UK Government

Ministry Of Defence: Cutting edge: construction begins at carriers’ Portsmouth base

Press Release   •   Feb 26, 2010 10:12 GMT

Work began today at Portsmouth on the first of two new aircraft carriers. As steel cutting commenced on a section of the hull, Portsmouth became the fifth UK shipyard to start construction on the programme. The naval base will be the future home of both Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth pushed the button to start the laser cutter. He said:

“Here in Portsmouth work is just beginning but across the country in Devon, Newcastle, Glasgow and Rosyth work is already under way. In all, six shipyards across the UK will be involved in the manufacture of the ships’ hulls, supporting up to 8,000 jobs in the construction and up to another 3,000 throughout the supply chain. The progress already being made to deliver these assets which will be a cornerstone of future defence policy is a testament to the skill and professionalism of UK industry.”

This is the first of three blocks that BAE Systems Surface Ships will build for the ships in Portsmouth. At 70m long and 40m wide, it will use 6,000 tonnes of steel. It will house space for machinery and supplies as well as switchboards and some accommodation.

BAE Systems’ role in the Carrier build programme at Portsmouth is in the order of £800M, forming a substantial element of the workload at the Naval Base, where the company employs over 3,000 people, including around 200 apprentices.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said:

“The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth Class will be the largest and most powerful warships ever built for the UK, each equalling four acres from which to project airpower anywhere in the world. With eighty per cent of the world’s land mass within 500 miles of the ocean, the carriers will provide unparalleled access and flexibility. They are vital joint assets for the future of defence.”

Managing Director of BAE Systems Surface Ships Alan Johnston said:

“This is a very proud day for our workforce here in Portsmouth and comes on the back of our work on the Clyde, where another large part of the carrier’s hull is already taking shape.

“The design and build of ships of this magnitude is a massive engineering feat and a real testament to skills harnessed in our industry across the UK. We will continue to work closely with our partners in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and to invest in the skills of our employees and our facilities not only to deliver the Royal Navy’s future flagships, but also to secure the long-term future of the UK’s warship building industry.”

Construction of the ships is progressing, and a national project that draws on the skills of shipyards throughout the UK is underway. This includes the shipyards at Glasgow, Rosyth, Newcastle, Devon and Birkenhead, as well as around a further 100 contracts throughout the supply chain. Some of the sections of the first ship’s flight deck, called sponsons, have already been delivered to Rosyth, where the ships will be assembled. In Spring, the first of the blocks of hull are also due to leave for the Scottish shipyard from Appledore in Devon. Many of the key components for the ships such as the diesel generators and the turbines have also already been manufactured.

Notes to editors

1.         Six shipyards will together construct the nine blocks that make up the hull:

i.      BAE Systems, Glasgow

ii.     Babcock, Appledore

iii.    Babcock, Rosyth

iv.    A&P, Newcastle

v.     BAE Systems, Portsmouth

vi.    Cammell Laird, Birkenhead (due to begin Summer 2010)

2.         The innovative Aircraft Carrier Alliance is a single integrated team in which MOD acts as both partner and client. Fformed from MOD, BAE Systems, Babcock and Thales UK, it is responsible for delivering the Queen Elizabeth Class ships on time and to cost.

3.         Images will be available after the event at Users without an account may log on as a guest: Username – GuestUser; Password – GoldenMedal.

4.         For further details contact Sally May 011791 30638 or Catherine Hinds 07825 655 183.


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