HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Gibraltar on first overseas visit

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth pulled into Gibraltar on Friday morning for her first ever overseas port visit.

The visit will be a logistical one for the 65,000-tonne future flagship which left her home in Portsmouth last week for helicopter trials.

These helicopter trials take place before the fixed wing F35 Lightning II trials later this year.

The ship’s crew will, however, test their fitness with “Rock Race”, a 2.7 mile run on a route up to the summit of the iconic Rock of Gibraltar. They will try to crack the current record of 17mins 26 secs set in 1986.

“It is a great privilege for me to be bringing our new aircraft carrier into Gibraltar for her first ever overseas port visit,” Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said.

“Gibraltar is the perfect stop for HMS Queen Elizabeth as we conduct our flying trials in the waters off the Iberian Peninsula. And our visit also underlines the incredibly rich history and special relationship the Royal Navy and Royal Marines share with Gibraltar.”

Since departing the UK for the first time since being commissioned into the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her ship’s company of 1,000 men and women have been undergoing intensive training.

Under the guidance of the Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training organisation, all those on board have been honing their skills in dealing with a series of lifelike exercise scenarios including fires, floods, man overboard drills and a simulated crash on deck.

The Commander of British Forces in Gibraltar, Commodore Mike Walliker, said: “Today is a landmark day for Gibraltar and its long-standing and illustrious relationship with the Royal Navy.

“As Commander British Forces I am personally delighted to be able to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth for her very first visit. It is utterly appropriate and no surprise that the Rock is the first port of call for the ship as she embarks on an exciting journey which has taken her from the builder’s yard to eventually assuming her rightful position at the vanguard of the British fleet.”

The ship was escorted in to Gibraltar by the Royal Navy’s Devonport-based Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset.

Commander Tim Berry, the commanding officer of HMS Somerset, said: “Escorting the largest and most technologically advanced carrier ever built for the Royal Navy past the Rock of Gibraltar is of course a huge privilege.

“Importantly, it also brings about a new focus for my ship that is both challenging and exciting. Carrier Strike will undoubtedly play a key role in supporting Britain’s global narrative well into the second half of this century and for myself and my ship’s company to be part of this vision is inspiring and very rewarding.”

On leaving Gibraltar HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to sea to conduct helicopter trials with specially equipped Merlin and Chinook aircraft from the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre at MOD Boscombe Down. The data collected will be analysed to work out their operating parameters at sea, ahead of fixed wing flying trials with the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter off the east coast of the United States in the summer.

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