HMS Queen Elizabeth ‘the biggest and greatest warship’ the UK has built
Sir Michael Fallon said the addition to the fleet was a return to ‘big decks and fast jets’ for the Royal Navy.
Armchair critics of Britain’s most powerful warship need to “shut up for a while”, said the Defence Secretary as he hailed the return of “big decks and fast jets”.
Whilst on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, the 280-metre, 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, Sir Michael Fallon, who was visiting the ship for the first time while at sea, also praised it as “great for British industry”.
During his address to the crew gathered on the four-acre flight deck of the vessel on Monday, he said it has “been a while since HMS Illustrious”, adding: “But big decks and fast jets are now back.
“This ship is so much bigger than Illustrious and it combines, of course, sea power with air power. Already we have 10 F-35s being flown and trained in the United States. By the end of this year we will have 14 of those fast jets – the world’s most sophisticated fighter.”
The Defence Secretary also told the ship’s company it is time for the “armchair critics to shut up for a while”, adding that HMS Illustrious “has now gone”.
“But Queen Elizabeth, the biggest and the greatest warship this country has ever built, will go on now from these trials to defend our country, to safeguard our sea lanes, to work with our allies and partners to keep the peace, and to save lives across all seven seas,” he added.
When pressed on what he would say to the “armchair critics”, Sir Michael told the Press Association: “They should come and see this wonderful flagship of the Royal Navy, which will help keep this country safe for 50 years to come.
“In a modern world, we need a strong Navy, we need an aircraft carrier, and from an aircraft carrier you need to be able to fly the best jets.”
The £3 billion behemoth is set to be the nation’s future flagship – her 700-strong ship’s company plus 200 contractors are currently sailing off the coast of Scotland for maiden sea trials.
During her estimated half a century working life, HMS Queen Elizabeth can be pressed into action for various work such as high-intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Sir Michael, who stepped on to the carrier from a Merlin helicopter, said “in a modern world we need aircraft carriers”.
Sir Michael also said the “mighty aircraft carrier” is “great for British industry”, with many yards across the UK, thousands of people, and hundreds of apprentices and businesses involved in its creation.
“90% of it – British – 17 million parts. This ship is a floating showcase for British industry, British talent, British skills and British brainpower,” he added.
“This is a great day for Britain. There are only three other countries in the world building aircraft carriers – and we are building two.”
The aircraft carrier and F-35B stealth fighter jets will provide the armed forces with a military operating base which can be deployed worldwide.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter Portsmouth and be accepted by the Royal Navy towards the end of the year.