LONDON — The first of two new aircraft carriers for the U.K. has been floated out of its dry dock for the first time.
The Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) — the consortium charged with the construction of the 65,000-tonne carriers — floated HMS Queen Elizabeth from its dry dock at the Rosyth naval shipyard near Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 17. Engineers began flooding the dock earlier in the week in preparation for the move, which comes less than two weeks after the naming ceremony of the ship, when it was christened by its namesake on July 4.
The ship has now been moved to a nearby berth, where engineers will continue to outfit the vessel with its various systems as well as add its propellers, which will drive it to a maximum speed of 28 kt.
According to, one of the companies in ACA, maneuvering the ship from its dock took three hours, with just two meters of clearance on either side. Now that the dock has been vacated, it will be used to begin assembly of HMS Prince of Wales. Significant component blocks for the second ship have already begun arriving at Rosyth, and assembly is due to start in September.
Meanwhile, the internal fitting-out of Queen Elizabeth is planned for completion in December 2015.
personnel will begin training on the ship in May 2016, with sea trials due to be undertaken that August. Acceptance should occur in May 2017, and the Royal Navy hopes that the first will land on the vast, 4.5-acre flight deck, stationed somewhere off the U.S. east coast, towards the end of 2018.
Flight trials with helicopters will take place during 2017.
The future of HMS Prince of Wales remains uncertain, however, as it was slated to be in the 2010 government Strategic Defense and Security Review. Yet the selection of the F-35B instead of the F-35C makes for significant cost savings, which could allow the second ship to be bought into the fleet.