Trials are simultaneously underway for both HMS Queen Elizabeth and F-35B Lightning before they come together in 2018 but just what do sea trials involve?
Sea trials monitor speed, manoeuvrability, power and propulsion as well as undertaking weapons trials and additional tests on her levels of readiness.
Sea trials were planned beginning in March 2017 but minor technical issues delayed her sea trials until the end of June. Prior to the ship’s departure from Rosyth, an extensive survey was carried out of the Firth of Forth by HMS Gleaner and 42 Regiment, Royal Engineers to gather information on the tides, the depth of the river bed, and the height of the three river crossings (Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge, Queensferry Crossing). This was necessary as the most recent data available was 60 years old.
Queen Elizabeth sailed on the 26th of June 2017. The first stage of the operation was to move the ship from inside the fitting out basin, via one of the access gates, into the Firth of Forth itself, before taking the ship under the three Forth bridge crossings.
Once this was accomplished, the ship took to the open sea off the east coast of Scotland to undertake the first set of trials, including handling and speed tests. During this period, Queen Elizabeth was accompanied by a pair of Type 23 frigates, HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke, acting as escorts.
The first aircraft to land on the ship was a Merlin HM.2 of 820 Naval Air Squadron on the 3rd July. Following initial runs in and around the Firth of Forth, the carrier was taken further north to the Moray Firth, during which period the ship encountered the Cunard cruise liner Queen Elizabeth.
HMS Queen Elizabeth had her first stopover at Invergordon, where the ship was fuelled and provisioned, and where inspections of the hull were carried out.
Following this initial period, HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to Rosyth for further testing and maintenance before heading back to sea for a second stage which aims to test her Mission Systems. She will transit to her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base to be handed over to the Royal Navy later this year.