The future carrier
The team behind the Navy’s future flagships have produced a series of stunning posters to demonstrate the sheer scale of the carriers – including parking one on the Thames outside Parliament. To give the public an idea of the sense of scale of HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, they put one on the Thames next to the Palace of Westminster and another at Victory Jetty in Portsmouth.
DWARFING the mother of all parliaments, this is how the nation’s future flagship would look if you could sail her up the Thames to the Palace of Westminster. Thanks to the team behind the 65,000-tonne leviathan, we can give you a sense of scale of the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, courtesy of several artist’s impressions and graphics.
At 280 metres (918ft) long the carrier, which will enter service later this decade, is 15 metres longer than the Palace of Westminster (which runs along the Thames for 265m or 870ft). Her masthead would rise 58m (190ft) above the river – not as high as Big Ben (96m or 315ft), but six metres (20ft) taller than Nelson’s Column. As for the width, well with a flight deck beam of 70m (229ft), she’d stretch nearly one third of the way across the Thames.
With the first of the two super-carriers nearing outward completion at Rosyth on the Forth, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance wanted to demonstrate the sheer size of Her Majesty’s Ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, using graphics of the ships alongside at Westminster and in their home base of Portsmouth.
As well as being longer than the iconic Victorian parliament building, each ship is three times longer than Buckingham Palace, five times the length of the Angel of the North, equivalent to 28 of London’s world-famous red buses parked end-to-end and 66m (216ft) longer than Brunel’s magnificent Clifton suspension bridge.
Obviously, only computer graphics can ‘park’ the carriers on the Thames at Westminster – but how far up London’s great artery could they sail?
Type 23 frigates are regular visitors to the Pool of London, passing through Tower Bridge before berthing next to HMS Belfast. Carriers such as HMS Illustrious or Ocean, which spent much of last summer on the Thames safeguarding Olympic events in the capital, go no further than the loop in the Thames at Greenwich.
According to the experts at the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton it’s not Queen Elizabeth’s draught – the depth of the ship below the waterline – of 9.9m (32½ft), which is only a couple of metres more than Illustrious, which poses a problem but her width. With a beam of 39m (128m), widening to 70m at the flight deck level, unlike her predecessors she’ll be too big to fit through the Thames Barrier.
So this is the only time you’ll ever see her in the capital.
As for the real thing, well outwardly Queen Elizabeth is now almost complete. The largest section of the hull, an 11,300-tonne segment which was delivered to the assembly yard in Rosyth late last year, is currently being joined to the ship. See video here.
The forward island (uniquely, the ships will have two towering above the flight deck) is due to be shipped from Portsmouth to the Forth next month and installed the following month. Also arriving in Rosyth next month will be the final two sections of the flight deck, followed by the aft island which a barge will ship from Scotstoun on the Clyde around to the Forth during the summer. The last external piece of the gigantic jigsaw, the ski ramp which will help propel the F35 Joint Strike Fighters into the air – similar to the ramps which did the same for Harriers on the Invincible-class carriers – is due to arrive in the winter.
Queen Elizabeth is due to be ‘launched’ – more accurately ‘floated out’ of a specially-extended dry dock – in 2014 and will begin sea trials in 2017, with the next-generation jump jets joining her the following year for extensive trials.