HMS Queen Elizabeth is planned to sail in Spring for 11 weeks of sea trials in the North Sea.
The Contractor Sea Trials period will consist of five weeks at sea, one week alongside and five weeks at sea and then if all goes well, she will head to Portsmouth.
There has been speculation however that the Sea Trials may have slipped to Summer with the government saying recently:
“HMS Queen Elizabeth, will sail from Rosyth, ready to conduct sea trials in summer and debut in Portsmouth later in the year.”
Whether or not this is an error remains to be seen.
According to Bob Hawkins MBE, First Lieutenant of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, quoted here:
“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.”
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.”
Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35.
Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 during the vessels sea trials and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018, F-35 begins flying from the deck later in the year.
Former First Sea Lord George Zambellas said:
“When the first of our new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, deploys on her first mission in a few years, with fifth generation fighters and drones embarked, she will scotch at a stroke any talk of Britain’s retreat from the world.”