Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth setting sail

HMS Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth. Photo: Royal Navy

Future Royal Navy flagship and the largest warship ever built for the UK, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to depart the Rosyth dockyard on Monday after eight years of construction.

As the first of two ships in her class, HMS Queen Elizabeth is looking forward to two years of sea trials with the first leg set to take place off the coast of Scotland over the next six weeks.

Getting underway from Rosyth will present a challenge for the 65,000-ton, 280m long ship with only inches to spare on her way out of the harbor.

Her height of 63 metres (206ft) above the waterline is an additional challenge and the final of Rosyth’s three bridges HMS Queen Elizabeth will pass under is too low. As a solution, engineers have placed her mast on a steel cartridge which houses two hydraulic cylinders and a hydraulic system which lower the structure to an angle of 77˚, before raising it back in place once through.

On its own, the pole mast is 19 metres (62ft) tall. The lower half is home to navigational lighting, while the upper part houses numerous radio and communications antennae.

Once HMS Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, due to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2019, join the navy after £6bn of investment, they will provide all three sectors of the UK Armed Forces with eight acres of sovereign territory which can be deployed around the world.

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