The programme to build the UK's new aircraft carriers gained further momentum today as BAE Systems launched its latest construction project.
Secretary of state for defence, Bob Ainsworth, was invited to push the button on the company’s new state of the art plasma steel cutter, marking the start of full scale production at the site.
The team at Portsmouth is building Lower Block 2, one of the structures that forms part of the hull on the first ship – HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Housing machinery spaces, stores, switchboards and some accommodation, this block alone will weigh approximately 6,000 tonnes, standing at over 18 metres tall, 70 metres long and 40 metres wide.
Cutting the steel, Ainsworth said: “Here in Portsmouth work is just beginning but across the country in Devon, Tyneside, Glasgow and Rosyth work is well underway. In all, six ship yards across the UK will be involved in the manufacture of the ship’s hull supporting up to 8,000 jobs in the construction and up to a further 3000 throughout the supply chain. The progress being made to deliver these defence assets, which will be a cornerstone of future defence policy, is a testament to UK industry.”
BAE Systems is a member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, responsible for delivering the largest service warships constructed in the UK to date. BAE Systems’ employees at its yards on the Clyde began the manufacture of the carrier’s Lower Block 3 in July 2009, with work beginning on the largest section, Lower Block 4 in January this year.
Alan Johnston, managing director at BAE Systems Surface Ships, said: “This is a very proud day for our workforce here in Portsmouth and comes on the back of our work on the Clyde.”