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Big Lizzie’s back for Christmas! Joy for families as sailors come home

Big Lizzie’s back for Christmas! Joy for families as sailors return home after four months at sea on board Britain’s £3billion warship HMS Queen Elizabeth

  • Families waited in excitement as 100 personnel flew in four Merlins to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose 
  • Took off from ship as it passed six miles off coast of Falmouth on Sunday on way home to Portsmouth
  • The huge British aircraft carrier entered Portsmouth Harbour accompanied by several tugboats today  
  • For one serviceman it is a particularly special homecoming as he is getting married over festive period  
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There were scenes of joy as sailors returned home for Christmas after four months on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s new aircraft carrier. 

Families waited in growing excitement as 100 personnel took off in four Merlin helicopters to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose at Helston, Cornwall, on Sunday.

They flew off the ship, nicknamed ‘Big Lizzie’, as it passed six miles off the coast of Falmouth on its way home to Portsmouth, where it entered the harbour today accompanied by four tug boats. 


HMS Queen Elizabeth entered Portsmouth Harbour today accompanied by tugboats today following its deployment around the coast of the United States 


Families waited in growing excitement as 100 personnel took off in four Merlin helicopters to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose at Helston, Cornwall on Sunday 


Families carrying Union Flags and welcome home banners excitedly wait in anticipation as the aircraft carrier makes its way into Portsmouth


Petty Officer Michael Abley, 36, from Bordon, Hampshire, was met by his daughters Grace, nine, and Evie, six after the Royal HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in Portsmouth, returning home from her four-month deployment


Children excited to see their parents after long months at sea took balloons to the port with them, while well-wishers snapped photographs of the vast warship


They flew off the ship, nicknamed ‘Big Lizzie’, as it passed six miles off the coast of Falmouth on its way home to Portsmouth, where it entered the harbour accompanied by tug boats today (pictured) 

The sailors from 820 Naval Air Squadron had been at sea since August to practice flights and other manoeuvres. They will carry on in the New Year.

For one serviceman it was a particularly special homecoming.

AET Adam Workman is getting married and moving house just before Christmas and then having a baby just after.

Of the deployment, he said: ‘It’s been an amazing experience to be one of the first to work on the Queen Elizabeth.

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‘Difficult at times and it’s never nice being away from home but I think it might have been easier at sea compared to my next few weeks!’

‘Big Lizzie’ had its maiden voyage in August before visiting New York two months later, where it dropped anchor near the Queen Mary 2. The two huge ships cruised past each other during the massive aircraft carriers first ever visit to the US.

Naval chiefs have pledged that the 65,000-tonne carrier will have the protection needed against the ‘eye-watering’ threat from Russia and other powers around the world.

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    A woman waves flags with ‘Welcome Home Alfie’ on them as the ship makes its way towards Portsmouth after four months 


    The sailors from 820 Naval Air Squadron had been at sea since August to practice flights and other manoeuvres. They will carry on in the New Year. Pictured: HMS Queen Elizabeth enters Portsmouth 


    Sailors stand on the deck of the aircraft carrier as it enters into Portsmouth Harbour, where many people were waiting to greet her 


    Sailors crowd onto the deck of the ship, eager to catch a glimpse of their loved ones waiting on the shoreline this afternoon


    The enormous bulk of the British aircraft carrier loomed over the pubs and houses of Portsmouth as it entered into the city today 

    The squadron’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Chris Knowles, reflected on his squadrons achievements over the past four months. ‘It’s been truly remarkable to be part of this historic first deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth as the Carriers dedicated Squadron we have been there from the very first landing off Scotland right up to the highlights we will all take home from this deployment; seeing the flight deck full of Merlins, F-35 jets and US visitors including V-22s has shown just what a potent capability we have.

    ‘It’s fantastic to be getting home but we are already looking forward to next year taking our capability further again and delivering even more for HMS Queen Elizabeth.’

    The Queen Elizabeth has a top speed of 25 knots, its flight deck is 919ft (280m) long and 230ft (70m) wide – enough space for three football pitches.

    The supersonic F-35B Lightning II, which will carry out the flight trials, has a top speed of 1.6 Mach (1,200mph).

    Lockheed Martin, the American company building the jet, describes its stealth capabilities as ‘unprecedented’. Its airframe design, advanced materials and other features make it ‘virtually undetectable to enemy radar’.

    Britain has committed to a £9.1billion programme to buy 48 of the jets by 2025 – with a pledge to purchase 138 – they will be jointly operated by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots. 


    The Queen Elizabeth (seen sailing into Portsmouth today) has a top speed of 25 knots, its flight deck is 919ft (280m) long and 230ft (70m) wide – enough space for three football pitches

    Inside Britain’s most powerful warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth

    At 280 metres long, with a lifespan of half a century and a flight deck of four acres, HMS Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s largest and most powerful warship ever built.

