A glimpse of the future
Sailors from HMS Illustrious were given a tantalising glimpse of tomorrow’s Navy when they visited the ship which will replace theirs. Around 100 crew from the Portsmouth-based helicopter carrier toured HMS Queen Elizabeth, the biggest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, when they headed to Rosyth; and ten from the future carrier were welcomed back on board the Illustrious for a cold journey southwards.
One hundred men and women from the Navy’s present-generation carrier HMS Illustrious took the opportunity to tour the leviathan, which is now around 80 per cent complete, when their ship was taking ammunition on board north of the border.
With Lusty stocking up at Glen Mallan on Loch Long, the sailors headed from the west coast to the east, where the 18-strong ship’s company of Queen Elizabeth gave them an insight into the future carrier.
When ‘QE’ – as she’s nicknamed – has a full complement, her ship’s company will be around the same size as Illustrious’, but the ship is three times Lusty’s size. The Lusties were given a presentation on the new carrier programme followed by the pièce de résistance – a grand tour of the ship.
“The scale and ambition of the project is just staggering,” enthused WO Lee ‘Reds’ Redford. “The crane which is used to assemble the ship is a breathtaking engineering achievement in itself.
“I knew the flight deck was going to be big, but it is only when you stand on it that you really appreciate its size.”
Once crammed with the latest computer terminals and consoles, this cavernous space will be the operations room of Britain’s biggest warship.
This is the beating heart of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier rapidly taking shape at Rosyth dockyard on the Forth.
By the end of 2013, Queen Elizabeth will be largely complete outwardly. Her stern block will be added as well as the two islands – the forward one to command the ship, the aft one to choreograph flight-deck operations. Following a rather large lick of paint – top coat grey of course - her structure will then be largely finished. She is planned to enter the water in 2014 for final fitting out.
“I think I would classify her as ‘work in progress’ for now – but I’d love to have another look around when she is complete,” Reds added.
Following Illustrious’ visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth, it was time for the return match.
Ten members of QE joined the Royal Navy’s final Invincible-class carrier for her journey from Glen Mallan back to her home in Portsmouth – she arrived in the Solent today.
WO Kenny Reid said: “We have formed a very close working relationship with the crew in Illustrious.
“We really need to understand all of the complex moving parts and routines that bring the ship and the aircraft together in order to make the next generation of maritime aviation capability as efficient as possible.”
The senior rating added: ”After HMS Queen Elizabeth, Lusty seems just a little small for me.”Indeed, QE’s flight deck is more than twice as wide as Lusty’s and very nearly twice as long.
Kenny said: “We expect that the ship’s company will eventually be around 670 personnel. Junior ratings will be accommodated in six berth cabins. The majority of chief petty officers and above can expect to have their own cabins.”
HMS Illustrious is due to be retired from service at the end of next year. HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to conduct first of class flying trials with the new F35 Joint Strike Fighter jump jet towards the end of this decade.