The commissioning ceremony for Britain’s biggest warship – the HMS Queen Elizabeth – is officially underway.
At 280 metres long and with an estimated half a century working life, the £3,100,000,000 behemoth aircraft carrier is the biggest and most powerful warship ever built by the UK.
The Queen, Princess Anne and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson are all in Portsmouth to witness the 65,000 tonne vessel being accepted into the Royal Navy.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth currently has a crew of around 700, but this will go up to 1,600 once the full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
Its flight deck is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide – big enough to fit three football pitches.
Onboard there is a huge a medical centre with a 12-bed ward, staffed with GPs, a nurse and medical assistants. There is also a dentist and a dental nurse.
There are also five gyms on the warship – including a boxing gym – as well as a chapel.
The most significant part of the ceremony is when the Blue Ensign is pulled down, and the White Ensign is hoisted above the warship.
This signifies that the ship is officially part of the Royal Navy.
Able Seaman Ellie Smith, a 20-year-old sailor from Hull, said she is pleased to have been given the task.
‘This is something to look back on for the rest of our lives and we can say “I was there”, which will be a really good thing to be able to say,’ she said.
Afterwards, the youngest crew member serving on HMS Queen Elizabeth will cut a cake. This honour falls to Steward Callum Hui from Lynton in Devon.
Hui, 17, signed up to the Royal Navy soon after finishing school. He started his basic training in March, passed out in June, and then joined the ship in October.
‘I am excited to say the least,’ he said. ‘This is my first ship, straight out of training, and just to have the honour of cutting the cake on commissioning day… It is exciting stuff.’
The cake itself has been created by Scottish company 3D Cakes, and took more than 100 hours to make.
It’s a massive edible replica of a ship, which weighs around 150kg and required more than 7kg of flour and 160 eggs to make.
HMS Queen Elizabeth
Ordered: May 2008
Christened: 4 July 2014 in a ceremony by Queen Elizabeth II
Commissioned: 7 December 2017
In service: 2020 (planned)
Home port: Portsmouth
Length: 280m (920ft)
Propulsion: 2 x Rolls-Royce Marine gas turbine alternators and four diesel engines
Range: 10,000 nautical miles
Sensors and processing system: S1850m long range radar. Ultra Electronics Series 2500 Electro Optical System (EOS)
Armament: 3 x Phalanx CIWS, 4 x 30mm calibre gun, various Miniguns and GPMGs to counter asymmetric threats.
Aircraft carried: Up to 40
Planned Carrier Air Wing of up to 40 aircraft
F-35B Lightning II
Merlin HM2 and HC4
Wildcat AH1 and HMA2
Merlin Crowsnest AEW
Hangar below deck
Two aircraft lifts
Hui will be joined in the cake-cutting by the wife of the commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd.
Speaking before the ceremony, Captain Kyd described the day as a ‘major milestone’.
‘Building aircraft carriers is not for the fainthearted,’ he said. ‘There are very few countries who can do this around the world.
‘So we should look at our British industry, our designers, all the skills, all the production companies around the country, the shipyards from Devon through to Fife, to the Royal Navy, who have come together to make this happen.
‘We should be really proud as a country. This has been a national endeavour. It has just been fantastic – it is really a culmination of all our hard work.’
The aircraft carrier will now be the nation’s flagship. It can be pressed into action for various tasks, such as high-intensity war fighting, or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
It will also serve as a floating military base for the F-35B stealth fighter jets, which will launch from the deck of the vessel to undertake missions.
Captain Kyd added that hosting the Queen and having her step on board the ship for the ceremony was a ‘complete honour’.
Petty Officer Dean Allen, the chef in charge of cooking the royal lunch agreed, saying that making food for the Queen is an experience that cannot be beaten.
After the ceremony, Her Majesty will enjoy a three-course lunch on board the ship.
‘I don’t think you can go bigger than feeding the Queen… It’s the biggest catering moment of my career,’ the 37-year-old said.
‘The chefs are buzzing – they can’t wait. They have been looking forward to [today] for a long time – the commissioning, and feeding the Queen.’
Apparently the Queen is having a salmon tian for a starter, a double rib of British lamb with a bean cassoulet for main course, and a burnt blood orange tart with poached meringue for dessert.