Work has begun on ‘Block 2’ of the second new aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral George Zambellas cut the first steel in a ceremony at BAE Systems’ Portsmouth production facility to mark the occasion.
The section under construction at BAE Systems’ Portsmouth, which will weigh around 6,000 tonnes upon completion, will house the ship’s machinery spaces, stores and switchboards, as well as some of the accommodation.
BAE Systems is working in partnership with other defence companies and organisations with operations in the UK, including Babcock, Thales UK and the Ministry of Defence to deliver the biggest surface warships ever constructed in the UK.
BAE Systems has an overarching role in managing the Queen Elizabeth (QE) class programme, as well as playing a central role in the design and build of the ships.
Construction of the forward island, which will control vessel navigation and house the ship’s bridge, is also underway at Portsmouth, while work continues on Lower Block 02 and the stern section (known as Lower Block 05) of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Both sections are in the advanced stages of construction, with the various teams focusing on preparing the blocks for their transit to Rosyth near Fife in Scotland later this year. This is where all of the units and sections of the carriers will come together and be assembled in the dry dock.
BAE Systems has created a plan of investment to enhance the naval base at Portsmouth, which will become the home of the two aircraft carriers when they enter service. The plan, which will cost approximately £140 million, includes dredging the existing channel to Portsmouth to make it deeper and wider, and refurbishing the base’s jetties to ease access for both the QE Class and Type 45 fleet.
Mick Ord, managing director at BAE Systems’ naval ships business, said: “As home of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, everyone here is hugely proud to be involved in one of the largest engineering projects in the UK today and excited that the ships will return to Portsmouth, as their home port once complete.”
Mr Zambellas said: ““As Commander-in-Chief Fleet, I am honoured and delighted to be asked to cut the steel that will form part of the mighty hull of HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the Royal Navy’s new 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers.”
He pointed out the military advantage the UK would have with the two aircraft carriers in operation: “Along with HMS Queen Elizabeth, these two ships – each of which will be in service for over 50 years – lie at the heart of our national security posture. With the equipment that will operate from them, they will be pivotal to the UK’s ability to project power at range for decades to come.”