Babcock marks high point in aircraft carrier assembly

A key milestone has been achieved in the assembly of the first of the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers by Babcock at Rosyth, with the lifting into place of the forward island – a crucial component of the ship, containing the main bridge and around 100 vital mission systems compartments.  The event was witnessed by the Secretary of State for Defence, Phillip Hammond, MP.

The circa 600 tonne forward island – which arrived at Babcock’s Rosyth facility (where the carriers are being assembled) from BAE Systems in Portsmouth on 11 February – was lifted into position on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck by the massive Goliath crane, which had a special 78 tonne lifting frame attached for the purpose.

The lift process began with the attachment of the crane to the lifting frame, and application of a percentage of the island weight to the crane to confirm the predicted centre of gravity.  After some minor adjustments the crane took the full weight of the Island, lifted it over the aircraft carrier flight deck and located it in its final position.  Although not the heaviest lift of the project, the island’s geometry and shape presented significant challenges.  Also demanding was the alignment of the 2.4 metre diameter gas turbine exhausts which were pre-fitted in the island and below in the ship superstructure.

The 22 metre high by 13 metre wide and 27 metre long Upper Block 07, as the forward island is known, already has all consoles installed, as well as 43km of cables and 3,101 pipes.  The floor-to-ceiling windows of the main bridge are up to two metres high, providing an exceptional level of visibility.

With the island in place, the Long Range Radar (LRR) will now be installed on top.  This will be closely followed by a period of consolidation when the island will be welded to the superstructure and mechanical and electrical systems installed.  The later phase of the project will see the LRR set to work and fully integrated with the ship systems.

Uniquely, the QEC carriers will feature two islands.  The second ‘aft island’ is due to arrive and be installed by the end of July 2013 and will operate as an airport control tower to co-ordinate aircraft movements.  Both islands are designed with the ability to carry out each other’s role in an emergency.

Commenting on the successful lifting of the forward island into place, and the milestone this represents, Babcock QEC Project Director Sean Donaldson said: “Seeing the forward island in position on the flight deck marks a highly visible achievement in the assembly programme.  The month for lifting the island into place was set over three years ago.  Since then the island has been designed and constructed, the crane put into place and the blocks that the island sits on assembled ready to accept the island – a considerable achievement.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:  «The addition of the forward island is a significant milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is now entering the final months of her construction.  The workforce at Rosyth should be proud of their involvement in developing the largest and most technologically advanced warships the UK has ever had.

«The Queen Elizabeth Class of Carriers will be in service for up to fifty years, providing the Royal Navy with highly versatile and potent capability that will enable the UK to project its power and carry out a wide range of tasks around the world.»

The first of the two carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be structurally complete at the end of this year, with the ship capable of ‘float up’ in spring 2014.

Source: Babcock International


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