Richard Willis's Blog

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Construction Phase Commences on New British Aircraft Carriers

The nationwide programme to build the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers has passed another milestone today, as construction on the first ship, the Queen Elizabeth, began on the Mersey.

Minister for International Security and Strategy, Gerald Howarth, started the crane that laid the first of the steel plates for the ship’s giant flight deck.

Birkenhead company Cammell Laird is the final shipyard in the programme to begin construction. It will build two of the sections that will make up the ship’s flight deck, which will eventually be the size of three football pitches. Together they will weigh in at 7,500 tonnes – more than a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer. The work is worth £44 million to Cammell Laird and will provide a significant number of jobs in the area, boosting the local economy.

As he toured the yard, the Minister met some of the 1,200 strong workforce involved in the project – including some of the 72 apprentices. He said: “Aircraft carriers represent a national asset for the UK. Power and versatility make them a formidable war fighting tool, and they are able to fulfil a wide range of requirements in an increasingly diverse and changing global defence landscape. The workers that I met today are rightly proud to be a part of it, and it’s particularly exciting to see so many young apprentices learning their trade on such a prestigious project.”

Six shipyards across the UK are involved in the massive construction project – Govan and Rosyth in Scotland, Portsmouth and Devon on the South coast of England, Newcastle and now Liverpool in the North – supporting around 10,000 jobs, with thousands more suppliers contributing with smaller contracts through the supply chain.

I am encouraged by this endorsement of the carrier project by a Government Minister and hope that this suggests that the two new carriers are safe in the defence review.

Queen Elizabeth Class facts: 

The dimensions are: 65,000 tonnes at full displacement; 56m from keel to masthead; 11m max draft (keel to waterline); 9 decks plus flight deck; 40 aircraft can be embarked.

Each ship weighs more than 40,000 average family cars.

Each ship will be similar size and weight as the retired ocean liner the QE2.

Their top speed could see the carriers cross from Dover to Calais in an hour.

Annual fuel consumption is expected to be very similar to that of the current Invincible Class Carriers which is impressive considering each ship is approximately three times the weight. 

The flight deck is the size of three football pitches.

Each ship will have 1.5 million m2 of paintwork, which is 370 acres or slightly more than size of Hyde Park.

Each ship’s two propellers are 6.7m across and weigh 33 tonnes – nearly two & half times as heavy as a double decker bus and one & half times as high.

The anchors are 3.1m high and weigh 13 tonnes – almost as much as a double decker bus.

The aircraft lifts can move two Joint Combat Aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds. They’re so powerful that together they could lift the weight of the entire ship’s crew.

80,000 tonnes of steel has been ordered for the two ships – three times that used in Wembley Stadium.


July 27, 2010 - Posted by | Defence


  1. It’s a big bugger

    Comment by Jonny | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. It sure is 🙂

    Comment by Doodlebug | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. That Howarth is a poor choice of minister, he should not even be an MP.

    Comment by greenconstructionuk | July 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Adrian, that is an uncharacteristically mean spirited comment from you. Do you not understand that there are many people that share Howarth’s views? Should Parliament only represent one view on any given issue? Howarth’s views on sexuality as quoted are not held by the majority of MPs or the population nowadays. However, there are many other areas of life where Howarth is an excellent spokesman for the party; not least on Defence matters.

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. Richard, I spoke against him in a debate and I was shocked. The man should not be in the conservative party and not just for his intolerance of LDBT. He has some dodgy expense claims, dodgy links to defence contractors and intolerance of other religions.

    There are unfortunately many people like him, but not many who are MPs and fewer who are Ministers.

    He is an easy target for the media, when the honeymoon is over and they stop targeting the LD part of the coalition, I expect they will go for him. Cameron should find someone better. Perhaps Richard Benyon in Newbury.

    You have known me for years, I dont make these claims lightly. And while I am saying he isnt representative of the Conservatives; others will use him to misrepresent your party.

    Comment by Adrian Windisch | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  5. Oh, leave him be – I like having him in Government

    Comment by Jonny | July 30, 2010 | Reply

  6. Hello,
    This big project I follow since the beginning is very exciting for two reasons. First, at last the famous Royal Navy will have real supercarriers which will give him a stronger reputation around the world. Second, these supercarrier will be the first of their kind, a total new ship with second generation VTOL planes. It means 21st century ships ready for today challenge.
    Claude Bourret

    Comment by Claude Bourret | August 7, 2010 | Reply

  7. really amazing

    Comment by biju | October 20, 2010 | Reply

  8. I got in first, happy to lease it for half of it’s life before it can re-enter UK service. It will only ever go to a Commonwealth country and I know India would want it.

    A long term lease is better for the UK with an option to buy or once costs have been recouped re-enter UK service.

    Comment by Matt | June 9, 2011 | Reply

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