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HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to sail into Portsmouth Harbour this autumn, Defence secretary Michael Fallon has said.

The minister also said that sea trials will start within “the next few weeks”.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to go to sea for 11 weeks of trials in summer before arriving in Portsmouth around autumn if all goes to plan.

She’ll return to the Forth once the sea trials are done for a final period of fitting out and testing.

Ian Booth, managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said:

“Pretty much everything is now installed in the ship and working. We’ve had lots of prior factory testing before putting systems on board and so far, it’s all looking pretty good.

Over the next few months we will finish compartment handovers, and complete work to coat the flight deck. We will also conduct harbour events and acceptance trials for virtually all systems – propulsion, steering, navigation, or communications – here [at Rosyth] before we go.”

According to Bob Hawkins MBE, First Lieutenant of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth the plan was for the carrier to sail in March, he was quoted here (in mid 2016):

“The build process continues up here in Rosyth. Some of you may have experienced this from the RN side of the house, perhaps in a new class of ship, in a new build. The frustrations are many and varied. Add to this the sheer scale and complexity of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers and you can imagine that each day brings a new challenge in moving towards Ships Staff Move On Board (SSMOB) then its sequel, Ready For Sea Date (RFSD).

SSMOB is planned for 9 January; RFSD 10 March. Using Andrew St George’s 12 principles of Leadership in the Royal Navy, I subscribe to his No.2, Cheerfulness. A glass half empty as opposed to a glass half full approach is a choice, and I choose to remain optimistic. Draw from that what you will.

Timing of First Entry Portsmouth (FEP) is dependent upon achieving RFSD and the subsequent success of Power and Propulsion Trials.

This initial Contractor Sea Trials period we call euphemistically ‘5-1-5’, i.e. from RFSD, five weeks at sea, one week alongside (Invergordon), five weeks at sea, then FEP: a standard package that must be executed in full from whichever start date we achieve.

Clearly, FEP will shift right if RFSD does, or indeed if ‘5-1-5’ needs to be extended to accommodate any set-backs thrown up during the trials.”

Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35. Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018.

Recently, the news that HMS Queen Elizabeth will now sail for sea trials in Summer instead of Spring entered public perception. In such complex engineering projects, this type of occurrence isn’t a cause for concern nor is it unusual. HMS Queen Elizabeth, after all, is essentially a prototype and the Ministry of Defence can’t afford to get it wrong.

The news of the slip started to pick up traction when Former shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP enquired in Parliament about sea trials being moved back from Spring to Summer:

“In the 2015 SDSR and again in December of last year, in the first annual report of the SDSR, the government were very clear that the sea trials for HMS Queen Elizabeth would begin in spring of this year.

In response to a parliamentary question last week, she informed me that they would no longer take place, but would take place in summer of this year. What are the reasons for this, and what is going to be the operational service date for Queen Elizabeth?”

Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence Harriet Baldwin said:

“I would just like to confirm to him that she will commence her sea trials this Summer, and she will enter into the same programme so that she can sail into Portsmouth later this year.”

Defence secretary Michael Fallon said:

“It has always been our intention that Queen Elizabeth should be accepted into the Royal Navy before the end of this year. We are not giving specific dates as to when the sea trials are likely to commence.

The Queen Elizabeth will set out on those sea trials when she is ready to do so.”

Defence Procurement Minister Harriett Baldwin faced the Commons Defence Committee today, she was asked Madeleine Moon what was behind the delay and responded by saying:

“The carrier is due in Portsmouth this year but what I can’t give the committee is the specific days of the week.

By the very definition of what you’re going through when you’re going through trials is that you’re potentially in that trial process have to make some corrections to something, that’s the whole point of a trial.”

The minister added that the crew was ready.

Lt Gen. Mark Poffley, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff for Military Capability, said:

“There have been a series of technical issues associated with bringing the vessel to the point where she can commence her sea trials.”

It is understood that this minor delay is ‘not outside the tolerance’ of the programme.

