RAF F-35B supersonic jets arrived from America in June and are based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

          Testing with these British aircraft is expected to take place onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.

          It has already undergone training with helicopters which have carried out more than 1,000 take-offs and landings.

          The carrier is expected to embark on its first operational deployment in 2021.

          Bags of onions are stacked in the hangar of HMS Queen Elizabeth as preparations are made for its cross Atlantic journey

          Running machines and cross trainers inside HMS Queen Elizabethwhich will sail with 1,500 sailors, aircrew and marines

          Jet set for action: supersonic F-35B Lightning II facts

           

          The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is setting sail to the US to carry out flight trials with the supersonic F-35B Lightning II.

          Here are some facts and figures about the fighter jet which are based at RAF Marham in Norfolk:

           – The jet measures 51.2ft (15.6m) in overall length, has a wingspan of 35ft (10.7m) and a height of 14.3ft (4.36m).

          – It has a top speed of 1.6 Mach or 1,200 mph, a Max G rating of 7G, and a combat radius of 518 miles (833km).

          – Lockheed Martin, the American company building the jet, describes its stealth capabilities as ‘unprecedented’. Its airframe design, advanced materials and other features make it ‘virtually undetectable to enemy radar’.

          – Britain has committed to a £9.1 billion programme to buy 48 of the jets by 2025 – with a pledge to purchase 138 – they will be jointly operated by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.

          – The F-35B jets are built from more than 300,000 individual parts.

          – The UK’s supersonic aircraft have been based in the US since their manufacture.

          – There are six distributed aperture system sensors around the jet – two underneath, two on top of the aircraft and one either side of the nose. These infrared cameras feed real-time information and images into the pilot’s helmet, allowing them to see through the airframe.

          – All variants of the jets are mainly constructed on Lockheed Martin’s mile-long production line in Fort Worth, Texas.

          – It takes 58,000 man hours to build each F-35B.

          – The F-35 can launch from land, and will take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth via the skip jump ramp, which has been designed to optimise the launch.

          – Maximum thrust tops 40,000lb and the jet has a range of 900 nautical miles.

          – The jet is capable of two types of ship landing – vertically on to the deck, and also through the shipborne rolling vertical landing, which using forward air speed, allows the aircraft to bring back several thousand pounds of extra weight to the ship.

          – The warplanes will carry out missions from the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

          – Lockheed Martin said across the 3,000 jets being built, 15% of each one is comprised of parts from British companies.

          – Some of the UK companies with contracts to produce parts of jets includes Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, Selex, Cobham and GE Aviation.

          – Lockheed Martin UK chief executive Peter Ruddock said that, to date, the F-35 programme has generated 13.5 billion dollars in contracts for British suppliers.

          – HMS Queen Elizabeth weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots, its flight deck is 919ft (280m) long and 230ft (70m) wide – enough space for three football pitches.

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