The Ministry of Defence today gave industry the green light that it was ready to go-ahead with contract signature for the two new super aircraft carriers. Industry is now expected to press ahead with forming the joint venture company that will help build the carriers. The joint venture is expected to be formed by BAE Systems and VT Group will be a key member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance of companies which will construct and assemble the new carriers at shipyards in Portsmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Glasgow and Rosyth. Other major suppliers, expected to join the Alliance include Babcock, Thales UK, BAE Systems Submarine Solutions at Barrow and BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte).
The carriers, to be named HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES, will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK. Once they enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively they are expected to remain in the fleet for up to fifty years.
“Today’s confirmation that we are proceeding with the two aircraft carriers underlines our commitment to both the Royal Navy and to the UK shipbuilding industry.” Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Baroness Taylor, said “We are investing about £14bn in the Navy and in the maritime industry over the next ten to fifteen years. The future carriers will provide an important military capability and will sustain many jobs – around 10,000 at the peak of production.”
The new carriers are planned to be about 280m long by 70m wide. Each will displace 65,000 tons full load and carry up to 40 F-35 Lightning II aircraft.