There has been a small slip in the timing of the vessel leaving Rosyth for trials, this really isn’t something to worry about as the vessel remains on track to enter service with the Royal Navy on time.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful ship, really an example of what Britain can do when we put our minds to it. It is a miracle the QE class carriers have survived to construction and in-service when so many other vessels and cuts have been made. I only hope now that we can rebuild the RN around these ships, they will certainly need a renewed vigorous RN reconstruction programme to protect them and return carrier strike power to the RN, otherwise the first time they go into combat might be their last.
    Really worried the RN has sacrificed so much to get these brilliant ships into service that they will not have enough warships to protect them.
    Also a bit worried about the lack of self-defence weaponry on the QE’s. Where is the seaceptor SAM system? or RAM point defence

    • “It is a miracle the QE class carriers have survived to construction and in-service when so many other vessels and cuts have been made.”

      As I understand it a big reason they both survived, i.e. PoW wasn’t cancelled, was because the construction contracts had such severe cancellation clauses that it would have been more expensive to break the contract and cancel PoW build than it was to complete her. I wonder whether there is a lesson to be learned there, i.e. if by some miracle a particular government did scope out and fund an ambitious program, let’s say committing to 16 x T26 for instance, they should put in massive cancellation clauses into the contract so that any future government found it very difficult to cut back numbers. Obviously there should be no-penalty (to the MoD) cancellation clauses if the contractor fails to deliver but big penalties if a future government tries to mess with the previously agreed contract for purely political reasons.

      There might be a lot of BAE bashing here but for once I think it is BAE’s contract negotiation team that we have to thank for saving PoW from cancellation.

      • I too believe the cancellation clauses were more responsible for their delivery than any positive choice. CamBourne would I’m sure have trashed them too in 2015.

        • Ian – Can I gently point out that it was Cameron who looked at going over to CATOBAR in 2010 but the costs were just too big and in some cases unknown (witness the EMALS on Ford). Had we gone to CATOBAR then PoW would have been sold or mothballed or possibly completed just to get her floated. he then committed to building both ships to STOVL spec.

          Cameron then committed to commissioning both carriers at the NATO conference in September 2014. Which I think was before the 2015 General Election.

  2. Have they sorted out the paint on the hull?

    Great news and builds upon a new Astute being launched – good year already for the RN.

    Just hope the do fit SeaRaM at the very minimum for point defence.

    Now we need to start building T26’s and T31’s

  3. I know this most likely has zero military use but I hope they have a camera in the air to film if they do a full speed max angle turn.

  4. Just out of interest; have they considered stealth when they designed this? Looks like some faceted areas but there seems to be lots of plain flat panels parallel to the deck. Or is it just me?

    • It is not just you but there is only so much you can do with a 70000t ship. She will still be hard to locate as wont be emitting radar and will have a screen of Merlin Crowsnest and an F-35B CAP along with at least one Sampson in attendance. This should keep prying eyes at a respectable distance, I hope.

  5. I for one am still excited about this. Passed Rosyth on the train going over the Forth the week before last and got very twitchy to see her in the dock.
    I know the CVA01 history kerfuffle but a large part of me wishes they were going to be called Ark Royal and Eagle. Not withstanding that little issue, they represent a massive boost to the RN and I can’t wait to see them in service.

    • Shame they wont last in battle
      No missile defence system apart from short range CIWS
      No ships to defend them
      What a state we have gotten ourselves into
      Surface ships with no anti-ship missile
      No ASW aircraft since they scrapped Nimrod
      The aircraft coming in drips and drabs
      Someone else’s aircraft as a stop gap
      How embarrassing is that
      And now the French have once again surrendered to the Germans we are on our own
      Lets jion with the US and let them have Devonport as a base as its not being used to its full potential as everything seems to go to Portsmouth nowadays

      • It is bad Baz,

        But when the problem is over exaggerated like this it diminishes arguments that need to be made.

        There will be escort ships ASW & AAW and are both best in class
        There will be planes in line with operational readiness
        Merlin is best in class ASW
        P8s will be in time for operational role
        Astute best in class
        F-35 best in class

        However, being too thinly spread with little resiliency and capability gaps (sea ceptor / ASM) are genuinely troubling which grown ups need to address.

  6. We’d could afford another 2 easily if we didn’t waste so much on the EU, and with plenty to spare for other things like the NHS.

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