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Babcock Ships Bow Sections of New Royal Navy Carrier

There were celebrations today in Devon as the programme to build Britain’s two largest and most powerful Royal Navy warships passed an important milestone.

The bow sections of one of the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are now completed and ready to set sail from Babcock’s Appledore shipyard in Devon. They will make a six day journey by barge to Rosyth in Scotland, where the ships will be assembled.

Shipyards throughout the UK are contributing their skills to the project – Glasgow, Rosyth, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Devon and Birkenhead – as well as a further 100 contracts throughout the supply chain.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said:

“The progress we are making with the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers is not only good news for the Royal Navy – it is good news for defence and the UK defence industry. This national project will sustain thousands of jobs in shipyards and in the wider supply chain. The carriers will be a cornerstone of future defence policy and a key asset for our Armed Forces as a whole, providing four acres of sovereign territory which can be deployed to support operations anywhere in the world.”

The two sections will make up the bow of the ship, and together weigh about 400 tonnes. The larger of the two sections - called the bulbous bow - is similar in size and shape to a conventional submarine, yet only a tenth of the full length of the ship. It is designed to increase speed, fuel efficiency and stability - sitting just below the waterline to help the ship to cut cleanly through the water, reducing drag. The second section sits above, making up decks seven to five below the aircraft hangar.

Chief of Material Fleet Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews said:

“Seeing these sections, which are only a small part of the ship, makes the overall scale of the carriers clear. The transportation of the bow sections to Rosyth will be a key step in the construction of these hugely important ships. The two Aircraft Carriers of QE Class will provide the UK with a large, deployable airfield capable of projecting airpower globally - including fast jets, helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – to support Joint Operations for up to 50 years.

“It was important from the start of the project to achieve maximum efficiency using new construction techniques. For example, the ‘block integration’ method has allowed us to build the ship in many locations simultaneously, reducing the time it takes to construct. It has the added advantage of spreading the economic benefits widely across the country.”

Babcock’s role in the Carrier build programme is worth around £1 BN, currently employing 292 at the Appledore shipyard and another 432 at Rosyth, including around 140 apprentices.

Significant progress has been made since manufacture began at Appledore shipyard in December 2008, and with major sections of the bow completed the Queen Elizabeth is visibly taking shape. Work now continues on the forward section of the ship, from the keel up to the flight deck.

1. The ceremony to mark completion of the bow sections ran from 1800 – 1900, Wednesday 31 March at Babcock’s Appledore shipyard, Devon. There were speeches and media interviews, including by the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies.

2. Bulbous bow:
--30.3 metres long (equal to 3.5 double decker buses)
--10.8 metres wide
--9.6 metres high (taller than five average men)
--293 tonnes
Upper section of bow:
--21.6 metres long
--17.4 metres wide
--6.2 metres high
--141 tonnes

3. Six shipyards will construct the 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

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


Milestone for New Carrier As Bow Ready to Set Sail