The biggest and most powerful warship ever built by Britain sends a message to the UK’s allies and enemies that the country means business, the captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth has said.
The £3 billion behemoth is set to be the nation’s future flagship, and her 700-strong company plus 200 contractors are poised to enter Portsmouth Naval Base on Wednesday.
Speaking on board as the vessel sailed in the English Channel, Captain Jerry Kyd said he is feeling a “huge amount of pride” ahead of the vessel berthing in her home port.
Quizzed on whether he thinks aircraft carriers such as HMS Queen Elizabeth put the UK in the Naval premier league, he said: “It sends the right signals to our allies and indeed potentially to our enemies that we mean business.
“The armed forces are fundamentally an insurance policy for the country and you can’t just, at the flick of a switch, decide that you need these capabilities.
“You have to buy them, work them up, train them, integrate them with the rest of defence so they’re ready to be called upon when required. You can’t just buy it off the shelf.
“Yes, it costs money, but it is all about having the right investment and having the right equipment for the hundreds, if not thousands of young men and women that go to war on behalf of the nation.
“It is absolutely an obligation of the taxpayer to ensure we have the right equipment.”
During her estimated half a century working life, the 280-metre vessel can be pressed into action for various work such as high intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
“We have never had a ship of 65,000-tonnes before in the Royal Navy so we have had to put in a bit of investment,” said Capt Kyd, who has served in the Navy for 32 years, and has been captain of HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal.
“Of course when Henry VIII built Portsmouth, it was designed for ships the size of Mary Rose so we have had to make a few little changes to make sure we can fit in and be supported there.”
Preparations for the ship’s arrival saw more than 3.2 million cubic metres of sediment removed from the harbour to ensure the entrance is deep enough to allow the giant ship to access the Hampshire base.
During the dredging, more than 20,000 items were removed from the sea bed including eight cannons, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors, a British torpedo, a German sea mine, five large bombs and a human skull - which was passed to local police.
The operation to prepare the harbour and base has cost £100 million and has included new jetties and a new power plant to meet the electricity needs of the ship which is set to be joined by its sister vessel the HMS Prince of Wales which is currently being built.
Mark Deller, Commander Air on HMS Queen Elizabeth, said the four-acre flight deck is a capability the Navy has not had before.
Quizzed on the ship heading into Portsmouth, he said it will be a proud moment.
“It is going to be a good day, we are bringing our ship in. But what I wouldn’t want to do is to sell the story that this is it, the bees knees and we are bringing our new Ferrari out of the garage.
“It is not Ferrari yet we have still got some work to do. She’s not finished.”
The warship has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland’s Rosyth dockyard in June, with more to take place over the coming months.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will remain without aircraft until flying trials are conducted in the United States next year, with 10 F-35 Lightning II jets and 120 aircrew expected to take part.
The warship is expected to arrive in Portsmouth shortly after 7am.