First journey for aircraft carrier

Section of the hull of HMS Queen Elizabeth as it leaves Portsmouth Credit: PA

A huge section of the hull of the first of the next generation of Royal Navy aircraft carriers has begun its first journey by sea to be assembled at a Scottish shipyard.

The 6,000-tonne forward section of HMS Queen Elizabeth has been built by BAE Systems at Portsmouth.

It has been loaded onto a large sea-going barge and was today towed from the company's facility at the Hampshire naval base to begin its four-day voyage to Rosyth, Scotland, where it will be assembled.

As the new hull segment was towed out at the navy base, it passed the axed carrier and former fleet flagship, HMS Ark Royal, as well as HMS Illustrious, the navy's last aircraftcarrier which was converted into a helicopter carrier.

Steven Carroll, Queen Elizabeth Class project director at BAE Systems, said: "There's a massive sense of achievement here in Portsmouth today, as the team has delivered two large sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth in less than four weeks.

"I am very proud of the team's achievements, with both blocks departing on time and built to an exceptional standard, which is testament to the skills of our workforce here."

To celebrate the departure of the block, a team of 50 cyclists from across the Aircraft Carrier Alliance will set off on a fundraising cycle ride on Friday from Portsmouth to Rosyth.

The team are hoping to complete the 500 miles faster ahead of the block of the aircraftcarrier as well as raising more than £35,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

Work is under way to prepare Portsmouth Naval Base for the arrival of the two new aircraftcarriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the first of which is to enter service in 2016.

The preparations will involve dredging the existing harbour channel to make it deeper and wider so that the 65,000-tonne carriers, which will have a four-acre operating base, can reach the base.