    Here are the facts and figures behind the vessel which was officially commissioned into the Royal Navy December 7, 2017


    HMS Queen Elizabeth, pictured, weighs some 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots and a four-acre flight deck


    The vessel has a crew of 700, although that will increase to 1,600 when she has a full complement of F-35B jets  


    The Commanding Officer is Captain Jerry Kyd, pictured, who is responsible for guiding Queen Elizabeth through her sea trials 

    • The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed in excess of 25 knots.
    • A number of ship building yards around the country were involved in the build – these include Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Liverpool, A&P on the Tyne in Newcastle and Portsmouth.
    • A total of 10,000 people worked on construction of the ship, made up in sections at yards around the UK and transported to Rosyth, Fife, where it was assembled.
    • It is the second ship in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth.
    • The ship has a crew of around 700, that will increase to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
    • There are 364,000 metres of pipes inside the ship, and from keel to masthead she measures 56 metres, four metres more than Niagara Falls.
    • Facilities onboard include a chapel, a medical centre and 12-bed ward, staffed with GPs, a nurse and medical assistants, as well as a dentist and dental nurse.
    • There are also five gyms on the warship which include a cardiovascular suite, two free weight rooms and a boxing gym.
    • Regular fitness circuit sessions and sporting activities such as basketball and tug of war are held in the hangar and on the flight deck, with weights and other items stored inside the flight deck ramp.
    • Captain Jerry Kyd said his favourite part of the ship was the laundry, which he called ‘huge and bespokely built’.
    • There are five galleys on the warship which is where the food is cooked and those on board eat their meals everyday. This includes two main galleys, the bridge mess and an aircrew refreshment bar.
    • The distribution network on board manages enough energy to power 30,000 kettles or 5,500 family homes.
    • Its flight deck is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide, enough space for three football pitches.
    •  The entire ship’s company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes, 45 minutes when at action stations.
    • Recreational spaces enjoyed by the crew feature televisions and sofas, as well as popular board games including the traditional Royal Navy game of Uckers.
    • Each of the two aircraft lifts on HMS Queen Elizabeth can move two fighter jets from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds.
    • The warship has a range of 8,000 to 10,000 nautical miles, and has two propellers – each weighing 33 tonnes and with a combined 80MW output of power – enough to run 1,000 family cars or 50 high speed trains. 


    The supersonic F-35B Lightning II, which will carry out the flight trials, has a top speed of 1.6 Mach (1,200mph). Pictured: The ship enters Portsmouth Harbour today 

    F-35: How the planes serving HMS Elizabeth have been plagued with problems

    The delivery of the RAF’s new, US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in July marked a rare moment of celebration in what has been a troubled project.

    The ‘fifth generation’ fighter aircraft is the world’s most expensive weapons system, though costs have finally stabilised at an eye-watering $406billion.

    Manufacturer Lockheed-Martin agreed to cap costs after US President Donald Trump critised the project and even tweeted support for a rival aircraft. 

    Britain is currently embarked on a £9.1billion programme to purchase 48 of the F-35s, from American aviation giant Lockheed Martin, by 2025.


    One of the first four F-35B Lightning II aircraft arrives at RAF Marham in Norfolk on June 6, 2018

    America enticed its Nato and other allies into sharing the cost of the aircraft by offering input into manufacture and 15 per cent of each one is comprised of parts from British companies while some of the jets will be made in Italy.

    But the planes have been plagued by a catalogue of problems which have sent costs soaring.

    There are fears about shortcomings in the technical systems underpinning the new generation of war planes will leave them unable to function properly.

    The true cost of the British planes delivered this year is estimated to be over £150million each to cover ‘extras’ such as software upgrades and spare parts.

    There are also concerns plane’s software system is vulnerable to cyber-attack and cannot be tested independently by the UK.

    The weak broadband on the Royal Navy’s principal aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is also hampering the jet’s abilities.


     

    The problems are not helped by the department responsible for the computer networks essential to the aircraft’s operation needs to find savings of £400 million this year.

    The reports into the costs and other problems prompted the Defence Select Committee to launch an inquiry into the project.

    It reprimanded the Ministry of Defence for keeping parliament and the public in the dark about the costs.

    The MoD has so far refused to provide the estimated cost to the UK of buying the F-35, beyond referring to a National Audit Office which used the £9.1billion figure.

    MPs said ‘it is simply not acceptable for the MoD to refuse to disclose to parliament and the public its estimates for the total cost of the programme’.


     

    Though the cost of the F-35 has been the focus of attention, there have also been embarrassing reports of operational shortcomings emerging from the United States.

    In a mock air battle in 2015, the cutting edge plane was defeated by an older generation F-16, a plane designed in the 1970s.

    Last year Pentagon tests found 276 different faults in jet’s combat system.

    They included the 25mm cannon vibrating excessively and problems with the he aircraft’s ‘virtual reality’ helmet

    Overheating, premature wear of components in the vertical tails and vulnerability to fire were also found to be issues.

    The US Air Force temporarily grounded dozens its F-35 stealth fighters while it investigated an oxygen supply issue.

    The Marine Corps, who also operate the same F-35B model the UK has purchased, was forced to ground its planes after flaws were found in the  computer system.

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