Facilities to power the Royal Navy’s new supercarriers have taken a major step forward with the delivery of a frequency converter.
When at their home port, HMNB Portsmouth, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be supplied with electricity through a new substation which has been built at the naval base by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.
According to a press release, the frequency converter consists of 2 parts, the converter itself and the motor; each weighing 50 tonnes. The conversion is vital as ships all over the world operate on an electrical frequency of 60hz, but the National Grid is 50hz. The substation has been connected to the National Grid using about 2.6 miles of cable and supplies enough electricity to power a small town. The substation building has been complete for several months but fitting out continues.
Electricity will be supplied to the vessels using a hydraulic boom, which ‘plugs in’ to the side of the ship. The boom is being constructed in Italy and will be delivered in early 2017. The new aircraft carriers will be the biggest and most powerful ships in the history of the Royal Navy, projecting the UK’s global influence wherever they sail. They will be supplied with F-35B stealth fighter aircraft.
The release continues, “the work is being undertaken by VolkerStevin, who are also upgrading the jetty and installing navigational aids on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.”
Philip Wise, DIO Project Manager, said:
“I’m delighted to see the delivery of the frequency converter, a clear sign of the progress we and VolkerStevin are making on these facilities. The substation is vital for HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales so we’re pleased to be playing our part in supporting the country’s new aircraft carriers.”
Gerrit Smit, VolkerStevin Project Manager, said:
“Achieving this key milestone is a fantastic step forward. It is such an important piece of infrastructure to be working on and we are delighted to be main contractor on a project which will have such a significant impact for the country.”
Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35.
The information comes from a senior official said at the Farnborough air show.
The first supercarrier, Queen Elizabeth, is due to start sea trials next year before its first deployment in 2021, followed by its sister ship, the Prince of Wales.
It was stated that the Merlins will start simple flight activities in March 2017 and then first-class flight trials begin in early 2018.
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.”
Tabloids often like to quote 12 as the maximum number of F-35B’s the carrier will be able to carry (despite the intention to purchase 138 in the long term), however this, as you probably know, is nonsense. The carriers, in peacetime, will usually deploy with 12 F-35B’s as a minimum and a number of various helicopters. To reduce costs and free aircraft for other commitments, the maximum aircraft complement will not usually be carried in peacetime, it instead will be supplied as required or deployed to the vessels in the event of a crisis. Rather than funding a large and permanent Carrier Air Group, the relatively new concept of a Tailored Air Group rather than fixed Carrier Air Group will be adopted for the Queen Elizabeth class with the exact types and numbers of aircraft embarked being adjusted to meet current requirements and threats.
The Queen Elizabeth class mark a change from expressing carrier power in terms of number of aircraft carried, to the number of sortie’s that can be generated from the deck. The class are not the largest class of carrier in the world but they are most likely the smallest and least expensive carrier the Royal Navy could build which still have the advantages that large carriers offer.
Crew are currently moving aboard the supercarrier, sea trials begin in the New Year and the vessel moves to Portsmouth in Spring 2017.