Two Royal Navy frigates have joined HMS Queen Elizabeth to secure the seas around the giant aircraft carrier as she embarks on her maiden sea trials. HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke are escorting the Royal Navy's largest ever warship as she conducts vital system tests off the coast of Scotland today.
HMS Queen Elizabeth left Rosyth, where she has been under construction since 2014, on Monday with 700 sailors and 200 industry contractors on board.
Type 23 frigates Sutherland and Iron Duke have now joined the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, along with Merlin Mk2 helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm, to guard the seas as the trials get under way.
Commander Andrew Canale, the Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, said: It is a huge honour for us all in HMS Sutherland to be the first ship to escort HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden sea voyage. This is a new chapter in the history of the Royal Navy in which our aircraft carriers will have the ability to project power globally for the next 50 years.
Everyone in HMS Sutherland is proud to be involved in this historic occasion. For me and all my ship's company, seeing her on the ocean waves for the first time is a sight we will never forget.
The sea trials under way of the coast of Scotland are designed to test the carrier's engines and propulsion systems, plus her ability to produce fresh water, cope with sewage, feed the crew, and supply those on board with electricity.
Lieutenant Dominic Rotherham, the flight observer of HMS Sutherland's embarked Merlin Mk2 flight crew, said: Today we were tasked with securing the seas around HMS Queen Elizabeth to make sure she is safe to conduct her sea trials. As an observer in the Fleet Air Arm, seeing her from the air for the first time brought home to me the scale of the future flagship and the power she will represent overseas.
It is a privilege to fly from HMS Sutherland's flight deck, but I'm also excited to one day operate from HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The carrier's departure from Rosyth on Monday is one highlight of a national effort which has involved more than 10,000 people across the land - not least six shipyards - clocking up 51,000,000 man hours.
There were just 35cm either side of the carrier's gigantic hull as she squeezed through the lock at Rosyth, and a mere 50cm separated the keel from the lock bottom as 11 tugs assisted Queen Elizabeth into the Forth before she began her maiden voyage. (RN)