Saturday, July 05, 2014

Queen smashes whisky, gives her name to Britain's biggest warship

Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinbugh, left, arrive on Friday at HMS Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth Dockyard to formally name the Royal Navy's biggest ever ship. (Andrew Milligan/WPA Pool via Getty Images)

LONDON— Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of whisky against Britain's biggest warship on Friday as she gave her name to the new aircraft carrier at a ceremony in Scotland.

The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth is one of two carriers being built at a cost of £6.2 billion ($10.6 billion, 7.8 billion euros) to overhaul Britain's naval capabilities.

But the pomp of the ceremony at Rosyth Dockyard came despite serious doubts about the carrier, which will not be able to operate its US-built jets until 2020.

The 88-year-old monarch, attending the naming ceremony with her husband Prince Philip, said Britain's future flagship "marks a new phase in our naval history".

"Wherever this ship may serve, whatever tasks may be asked of her, let all those who serve on her know that on this day she was blessed with the prayers of us all for her success and her safe return to calm waters," she said.

"I name this ship Queen Elizabeth. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

She then pressed a button to button to bring a bottle of Bowmore malt whisky from the Scottish island of Islay crashing down onto the side of the ship.

British authorities eschewed the traditional champagne in honor of the Scottish location.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the ship "will be the spearhead of British sea power for the next half century".

The Red Arrows military display team later flew over the ship, streaming red white and blue smoke behind them, followed by historic naval aircraft.

Three times length of Buckingham Palace
The ship measures 280 metres (920 feet) long -- the equivalent of 28 London buses or nearly three times the length of Buckingham Palace -- and 56 metres from keel to masthead.

The Royal Navy has been without any aircraft carriers since Cameron's coalition government scrapped Britain's previous vessels in 2010 as part of austerity measures to curb a huge deficit.

The metal was first cut on the new HMS Queen Elizabeth five years ago and it is set for its first sea trials in 2016, before entering service in 2017.

Its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, is still under construction.

Once they are fully operational, the warships will be able to carry 40 aircraft, both rotary and fixed wing, and are intended to provide a mobile base for Britain's navy, army and air force around the world.

But the ship will not actually be able to operate with its complement of US-built F-35 Lightning II jets until 2020, meaning Britain faces another six years without any active carrier capability.

The F-35 has been dogged by problems. The United States military grounded its entire fleet of the aircraft on Thursday as it completes additional engine inspections following a fire aboard one of the aircraft in Florida last week.

There have also been questions about whether Britain needs such a large carrier when its military role in the world is diminished.

Two months before Scotland votes in an independence referendum on whether to stay or leave the United Kingdom, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it showcased the best of Britain.

"This ship, the biggest the Royal Navy has ever had, is a demonstration of the UK at its very best with workers from across the Union contributing," he said in a statement.

Built by a partnership comprising BAE Systems, Babcock, Thales and the Ministry of Defence, the construction has involved 10,000 people across six ship yards

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