UK & World News
UK's Largest Warship Starts To Take Shape
They will be the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, each weighing 65,000 tonnes and with their length equal to 28 London buses.
Now the hull of one of these two mammoth aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be in one piece for the first time as construction continues in Scotland.
Sky News was given exclusive access to the site,†Rosyth, just outside Edinburgh, as the latest phase of the £5.5bn project was being completed.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two new aircraft carriers being put together there.
The carrier, which is three times the size of any Royal Navy ship now in service, has been built in modules at shipyards across the country.
Its final assembly is using the heaviest lift crane in the UK, itself built specially for the project by the Chinese and nicknamed Goliath.
Putting together the various hull sections with an accuracy of just millimetres has been the most demanding aspect of the programme so far.
Programme director Ian Booth said: "Most people ask about how we know all the bits will join up because we are making massive sections of aircraft carrier in yards all over the UK and then all the components that go inside are being made in different places in the UK.
"So far everything we've put together has aligned fantastically."
Each of the ships is much bigger and more powerful than anything the Navy has seen before. They will have more than a thousand miles of cabling and engines that will generate enough power to run a town the size of Swindon.
With a crew of up to 1,600 and 12 to 36 brand new F35 fighter jets on board, they will provide a floating airfield the like of which Britain has never seen before.
Only one of the two vessels will be operational at any one time and even then not before 2020. Queen Elizabeth will be finished in the construction phase by the end of this year and launched in 2014.
It will be another three years until she begins sea trials and a year after that before the first jets are flying from her deck.
Despite the time lag, the ship does already have a skeleton crew, another first for the Royal Navy.
Commander Steve Lynn said: "There are already naval guys on board doing test and commissioning work. It is something unique for a ship in build.
"The second thing is that this ship is huge. It is bigger than anything we have ever had in the Royal Navy or are ever likely to have in the Royal Navy and it is going to take us a while to understand how to best operate this vessel."
For old hands at the shipyard, the sight of such a mammoth hull coming together before their eyes is a source of immense pride.
Willie Richards has been at Rosyth for 30 years and worked on dozens of naval vessels, but never anything like this.
"I've done Ark Royal, HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious, worked on all the destroyers, HMS Glasgow, HMS Edinburgh, but this is definitely the flagship of the Navy and it is a privilege to be part of it," he said.
The decision to build the two carriers at such vast expense to the nation, especially at a time of austerity, was controversial but the cost of abandoning the project now would be greater than completing it.
So whilst the Royal Navy finds itself in what many believe is the embarrassing position of having no current aircraft carrier capability, it also has the prospect of taking delivery of two of the biggest and most advanced warships in the world in the next decade.