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Construction Begins at New Carriers' Base Port

25 Feb 2010 | Ref. 047

Portsmouth, United Kingdom: The programme to build the nation's new aircraft carriers gained further momentum today, as BAE Systems began construction at Portsmouth Naval Base - the future home of the Queen Elizabeth Class ships.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, was invited to push the button on the company's new state of the art plasma steel cutter, marking the start of full scale production at the site. The team at Portsmouth is building Lower Block 2, one of the large structures, that forms part of the hull on the first ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth. Housing machinery spaces, stores, switchboards and some of the ship's accommodation, this block alone will weigh around 6,000 tonnes and will stand over 18 metres tall, 70 metres long and 40 metres wide.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said: "Here in Portsmouth work is just beginning but across the country in Devon, Tyneside, Glasgow and Rosyth work is already under way. In all, six shipyards across the UK will be involved in the manufacture of the ships' hulls, supporting up to 8,000 jobs in the construction and up to another 3,000 throughout the supply chain. The progress already being made to deliver these defence assets, which will be a cornerstone of future defence policy, is a testament to UK industry."

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said: "The two ships will be the largest and most powerful warships ever built for the UK, each providing four acres from which to project airpower anywhere in the world. With 80 per cent of the world's land mass within 500 miles of the ocean, the carriers will provide unparalleled logistical flexibility for the future of defence."

Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems' Surface Ships business, said: "This is a very proud day for our workforce here in Portsmouth and comes on the back of our work on the Clyde, where another large part of the carrier's hull is already taking shape.

"The design and build of ships of this magnitude is a massive engineering feat and a real testament to skills harnessed in our industry across the UK. We will continue to work closely with our partners in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and to invest in the skills of our employees and our facilities not only to deliver the Royal Navy's future flagships, but also to secure the long-term future of the UK's warship building industry."

BAE Systems is a member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, responsible for delivering the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK. The carriers will sustain thousands of skilled jobs across industry and will be a key component of the UK's maritime defence capability. BAE Systems employees at its yards on the Clyde began the manufacture of the carrier's Lower Block 3 in July 2009 with work beginning on the largest section, Lower Block 4, in January.

Elsewhere across the UK, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance is making strong progress - the first of the flight deck extensions, known as the sponsons, have already been delivered to the final assembly yard in Rosyth, while the first blocks of the hull are due to leave Appledore in Devon for the Scottish shipyard in the spring. Over £1 billion of orders have been placed for equipment for the two ships and many of the ships' key components such as the diesel generators and turbines have already been manufactured.

About BAE Systems

BAE Systems is a global defence, security and aerospace company with approximately 107,000 employees worldwide. The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. In 2009 BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 36.2 billion).

For further information, please contact:

Kristina Crowe, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 239 289 6232 Mob: +44 (0)7540628673

Gillian Churchill, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 141 957 2150 Mob: +44 (0)7540628325

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