One of the UK’s two biggest warships has edged through a 130ft wide lock to enter the Firth of Forth on its maiden voyage.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales sailed from Rosyth Dockyard, where it has been under construction for the last five years.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is edging ever so slowly out of Rosyth Dockyard for her maiden voyage as those who built her watch proudly. pic.twitter.com/Q8YiYLQ3Vm
— Cheryl Peebles (@C_CPeebles) September 19, 2019
The 65,000 tonne vessel, which has a four-acre flight deck, will remain at anchor off Rosyth before passing under the Forth bridges in the coming days to begin sea trials.
Her sister vessel HMS Queen Elizabeth, which set sail from Rosyth in June 2017, remains in trial off the east coast of Canada.
At the helm of the £3.1 billion Prince of Wales is Captain Darren Houston, who was second in command on the first of the Elizabeth Class vessels built at the Fife yard.
Before setting off Capt Houston described the transition from the dockyard to the Forth as a “complex manoeuvre”.
With just three feet to spare either side, the ship was aided by nine tugs, with tyre buffers to protect it from striking the concrete walls.
Capt Houston said: “I am immensely proud of the professionalism and determination that my ship’s company have shown in preparing themselves and their ship for this historic day.”
— HMS Prince of Wales (@HMSPWLS) September 19, 2019
When the carrier travels under the Forth Bridge, its mast will be lowered giving it less than two metres of clearance.
The alliance which built both carriers comprised BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence.
Sir Simon Lister, managing director, said: “The Aircraft Carrier Alliance has bought together the very best of British industry, and it is thanks to their hard work, skill and determination that we have reached this important stage in the programme.”
— QEClass Carriers (@QEClassCarriers) September 19, 2019
Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Prince of Wales’ departure from Rosyth is a landmark moment for the carrier programme.
“As the ship takes the next step to becoming fully operational, she carries with her the story of Britain’s maritime might.”
First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin said: “This is much more than just the departure of the second ship in the class from Rosyth, but marks a sea change in Britain’s aircraft carrier capability.
“HMS Prince of Wales confirms Britain’s place as the leading European carrier strike nation within NATO.”
HMS Prince of Wales will be put through nine weeks of sea trials, mostly off the north-east coast of Scotland, before her arrival in Portsmouth later this year and commission to the Royal Navy by the Duchess of Cornwall.
The two vessels will support the Royal Navy in roles from high intensity fighting to supplying humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Built from the hull upwards, they will operate the fifth generation F35B Lightning II Joint Strike fighter jet.