HMS Queen Elizabeth put through her paces during Westlant 19 deployment
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia last month as part of the 65,000-tonne warship’s second-ever international visit. Cammell Laird completed a two-and-a-half year, multi-million pound project to build flight decks for the carrier in March 2013.
The award of a £44m contract by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance in late 2009 saw the company begin an extensive process of preparing its site to accommodate the manufacture of these huge steel structures. Cammell Laird’s shipyard on the banks of the River Mersey in Birkenhead is home to an extensive network of engineering facilities, including one of the largest and best-equipped modular construction halls in Europe. The aircraft carrier project highlighted the workforce’s fabrication, steel and pipe work expertise, along with the company’s ability to build large, complex modules, and deliver them on time and to budget.
By May 2012, Cammell Laird had completed the first five modules for the project, known as Centre Block 02. These massive structures, weighing between 583 tonnes and 927 tonnes each, and a combined weight of 3,500 tonnes, were moved to the shipyard’s non-tidal wet basin where they were loaded onto an ocean-going barge. Following a five-day journey by sea, the modules arrived in Rosyth on the east coast of Scotland where the carrier was assembled.
The final two of a total of nine upper block units constructed by Cammell Laird, known as Centre Blocks 04C and 04D, left the shipyard in March 2013. The successful completion of these flight decks for HMS Queen Elizabeth showcased Cammell Laird’s world-class engineering facilities and the depth of its workforce’s skills. It also helped underline the Merseyside firm’s block building capabilities, leading to the award of a further contract to fabricate nine units for the UK’s second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.
Following her arrival in Canada on September 12, HMS Queen Elizabeth was joined by other ships from the UK Carrier Strike Group as part of the ‘Westlant 19’ deployment. The main purpose of the deployment is to conduct operational tests with UK F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter jets for the first time, off the east coast of the USA.