Sailing down the Clyde took on a new meaning when an enormous ‘slice’ of an aircraft carrier was loaded onto a barge at BAE’s Govan yard on Sunday 31 July to be transported to Rosyth for the next stage of production.
It took six months of planning and a 10-strong team to move the 8,000 tonne mid-section block 200 metres out of the shipbuilding hall on Friday 29 July, across the specially reinforced tarmac of the yard to the quayside for loading. The highly technical operation took one hour and used 64 remote controlled transporters.
The block – Lower Block 03 – is a mid section of HMS Queen Elizabeth – the first of the new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy being created in Govan. This was the first time the general public had sight of the giant warship embryo which was manoeuvered into place within the hour.
Said one on-looker from the luxury flats across from the yard: ‘It was incredible to see. The block is so big. It is difficult to imagine the size of the complete ship but you realise a little more when you see the people walking around the block looking like little toys.’
Steven Carroll, Queen Elizabeth Class Project Director at BAE Systems, said: ‘I’m extremely proud of the team’s huge achievement of successfully moving the mid section of the hull out of our hall on time.’ He said it was: ‘built to an exceptional standard’ and added: ‘This is a fantastic showcase for British engineering. It is the culmination of months of preparation and is only possible because of the strong partnership with our Carrier Alliance Partners, the skills of our workforce on the Clyde and the thousands of people working on the programme across every region of the UK.’
After being moved out of the hall, the block was loaded onto one of the two biggest sea-going barges in the world in preparation for her 600 mile journey round the north coast of Scotland to Rosyth where the aircraft carrier will be assembled. That voyage begins on Tuesday 16 August. On the same day, more than 50 cyclists from across the Alliance, will leave the Govan yard to ‘beat the block’ by peddling the 500 miles round the North of Scotland to Rosyth in the hope of getting there before the mid section of the hull arrives. The gruelling challenge expects to raise £10,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.
As a member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, BAE Systems is working in partnership with Babcock, Thales and the Ministry of Defence to deliver the nation’s flagships. With advanced construction underway at six shipyards across the UK, the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier programme is sustaining thousands of skilled jobs.
The steel for Lower Block 03 was cut in July 2009. When loaded onto the barge it was more than 20 metres high, 60 metres long and 40 metres wide.
Approximately 350 Govan-based employees will follow the block to Rosyth where they will work with Babcock workers to complete the assembly phase of this section of the ship.
Construction of Lower Block 04, the largest and most complex section of hull, is progressing in Govan. Production on the second aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, started in May.
BAE Systems is also manufacturing the forward and lower stern sections of the hull at its Portsmouth facility, along with the ship’s forward island structure. Additionally, the company is responsible for the integration and testing of the ships’ complex mission and advanced communications systems.
Each 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide. The vessels will be versatile enough to be used for operations ranging from supporting war efforts to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief and all will be operational by 2020. The QE Class will be the centre piece of Britain’s military capability and will operate at least 12 of the carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter jets.
By Lynsay Keough, photos Stuart Maxwell
A huge sigh of relief could be heard on the banks of the Clyde on Wednesday 20 October, as the announcement that the £5.4 billion contract for the 2 aircraft carriers being built at The BAE yard was safe. The building of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales secures thousands of jobs in both Govan and Rosyth, as the government was forced to admit that it would be far too expensive to cancel the programme. However there is still speculation that the Prince of Wales, when launched in 2018, will either be mothballed or sold while the Queen Elizabeth will operate without any jets for several years.
Jamie Webster, GMB convener at BAE in Govan said that the last few weeks of speculation had been “horrific” He added: “There is relief for the families that we represent, we are happy today. This will give us stability for a period of time. I will be very interested to see what Liam Fox says in total about future procurement. I think that might throw up other cause for conjecture.”
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore commented: “Over the last few months, we have been grappling with the nation’s security needs. As part of that, we have been considering how we shape our armed forces for the future. I am delighted that we are able to confirm that both aircraft carriers will proceed and that will mean work in Rosyth and in Govan will continue for a long time to come.”
Alan Johnston, Managing Director at BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division, said: “We warmly welcome the UK Government’s confirmed commitment to the outstanding capabilities of the Type 45 destroyers, two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, development of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and the long-term support of the surface fleet at Portsmouth Naval Base.
“We remain committed to working with the Ministry of Defence to drive substantial efficiencies across maritime naval procurement, whilst continuing to deliver world-class capability to the Royal Navy and sustaining the skills to build and support complex warships in the UK.”
Words – Linsay Keough
Pics – Stuart Maxwell
As H.M.S Duncan slipped into the Clyde, the unanswered question on everyone’s lips was: ‘How many more happy days will there be for the workforce at the BAE yard?’
As the expectant throng filed down Govan Road to the yard, a shop along the way still had the funeral tribute poster to Jimmy Reid displayed in the window. There was a feeling that as many had come to pay their respects as had come to wave off the Duncan.
The Duncan is the sixth and final Type 45 Anti-Air Warfare destroyer built for the Royal Navy at the BAE Govan shipyard.
Named after Admiral Viscount Adam Duncan, who defeated the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown, it’s fitting that HMS Duncan was launched on the 213th anniversary of that battle.
And while Defence cuts loom over shipbuilding that made the Clyde so famous, Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division claimed: ‘Workforce morale is very good, despite constant speculation. They realise that there are economic considerations to be made.’
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, added: ‘I wish I could end this period of uncertainty for everyone today, but we will all have to wait a couple of weeks. All I can say is that the Royal Navy will need frigates in the future.’
Among the former soldiers and sailors in the crowd, throngs of schoolchildren had come from across the city and beyond, to see Mrs Marie Ibbotson, wife of Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson, Deputy Commander of the Fleet, send Duncan down the slipway.
This is the last time this 200 year-old traditional launch will take place. It is almost certain future building will be in dry docks or on rafts.
Evan Robertson, 5, of Craigend said: ‘The best bit was seeing the big boat going into the water.’