May 5, 2014
UK Carrier Preps for Launch in July
The warship will be floated for the first time on July 4 in the Babcock-operated dock .
With three F-35 fighter jets due in Britain for the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air show later in July, there has even been speculation the aircraft could put in an appearance July 4.
A BAE Systems spokeswoman played down that suggestion during a visit by reporters here on April 29, saying the only F-35 likely to be seen would be a full-size mock-up on the deck of the new carrier.
The two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever built in U.K.
The first module for the Prince of Wales, the second ship, has already been delivered, and more of the huge blocks will start arriving within days of the first carrier exiting the dock.
The current plan is for the Prince of Wales to be structurally complete by July 2016, sea trials to begin in January 2019 and acceptance in August that year.
The Royal Navy expects the ship to be fully operational with a complement of short takeoff, vertical-landing F-35B joint strike fighters, and Merlin anti-submarine warfare and Crows Nest airborne command-and-control helicopters in 2020.
The British government has already acquired a handful of F-35s for operational evaluation and training for Royal Navy and Royal Air Force crews who will fly and maintain the aircraft.
An order for the first batch of about 14 production aircraft is scheduled for this year.
Aviation trials are set to start with the Merlin anti-submarine warfare helicopter in 2017, followed in 2018 by the F-35B.
Other helicopter types such as the Chinook, Wildcat and Apache will be approved at some stage, as the military has an eye on using the carriers for joint air and littoral maneuver operations.
Rafferty said the plan is for the Queen Elizabeth to start F-35B trials with British aircraft stationed in the US.